Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Everyday sexism (that I am guilty of) part 2

Actually, this time it's not just sexism - it's every other dimension of privilege as well.

I'm working on a lengthy and complicated thing about white male identity and 'gamers' - my identity, basically. What I'm trying to do with it is address self-identified gamers defensive of our identity on the grounds that it's the only thing we have. I examine why it's possible to feel this, and how to think more broadly about our identity.

But it's really hard to do that without feeling embattled. 'Gamer' is an identity with a lot of really toxic associations. 'White' and 'male' are even worse, both having a long history of oppression and brutality. The urge is always there to get defensive, to rationalise or try to explain away my association with those identities. It's the urge to mansplain, whitesplain etc. (I'm not sure that 'gamesplain' is a thing yet, or just regarded as a combination of 'all the above') -  call it xsplaing in general.

The problem with xsplaining is difficult to state succinctly. It's most problematic when a privileged person butts into a conversation about a problematic pattern of privileged behaviour to explain why - even if not done in an explicitly abusive way, this reinforces existing power dynamics by demanding that every conversation be limited by our comfort. It also equates our discomfort with the actual harm suffered by other groups, which is dismissive of their experience as well as flat-out inaccurate.

Another problem is in demanding 'they' solve 'our' problems - the attitude of 'if you don't like it, you tell us what to do'. We're adults. If someone criticises us, we've got to be able to take responsibility for that. Before demanding specific attention from someone - adding to the burden you've already imposed on them - do some googling, or at least some self-reflection, to try to understand the problem.

This goes doubly for issues of identity. The piece I'm writing is an attempt to collect some criticism of 'gamer' and develop from that a better model of the identity. I don't agree 100% with everything I'm quoting, so there is some editorialising, but my primary purpose is not to refute or dispute those criticisms; it's to identify what we can learn from them.

So I have to be very careful of where I'm pointing my arguments. How often do I have to check for xsplaining? Every. Damn. Sentence. That's really what I want to get at here (as with last time out); this isn't something to only worry about occasionally. It's not even limited to times when you're actively engaging with someone from a different background (though that's when it's at its absolute most important).

It's so hard to resist the urge to make excuses, to haggle, to move from addressing the problem to denying it. And this is in an article specifically addressed to our concerns - I'm not trying to join an existing debate (though I am responding to one). It's even harder when engaging with people 'live'. But you can't learn or grow while rationalising; xsplaining serves your ego at the expense of your mind - not to mention at the expense of other people's peace of mind.

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