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    A consortium of kicked puppies

    Mrs. du Toit also said something in a comment on this post that crystallizes a point I’ve been thinking about for a while:

    I don’t think it’s endemic to gays particularly, just any group who have activists who make their living convincing people that potty training isn’t necessary when there is always someone else to wipe your bum for you.

    When people compare the gays rights and civil rights movements, I become very uneasy, because the way they tend to do it is sweeping and lacks (forgive the word choice) nuance. Homosexuality and blackness (or other ethnicity) are not in and of themselves comparable.

    The reason I don’t think we can throw out the comparison entirely is that the dynamic between each group and its sympathizers is the same, and it’s the same in illuminating ways. John McWhorter wrote a few years ago–well, he’s said this multiple times in different wording, but I think this was in a review of a book on depictions of blacks on television–that it’s a cruel fact that, however horrible racism has been historically and still is in places, black Americans cannot expect to live cushioned lives as a way of making up for it. You work to fix the problems, but you can’t expect any kind of cosmic payback.

    The failure to understand this is the main problem with gay, feminist, and minority activism. It’s one thing to sympathize with people who suffer–I probably had an easier time coming out than most people, but it sure did suck, and I have no objection to people’s feeling sorry for me about it–but another thing to let sympathy be the engine that forever drives how you treat them. My experience fits Connie’s: gay people aren’t any more or less naturally self-pitying than anyone else. There is, however, a part of coming out that involves acknowledging that it was wrong for people imply that you’re sick and evil, and when you’re not encouraged to move beyond it, it’s easy to freeze there and think all your problems come from other people’s nastiness. Too many of those who sympathize with gays don’t know when to be warmly supportive and when to knock it off and let us learn necessary lessons through bruising experience.

    And now that our own crew of activists has made itself an industry in most urban areas, the problem has become self-perpetuating. In order to avoid driving myself crazy, I persist in thinking that no one is willfully trying to turn us all into a bunch of dependent ninnies. Nevertheless, the overall effect of gay advocacy is to tell people they can always think in “How can you fix this for me?” terms and still be regarded as sovereign adults. And, however different the issues addressed by feminist or minority advocacy may in fact be, it does the same damned thing.

    7 Responses to “A consortium of kicked puppies”

    1. Mrs. du Toit says:

      But to be fair, I don’t think a majority of any particular group (however you define it) is impacted by what the advocates do.
      I can only speak directly to women’s issues (duh!). Feminists had a point (in the beginning). Over time, as the issues were addressed, they kept raising the bar and moving the goal posts. They forgot that the idea of advocacy was to put yourself out a job. Once they’d (essentially) achieved their objectives, they didn’t quit.
      This is when women began turning against “feminists.” They weren’t feminists any longer and became something else. They became a kind of stereotypical anti-male charlatan. They were no longer fighting for women’s rights, but a kind of super-duper-privileged status for women for, as you suggest, to make up for some sort of perceived past wrong. Some, obviously, fought for more entitlements and privileges because they really don’t like men, but that (I think and hope) is a small percentage.
      But most women live their day-to-day lives without being at all moved or motivated by what radical feminists do (other than being mildly amused at what nut cases they are and sometimes angry for actions that are self-defeating for women). At the same time, women who assert that women do have rights (just like any other group) are tarnished by what the extremists do.
      Most women, as I think is true for other groups (gays, blacks, etc) live their lives totally separate from “activism.” The media likes to pick up on these things, so it’s always thrown at us, but I still think it’s just a nuisance rather than anything significant.
      The people who live under the advocate skirts would live under someone’s skirt. They don’t want to get their shit together.
      It can have long term consequences, as we saw with the uber push for marriage in Mass and Calif. Society was primed for domestic partnership agreements and they decided to jump the shark for marriage. This set domestic partnership agreements back about 50 years. These irresponsible and ill-timed actions have actually hurt the gay community as a whole (as feminist advocacy in family courts has also backfired).

    2. Sean Kinsell says:

      I think you’re right about the way people live their lives. I think there is a difference in PR terms, though. What I mean is, when Gloria Steinem gets on television and jabbers, most people know enough women to realize that she’s only speaking for the small group she circulates in.
      By contrast, most people outside large cities don’t know all that many gays, or they don’t know they know them because those they do know aren’t squalling attention whores. That makes it easier for people to look at one of our activists and think, “Whoa! So that’s what those people are like!”

    3. Mrs. du Toit says:

      Not know any gay people? How can that be? You people are everywhere!
      But seriously, that’s probably true for a lot of people. Others are “gay tolerant” as long as gay people are in their place–the equivalent of pre civil rights era attitudes about blacks. Folks were comfortable with blacks in the kitchen, but not in the living room. The same mindset makes it comfortable for gays to be beauticians and home decorators, but not career advisers or financial investors.
      I’ve known straight beauticians who actually “act gay” because their customers sort of expect it.
      But you people ARE everywhere. How can people not know gay people? I have a hard time getting that. I know that’s true, but how can people not notice? I know, I know. It still baffles me though. Women were forever asking me if my brother was single/dating anyone. After I managed to get my jaw in functioning order again, I’d generally respond that he was seeing someone (without any further disclosures), just so they wouldn’t pursue it.
      I don’t think, for another set of folks (who knows what percentage they represent) it doesn’t have anything to do with tolerance or bigotry. We’re still pretty tribal, despite our best efforts not to be. We tend to travel in circles of similar interests and hobbies. Our friends are generally conservatives with guns. Some folks socialize with people in their profession or their church. And more folks tend to travel in social circles with people at a similar point in their lives–new to the suburbs, new marrieds, old marrieds, single moms or dads, retirees, divorced singles with kids, etc. These tend to isolate people from social situations where there would be more crossover. I don’t think it’s intentional. It is for some, obviously, but when you think about who most people socialize with, it’s from a very narrow circle, not people who are narrow.

    4. Sean Kinsell says:

      As for how so many people cannot know a lot of gays…Connie, dear heart, not everyone grew up on the West Side of LA. :)
      Regarding your point about tribalism and John’s point about urban provincialism, it always floors me when I go back to New York or San Francisco and have people treating me as if my living in Japan made me this extreme cosmopolite/adventurer. I mean, yes, it’s a foreign country, but it’s not as if I were one of those people who take two years to hike across Uzbekistan with nothing but a canteen and four granola bars. And there are Asians all over the place in NY and SF! I mean, not just Asian-Americans, but people who have come over from here to study or work. I think you’re both right that people just don’t notice these things unless they have to.
      That wouldn’t be so bad with regards to gay issues if it stopped at not being interested in people’s sex lives. The problem is when people see one or two carping-bitch public figures of ours and assume they can conclude that we’re all like that.

    5. John says:

      Connie’s right, but it’s not just the small towns. When I went to business school, about 40% of the students in my classs were foreign nationals. Most of the American students commented repeatedly about the “new cultural experience” of being in teams (selected for us) with that many foreigners. I was amazed. These were all go-getting big city types, typical big company, big city MBAs in training, and the only contact with foreigners they’d had was at their local ethnic restaurants.
      When allowed to choose our own teams for non-core classes, it was pretty amazing how teams formed around ethnic lines, with a few exceptions. The few Koreans were ex-soldiers and tended to team up with our military reservists (and one active from the Finance Corps), and Chinese tended to team up with me because of my wife. Americans with cultural ties were in demand by a lot of the self-forming ethnic teams. If nothing else, we were good proofreaders. It doesn’t take much to step outside your circle, but it usually takes some form of common ground.
      I was amazed at the American provincialism of the b-school students, though. When I was in graduate school for Chemistry, I was always in the minority. Our research group had 3 Russians, 3 Indians, 6 Chinese, 1 Taiwanese, 1 Hong Kongese, 1 Slovak and 4 Americans (one was my wife, born in Taiwan). As an insulated science geek I had to work with more cultures and cultural issues than most of my MBA classmates prior to b-school.

    6. Mrs. du Toit says:

      You mean you’re not an “extreme cosmopolite/ adventurer”? And all this time you had me fooled…
      You sell yourself short. I know what you mean, but everyone has a tendency to view themselves as normal–in the sense of being average. There aren’t many people who would visit a foreign country, let alone be savvy enough to break the strings that bind them, learn a new language, and conform to another country’s cultural rules.
      That’s a remarkable thing and if people are treating you as something special–as the modern day equivalent of a sailor on the Pinta, deal with it.
      You are special. I’ll grant that I’m just a wee bit biased with regards to you–but only just.

    7. Sean Kinsell says:

      So that’s why men are always addressing me as “Sailor”! /;)