On Race, Gender and Difference.

On Race, Gender and Difference.

NB: Below you can read my reply to a Project O’s fellow-contributor. Click on the link above for her article.

Dear Tee,
Thank you for a great post. I enjoyed the sarky undertone too. It suited the piece I think.

     Regarding race. May I be so bold and agree with your PolSci prof? I don’t know what arguments she brought forward to support her position, but this is how I see it. Yes, people’s skin colour differs. It differs from person to person, region to region, continent to continent; and if there are humanoid aliens out there, perhaps from galaxy to galaxy too. We are not blind to those differences, and the French I think proved quite well that state-ratified attempts at such blindness fail to bring about equality of treatment.

      However, I do believe that race is a social construct. To think in racial terms is not a ‘natural’ occurrence. The doctrines were invented by those who sought to justify rapacious private and state-led enterprise outside the limited confines of European territories. It is easier to rob peoples of their possessions if you do not think of them as your equals. You don’t need to come to terms then with your own failings as a human being or society.
Before that happened, attitudes did not differ towards people whose skin colour differed any more than they differed towards people using different hair-grooming products.

      Race is a social construct in the same way in which gender is. Yes, there are two basic sexes: male and female, with many nuanced in-betweens when discontinuities between biology and psyche occur. But other than the strict biological differences that can be observed, all else is invention. It took two world wars to show Europe that at the end of the day there are no differences between what men and women can do work-wise, that equally well educated men and women are equally capable of rational argument, that politically engaged citizens are militant no matter what their sex.
However, I am also painfully aware that the above does not change on-the-ground realities. Just because something is imagined or invented, if it is adhered to, then it is as real as it can get.

      I count myself fortunate in that I have always seen difference as an inherent good. I am fascinated by it, not in a “let me inspect you as if you’re some museum piece” fascinated, but as toddlers find the world around them new and wonderful and exciting, and everything they have not encountered before is another adventure: an explorer’s dream. Every person I meet, irrespective of background, gender, skin colour, nose shape and whatever-have-you, is to me a new world I am eager to discover. I wish it was the same for everyone.

     Sadly, I know that not to be the case. But I hope that what you shared in your post will make at least one person think twice before they make another racist joke thinking ‘big deal’.

     Thank you again. Look forward to more of your writing x

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Should you like to peruse my original contribution to Project O, follow this link: https://shardsofsilence.wordpress.com/2013/08/26/project-o/ or alternatively, you can find it on Project O’s home-website at: http://aopinionatedman.com/2013/09/03/project-o-article-12/

For more deeply held opinions, there is an interview with vicbriggs and OpinionatedMan coming up in October. Watch this space!

And thank you for stopping by 🙂

COMING SOON on Project O

An exclusive interview with Opinionated Man and vicbriggs on Project O: http://aopinionatedman.com/category/project-o/

Fiction? Hell yes! But why should that not make it real?

Watch this space. Will let you know the date and time of its appearance on Project O’s home blog.

Meanwhile, check out my original contribution to the project here: https://shardsofsilence.wordpress.com/2013/08/26/project-o/

A good day to you all from vampire land!

COMING SOON…

COMING SOON to a VICBRIGGS BLOG-SCREEN NEAR YOU

COMING SOON to a VICBRIGGS BLOG-SCREEN NEAR YOU

Breaking the silence on Depression A letter to my mentor and to you. The first instalment of my coming out. I did not realise the size of my cupboard until I started writing. No, not the Cumberbatch cupboard. More like the Steven Fry cupboard. No. Not that one either. Ha! Although I get the confusion. The depressive cupboard. I am out. I add my number, make it count.

Breaking the silence on Depression now available @ https://shardsofsilence.wordpress.com/2013/08/29/breaking-the-silence-on-depression-2/

Gulliver

Gulliver’s Democracy

An enquiry into conflict and consensus, and their importance for democracy, Gulliver-style.

To be human is to be rational, surely. Or… is it? And… Do we have to agree to be good citizens?

Are you a Yahoo? Lilliputian? Brobdingnagian or Houyhnhnm? Have your say either way!

Gulliver’s Democracy: Fragments of Democracy in a World in Fragments now available @ https://shardsofsilence.wordpress.com/2013/09/24/gullivers-democracy-fragments-of-democracy-in-a-world-in-fragments/

BenedictCumberbatchThe Cumberbatch saga continued:

“It is not stalking. It is simply intense research of one particular person,” reveals vicbriggs, “and I’m a professional. Have the certificate to prove it.”

The Batch on Sunday interviews vicbriggs on working with Cumberbatch and life after Sex with You Know Who. #BenedictCumberbatch now available @ https://shardsofsilence.wordpress.com/2013/09/08/benedictcumberbatch/

Breaking Hot-Not-News! vicbriggs reveals all about meeting her not-so-secret fancy in Truth Stranger than Fiction now available @   https://shardsofsilence.wordpress.com/2013/09/28/truth-stranger-than-fiction-benedictcumberbatch/

vicbriggs and AOpinionatedMan on life, the universe and Opinion!

vicbriggs and AOpinionatedMan on life, the universe and Opinion!

Project O:

The month of September will be called Project O on Opinionated Man’s website: a temporary forum on the topic of “opinions.” He asks if and how the formation of opinions differs according to country, nationality, culture, gender etc.

Project O – Harsh Reality EXCLUSIVE: Interview with vicbriggs and AOpinionatedMan now available @ https://shardsofsilence.wordpress.com/2013/09/30/project-o-harsh-reality-exclusive-interview-with-vicbriggs-and-aopinionatedman/

You can see a preview of my contribution available @ https://shardsofsilence.wordpress.com/2013/08/26/project-o/

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Please note that Project Opinion ended on the 30th of September. All questions regarding the project are to be addressed to AOpinionatedMan. See links below.

AOpinionatedMan accepted submissions at aopinionatedman@gmail.com. Check this link and see if you would like to contribute at https://shardsofsilence.wordpress.com/2013/08/26/project-o-article-0/ or directly at http://aopinionatedman.com/2013/08/26/project-o-2/

Like mystery? Then why not try the Cumbervix!

Like mystery? Then why not try the Cumbervix!

Fun with automobiles! Showroom Extravaganza:

Vintage Vicmark doing its best to stave off new arrival Cumbervixter this summer. Whether you are looking for a reliable motorcar for your everyday needs, or  just a spiffy something for the weekend, don’t miss out on this one-off point by point breakdown of which wheel you’d best get behind and why.

Fun with automobiles! Showroom Extravaganza coming soon to a vicbriggs blog-screen near you!

All this and so much more only on… vicbriggs-blog.

Project O

Project O

Here’s a preview of my contribution to this project.

You will be able to see it on the Project O Director’s blog at some point in the near future. Follow the link for the template if you would like to contribute.

Question 1: Please provide a window into who you are, some background information in a not too overwhelming profile here.

I am a writer. A thinker. And a lover of wisdom (will say philosopher when I have the certificate to prove it. They put a lot of stock by paper where I come from).

I was born in the USSR – got the certificate to prove that one. Basarabia? It sounds a little like Bass-Arabia, although I can assure you, it’s no Middle Eastern palm-treed oasis or lagoon crawling with giant bass.

I left when I was fifteen. I got into Hogwarts: What? Hogwarts? I’m a wizard? Wow!  Ok, nearly: a scholarship got me into a boarding school in Romania. It was magic though, so Harry can swish the proverbial.

I’m British through and through now. Drink milk in my tea. Comment on the cleanliness or otherwise of public lavatories. Am obsessed with discussing the weather almost as much as Benedict Cumberbatch (I’m not. Honest. See Pants on Fire post!).

 

Question 2: If you haven’t already done so please provide your country of origin, whether you are male or female, an age would be nice, and where you currently live if that differs from the country of origin.

I live in one of the Home Counties, a short train journey out of London.  It is picture postcard English countryside: steeds galloping along country lanes, fields of dandelions and rapeseed (they should really rename that!), cricket on Sundays on the village green, mansion house chockfull of aristos complete with deer-roaming estate grounds in my back garden (or as good as).

We used to be red. We a blue now, after the last election (switched from Labour to Conservative that is), although I’m pretty sure that it wasn’t our village that made the change. This one is so blue, people don’t bother with ink. Just slash a wrist open and dab in. Because, of course, we still use quills over here.

 

Question 3: Recount the first time you remember having a differing opinion from someone significantly older than you. Do you remember what the topic was about? Did you voice your opinion or hold it to yourself?

When I was a child, I noticed something that unsettled me in the relationship between my father’s parents. He would tell her to shut up in public, suggesting that what she had to say was stupid. I do not recall any occasion when she said anything to deserve it, even if she was no Plato. What was even worse: she submitted. Every time.

I could not correct him. I’d been brought up to respect my elders. But, I knew from that moment on that I would not allow him, or any other man for that matter, to ever dare tell me to shut up. Well: can’t stop anyone saying it, but I’ve got twenty-five solid years of near-continuous education under my belt, which primarily focused on honing my argumentative skills. (Thank you, grandpa)

My friends always comment on how sweet I am to everyone, too sweet. Well. Manners cost nothing, and I’m sure everyone has sufficient irritants in their everyday life without me adding to them.  But! if you tell anyone to shut up: I’m on you like Dumbledore on You-know-Who. Yeah! I said it. Watch out Tom Riddles of the world. (Thought you’d enjoy a little thematic continuity here :))

 

Question 4: What levels of respect were practiced around you when you were a child?

Alright there, comrades? High levels of respect certainly. We were all equals. Some more equal than others, but equal nonetheless. Everyone had the Name-Patronymic or Name-Surname combos added to that.

Comrades turned to the equivalent of Ma’am and Sir post-revolution and USSR breakdown. Incidentally, in my mother-tongue their meaning is closer to Master and Mistress, so that Wild-East-Capitalism and Schizoid-Aliberal-Democracy came with a convenient hierarchy-minded vernacular to fill in the void left by the Soviet corpse. Although sadly, nothing could suppress the stink of its decomposition.

Politeness of address has been something that I have not been able to shake off. But, then again, I don’t think I want to. One does like to be civil, and to make oneself gracious in company.

 

Question 5: How travelled are you and to what degree do you keep up with international news?

I’m a gluttonous traveller.  I don’t think I’ll ever have time or money enough to do as much of it as I’d like to.

I took a gap year in South America, my first experience of non-European culture. Although at that point my experience of European culture was itself very limited. Romania is as good as my country, the differences culture-wise are few and far between. And the UK is not Europe. I know what you’ll say: ‘course it’s Europe – check the map. Technically it is, but it has struggled with its European identity since time immemorial. In a ‘who’s more European’ competition, Argentina would nudge ahead.

I fell in love with Latin America, yet simultaneously my heart went blue and gold-starred. It was the first time that, when asked where I’m from, I’d answer directly, no second thoughts: Europe.

Before the end of my third decade on this Earth, I’ve had a chance to explore twenty-one of Europe’s many states; I would say cultures, but within each state identities are so fragmented, that you’d have to at least double that number (re culture, ethnicity, and language).

I loved the US too, both East and West coast (no experience of mid-America as yet, although Hawaii was lovely – great scuba). Loved the chirpy attitude and the confidence, even if I can’t take the portions: How much can you people eat?

Japan was by far the strangest experience: A moon landing for me. It was a surprise stopover on the way to New Zealand (courtesy of my thoughtful husband – I’d taken up beginner Japanese – here was a chance for me to practice).

I am a citizen of the world.

 

Question 6: If you could share an opinion on a single international incident or topic that you either feel strongly about or that might not be known to the rest of the world what would it be? You have our attention.

It is very tough to pick just one, but I will attempt it. I hope that if you disagree with me to start with, you’ll at least take some time to think it over before rebuffing.

If you are a democrat (i.e. a believer in the norms and values of democracy) then you are a feminist.

How could anyone possibly justify their democratic credentials whilst simultaneously treating 51% of the population as second class citizens?!

So, I will repeat myself ad nauseam if need be:

If you are a democrat, you are a feminist.

Don’t be scared by the label. You don’t have to be a Feminist to be a feminist. In the same way in which you can hold conservative views, without being a Conservative, or behave liberally, without claiming to be a Liberal.

So. Put a full stop to misogyny. Get the t-shirt. Show some respect to your mothers, sisters, daughters and yourselves.

 

Question 7: What does the right to an opinion mean to you? Is it essential to freedom to have this right? How far would you go to protect that ability?

Opinionated Man: “I value the right to opinion as one of the most important forms of self expression that we have a born right to.”

Yes. It is an important form of self-expression, but further than that… I’m afraid I disagree.

We have no born rights to anything.

“All truth passes through three stages. First it is ridiculed. Second it is violently opposed. Third it is accepted as self-evident.”  A.S. This is the case for rights too.

Whatever rights we have, are the result of years (sometimes hundreds of them) of real struggle and even bloodshed; advances for humanity gained through political action by countless movements: feminist and civil rights movements, to point the finger at a couple of the culprits.

Do not become complaisant. Be in no doubt about this: You have no born right.

What you have, has been painstakingly built for you, and there will be those who will try to demolish it. Not perhaps with a big loud bang, but in time, like water: patiently, slowly hollowing out your freedom, one drop at a time.

So prepare your mortar, and get ready to patch it back up. It’s a constant back and forth and there is only one way to deal with it:

“Constant Vigilance!”  

Question 8: Is it ever right for you to be allowed an opinion while someone else is denied that same right on the same topic?

I cherish my right to an opinion and that of others too. I’ve lived in a time and place when you couldn’t use your voice for fear of reprisal, so I know how much it means being able to speak your mind.

I keep an open mind about… pretty much everything.  There is a line however: I don’t tolerate sexism, racism or homophobia (SRH). Cross that line at your own peril.

Liberalism preaches tolerance. Yes. I’ll go with that. But I also reserve the right to stand up for the norms and values that I treasure most.

In a democracy, SRH is not acceptable. If you subscribe to any of the three, then you need to grow up and get over yourself. What makes you so damned better than anyone else?

Question 9: The last question, upon completing this template and hopefully contemplating the issue what does this project mean to you? How can Project O potentially enlighten or help the world?

I will add my hopes to those of Opinionated Man, that this project allows the world a voice. Can’t wait to read everyone else’s entries! I feel compelled to quote Garai here once again, but there’s been enough swearing for one day so…

Here I come instead: You have a voice too. Use it.