A ranty, funny, dead-serious intersectional feminist blog.

I’m Tired of All the Damned Splaining so Check Your Privilege, Please

STOPI’m tired. So tired of all the splaining and the related derailing and domination of conversations about issues facing less privileged people by those who have more privilege in our society.

I have written about mansplaining before. Many men (who seem not to have read past the headline) get their feelings hurt by this because they automatically assume it applies to all men. If you do not engage in mansplaining, it does not apply to you. The same goes for what I have to say here: if the shoe fits, wear it.

All of us sit somewhere on a scale of privilege. Some are more privileged, some less. My wish is that when someone from a lower rung on the ladder of privilege speaks out about an issue that affects them, everyone above them on the ladder would take the opportunity to listen and learn and allow room for that voice to be heard. Too often what I see instead is the people from higher on the ladder jumping in to splain to the people on lower rungs why their perspectives are flawed. I see threads about women derailed and dominated by men. I see threads about People of Color derailed and dominated by white people. And it’s not cool.

I am tired of being splained and watching other people get splained. I’m tired of women never being able to speak out about an issue that affects them without half a dozen men jumping in to splain “it’s not just women” or telling us how wrong we are when we try to talk about our lived experiences and how we feel about them. I’m tired of seeing People of Color speaking out about their lived experiences and issues affect them only to have white people splain that “it’s not just Black people” and “that’s not racist.” I’m tired of straightsplainging and cissplaining. I’m tired of abandoning threads I started because even when I say I’m done arguing, the splainers keep on splaining (often becoming more and more condescending as the discussion “progresses”). I’m tired of dealing with people who are more interested in having their opinions heard and being right than in sitting back and listening to people whose lives and challenges are different from theirs and maybe learning something.

You know what? When people less privileged than you are use their voices to talk about an issue they face, it really doesn’t matter whether the issue also affects you. The point is that it affects the less privileged group to a (chances are much) greater degree, and they are trying to talk about that, and it is not helpful or wanted for you to splain that you were once poor or that you got sexually harassed one time so it’s not just them. In fact, when you do that, you take up room in the conversation that really ought to be reserved for other voices in the less privileged group who want to discuss the issue. What would be helpful would be for you to listen and learn about how other people experience the world—other people who do not benefit from the privileges you enjoy—and the challenges *they* face. Consider whether your opinion is required on every topic on which you feel tempted to comment, or whether you are simply exercising your privilege when you and people like you end up dominating a conversation that wasn’t about you in the first place. Consider how your privilege allows you to feel comfortable doing that.

Your privilege means that your voice carries more weight in almost every situation. Do you really have to chime in on every single thread on which you have an opinion? Must your voice be heard, possibly at the expense of others? Want to talk about an issue that affects you? Maybe go start your own conversation rather than taking over one a person on a lower rung of privilege is trying to have.

If this pisses you off, then maybe ask yourself why, and consider whether you’re actually willing to allow less privileged people to talk about issues facing them without splaining how it’s “not just X” or how their perspectives are flawed. Consider whether you are willing to make room for voices that carry less weight in our society. If you’re not willing consider these things, then you are not being an ally to those less privileged than you are.

I’m tired of all the damned splaining. And I’m about to start culling my social media feeds to reduce the amount of it I have to deal with in my life. I have already revised my comment policy here to reflect the fact that I’m not nearly as tolerant of various flavors of bullshit as I once was. This is one of my least favorite flavors because people who do this are often unaware of what they’re doing and consider themselves to be allies, which means that people like me end up wasting a lot of time and precious energy trying to help them understand. False allies are worse than trolls because at least they seem like they have good intentions, but what they end up doing is sucking all your energy as you try to engage them when ultimately, they can’t see past their own privilege to actually listen. They end up dominating conversations instead of learning. And the less privileged end up leaving these conversations because we’re tired of arguing with people who have no intention of hearing us, and so our voices we are effectively silenced. False allies are people who think of themselves as “progressive” but behave in ways that become part of the problem.

If you want to be an ally, learn how to be a good one. If you want to argue about this, go argue with someone else. And please stop splaining.

Because I’m so fucking tired of it.

BE AN ALLY.png


PSA: Trolls who comment here will be deleted and banned, so kindly piss off in advance. (Comment Policy)

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35 responses

  1. Its gotten to the point now where people are consider lower and higher rung status? Its gotten to the point where whites are automatically considered privileged? Where whites are being told not to offer opinions in debate and discussion? Aren’t all those ideas discriminatory?

    June 4, 2014 at 7:47 am

  2. If this blog was not full of Racism, I would see your point. Splain yourself a little better please, ]you know, I am a jewish woman , most of my family is gone, my people are hated by blacks whites browns everyone. My beautiful jewish names goes from this earth when I do, because of the genocide that has clouded my people for years, my family is almost gone. How dare you put yourself on a pedastal higher than mine. You don’t know rejection. Go to Israel with my people and live a day surrounded by commies and see how it feels. Walk the street with my green eyes one day and hear the jewish gas chamber jokes screamed in your face. Please stop with the pity parties!!! We have all had it bad, it is up to us to stop blaming other races, instead we should stand up to the ones trying to make a race war. I love everyone. But I hate when people who bring race into something that could be beautiful. You are obviously black and have something against them white folks right? based on your post I would say yes. Stop, look around you, I am a white woman (well brown, but you would consider me white), I don’t know you but I love you. I love everything about you. Please love yourself enough to not be a victim of race. I refuse to be, even though its hard, I am a woman I am proud, and no one will bring me down or make me feel less than. Period
    Please think about what you say people and how it affects other, Words are Magic!

    April 19, 2014 at 8:42 am

    • FYI: I am a white woman.

      April 20, 2014 at 7:26 am

  3. As someone who has been blessed with a lot of privilege and wants to be an effective ally, I guess the question I’m left with is if it’s helpful for me to be chiming in with potential solutions to the issues being discussed or if discussions of issues people are facing are more about just getting it out and saying “hey world this issue is a real thing, this is how it affects me.”

    March 31, 2014 at 8:45 am

    • Yeah, sometimes I think in our haste to offer solutions we forget that when a person’s lived experience differs greatly from ours, the best thing we can offer is our willingness to listen.

      I’ve noticed that when men blithely advise women regarding various issues we face daily, it tends to highlight how out of touch they are with our experience: the advice is generally not useful for one reason or another and the assumption that we haven’t done all that we can to deal with the issue is irritating. Add the fact that we hear the same stuff over and over again, and…well, thinking of it this way kind of puts it into perspective for me when I’m dealing with other marginalized groups.

      April 1, 2014 at 9:33 am

  4. Cindy

    I just read your post about privilege on FB, and it intrigued me very much. I think of privelge as having money, so I never considered that I have privilege but I do – as a white straight college educated women, as a teacher, as a homeowner, in many other ways. The post basically is telling us to treat each other with respect, but its telling us why we should, in a way that is simple, but oh so hard. Its telling me that I need to watch myself, and listen more – something I always try to do, but my desire to ‘splane’ often pops out before I can stop it. Certainly, its a challenge, but the idea is worth considering and worth trying. Thanks for that – and reading your blog a bit, I think its a place I may come back to, often.

    March 25, 2014 at 6:15 am

    • Thanks, Cindy! I really appreciate your willingness to really examine what privilege means in your life. It is really challenging, but totally worth it in the long run when you consider the harm you don’t do when you’re trying harder to be aware.

      May 10, 2014 at 10:29 am

  5. Great post! Love it!

    March 13, 2014 at 12:07 pm

    • Thank you! :)

      March 13, 2014 at 12:22 pm

  6. Wow. I got so tired of people telling other people what they could an d could not say on Tumblr that I deleted my blog and moved over here to WordPress. I guess it’s everywhere. Peace, Sweetie.

    March 11, 2014 at 9:10 am

    • Every. Where. Thanks! :)

      May 10, 2014 at 10:29 am

  7. All I can say is amen amen amen!

    I think people who consider themselves allies should really figure out what their intentions are sometimes. Do you REALLY want to help? Do you really want to see an end to racism, sexism, homophobia, etc?

    Sometimes I think that a lot of the -isms that we contend with could be more effectively addressed if we SAW one another more. I guess this sounds kind of new-agey, but if we really practiced seeing one another in each other, having conversations like this might be a little easier.

    I don’t know what to say about this stuff sometimes. Some days I want to engage, I want to talk, I want to understand. But other days I’m frustrated and want to tell everybody to go to hell–when I hear (and see) the effects of gentrification, or when my own students–mostly students of color–echo neo-conservative stances on race. I’m just like, “they got us good.”

    But then I read articles like these and realize if we don’t keep talking, we may not keep moving.

    Thanks for this post! I may print out thousands of copies and start handing them out when conversations go wrong.

    March 10, 2014 at 4:32 pm

    • Thank you! You make so many great points. I think you’re absolutely right that we often forget to “see” the person inside the person–the one we can connect to rather than the mask…? This is especially true in this Internet age where we talk without seeing one another at all. But we have to keep talking.

      March 11, 2014 at 10:31 am

  8. Crap, I can only “like” this once. Hmm, I wonder if I can make this into an automated response on Facebook? Or have it printed onto cards to hand out as needed.

    March 8, 2014 at 2:49 pm

    • Ha! A FB autoresponse would be awesome. :)

      March 8, 2014 at 11:53 pm

  9. This is a familiar sentiment. I am almost compelled to respond… I care deeply, I want to hear and understand, I want to be an ally… to me that means actively supporting, digging and trying understand how to make things better… but given this position it does not feel like there is any way to engage. That doing anything other than nodding and bowing my head falls under the inexorable grind of this argument as being part of the problem. Seeing this argument articulated over and over is frustrating and alienating and makes me very sad. I wish I could help. I wish I could participate. You have my most heartfelt wishes for good luck.

    March 7, 2014 at 11:46 am

    • It’s a difficult line to walk–engaging vs. splaining. I think you can participate if you bear in mind the power dynamics in play and understand how your privilege signifies in the conversation. I always recommend keeping in mind the “comfort in, dump out” philosophy, which in this context means that if you have a question or aren’t sure you’re buying what someone is selling, seek answers elsewhere. Talk to men who are perhaps farther along the path than you are and see if they can clarify things. Do some reading and see if you can’t get a better perspective. But above all, remember that it’s not your job to set someone straight just because you think they are mistaken, and if their lived experience differs greatly from yours, arguing with their perspective is almost never going to be welcome.

      Thanks for reading and commenting.

      March 7, 2014 at 11:57 am

  10. What a wonderful post. Listening is a lost human skill. Co-opting someone else’s experience so that you can share your “wisdom” is annoying. Instead of telling, we need more listening and asking.

    March 7, 2014 at 6:31 am

    • Thank you! Yes, more listening, less splaining! ;)

      May 10, 2014 at 10:30 am

  11. I think women are just as guilty of “splaining” as men. I spend my days mainly with women, and it is a daily occurrence that women display the same indifference to actual male perspectives and seek to assert their beliefs about male perspectives and experiences. Frequently women adopt “Mummy-mode” when speaking to men, seemingly oblivious to the inappropriateness of it and the men’s reactions. Sometimes it’s almost pure comedy when a twenty-something woman speaks to a fifty-something man in “Mummy-mode”. It seems to me that both men and women adopt modes of monologue that afford them advantage. We should all check our privilege. But equally we should all shut up more often and actually listen.

    March 7, 2014 at 4:51 am

    • You know, get a lot of this when I speak out about an issue that affects women disproportionately: “It’s not just women.” First, no one said that women are not capable of lecturing men or dismissing them. But I think we have to take into consideration privilege, as I have said above. Men occupy a position of privilege over women, and in my experience, that translates to 9 out of 10 people lecturing me being men. It translates to men telling me I’m “too emotional” to discuss things rationally. To them telling me that if I’d just be nicer about it, I might get more “sympathy,” as though I give a rat’s ass about their sympathy. It translates to women being constantly barraged if they speak out on the Internet with this condescending BS and having opinions forced on us whether we like it or not. It translates to the barrage continuing even when we say we’re not interested in continuing the discussion, and when we say “No, really, just stop now” we are ridiculed for “running away.” In short, we are bullied on the Internet A LOT. I’m sorry, but this is not an equal scenario, though I do agree that we could all use to listen more and opine less, especially in situations where we hold privilege over the other party or group.

      March 7, 2014 at 12:04 pm

  12. This is great, and I think even people who consider themselves/ourselves “allies” need to be willing to constantly consider their/our words and actions humbly.

    Oh and I don’t like your comment policy… I freaking love it!

    March 6, 2014 at 5:10 pm

  13. Is it privilege as much as being self-centered, or just not listening?
    Or do you think being like that is a result of privilege?

    March 6, 2014 at 2:18 pm

    • Something like that. I think that privilege has taught white men that their opinions are important and that everyone else as a right to them. It’s privilege that allows them to be so self-centered. No one has ever required them to really consider an experience completely different from their own and how that might change their perspective.

      March 6, 2014 at 4:34 pm

      • Miche

        The way I’ve heard it put is “Privilege means not having to think about it.”

        May 10, 2014 at 11:52 am

  14. It’s an interesting challenge.

    I don’t necessarily see people as allies or trolls. Some people are ignorant and delighted to remain so. I agree that trying to engage them intellectually is a waste of energy. I gave up trying to explain to my father why, even though we work our asses off, we still struggle financially, (even with decent incomes, on paper); he’s never struggled for cash, so he simply has no idea what we’re talking about and kept offering me “advice” that was rude and stupid and completely insulting.

    It’s exhausting. You just have to give up or lose your marbles.

    March 6, 2014 at 2:06 pm

    • Yeah, I know it’s not black and white, but so often these guys think they’re progressive. I’ve had some of them tell me things like “you’ll never meet a guy who’s as much as a feminist as me.” And I’m like, yikes.

      March 6, 2014 at 4:36 pm

      • Keck. I love it when someone tells me how to think.

        Not.

        LOVE your blog and your perma-feistiness. Thank God for a few strong women out there.

        March 7, 2014 at 6:32 am

        • Thank you! <3

          March 7, 2014 at 8:49 am

  15. It’s one of the reasons I avoid talking to my brother about these types of topics. He’s good at splaining and derailing conversations – and his worst is that if it’s something he doesn’t think should be an issue, then of course it’s not an issue really, we’re all just being silly. Plus he pushes my buttons like no one else. It’s too bad because he’s a smart guy, and generally pretty stand up, but he’s a white male who’s had a rough life – he doesn’t see his privilege because of his situation. It’s frustrating to even engage him, so I just don’t.

    March 6, 2014 at 12:48 pm

    • Yeah, that can be really hard. It’s a basic misunderstanding of how privilege works, but if they’re not listening, they’re never going to get it. I have people in my life with whom I avoid these conversations for the same reasons.

      March 6, 2014 at 1:24 pm

  16. Reblogged this on Note To Self.

    March 6, 2014 at 11:06 am

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