I recently read an article on the Internet that made me quite irritated. Shocker, right? But I always like to figure out why I’m mad about something, and, after mulling this article over and ranting in my head for about an hour, I decided to rant on here instead.
Here‘s the article; I suggest you read it before reading this.
This article is in reaction to a Heineken ad that, as far as I can tell, ran in Britain. (Don’t quote me on that, though. It’s not really important to this post.) The author of this article isn’t alone. The liberal three-fourths of the Internet apparently blew up loving it, and then blew up hating it. Within about a week.
The ad was viewed as a response to this Pepsi ad, showing Kendall Jenner giving a Pepsi to a policeman during a protest of some sort that looked more like a music festival than an actual protest. The Heineken ad consisted of three pairs of people: an African-American feminist woman and a white man who said that feminism was an excuse for man-hating and that women are needed to have men’s babies, a white trans woman and a white man who said that a man is a man and a woman is a woman, and two white guys who disagree on climate change. The pairs are asked to build a bar together and get to know each other, then are showed a video of the other expressing his or her views. They’re told they can either walk away or sit, have a beer, and talk about their beliefs. Obviously they all stay and talk.
The article in question argues that this ad promotes a dangerous way of thinking, that the pairs are not on equal footing because the women are being asked to talk with people who deny “their humanity and basic rights.” She says,
Not all viewpoints are equal. Not all olive branches are earned. And it is not in the service of justice to demand emotional labor of marginalized people while praising bigots for doing the bare minimum to act like humans on a single occasion.
Her language hits nearly every buzzword floating around the Internet right now and shoves them all into the same paragraph. That’s always a sign to me the article is regurgitating things the author has seen rather than presenting a legitimate, well-thought-out opinion. But.
I’m not saying her viewpoint is wrong. In this society, those pairs are on unequal footing; I’m not denying that. I’m saying that her argument and, by extension, the argument of many liberals throwing their opinions around the Internet, is deeply flawed.
She argues her point with the assumption that the white men are inherently wrong and the trans woman and the feminist are inherently right. She argues, implicitly, that this is the absolute truth–a concept that liberals have long been trying to phase out of existence. She lumps transphobia and racism into the same bucket of wrong, and she calls the white men violent, abusive bigots.
First. Racism and LGBTQphobia are not the same thing.
Homophobia is one of those catch-all words that seems to apply to anything said about homosexuals other than, “I’m so proud of you!” It’s misapplied to people who think that homosexuality is wrong without hating homosexuals. And, it often stems from religious and moral beliefs. Racism is also a catch-all term, focused mainly around the belief that one race is innately superior or inferior to another, and it generally stems from upbringing, outside influences, and the intrinsic human feeling of, “You’re different from me. I don’t understand you. I don’t like what I don’t understand.” While homophobia can obviously come from those places as well, it can also be a belief that homosexuals are choosing to do something wrong. Racism isn’t concerned with choices.
To equate the two is to tell people who believe that homosexuality is wrong that their beliefs are invalid and inferior to other beliefs and practices.
(You can argue that point if you want to; I don’t care. But argue that point. To argue another point using that assumption is to alienate an audience that might have otherwise been receptive.)
One of the key arguments in the feminism / LGBTQ / cultural / what have you movements seems to boil down to “you do you and I’ll do me.” It’s the denial of absolute truth, the blurring–and in some cases complete erasure–of a right/wrong dichotomy. The result of this, of course, is that the people who still believe in a right/wrong dichotomy are labeled bigots.
Holding the belief that another person is doing something wrong does not make someone a bigot.
Bigotry is an obstinate, stubborn, and complete intolerance of any belief other than your own. Check any dictionary. The author of this article is arguing that anyone who doesn’t hold her beliefs is wrong. Not only that, she’s condemning them. She even says, “Not all viewpoints are equal.” So I will leave you with that hypocrisy and move on.
The transphobe who agrees to have a beer with the trans woman is sacrificing nothing. She, on the other hand, is giving up a certain amount of dignity by breaking bread with someone who thinks she shouldn’t have the right to exist. She’s risking her mental and physical safety, volunteering for the hard emotional labor of arguing for her right to be a person.
She’s risking her mental and physical safety? She’s filming a commercial. He’s not going to attack her. That’s just idiotic. It’s fearmongering. It’s using the right words so the audience will react the way she wants them to. It’s cringe-worthy writing.
Getting past the statement that the man, here condescendingly being stripped of his humanity and simply called a transphobe, is sacrificing nothing while discussing his beliefs–because we covered that earlier–I ask you: so what? So what if she has the “lower ground” in this discussion? So what if she has to go through “the hard emotional labor of arguing for her right to be a person”?
She has to do that anyway.
Having two trans women come together to discuss their beliefs is not going to do anything to improve society. Minority groups do have unequal footing in society. These people, these white men, are willing to sit down and talk about their beliefs and come to understandings. And you’re condemning that?
So what’s your solution? To call people who disagree with you bigots and widen the divide? You bitched about the problem, now come up with a solution. If olive branches were earned, they wouldn’t be olive branches. The act of offering peace–on any side–is a sacrifice. Who are you to condemn peace simply because of who’s offering it?
An argument that calls for equality while negating, ignoring, and condemning an entire set of beliefs is a bad argument. An argument that calls for the eradication of a problem but condemns steps taken to solve that problem is a bad argument. An argument that points out problems without offering solutions is a bad argument.
Of course talking about hard things is dangerous. Life is dangerous. If everyone were on equal footing, we wouldn’t have this problem in the first place. So we do the hard things. We have the hard conversations. We stop assuming that everyone in the world is out to persecute us and hate us. I don’t know if any of that will work. People–all of them–inherently suck. But it has to be better than condemning efforts toward understanding.