Sunday, 30 December 2012

On the privilege of politeness:

Or rather the privilege of defining "politeness".

As a person with autism, I am often accused of being "impolite" for not expressing in the same way as neurotypical people, as a minority and a social justice advocate I am often accused of being "impolite" for pointing out an issue, whether that be the racism in the white feminist movement or how sexist and not funny a rape joke is.

Ever notice it is always the privileged person who defines politeness and deems the minority not to be polite enough?

That's because choosing what is polite and having the social power to enforce that choice is a function of privilege.

Whether it's "you pointed out my racism, you're rude" or "you didn't behave as I expected so you're rude", privilege affords privileged people the power and the "right" to define politeness and rudeness.

Minorities are constantly policed not just by the majority but also intersectionally. The amount of times I've been told that pointing out problematic behaviour from a fellow minority who is privileged in a different area to the one we share is "rude" and "divisive", are many.

Whether it be white feminists getting pissy because talking about the racism in feminism and feminist spaces is "divisive", or able bodied feminists getting pissy because asking them not to use slurs is not working in "solidarity" or is "racist" if you're asking a WoC feminist not to use them.

My point? Next time you go to call someone impolite or to support someone who is calling someone impolite? Be sure to check you're not calling them impolite because they pointed out your privilege/bad behaviour/brought up something you feel guilty about and make sure the "impoliteness" isn't actually coming from inside you.

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