So there’s That One Guy.
There’s probably a slang term for That One Guy, but not knowing it, I’ll give a general description:
That One Guy is (typically) most or all of the following: white, male, straight, cis, college-educated, safely above the poverty line. He’s also VERY into all the progressive movements. He drives a float in the pride parade, has a Black Lives Matter sleeve tattoo on each arm, and sends hand-written postcards to Anita Sarkeesian to tell her to keep fighting the good fight.
His zealousness may even start to be embarrassing for the actual members of the social groups he’s trying to champion. He may engage in white knighting. Maybe he speaks too authoritatively about prejudice or discrimination that he has no first-hand experience with. Maybe he’s just ‘woke’ to a cringey degree. That One Guy becomes a weeaboo for the underprivileged.
I never wanted to be That One Guy. Still don’t, really. I’ve got all the right privilege markers, and all the right stances on social issues to become one, it’s just a matter of engagement and scale.
And there are some good reasons to try not to be. If he speaks out too often and too loudly for these diverse causes, he may be drowning out the voices of the people who have real skin in the game. Jumping too readily to the defense of people who were fully prepared to defend themselves may be patronizing or condescending. And sometimes this sort of activism is more about a performative sort of ethicality than about bringing forth change.
But while all these concerns are part of the reason I don’t speak out on these issues very often, I think the biggest part of the reason is that I don’t like getting things wrong in public. Because it’s embarrassing.
In school, I wouldn’t really raise my hand to answer questions unless I was confident I already knew the answer. And I hated essay questions, because they were so subjective, and it was hard to know if you were getting it ‘right’ or not. And now, with social concerns everywhere I look, I hesitate to write anything with a strong opinion because I might get it wrong, and then someone might call me out, and that would be EMBARRASSING.
And then…it would be fine.
Outside of the more extreme cases of internet shaming, getting embarrassed on the internet is one of the most survivable problems you can have. You blush in private, then close your computer and avoid dealing with the emotions until you have to. It’s not a REAL problem.
One of the things I realized today is that being able to make decisions based on whether or not I will get embarrassed on the internet is itself a sign of privilege, in the same way that being able to ignore politics is a sign of privilege. (God…every single time I write that word, it comes out ‘privelege’. Every single time.)
I want to do better at this, even if it means making some mistakes along the way (maybe even in this post, who knows). So here’s some advice that is ostensibly for you readers, but is really for me:
- Risk getting things wrong. Think things through before posting to reduce the chances of getting things horribly wrong, but don’t default to inaction every time. Sometimes learning from a mistake is better than not making the mistake at all.
- Accept correction with humility. Before getting defensive with someone who corrects you, allow for the possibility that they are right and you are wrong, especially if there are good reasons that they know better than you on this topic.
- Don’t get burned by embarrassment. When someone calls you out, don’t think, “Fine, I’ll just never try again.” Course correct, take the new information into account, and go out and make new mistakes. Never stop learning.
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If you want more of me blathering about current events, the currentest is Being Right Is Not Enough. If you’re here for some of my dumb poems…um. Sorry. It’s been a while. Maybe check out Balloons Are Always Blue? I liked that one.