This is not my mug shot…
As you can tell, I’m a white guy. I’m a little worn out, starting my journey through middle age en route to the grumpy old may shouting at kids to get them off of my lawn. Since you are reading this you know that I sometimes pretend to be a writer.
This past week Scaachi Koul, a senior writer at Buzzfeed Canada who happens to be a woman put a call out on Twitter for long form writing pitches particularly from writers who are not white and not male. She didn’t say that people who identify as male and /or white couldn’t pitch articles, just that they were interested in content from a more diverse crowd than the usual people who send them stories.
For that she got harassed right off of Twitter. She has now deleted her account after receiving threats including the suggestion that her white male boss “rape and/or murder her as professional discipline. ” I don’t swear much around here – I am a dad to young kids after all and I am very good at stubbing my toe and suffering in silence. However… What the actual F*ck is wrong with people?
It is assholes like this, attacking women and people of colour whenever they perceive that their sense of white power masculinity is being threatened, who ruin it for the rest of us. By ‘rest of us’ I mean humans who respect other humans and by ‘ruin’ I mean what makes you think you have the f*cking right to demean, harass, threaten, abuse and totally disrespect other people for expressing an opinion, idea, invitation or general theoretical concept that you happen to disagree with?
Sadly this is in no way an isolated or even unusual occurrence. It isn’t even something that pops up every few weeks. This is happening daily. I see women being attacked on twitter on a daily basis by dumbasses who feel they have the right to make someone’s life miserable and the thing is, they enjoy it. I presume attacking other people makes them feel powerful to cover up what I can only imagine are feelings of immense insecurity and low self-esteem. I struggle with how to prepare my daughters to manage this kind of barrage. I want for them to feel comfortable enough to express their opinions if they so choose and I want them to be safe.
I have on occasion had the opportunity to be attacked a couple of times by these insecure guys because I have expressed such radical opinions as “men and women are equal” “I think feminism is a good thing and it makes me a better father.” You can see how such a thing would drive someone right over the edge into uncontrollable rage. I have tried varying tactics in response to these weasels. Sometimes I ignore them as we are told to do with trolls. Sometimes I have tried to argue my case with them and that is never a good idea. The experience just made me lose IQ points. Now I mock them and provide them with useless and generally incoherent responses until they go away. For a good time “The Tick” has some excellent content out there that will confound any troll and give you the opportunity to review some excellent cartoon content.
It is different for me. I am a straight, white male who has achieved a relative degree of success in life without a tremendous degree of difficulty. Some might even call this privilege. Sure I have had challenges in my life, but no one has ever told me I can’t do something or participate in something because of my gender, religion or the colour of my skin. Also I am not a little guy and not since my last school fight in grade seven has anyone seriously threatened me with or inflicted physical or sexual violence. I do not live with the daily prospect of that violence or harassment and I can’t remember the last time I felt unsafe. In short I can mock these insecure losers and not feel unsafe or particularly concerned. (I recognize that I might be poking the bear on this one…)
That is certainly not the case for many women, people of colour and these days any believer in a non-Christian faith. If I were a middle eastern, Muslim woman I would certainly feel much less safe than I do as an atheist, white male. Some might also call that privilege.
When it comes to this particular situation with Buzzfeed, seeing an invitation for non-white, non-male writers to contribute content to an online publication with virtually unlimited capacity to publish content I don’t feel the least bit threatened or concerned. I can still submit content to them. Pursuing the creation of a more diverse pool of writers and seeking to offer a broader set of voices can only be good. There is no downside to that.
It is only through sharing our respective stories and perspectives that we learn from one another. It is why many of us write. I hope that from time to time someone will read something that I have written and it will change things for them. It might be so profound that it changes their life. More likely they might be having a crappy day, look at my mug shot up top and think “well at least I don’t look as rough as that guy does.” Making space for other voices in no way diminishes the value of what I have to say. Using ‘there, they’re, their’ incorrectly has a greater likelihood of diminishing the value of what I write than reading the opinion of someone with a different lived experience than me ever will.
To all my fellow white males out there, chill out, find some ways to feel good about yourself without tearing other people down or harassing and threatening women with violence. Get off your freaking high horse, acknowledge that there are other stories and opinions out there that are worth considering. Even if you disagree with those opinions you don’t need to launch personal attacks against the person who expresses them. Life is seriously way better when you are comfortable enough in your own skin to look for opportunities to learn from other people and listen to other perspectives.
We’ve been in charge of the Western world for long enough it is time to open the door everyone.