Saturday, February 3, 2018

The Bike Rider Analogy

One last item from Twitter in January 2018. It's from Emma Hart, @Ghetsuhm, who lives in Christchurch, New Zealand. Her bio says, "Slutty boozy tattooed kinky liberal freelancer. Suburban cooking gardening solo mother. Author of The Isis Knot. Owner of the worst cat in the world." On her website, she adds this: "After a martini, she’ll also tell you everything you didn’t want to know, and there’s no real way to stop her."

Here's what I heard Emma say a few weeks ago:

I have this theory that cycling is as close as a middle-class straight white guy can get to understanding Being Female. People have a reckless disregard for your safety, you have to treat everyone like they might hurt you, and if you do get hurt people will blame you for existing.
That hit me really strongly, and I wanted to call more attention to it than just burying somewhere in the middle of my Twitter round-up.

Almost all of us have some aspect of our existence that puts us outside the dominant group, and from which we can analogize and build our empathy for people who are even farther from the dominant group. In the U.S., it's clear that middle and upper class, straight, white men may have to think a bit harder to find that aspect. Maybe it's a form of disability, maybe it's being an atheist, maybe it's getting old, maybe it's being a bike-rider. But see if there isn't some aspect of your life that can help you identify with people who are marginalized within the power structures of our system.*

It's possible that some people don't have one of these access points to finding empathy. But a lot of people do have one, though they don't seem to recognize it.

The important thing to do, once you recognize your personal aspect of marginalization, is to use it for empathy and not assume your marginalization is the most important one. Use it to find common ground. 

*At the same time, all of us, no matter how marginalized, almost always have at least one way we belong to the dominant group. Living without a disability so far in our lives or identifying with the gender you were assigned at birth are two of the most common, for instance. Recognizing that bit of dominance, in the midst of all the other ways we may be marginalized, is also important.

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