Just Merveilleux

Life at № 42

Isms and Obias

 

This is more a question than a post- what responsibility does an individual have in overcoming the isms and obias of the world? I think it’s interesting because people take such different approaches.

In the old days the solution was passing. Gay men had to not seem gay. Women in leadership positions were expected to masculinize themselves. Remember the power suits of the 80’s? Many Jews changed their names through the ages to protect themselves from persecution.

My personal method was propriety; to an obsessional degree. In many ways it still is. Perfect house, perfect table, perfect clothes, perfect grooming, perfect timing, and thank you cards, and holiday cards, and Christmas baskets, and a somewhat contrived smile that seems to be almost permanently on my face once I leave the house.

It’s worked very well for me, particularly because when you do certain things for a lifetime they become part of you. Of course I know a black person can’t unblack themselves, except for Michael Jackson– but how much can or should anyone do to give themselves the absolute best chances in the world? Could an argument not be made that people in certain groups could have a smoother ride if they adapted a little? Or is that a betrayal of one’s identity? Is it a worthwhile betrayal?

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25 comments on “Isms and Obias

  1. roughseasinthemed
    July 18, 2015

    If you are expecting me to argue, I shan’t. So there. Don’t feel like being baited today 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Mr. Merveilleux
      July 18, 2015

      Not baiting; I think your position is the idealistically perfect one. My question is how does that translate to everyday living?

      Like

      • roughseasinthemed
        July 18, 2015

        I doubt we are dissimilar. OK, I know we’re not 😀 I put my efforts where I think or hope I can have some impact.

        And that has varied according to where I have been in life, literally and financially.

        Back in the mid-80s we fought to establish joint bank accounts as a married couple with separate names in both Australia and the UK. It wasn’t the done thing. Again back in the 80s, I refused to sign any forms that said I’d agree to HIV testing (gay victimisation back then).

        I did wear power suits. I looked hellish good in them. Broad shoulders and short skirts were very me in my 30s. (Me and Cerruti were great pals.) But, as it was a public sector job, I didn’t go on Hunt Sab protests. Merely funded them every week at the city centre stall. Well, he did, I kept out of the way of the CCTV cameras.

        Compromise or pragmatism?

        If I’m working on something these days, I’ll point out isms or obias inherent in text, but it’s always the content owner’s choice.

        My nearly 80-year-old orthodox Jewish neighbour writes to me as Ms, and refers to me as the chair of our board.

        From the important to the trivial. I didn’t like the changes WordPress made to the Reader, so I complained on the forum. I’ve lost track of the number of comments but a) it’s taken on a life of its own and b) WP has, amazingly for once responded to a lot of the complaints.

        As jerbear says, every movement needs different types of people and tactics.

        And, I agree with you that politesse is always a good start. Where it’s worth using.

        Now, is that a more acceptable response? Tell me what more you want and I’ll do my best. Mr M, and the M stands for … ?

        Liked by 2 people

  2. Hariod Brawn
    July 18, 2015

    This is a very good question Mr. M. I think the responsibility is always there, yet how it is practically implemented depends upon circumstances and context. For example, I have a nonagenarian neighbour who is an adorable woman, yet who is irredeemably racist, without her knowing it for herself. I do not argue with her as you will I hope understand, and am instead left needing to find a way of not agreeing whilst at the same time avoiding appearing confrontational. This is not so very difficult, and harmony in this instance seems to trump the very marginal possibility of altering her mindset.

    I don’t think your ‘isms’ are really much of a problem, other than that people tend to cast themselves and others into such ideological brackets and so relinquish their capacity to think freely on a related subject. I have been deeply engaged in Buddhistic practices and psychology for most of my adult life, yet have always rejected the notion that I am conforming to any Buddhism. Others cast me into that role, but for myself I see the limitations of adopting philosophies wholesale. When one absorbs into a subject deeply, one reaches beyond the superficialities of ‘isms’ and their formulaic patterns.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mr. Merveilleux
      July 18, 2015

      What do you think of the hoodie (as in clothing)? Wouldn’t not wearing one probably have a beneficial effect on the life of a teenager?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hariod Brawn
        July 18, 2015

        Really, no; any teenager is far less likely to get identified on CCTV after a break-in at the local drugstore if they’re wearing a hoodie. 😉

        Like

  3. jerbearinsantafe
    July 18, 2015

    I think we need a range of responses to confront isms and phobias. I was very active in demonstrations and “actions” organized by various groups including ACT-UP and Queer Nation during the late ’80s and early-mid ’90s. I frequently heard the analogy that it took both Martin Luther King Jr and Malcolm X, and there different approaches, to advance civil rights for African Americans. I don’t think there is a particularly right or wrong way, just different ways. Working for social change requires people working within an institution, society, circle of friends, family, religion, government, etc. You also need the agitators, demonstrators and those practicing civil disobedience to more forcefully advocate for change. It is the combination of tactics that, in my opinion, result in social change for the better.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. john zande
    July 18, 2015

    Don’t we all bend in accordance to the winds?

    Like

  5. Godless Cranium
    July 18, 2015

    I think it depends on the situation. I think isms should be confronted whenever possible. My mother is racist and when she brings up something racial, I correct her gently. She usually apologizes and moves on. Over the years, she has gotten much better.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. docatheist
    July 19, 2015

    On the one hand, presenting oneself in the most socially ideal and acceptable way helps smooth relationships. On the other hand, if it means hiding who one really is, while pretending to be who one is not, just to fit in and avoid irrational hatred or fear from others, then one must also consider the long term effect of coming out and helping others see that being different is okay,not scary or hate-worthy, and should be perfectly acceptable as well. A backlash is to be expected, but gentle persistence is a good start, with the knowledge that increasing militancy might be required.

    Like

    • Mr. Merveilleux
      July 19, 2015

      But isn’t much of ‘who we are’ flexible? It certainly is regarding what we wear, how we speak to people and the general tone of our presence.

      Liked by 1 person

      • docatheist
        July 20, 2015

        Absolutely!

        Like

      • docatheist
        July 20, 2015

        Incidently, I found and watched this entertaining little movie, last night: youtube.com/watch?v=3Y0CAZ5RTL4 . What do you think of the key (deceased) character?

        Liked by 1 person

  7. clubschadenfreude
    July 19, 2015

    oh I miss 80s fashions (aka 1940s fashions).

    That being said… Conforming is a game to be played. I find that conforming to get in and then slowly exposing the others to what I really am has worked. As Godless Cranium has noted, one can confront and change. I’m also making headway with my parents, pointing out that every “different” person they’ve met is a good person, they are only afraid of the “other”.

    Like

  8. agrudzinsky
    July 20, 2015

    My first reaction was to say that I don’t care to conform to any specific molds. But, perhaps, it would not be true. I have been “in my own shoes” for so long that I think I don’t have the need to adapt to people around me. But that’s, perhaps, only because I have already done so. I have been through many quite different sovial environments throughout my life – Soviet Union, Soviet army, post-Soviet Ukraine, U.S. that adapting to a new social environment isn’t that difficult for me.

    Like

  9. Clare Flourish
    July 20, 2015

    I don’t pass.

    This means that I have less protection than cis women of my class from unwanted sexual attention. I would rather not pass than pretend to be a man. I could not bear that.

    I blogged on this recently, and have been reading about Michel Foucault: another blogger argued that no-one was “gay” as the culture has defined it, and that SSA is actually a better term, because it does not have the cultural baggage. How we think of these things is defined by those in power. It is hard to be counter-cultural. I was racist and homophobic as a teenager and would not challenge racism now, except that others have persuaded me.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. theoccasionalman
    July 21, 2015

    I’m working through this in my own life right now. It’s easy for me to pass for straight, and I’ve decided that the way I have sex is not really anyone else’s business. I’m not ashamed of being gay, and I own up to it whenever it comes up, but it doesn’t come up often. I’m experimenting with when and how to tell people. Others seem to think it’s a big secret, even when I tell them it’s not.

    I don’t think I have a responsibility to create a situation that will make other people uncomfortable. When I first came out, someone told me that the best way I could serve the community was to be someone that people will love. I still think that’s true – most people believe the isms because they don’t know or care about anyone in the minority group in question. I try to live naturally, making friends and working hard and all the rest of it, and it changes people’s ideas about being gay.

    I do embrace the word gay, because I think it’s a nice word, short and full of meaning. Also because I think it’s important for people, both gay and straight, to accept the fact that even though I don’t prance, I still belong to this group.

    Like

    • docatheist
      July 22, 2015

      Funny: That’s just how I feel about being an atheist in the Bible belt — even more than I feel about being a Jew, here. (You’d be surprised how many still believe the Jews killed Jesus and every living Jew should still be held responsible.)

      Liked by 1 person

      • theoccasionalman
        July 22, 2015

        I think it’s a concept that applies to most minorities, religious, racial, or otherwise. Racial a little less because skin color is harder to hide. I grew up as a Mormon in the South, so people used to think we were Satanists. They’d point their forked fingers at me as I walked past because it wards off the evil eye. I’ve lived in various places in NC, VA, GA, and FL (and soon moving to TX); I would not be surprised at all to hear how many of my colleagues and neighbors have called you a Christ-killer.

        Like

  11. appletonavenue
    July 23, 2015

    Deep, philosophical questions. There is of course something to be said for being true to oneself. Can you do that and still hide aspects of your life/heritage ? If you want to change your name to hide your religion, I can’t blame you. It sure beats persecution. But it shouldn’t be necessary.

    I’ve known people to change their names so they don’t sound so “ethnic”: Szczeblinski becomes Strobel in the US. I think people are embarrassed or afraid to claim their past, because other people are intolerant.

    I don’t think it’s right for a gay person to have to hide behind a facade. It’s never been right, but then neither were a lot of things.

    I think the best thing is to let each decide their own direction. Claim your ancestors’ pride in their “homeland” or your “real self” and the hell with everyone else.

    Like

    • Mr. Merveilleux
      July 23, 2015

      Applying any single ‘ancestral’ religion or culture to myself would be absurd. My four grandparents were born in three different countries. Their parents were born in four different countries. I can’t claim to be any single anything, or part of any particular group 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • docatheist
        July 24, 2015

        Oh, yeah? [Said in a NYC gangster voice.] Well, you can just forget that, see, because now, you’re in the particular group of people I just happen to admire. So there!

        Liked by 1 person

      • appletonavenue
        July 27, 2015

        I know others who are of equally mixed heritage. More and more people. In a few hundred years we’ll only identify ourselves as Human, or Earthling. No more labels would be good.

        Like

      • docatheist
        July 27, 2015

        If, along the way, we could cherry pick the good parts from any and all religions, and keep them, rather than “throwing out the baby with the bath water”, as the expression goes, I’d be all for that. It’s going to take some maturity, insight, objective reasoning skills, and the like. In fact, that would be awesome.

        Liked by 1 person

      • appletonavenue
        July 27, 2015

        That it would!

        Like

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This entry was posted on July 18, 2015 by in life, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , .
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