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April 2011

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nazi family

Colorblind or just a refusal to see?

So, I'm seeing a lot in the ongoing Chez Scalzi discussions about "striving for a colorblind society." This sounds good on the surface, but in practice, it actually makes things worse.

Those who've been reading my writings for a while probably know that I'm a big constructionist, especially as regards gender roles and such.

However, as I've pointed out before, just because a thing is artificially constructed doesn't mean it doesn't exist, or that it doesn't have to be taken into account. Yes, a building didn't organically grow in its spot the same way a tree did, but it still exists, and still has to be accounted for in our pathfinding efforts. Depending on whether the existence of that building is overall good or neutral (i.e. a hospital or home) or negative (a poison-spewing widget factory), that building can be seen as a bug or a feature. But it has to be seen. We can't pretend it's not there.

It's true that race as a biological concept is a fallacy. But as a cultural concept, of course it exists. Deliberately ignoring differences in our appearances and cultures that come from having ancestors from different regions doesn't help. And the reason it doesn't help is because it only perpetuates the idea of white normativity, and the idea that not being white is something negative that shouldn't be talked about in polite company.



I'm fat. Almost always have been. Quite large now, but was less so in my 20s. Back then, I had a friend who once started trash talking about "fat people"--being really awful about it. I stopped him and said, "Uh, dude? I'm fat." He stopped cold, but then waved his hand, and said something to the effect of, "Oh, but I don't see you as fat. You're not like them."

Um, yeah. That wasn't a compliment. I don't like it when people talk about me being "just as good" as a skinny person. Because I don't like skinny being held up as some sort of norm to which I'm supposed to aspire. I don't like being thought of as a deviation from the standard.

The thing is, while I don't want people to draw a picture of me in which my fat is the only salient point about me, and thus defines everything else I am, I also don't want people to see a picture of me that sees "through" the fat, or "beyond" it to the apparently skinny person I "really" am on the inside. I just want the picture of me to acknowledge the fat while not making it the most important thing about me.

Identity-obsessives annoy me just as much as the next person, but that goes regardless of what kind of identity one blankets oneself with, whether that's race or gender or orientation or being a fan of a particular sports team. When you describe yourself with a single adjective, you're really, really boring.

But that doesn't mean that the solution to this is to pretend that those things don't exist, either in ourselves or in others.

I don't want to be "thinged" as a fat person, whether that's happening for discriminatory reasons (you must be a lazy glutton and therefore I'm going to refuse to hire you for this job) or for fetishization ones (I have no idea who you are, but your body turns me on, therefore you must be flattered by my drooling attention.) But I don't want the backhanded "honor" of someone pretending I'm not fat. Because honestly? BOTH reactions are something that comes from the mind of a person who refuses to see me as the multifaceted entity I really am, because they've gotten fixated on one point. A salient point, to be sure, but it's just. one. thing. I'm fat, but I'm also queer, a journalist, a northwesterner, of Irish, Italian and Native heritage, a good singer and a lousy dancer, a loudmouth, a kitty mama, a daughter, a cousin, a wife, a sister-in-law... ad infinitum. Either make an attempt to see the whole picture, or go away.

As your mama (I hope) told you: It's rude to stare. But it's also rude to deliberately look away.
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