firecat: red panda looking happy (Default)
More noodlings inspired by

It's true that social interactions can be smoothed if people follow the same rules.

It's also true that social interactions can be smoothed if people assume good will on the part of other people they're interacting with, rather than making up other kinds of stories about them, such as that they are trying to be insulting or superior.

(What I mean by making up stories: I think that sometimes people make assumptions about what other people intend, and sometimes the assumptions aren't entirely accurate, for one reason or another. Sometimes there's not enough information available because one doesn't know the person well enough or doesn't know everything about the specific situation that person is in at the moment. In those cases I think one has a choice about what assumptions one makes, and the choices can affect one's mood and behavior.)

For example, a person can assume that someone means well but came from another culture where the politeness rules differ. A person can educate themself about other cultures' politeness rules and then use that knowledge to refine the stories that they make up about other people's behavior.

I think it's usually easier for a person to change the stories they make up about other people than to change other people's behavior. So if a person is getting upset partly because they are making assumptions that someone else is being rude or arrogant or self-important, changing the story they're making up might help them feel less upset.

In other cases, the behavior might bother them even if they know there are possibly good-will or legitimate reasons for it. Changing the stories might not help with that.

And sometimes the evidence becomes overwhelming that a person does intend to be insulting or does feel superior, in which case assuming good will might be counterproductive.

More examples (the numbers are based on the numbers in jorm's original post):

1) When a person doesn't say "Thank you" to a compliment, they might come from a culture with different rules about compliments or might be uncomfortable about what they were complimented on. It might not be because they are feigning humility.

5) If a person corrects another person, they might come from a culture where correcting a person is a sign of respect for that person. Maybe they are not trying to show the person up up as stupid.

8) If a person shares their medical diagnosis, this might be an act of trust on their part, rather than an attempt to excuse themselves from following the rules. It might be part of an apology. Some people, when they apologize, start by explaining what led to their actions, and don't mean by the explanation that they should therefore be let off the hook for bad behavior.

9) If someone makes plans and doesn't show up, there might have been an emergency that prevented them from showing up. If someone is late, they might not be very good at estimating how much time it takes them to get somewhere.

15) If someone is sitting in the corner, maybe it's because they are disabled and that's where the host put a chair for them. Maybe it's because they are temporarily taking a break from the conversation. It's not necessarily because they think they're too important to make a social move.

18) If someone uses a calculator to figure the tip, maybe they find arithmetic difficult, or maybe they are from a culture that doesn't include tipping so they aren't used to it. It doesn't necessarily mean they are cheap.

20) If someone replies tersely to an electronic communication, they might be trying to show respect for another person's time (assuming that the person gets lots of e-mail and trying to minimize the amount of effort required to process the e-mail). They aren't necessarily being hostile.


9 Aug 2008 10:55 am
firecat: blue bubble background with text "white privilege: you're soaking in it" (white privilege)
Thanks to [ profile] sparkymonster and [ profile] altfriday5 for providing me with fodder for Blog Against Racism week.

1. List 5 things which are basic common knowledge in your culture, which people outside are unfamiliar with. This is not about obscurity, but something everyday to you, that others go "bzuh?" at.
Hm. First I would have to know what my culture is. I was raised in Michigan as a WASP, which means that a lot of my culture of origin is pretty mainstream and people in other cultures, at least in the US, are expected to know about it. In order to get to things that others go "bzuh" about, I need to talk about subcultures that I now belong to - queer, poly, fat activist, SF fandom, geek.
--Queer: Most queer people I know are conversant with the terms "butch" and "femme," although there's certainly little agreement what the terms mean. Many folks who don't know much about the queer community don't understand those terms.
--Poly: The concept of polyamory is not really known in the mainstream. The part of it that mainstream people seem to have the hardest time with is the part where people actually know about each other's other partners, rather than the multiple relationships being kept hidden.
--Fat activist: We call ourselves fat because it is descriptive and we consider the terms overweight and obese to be offensive or misleading. People outside this subculture are confused because they think "fat" is offensive and the other terms are "kinder."
--SF fandom: In this subculture, it is considered polite and appropriate in conversation to correct another person's mistake. In mainstream culture, a lot of people consider it rude to do this.
--Geek: Glasses are considered sexy. (Kind of a lame example. I'm finding it hard to come up with a better one.)

2. What was the last book you read that was written by a person who is a different race than you? Do you seek out books written by people of other races? Why? Why not?
I recently listened to the audiobook Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. A few months ago I read Dark Reflections by Samuel R Delaney. I mostly read books by white people, but I do sometimes seek out SF&F by people of color. If they are writing about their culture, I want to learn about it. And regardless of whether they are writing about their culture, I want more authors of color to be published. Some publishers are reluctant to publish works by authors of color or who belong to (US) minority cultures, because they assume that white people won't want to read such works. There's a tendency for mainstream culture to pigeonhole such writers and assume that they will only write about how they are different and that their works will only appeal to other people like them. The former is not true, and it would be nice if the latter were not true either.

I make more of an effort to seek out movies and documentaries by people of color than I do to seek out books -- I usually really enjoy them and it seems there are a lot of really talented people of color in the film industry.

3. What did you eat at dinner last night? Would you call it ethnic food? Why?
I ate a veggie burrito at a restaurant that serves Mexican and Caribbean food. I guess burritos are considered ethnic food in the US. (At least I am aware of a concept of "American food" that includes only hamburgers, sandwiches made with bread, and meat+potatoes entrees; everything else is considered "ethnic"). On the other hand, taquerias around here are more common than McDonaldses.

4. Has your gender presentation changed over the last 5 years? Has this change/lack of change been a deliberate choice on your part?
Mostly it hasn't changed, but over the past few months I've widened the selection of clothes I wear, so that now in addition to cotton pants, t-shirts, caftan tops, and hawaiian shirts, I also sometimes wear dresses and babydoll tops. I'm mainly doing it for comfort and "lazy respectability"; that is, at home I tend to clothing that is only one step removed from underwear (bike shorts and tank tops), but sometimes I want to go out to dinner somewhere that outfit would make me underdressed, so I take off the tank top and throw on a dress. I feel like I am in drag when I wear dresses though.

5. Do you discuss race and racism in your livejournal/blog or in person? Why have you made that choice?
I participate in the discussion when other people start it. I feel I should be more proactive; I think it's an important topic of conversation. I feel like as a white person who has done some reading and thinking and listening about racism, I ought to be talking to other white people about what I have learned, so that the burden of education doesn't fall entirely on people of color.

6. Bonus question. Were you aware of International Blog Against Racism Week? Did you choose to participate in it? Why or why not?
I was aware of it and this is my participation in it for this year (somewhat late, I guess). I didn't participate more fully because for the past little while I haven't had the mental energy to initiate discussions about political issues. As a white person I have the privilege of being able to ignore the topic of racism if I don't feel like engaging in it.
firecat: red panda looking happy (Default)
I've read almost everything that Bujold has written and have liked most of it, but I have a few reservations. In - a discussion of Bujold, specifically Falling Free - I commented "Bujold's works sometimes have nastiness that bothers me." [ profile] phantom_wolfboy wanted to know why, so this is my attempt to think out loud about it.

This part has spoilers for Bujold's Vorkosigan series )

Bujold is known for saying at cons that part of the way she writes is to get her characters into a particular position and then ask herself "What's the worst that could happen to them now?" and then write it.

I think possibly something else she does is to ask herself "What's a really controversial or taboo or emotionally loaded thing that I could introduce here?"

Much of the time I like that she does that; it means she addresses some things that other books don't, in ways that other books don't, and it's thought-provoking.

But I think I've gotten kind of sensitized to these things in Bujold's writing, to the point where sometimes when I'm reading her books I sometimes get tense in a way I don't enjoy, because I'm anticipating something that will feel uncomfortable to read.
firecat: red panda looking happy (Default)
[ profile] plymouth just posted a fascinating metaphor in one of my friends' friends-locked posts.
Social groups are hollow spheres - everyone's on the edge and noone is in the middle. That's the theory I came up with a few years back to explain the fact that all my friends seem to think they're on the fringes somehow. I guess you could say there are different shells to the spheres and some people are in the inner shells and some in the outer shells. Kinda like atoms. People are electrons. Nobody is at the nucleus.
I think this is a good way of spinning one's thinking about social groups in a way that makes it OK and normal to feel "on the outside" of one. (Although it doesn't explain why everyone thinks social groups have an inside that they are outside of and everyone else is inside of.)
firecat: red panda looking happy (Default)
I'm reposting this because the original mistakenly quoted a friends-locked post. The post has now been made public.

My sweetie [ profile] jwermont made a really moving, compassionate post about living with chronic anxiety. Excerpt:
This was the message I took away from childhood, and it's still lurking there, in the corner of my mind, waiting to hear validation from the outside world. And, this being a macho, bravado-brandishing culture, it never has to wait long. Fear - and especially, taking care of oneself around fear - is profoundly disrespected.
I think what the disrespecters don't realize is how much energy it takes to deal with those feelings when they are constant noise in your head. If a person needs to take a rest after pushing furniture around for hours, or running a marathon, then there should be no shame in a person's taking a rest from holding chronic anxiety at bay for long enough to participate in ordinary life.
firecat: cartoon bear lying on back looking at sky (reflective pompoko)
Comments re-enabled (they were turned off by accident)

In the revised spoilage meme, or "fortunate life" meme, that I originally saw in [ profile] kightp's journal and posted about here, there were three questions labeled "Mental Sanity":
( ) Are you generally happy?
( ) Do you “enjoy” your job?
( ) Do you have time for hobbies?

It seemed to me that every single person who filled out the meme (at least the ones I saw) took a point for each of these. (This pleased me—I thought it was the most accurate measure of satisfaction in the survey.)

Also, many people who scored "low" on the meme's "fortunate" scale said they were quite satisfied with their lives and thought they were very fortunate, thank you.

[ profile] hmms_sio sent me an article, "Happiness and Public Policy" by Richard Layard, published in The Economic Journal 116 (March 2006). It has a soft science tendency of making equations out of everything, which I find annoying (it reminded me why I didn't go into sociology after all) but I thought these bits were interesting: Read more... )
firecat: red panda looking happy (Default)
[ profile] rmjwell writes:
My working definition of moral totalinarianism is that through co-option of a moral position a person can demonize or de-humanize another demographic [...]
If this intrigues you, go read more and comment.

I like the idea of objecting to de-humanizing behavior rather than to the label some people who engage in such behavior use. E.g., I prefer "Down with people who use Christianity as an excuse to restrict other people's rights" rather than "Down with Christians," and so on.
firecat: red panda looking happy (Default)
Thoughts on reading this post by [ profile] jackwilliambell via [ profile] supergee; the former post includes a link to this article from USA Today (warning, Firefox told me it tried to give me pop-ups):
"This is the Google side of your brain"

I find it interesting that the USA Today article doesn't make the connection between the usefulness of search engines and the aging of the population. More often than before, words and facts I used to know temporarily go missing. If I'm at my computer, I can look 'em up again.


firecat: red panda looking happy (Default)
firecat (attention machine in need of calibration)

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