Sorry, I should have written that a little more clearly. I wrote "By definition, privilege is a lack of perspective," but what I meant was, "By definition, privilege implies a lack of perspective."
I feel like you may have misinterpreted my intention, though. You wrote "[let's not focus on] trying to figure out which genders / sexual orientations / races are to blame." I certainly wasn't trying to blame any particular demographic. My response was specifically aimed at addressing the grandparent poster's confusion. I agree that it's more important to focus on fixing the community.
Privilege and perspective are important to talk about because they're part and parcel of the solution.
It was actually a little unfair of me to throw out a term like "privilege" on this forum; it's a common idea in feminist rhetoric, but as a result it carries a lot of meaning that isn't included in its casual usage.
Zed Shaw's straight white male privilege doesn't stop the trolls. What it does prevent is dysphoric emotional reactions on his part. I'm feeling a little awkward about presuming so much about Zed's emotions here, so let us instead discuss a prototypical straight white male public figure in the tech community named Shed Zaw. Shed gets trolled a lot, but he doesn't quit the community. Why not?
Why is it fair for Shed Zaw to get trolled and not Alex Bayley?
Let me rephrase that.
Why is it rude & kind of silly (but "acceptable") for Shed to get trolled, but abhorrent & destructive (eg. "unacceptable") when it happens to Alex?
Well, "acceptable" and "unacceptable" are still blunt instruments. I happen to think that Shed Zaw shouldn't be trolled either. But I do think that we ought to prioritize addressing the kind of trolling that happens to Alex Bayley first.
Shed Zaw can probably count on one hand how many times he's been afraid of being beaten, killed or raped--if the count is even greater than zero. Not so for most women. Remember, this is about emotions. It's "more OK" for Shed Zaw to get trolled because he has a better support structure in place: he's a straight, white male. He generally doesn't have to worry about whether it's safe to be walking alone right now, or whether the guy grinning lasciviously is actually a stalker-rapist, or whether it's worth the conflict to confront his boss about grabbing his ass whenever they pass each other in the hallway. In those specific ways, Shed Zaw's life is just straight-up EASIER than Alex Bayley's. This doesn't mean Shed Zaw never suffers, feels shame, or fears for his well-being. It just means that there are a disproportionate amount of situations which Shed simply does not need to deal with. Indeed, their lack of abundance for him--and thus his inability to understand how they affect Ms. Bayley--is part of what is referred to as "male privilege".
It's about context. Us guys have trouble empathizing with women being harassed because we mentally put ourselves in their shoes, and it doesn't seem that bad. "Why are women offended by guys slapping their ass on the street? If a random woman slapped my ass on the street, I'd be flattered! Thrilled, even!" The context is different--the perspective is different.
Imagine if everyone except you had metal jaws. Fierce steel chompers that require oiling and can bite through concrete. Except you--you just have a regular old human jaw made of flesh, muscle and bone. Now in this incredible world, people greet each other with a lively punch to the mouth. Just right in the kisser. If you don't punch hard enough, well, what's your problem, buddy? Not feeling up to a greeting? Of course, this puts you at risk of having a broken jaw every time you leave the house. An innocent walk to the grocery store could turn into an expensive trip to the hospital; all it takes is running into a coworker! The real problem is that no one else seems to notice that your jaw isn't made of metal. Maybe their jaws are really well-made, and they look completely human on the surface. Maybe you slept in the day they were giving free Ferro-Mandibular Surgery certificates and can't afford one now. Maybe you have TMJ and no surgeon will risk their career on botching your mod-job. Who knows.
The point is, while everyone else is doing their own thing, you're living in constant fear: Do I know that person? What if we met at a party and they remember me, but I don't remember them? My teeth will be all over the pavement before I even see it coming. Maybe I can just sprint past them. Sure it's rude, but it's cheaper than another trip to the emergency dental office! If only they understood. But every time you bring it up, you get laughed off. "Sure, it's a little rough, but it's just how people greet each other! Why can't you just deal with it?" "A weak jaw? Well, it's your own fault now, isn't it? You should know better than to walk around with a weak jaw. You should know better than to have a weak jaw in the first place! Why should it be our problem?"
Some of what has happened to Zed Shaw really isn't acceptable, it is straight up harassment and not funny trolling. It is considered acceptable to threaten men with violence because they are men; it's the same as the pervasive belief that men cannot be raped and the idea is funny.
If you haven't ever been afraid of being beaten, killed, or raped, that doesn't make you a man, that means you have had a very safe life. There is no necessary reason why women must think that. I am certainly not doing ANYTHING to make women rationally afraid of being beaten, killed, or raped, so why should my penis make me responsible for that? Some vague handwavey notion of 'privilege'?
What's up with the jaw thing? Women don't have especially fragile jaws. I guess you are saying that women have especially fragile emotions?
> What's up with the jaw thing? Women don't have especially fragile jaws. I guess you are saying that women have especially fragile emotions?
Other way around. It's a bit of a tortured metaphor, but it's not about women being weaker. Men are emotionally insulated by their privilege--it's an extra layer of resilience (the metal jaws) that we take for granted which makes it difficult for us to understand why people without it are having problems.
> Shed Zaw can probably count on one hand how many times he's been afraid of being beaten, killed or raped--if the count is even greater than zero. Not so for most women. Remember, this is about emotions.
Is it really about emotions? I'm looking at the statistics for 2009/10 in my country and it seems men are more than twice as likely to be murdered as women. I don't have statistics but I'd be quite surprised if women were actually more likely to be assaulted than men, particularly by non-partners, which is what we're talking about. Is the actual level of hazard not somewhat relevant, as well as the emotions? If (and you may disagree) the level of fear doesn't correspond to the level of hazard, is it not counterproductive to expound the idea that women are at constant risk of violence?
I see what you're saying--if (and it seems likely) women really aren't at greater risk, we don't want to go around saying that they are. But, that's what I meant by "this is about emotions". For the purposes of this issue, it doesn't matter what the actual risk level is--the most relevant fact is that, for most women, it feels (emotionally) like they are constantly at risk. In the same way that a PR problem is still a problem, a perceived danger is still something that needs to be addressed. This is why perspective is important: because we don't perceive the danger, it's hard for us to empathize (or even sympathize), and you get comments like "just get over it".
Also, my focus on the terms "beaten, killed or raped" may have been more distracting than necessary, because we are talking about more than just physical oppression; there is also shaming, ostracism, objectification, and a host of other emotional attacks.