What makes me sad is I AM a 20-something, leftist, politically aware woman in academia who I identifies as a feminist--I ought to be squarely in the main demographic of "young feminism" today, but instead I and every single other woman like me I know is completely alienated/disengaged from mainstream feminism, precisely because of the ridiculous sanctibullying.Often enough, sanctibullying takes place within the context of a discussion about a legitimate issue. Some sanctibullying does not even pretend to be about any particular issue, but even your-privilege-is-showing for the sake of YPIS is ostensibly about income inequality, educational inequality, and so forth. As a rule, as I think has been established, sanctibullying is not what happens when have-nots hate the haves rather than the system. If someone who actually grew up poor is riled by the out-of-touch-ness of preppy college classmates, that's a different scenario than a preppy kid who's just taken a class on inequality getting all excited about how he can now tell others that their privilege is showing. The goal here is not to prevent underdogs from expressing frustration. It's about preventing the haves from posing as pseudo-have-nots in place of actually helping fix whatever problem they're ostensibly so concerned about.
Sanctibullying could be scrapped, or at least considerably lessened, if sites where it occurs took the same self-monitoring approach they already do on other matters (as with "body-snarking" and "triggering" on Jezebel) and ask that readers consider whether their goal is making yuppies blush in shame, or furthering discussion, maybe even action, on a given issue. The manifesto could go something like this:
Out-of-touch-ness in and of itself needs to stop being the primary target. We need to look beyond conversational aloofness and try to address the root of problems. The game needs to stop being about pointing out privilege not owned up to, and to start being about positive change. It needs to stop being about pointing out where specific individuals are ignorant, and to start making it a general rule to inform. Ignorance, then, will be indirectly combatted without making it personal.
For example, the food-movement wars. In a thread, someone will say something about how everyone should eat organic kale from the farmers' market. Someone else will point out that farmers' markets are expensive. Another commenter will point out that these markets accept food stamps and sometimes encourage their use. Yet another commenter will chime in that we have it all wrong, it's about having the time and energy to get to a farmers' market. Original Commenter show up again and counter that the time and money are there, it's just a matter of not getting cable.
Then it will be, whoosh, Original Commenter's privilege is showing! Doesn't Original Commenter know that cheeseburgers and "Real Housewives" are the only pleasure in hard-working, honest, poor people's lives? That the kale-and-legume diet, if undeniably affordable, is all and well if you have time to prepare it and peers who reward you for eating like that, but kind of unappealing without the cultural framework telling us it's virtuous? Ugh, it will be decided, people like Original Commenter should just STFU.
On the one hand, food deserts, cultural factors, these are real issues that are left out of the conversation when Original Commenter explains how a summer spent at a villa in Tuscany with Liv Tyler showed him what vegetables are supposed to taste like. On the other, it's unclear if these issues are addressed productively by throwing virtual (mealy American) tomatoes at Original Commenter. In a sense, they are, because the YPIS accusers are showing solidarity with a theoretical offended food-stamp-holder. But this is itself problematic, because, as with Caitlin Flanagan's imaginary Mexican laborer, it's putting words into people's mouths (although sometimes guessing right), and because, for every otherwise apathetic thread-reader who might now realize for the first time how unfair our food system is, another will be put off by all the energy that's been directed at making Original Commenter feel horrible, and stop reading. Original Commenter himself will be too put off by all of this to care to think about it further. A missed opportunity.
The main problem, though, is that making Original Commenter think he's a bad person accomplishes none of the ostensible goals of the discussion: fixing the food system, getting ambivalents like Original Commenter on board, or even giving the screwed-over a chance to express their frustration (because, again, the YPIS accusers have all the kale they could dream of, but want us to consider that not everyone is so lucky).
So rather than the approach being, 'You, Original Commenter, clearly never had to work a day in your life, clearly grew up on organic kale and feed the same to your elite-kindergarden-going children,' a concerned commenter might simply point out why the belief that kale is universally available or desirable is inaccurate. This should be plenty to cause Original Commenter to rethink his views, to see where his own privilege may have entered into it, but it still leaves things open for Original Commenter to stay in the conversation and maybe, you know, help.