Extroverts, ‘social privilege’ and why it’s all bullshit.

Posted: May 4, 2015 in Uncategorized

I wrote a blog a while ago on privilege, it was in fact (if I remember rightly) the first blog I wrote that I subsequently turned into a video and put on my, now dormant, Youtube channel. I’ve touched on it since then, mostly in a blog about thin privilege and fat shaming but mostly I’ve left it alone. Why? Well, I think the entire concept is daft. As I said in those blogs, we all have privilege in some ways, even if it isn’t immediately clear to us.

I generally don’t write about it because I don’t think it’s one of the concepts of social justice that warrants focus. There probably are instances where ‘white privilege’ or ‘thin privilege’ has a positive effect but I don’t see it as that black and white. Yes, my ‘male privilege’ has probably helped me along the way in some aspect of my life, but it’s also seen me accused of being a paedophile on more than one occasion by teenagers simply for being a male teacher. Gotta love that privilege! But I’d like to visit it again here today.

Previous blogs on privilege are here:

https://johnsalmonsworld.wordpress.com/2014/04/13/the-concept-of-privilege-who-has-it-who-doesnt-and-whats-this-got-to-do-with-feminism/

https://johnsalmonsworld.wordpress.com/2014/06/08/thin-privilege-fat-shaming-and-why-its-all-bullshit/

On my Facebook page (which if you’re unaware of, can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/johnsalmonsworld?fref=ts ) I posted an update the other day linking to an article from everydayfeminism.com. I’ve written blogs in the past from articles that have been published on that site so I do have some experience of what they’re about. Previous blogs were my look at 25 everyday examples of rape culture:

https://johnsalmonsworld.wordpress.com/2014/04/10/25-everyday-examples-of-rape-culture-an-exploration/

How fat men are, supposedly, a feminist issue:

https://johnsalmonsworld.wordpress.com/2014/10/20/fat-men-are-a-feminist-issue-because-we-all-hate-the-wimmenz/

and the unspeakable horror of internalised misogyny:

https://johnsalmonsworld.wordpress.com/2015/03/01/choice-feminism-internalised-misogyny-and-feminisms-perpetual-victimhood/

Much like other feminist articles that I write about on this blog I don’t actually visit the site myself, they often pop up in my timeline when friends or pages I follow share them. That’s probably not very progressive of me but, in all honesty, I can’t take a daily dose of websites like everydayfeminism.com.

The post I put on my Facebook page was titled like ‘3 lies we should stop telling about negative people’. If you want to go and check it just follow the link above and search for it.

The reason I used that article for a Facebook status and not a full blog is simply because there wasn’t much I wanted to write about it. The point I do want to make is what I actually think of everydayfeminism.com and, to a lesser degree, most feminist websites.

I hate it. Like, really hate it. Just from the small number of articles I’ve read from that site I know it’s not somewhere I want to spend a lot of time. It’s a poisonous site. Every article I’ve read is so full of absolutes and victimhood that, if I were a woman, I don’t think I’d want to leave the house for fear of being choked by what is obviously a toxic patriarchal smog that must hang in the air and only target women. Rape culture, slut shaming, fat shaming, mental-illness shaming, misogyny in tech, misogyny in banking, misogyny in gaming, it’s a never ending cavalcade of extreme oppression. Seriously, if that’s what feminism is about then thank fuck I’m not a woman, I don’t think I could bear being preached at in such a way.

The worrying thing is that the site sells itself as ‘everyday’ feminism, which suggests this is the sort of thing they think we should be focusing on at all times. It’s just unbelievable some of the stuff that goes on that site. Not only the constant barrage of negativity that, themselves, throw at women but the absolute inability to see women as bad. Sure, I think I read something on that site a while ago saying something like ‘we mustn’t forget women can be paedophiles, too’ but that was a needle in the victim haystack.

Maybe my lack of everyday visits has been to my detriment, maybe they have become better, but I don’t know if I dare risk visiting to find out.

I get the point of feminism, it’s supposed to be empowering women, but this site goes about it the wrong way. Whilst they may make the occasional nod towards women being capable of fucked up shit they do not make it a part of their daily vernacular. At no point in the blogs I’ve written previously did the sites mention women as anything other than victims. That’s worrying, everydayfeminism.com doesn’t want to paint women as anything other than victims, which is what I want to talk about today.

I was talking to a friend on Facebook the other day, one of those ‘I class them as friends even though I’ve never seen them and will probably never meet them’ type people, about what it’s like to be John Salmon, what it’s like to have one of the biggest parts of your life be a complete secret from everyone you know. There are lots of things I would like to reveal under this identity but can’t, I have to be careful, I have quite a lot to lose. I don’t know why I worry so much, it’s not like this blog has any real power, it’s not upsetting governments or influencing laws or anything but still, in the wrong hands my identity can be used against me.

Point is, being John Salmon allows me to embody some of the traits I don’t necessarily have in my real life. I’ve mentioned in the past that I fall onto the introvert side of the social skill. A few years ago I did an MBTI test. While I can’t remember exactly what my result was it pretty much confirmed what I already know – that I like my own space and have a limited tolerance of large groups of people.

It’s rather strange because my job means I am stood in front of people all day. I’m perfectly fine with that but I can’t handle being stood up in front of a room of adults. I’ve been best man at mates’ weddings twice and both times I was terrified. I have a very strange social barrier where I struggle to talk to new people if I’m not introduced first. That’s not because I’m arrogant, it’s simply because I don’t feel like I’ve been ‘invited’ to join the discussion and therefore struggle to join in.

There have been times when I’ve really wanted to take part in a discussion but haven’t because I’ve not been able to find a way in. It all sounds strange but it’s part of my life and it’s what makes John Salmon so different. It makes me braver, makes me feel like I’m someone who actually has some knowledge to impart. In short, John Salmon is an extrovert. I think you have to be an extrovert to put yourself out there on the internet for scrutiny.

Have I ever felt like a victim whilst being in those situations? No, I’m well aware of who I am and what I’m like and I know full well that if there’s some change to be made then it has to come from me. It’s not a battle anyone else can fight for me, it’s not something I’ve ever thought of applying the concept of privilege to and I certainly don’t expect others to change simply because my fee-fees were hurt!

But that’s not what everydayfeminism thinks:

http://everydayfeminism.com/2015/04/examples-extrovert-privilege/

Interestingly enough this article was written by a man, not something that is the norm over at everydayfeminism.

So let’s get straight to the point – extroverts have bucket of social privilege that allows them to advance their lives in a manner they want to while us lowly introverts are left behind in their wake.

I already don’t like where I think this article is going to go. Now, I’m not one to dismiss ideas straight out of hand so I am going to read this article and analyse it but already this follows the formula that everydayfeminism struggles to break free of – that it speaks for everyone.

The site has a bad habit of picking a subject, internalised misogyny or thin privilege for example, and assuming it speaks for every single person who may be affected. So, in the interest of discussion I will approach this article from my own personal side – the introvert vs the introvert. Me vs him. Let’s see if he actually does speak for me, shall we?

This very first line:

‘I have this weird condition where I can’t shut up.’

Which then develops this way:

‘I do it because I like to talk to people. Sounds pretty cut-and-dry, right?

But the problem is people themselves also exhaust me, so I go into these seemingly odd bursts of energy where I can’t keep quiet – and then do. For the rest of the day, if not the rest of the week.’

Yeah, he’s already lost me. The good thing is at least he starts with I, which means that he, at the moment, isn’t trying to speak for everyone. Unfortunately for him, I actually don’t like speaking to people. I speak to my friends, my parents, my sister, my work-mates and my students but, generally, I tend to keep quiet. If it hasn’t become obvious by now then you can tell that me and John Salmon are very different people.

I can have bursts of energy, don’t get me wrong, but it’s often not in front of people. I will agree on one thing, though, people exhaust me as well. I can be around people, sure, and I will interact but, mostly, I get burnt out very quickly. That’s one good thing about being tee-total, I get to drive to places and can leave whenever I want, no need to rely on other people that way.

The rest of the introduction goes on to talk about the difficulty of growing up as an introvert is an essentially extrovert world. Been there, done that. It is difficult, but it’s entirely personal. There’s absolutely no way I can compare my adolescent experiences to other introverts just because we’re introverts. I know I struggle with social situations, but I also know that I don’t struggle to do my job, so there’s no way I can say every introvert shares my experience.

One thing I do despise though is when extroverts, and I’m talking clear extroverts, say shit like ‘well I’m really a shy person, this is just a front.’ Why does it piss me off? Well, because it’s a simple grab for attention. It works because extroverts are the type of people who have been noticed and will have people flock around them saying ‘oh wow, I never realised’. If I was to try that the first response I would get is ‘who the fuck is he?’

Wow, that makes me sounds super jealous. Maybe I am, maybe I am jealous of the attention extroverts get, what an interesting concept.

Anyway, the point is that James St. James (the author), aside from having parents who must have been partial to a sly bet on the side, suggests that introverts are made to suffer due to the ‘social privilege’ afforded to extroverts. Basically, his argument revolves around the thought process that ‘extroverts get more simply because they’re extroverts’ which, as you’ll see, I think is incredibly simplistic.

His first point:

‘1. You Don’t Forsake Your Basic Needs Just Because Company’s Over

Fellow introverts are already giving a sympathetic groan because every single one of them has been in this situation before.’

Actually, I’m giving a rather sarcastic role of my eyes to this one. Now is the point at which he claims to speak for everyone. Difference is, this time he’s probably right. I have indeed been in this situation but, this is where he loses me, I have never forsaken my basic needs because of other people. Earlier on I talked about how everydayfeminism likes to make victims of women, well here St James is making a victim of another entire group, this time it’s introverts.

He carries on:

‘You’re up in your room (or whatever other area of a living environment is hopefully considered your safe space) and somebody has company over.

It could be your roommate’s friends, your mother’s sister, or even your own acquaintance stopping by for an impromptu hello. It doesn’t matter.

The fact is you’re hungry, but since you’d have to risk making polite conversation with people in order to fill your belly, you ain’t going nowhere.’ 

Sorry but this is where you lose me big time. I hate small talk as much as the next bloke but this borders on unnecessary victimhood. He does carry on and he does actually come out with this line that pretty much sums up my feeling towards this point:

It probably sounds like a silly situation to extroverts, as if we introverts are choosing to suffer unnecessarily.’ 

He’s exactly right, it is silly. Not only that, look at the wording – ‘we’. No, Mr St James, it’s just you. That’s not to say you don’t have people who will agree with you, but you’re doing exactly what I thought you would do, you’re assuming to speak for all introverts. Well, your theory is flawed because I find this first point utterly ridiculous.

There have been plenty of times when my parents have had people round and I have had to suffer small talk when going downstairs for a drink or something. This as an example of ‘social privilege’ that extroverts have makes me wonder if there’s a real desire to highlight the difficulties of being an introvert or whether this is just another feminist example of inventing victimhood because some people get treated differently.

I never felt like a victim when my parents had friends round, so why is St. James trying to tell me I am?

His second point:

  1. You Always Succeed in Your Daily Chores 

Well would you look at that, I actually have experienced this one as well. Let’s see how he can make me out to be a victim in this little scenario:

‘Confound it all, where do they keep the ketchup around here?

Looking for items at a store can be difficult at the best of the times, but most extroverts seem to have no problem successfully finding what they need in the long run.

Why? Because they’ll actually ask for help.’

Well blow me sideways, this resonates all too well with me. If I had a pound for every time I’ve gone to a supermarket and not asked for something I can’t find I’d be a very rich man. He is right on this one, I do find it difficult to ask for things in supermarkets.

But is it really a ‘social privilege’ that extroverts get in being able to ask for directions?

I was going to look at the other 4 points individually but, after reading them again, I really don’t need or want to. See, this isn’t outright victimhood that St James is claiming, not in as much detail as some other everydayfeminism articles anyway, but it is victimhood. Let’s look at the remaining 4 examples and explore:

  1. You Don’t Risk Bodily Harm with Those Hairpin Turns 

This one deals with the idea that introverts tend to stay closer to walls when walking down the street and will walk faster to get out of congested areas.

  1. You Can Find Work Fast(er) 

This one is about introverts finding it difficult to network because networking requires people to have reserves of energy and an ability to be memorable to potential new and future employers.

  1. Making Friends Is Easy

Introverts find it harder to make friends (especially women. Ha, so he did manage to squeeze in a ‘women are the bugger victims in this’ line in this article!) and, due to their propensity to not want to talk to people all the time, will often get labelled as sullen or moody.

  1. You Don’t Feel So Tired 

Introverts lose their energy when around people so will often need time to ‘recharge’. That means a repetitive cycle of work/west/work/rest is just so unfulfilling.

So those are the 6 ways that extroverts ‘benefit’ from their ‘social privilege’. The interesting thing is, all of the above scenarios have happened to me. I’m not denying they happen, and I’m not suggesting that introverts don’t suffer in some way from the examples listed above, all I’m saying is that, once again St. James seeks to speak for all introverts and place us on the victim pedestal.

Yes, it’s annoying when people get the impression I’m a bit up myself or grumpy or depressed simply because I don’t talk much or don’t involve myself in activities but not once have I ever thought that was because of some innate inability to control who I am. Actually, I quite like being an introvert, I think people are finally beginning to understand that about me. Yes, I can be quite sociable, but it will be on my terms. Sometimes that backfires and results in people not asking me to do things because they assume the answer will be no, but it also results in people only asking me to do things they know I will enjoy, which helps to avoid the awkward ‘why are you here if you don’t really want to be here’ type situation.

I spent so much of my life, particularly my late teens and early 20s, doing things I didn’t want to do because others did want to do them. That includes drinking alcohol. I’ve never liked alcohol but social pressures and all that meant that I did it for years before finally realising I didn’t have to do something if I didn’t want to. I gave up alcohol completely when I was 24 and I don’t regret it one bit.

I don’t disagree with St. James that extroverts perhaps find it easier to navigate their way through life, especially when it comes to jobs that require networking or require you to be around customers all day.

What I don’t like is the constant suggestion that, somehow, this makes me a victim of an inherent lack of ‘privilege’. Basing this argument around ‘privilege’ which, apparently, is not something earned or given but something that is simply is, implies that there is nothing that I can do to correct it. It implies that these qualities are simply a product of an unfair and are not fixable by me.

I like to think the opposite. Yes, asking for help in the supermarket might be daunting but being an introvert doesn’t mean that I’m unable to do these things, just that I find them difficult. To suggest that extroverts simply get things by virtue of being extroverts is short-sighted. I’ve actually seen people turn against extroverted people, at parties and even at work, simply because they suffocate others with their characteristics. Yes, extroverts may be able to network well, but they can also come off like arrogant, narcissistic, self-involved cunts.

This is my problem with privilege, and why I think it’s a concept that we can only apply to individual situations. Using privilege as a way of explaining every bad thing that happens to introverts without exploring the way individual introverts react to these situations is to lump all introverts together as a collective, it’s to lump all introverts together as unable to function properly in some respect. That’s simply untrue and, surprise surprise, acts like we are victims of a social system we are unable to navigate.

Introverts are not victims, I most certainly am not. I don’t particularly like social situations, but I know that no-one is going to give me a free ride in life, or change the way they live their lives just to make me feel more comfortable, in the same way I wouldn’t expect anyone to ask me to change the way I am. There are things I am terrified of but they are things I know I need to do in order to navigate my way through life. I know what characteristics I embody and I know how they make me come across but that doesn’t mean I have to just accept that they will hold me back.

It’s not some kind of disease, it’s not a virus that infects your entire body, it’s just the way your brain works. Saying ‘oh, I can’t do that because I’m an introvert’ and letting that way of thinking guide your life is to never remove yourself from the victim pedestal you’ve placed yourself on.

Do I think extroverts have ‘social privilege’? No. Do I think individual people who may just be extroverts have ‘social privilege’? Now that’s the kind of question I think we should be asking.

But what does this have to do with John Salmon? Well, John Salmon is an extrovert. It’s a weird thing to say seeing as he is nothing more than writing on a screen but the point is that the sort of things I write about, both here on this blog and on the internet in general, are things that I would never, could never, touch in my real life. John Salmon has that air of confidence, that air of not giving a fuck what anyone thinks, that air of walking into a room and not giving a damn if the room turns silent and everyone turns to look. I don’t have that, not at all.

St. James includes this line towards the end of the article:

‘In the end, dear introvert, don’t despair. You’re awesome just the way you are.’

It’s a sentiment I can only endorse with half-a-heart. Yes, people are just fine the way they are, but the sentence here implies that you should be able to remain a victim of your introversion and try not to break down the barriers that are in your way. It implies that it is up to other people to change the way they are, to change what they do, the way they behave, in order to accommodate you and your introverted nature. Whilst I don’t disagree that people need to be aware of people’s differing characteristics I don’t think they should change the way they behave simply because of it.

So there we have I, it’s not just women that feminism makes victims of, it’s other entire groups of people too. From a site that deals with ‘every day’ feminism it’s just another badge of the cap of victimhood. ‘Not getting further in life?’, ‘find it hard to make friends?’, don’t worry about changing yourself, it’s up to other people to change for you.

Have I missed the point? Am I being overly harsh on introverted people simply because I happen to disagree with large parts of this article? Am I myself guilty of trying to speak for all introverts with the content of this blog? I don’t know, that’s up to you to decide.

What I do know is that John Salmon is, somewhere deep inside, still part of me. I just need to find a way to practice the confidence he exudes. That, my friends, is easier said than done.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s