Occam's Big Paisley Tie

[Content Note: Privilege; auditing; gaslighting. I am rerunning this piece on behalf of a friend who is dealing with some major Occam's Big Paisley Tie-ing right now.]

Yesterday, in the comments of Hallelujah_Hippo's post about "not seeing" prejudice, I said:
The correlated urge to ask me, "Well, are you sure [the incident of rank misogyny you just pointed out to me] isn't REALLY [something else]?" makes me ragefrustrated like whoa.

Yeah, I don't actually need to consider every other conceivable possible explanation for something I know is rank misogyny from a lifetime of experience in order to satisfy you, Helpful Ally.
This is something men do to women, white people do to people of color, straight people do to queer people, cis people do to trans*/intersex/genderqueer people, able-bodied people do to people with disabilities, thin people do to fat people, religious people do to atheists, etc.

Around every axis of privilege/marginalization, there are marginalized people saying, "I just experienced this heinous bit of hatred because of my marginalized identity," and privileged people saying, "Hang on, now. How can you be sure that it was because of your marginalized identity, and not just a misunderstanding, or a mistake, or a misspeak, or this thing or that thing or this other thing over here, because there's surely a perfectly logical explanation for why this behavior that looks exactly like a million other bits of behavior that you and other people in this marginalized population have experienced is actually something TOTALLY DIFFERENT. Have you considered that maybe it's just that you're too sensitive?"

If Occam's Razor is the principle by which the simplest explanation is usually the correct one, this urge to exhaust every possible explanation—no matter how convoluted, remote, unlikely, or totally fucking absurd—is Occam's Big Paisley Tie.

image of a big paisley tie
A swirling vortex of elaborate designs when a simple pinstripe just won't do.

Are you sure that salesperson didn't ignore you because zie just didn't see you? SWIRL! Well, maybe zie was just having a bad day. SWOOP! Are you certain zie heard you? SWIRL! Did you really try to get hir attention? SWOOP! Maybe zie didn't realize you needed help. SWIRL! I'm sure it's not that zie was being purposefully rude. SWOOP! Maybe zie is hard of hearing. SWIRL! Have you considered that maybe you had an unfriendly look on your face? SWOOP! You know how your face gets when you're not smiling. SWIRL! I don't know—there has to be some explanation you just didn't notice. SWOOOOOOOOP!

Certainly, there are people who engage in these critical investigations out of a misguided sense of protectiveness. They don't want their marginalized friend/relation/colleague to have been treated badly because of rank prejudice, and so their instinct is to try to find some other explanation, any other explanation, an explanation that might be more fixable than ancient and deeply entrenched bias.

But, you know, intent ain't magic. So it's just as infuriating, and functions in the same way as intentional gaslighting and emotional policing done by privileged people who put marginalized people's lived experiences through their Validity Prism with an agenda.

That is: Hearing prejudice described as prejudice and then filtering it through one's Validity Prism, because one has mistaken privilege for objectivity; and auditing that lived experience for veracity as measured against one's own personal experience, because one has mistaken privilege for default humanity.

Naturally, people with privilege (who want to defend that privilege) have a vested interest in pretending that evidence of the oppression which is the ugly underbelly of any privilege is attributable to Something Totally Different. It's harder to justify coasting by on your unexamined privilege when faced with evidence of its harm.

And so out comes Occam's Big Paisley Tie, to try to find the Something Totally Different on which to pin the blame for the prejudice that Occam's Razor—and a minimal commitment to integrity and decency—would rightfully identify.

The swirls and swoops on the tie conspire to create a pattern of distraction. But maybe this tie is really a razor! And when all else fails, comes Occam's Big Paisley's Tie Windsor Knot of Bullshit: "Have you considered that maybe you're just looking for things to get mad about?"

Fuck that tie.

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