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23 May, 2008

The Colour Of Your Argument

A while back, the webcomic XKCD posted this comic titled 'Jealousy'. Which, well, I wouldn't ordinarily blog about.

And, as is usual for XKCD, the livejournal RSS feed for the comic included a ridiculous number of comments. Which, again, I wouldn't ordinarily blog about.

Sometimes I skim at least the visible comments on the first page. And, of course, it's been long enough that the feed as expired that I can't pull up the comments word-for-word, which just goes to show I'm a flake who's behind on her blog queue, but hey.

And of course there were a few smug poly people who said something to the effect of, well, you know, if they were just poly this sort of shit wouldn't be a problem. Which I mostly roll my eyes at as predictable, though at the moment I'm sufficiently annoyed by one of the smug poly assholes of the universe that I want to amend that to, "Free clue, guys: being poly doesn't make it work out. Being poly doesn't mean that people don't have to make choices, sometimes hard ones, about who they want to be with. Being poly doesn't magically make it not hurt. Being poly doesn't mean that jealousy flies away on little gossamer wings to plague someone less enlightened than thou. Being poly may give you more perceived options for dealing with that sort of thing; it may also get you into more of that sort of situation. Grow the fuck up."

Ahem.

One of the comments there was really striking, though. And it went something like:

"Blah blah fat ugly poly slob women oh this wouldn't happen if you were just poly!"

I run into this occasionally, and it blows my mind. "The only people who are poly are ugly! The only people who are poly are fat!" The anti-poly bigotry comes extensively linked with sizeism and looksism, and with an occasional leavening of ablism (especially mental health ablism). It seems a strange thing to say to someone with multiple partners. "You only have more than one lover because you're so unattractive!" Generally aimed at women.

What?

And if I dig into this a little, I'm pretty sure I dig up some of the expectations of good and valuable women there. It reminds me of the runin with the giant fuckwit who was convinced that the only reason a woman could possibly want more than one partner was because she perceived herself as too damaged to "deserve" one all to herself. Such a woman must be willing to be used for sex by anyone who would have her, and didn't have the assertiveness or standing to demand exclusivity.

If the "high-value" women are presumed to have the standing to demand a monogamous relationship, then, logically, the ones who don't have a monogamous relationship must not be the valuable ones. And since "value" on a woman is marked in terms of desirability, they must all be the ones the poster thinks unfuckable.

And I've encountered people who say, more or less, "But really, whenever I see a poly gathering, all the women are gigantic, and ...."

And I've started going to a poly social gathering more or less regularly, because I have an hour to kill before a class I'm taking around the corner from the coffee shop where it's held, and I think about who shows up, appearance-wise, and the major trait that I can think that's most common to that crowd is:

Dyed hair.

Generally in cool colours like blue or purple.

There's the fellow with the white curly hair and the purple streak who was talking about his son's post-college-graduation plans this week. The woman with the blue-dyed hair who looks luminous when backlit. The punky-looking woman with the short-cropped pink-dyed hair. The woman with subtle purple streaks. The geeky-looking young woman with the end of her braid done in lovely green. (There are also the couple of big bald guys, an occasional polo-shirt-wearing guy who will speak quietly about being a submissive, a woman whose black hair is done in about a hundred tiny braids, an assortment of quietly professionally-dressed people who come by after work, and so on. Ordinary people. Many of whom have dye.)

Hell, I've been known to have a green streak, and I need to make another go at dyeing my tips blue. I got some advice at the poly social a few weeks ago, after all.

Does this mean anything about the demographics of polyamorous people? No. Most of the poly people I've met in other venues don't have dyed hair.

It means that the poly social is held in the coffee shop with the tattooed-and-pierced-and-dyed androgynous baristas, in a community full of geeky weirdos who cultivate the sorts of jobs where nobody throws a fit if they come in magenta.

The size demographics, attractiveness demographics, whatever? Look completely normal. Maybe a little older than the standard people who hang out in the coffee shop with the alty androgynous baristas, overall, less studenty around the edges. But ... just people.

8 comments:

kerrickadrian said...

I think there's an element of ego-protection to the "all poly people are ugly" sentiments. To wit: "I want (a relationship with) a gorgeous person who will let me sleep with uncountable other gorgeous people. I have not found one yet. This cannot be because there is something wrong with me or because I have to do some kind of work to get there; therefore it must be that such people don't exist."

Graydon said...

If relationships are axiomatically about access control -- this is, after all, the root of the default patriarchal model -- and self-worth is defined in terms of conformity to social norms, that's about what you get, yeah, since everybody knows that someone with no self worth isn't attractive.

It's kinda the contrapositive of believing that women want a strong, capable man to share their life with/belong to/propell to great career heights.

Like all other unexamined axioms, it can bite one in the nether regions; like all other instances of failing to notice that we've got mechanisms to explain diversity, not the exaltation of perfection, there will be abrupt lacunae in the explanatory power of such views.

Doesn't mean that someone with that outlook isn't going to be a right pain in person, but that's how they're getting there -- axiom of normative categorization and axiom of relationships being defined by access rights.

brooksmoses said...

I expect there may also be assumptions that are the flip side of "The only way anyone would be dating her is if she's sleeping with him" sorts of things I remember from high school.

Clearly, a woman who has multiple relationships is in a situation where the only way she can get men to be around her is by sleeping with them (and, yeah, there's likely also the "and sleeping with them without minding if they're sleeping with someone else" added to that), so obviously she must not have any other appealing traits. Therefore, she's ugly.

Tziyonah said...

I've been reading and thinking about the politics of oppression more and more lately, and one thing that's come to me is this:

Any form of oppression requires an (often largely illusory) Ideal Class to use to put down everyone else.

The corollary to this which I had not yet enumerated in my head: if an activity is socially unacceptable, clearly the only people who would do it are those not of the Ideal Class.

Y'know. Only ugly fat pill-popping freaks do that.

Ravenmn said...

It's a two step process. There's the "I've made this choice because it's right for me." And then there's the second step, "If you don't make the same choice there's something wrong with you."

Somewhere along the line we're taught that step one automatically leads to step two.

scott said...

Funny. I read that same panel and thought it sounded like the typical wedding comedy schtick. It never occurred to me that perhaps there should be a solution to the problem. I kinda thought it was just funny for what it was. Thanks for making it bigger for me. I clearly know a whole lot less than I thought. And I never really thought I knew that much in the first place.

Daisy said...

And if I dig into this a little, I'm pretty sure I dig up some of the expectations of good and valuable women there. It reminds me of the runin with the giant fuckwit who was convinced that the only reason a woman could possibly want more than one partner was because she perceived herself as too damaged to "deserve" one all to herself. Such a woman must be willing to be used for sex by anyone who would have her, and didn't have the assertiveness or standing to demand exclusivity.

And it's just "understood" that men want lots of partners and are getting a good thing by being poly. They NEVER say that offensive bullshit about the guys "deserving" just one woman! (((growf!)))

MsDTL said...

"The anti-poly bigotry comes extensively linked with sizeism and looksism, and with an occasional leavening of ablism (especially mental health ablism)."

All this (and other 'in defense' posts I find when I seek answers to my quandary) does is confirm that non-practising poly or poly-curious people the world over are coming up against the same problems I am with the community. Yes, some people could express their distress and frustration in more tactful ways, but the fact remains that it seems immensely inequitable that people who otherwise feel they would thrive on open, honest, ethical non-monogamy have no choice but to turn their back on it, or choose from a pool of people who don't match their sexual desires, hobbies, interests, values, lifestyles, approaches to nutrition and exercise, and general desire to remain sane, minimally anxious and laid back. It is extremely upsetting, frustrating and life-limiting, and as such I can see why some people end up voicing these negative emotions in tactless ways that unfortunately hurt the feelings of those who do fit the mould.