“Derailing for Dummies”: Some Debunks

Derailing for Dummies is a failed attempt at a clever how-to guide that makes fun of and tries shedding some light on how privileged people tend to trample on conversations with marginalized people by “derailing the conversation, dismissing their opinion as false and ridiculing their experience [so that] you can be sure that they continue to be marginalised and unheard and you can continue to look like the expert you know you really are, deep down inside!

At first read, Derailing for Dummies may read as funny and may make some sense, but in thinking through some of its ‘steps’, some big holes begin to appear (not to mention an ignorance and arrogance woven throughout), such as: 

Debunk #1:  “If You Don’t Educate Me, How Can I Learn?”

Many allegedly oppressed people pull the whole “it’s not my job to educate you” card.  The problem with this sentiment is that education is a CRITICAL part of activism.  The two go hand in hand.  This doesn’t mean that marginalized people should devote 100% of their activism to educating privileged people by spending countless hours and energy conversing with people who have zero desire to open their minds and hearts to consider a different perspective.  But it does mean that it’s counter-intuitive to talk about a problem and then chase or chastise people away if they ask questions or come into a discussion knowing less about an issue than others (assuming they are otherwise being respectful in their approach).

Shooing people away to go and read up on “Issue X 101” is dismissive, exclusionary, downright rude and hostile and ignorant, and will not win any allies, assuming people want allies and don’t just want to ‘preach to the choir’.  Otherwise, different levels of ignorance are inevitable, and should be approached with some basic human decency if we want to be decent human beings.  Some truly anti-oppressive resources are not that easy to come by among the sea of mainstream (and not so mainstream), lamestream mis-information and dis-information out there, especially for people who have no clue where to start.  Of course, everyone has different degrees of patience when it comes to engaging with curious people, and some people are so wounded by their oppression and pain that they can’t handle clear, coherent discussion, which is the TRUE derailment — it’s an understandable human thing, but the result is pretty much the death of a critical conversation (let alone clear, coherent, effective ACTION), and probably should be taken to a therapy room or support group of some sort.  Which brings me to:

Debunk #2: “You’re Being Hostile / Over-emotional!”

These are definitely conversation de-railers and can be quite maddening to hear.  But they are also sometimes true, which wounded people need to acknowledge because marginalized and oppressed people don’t get a free pass to be an abusive asshole.  Nobody does.  Oppressors are assholes, or rather, behave in asshole-ish ways; do oppressed people really want become or behave like oppressors, or do they want true liberation from asshole-ism?  Some people’s perspectives are so distorted by the cloud of their oppression(s) OR privilege(s) that they can’t get past these raw emotions and step into clear, coherent thinking.  This doesn’t mean their experiences are invalid, but it does mean that the conversation will fail and turn into one of managing emotions, which the average internet converser may be ill-equipped to handle.

Emotions are a wonderful and very important part of being human and should never be negated, but they can also be unhealthy if not processed and managed.  We must strike a balance between being rational and emotional; too much of one and not enough of the other limits our perspectives.  The invalidation, pain, shame and judgment that comes with oppression is like the flip side of the arrogance, entitlement, hostility and ignorance that comes with privilege — overwhelming amounts of either side cloud or kill clear and coherent thinking ACTION borne from this kind of thinking.

Debunk #3: “You Just Enjoy Being Offended!”

Definitely offensive to activists who put their heart and soul into their work.  BUT, some people DO wear their oppressions as badges.  We need to stop looking for reasons to be offended and start looking for reasons to work things out and BE the change we want, to the extent that we’re emotionally/mentally/physically/spiritually able.  Limitations are okay, we all have them, but there are also limitations to limitations — we all have varying degrees of ability to be a Good Person, but we can all try being one.  Otherwise, what’s the point of conversation, trying to figure things out, and righting wrongs?


Co-Written by a severely oppressed person and a moderately privileged & oppressed person.

Check out Sebastian’s comment below, in the comments section; he articulates the problem with Derailing for Dummies much better than I have here, leaving no room for doubt in any clear-thinking minds, hearts and spirits.

Tagged , , , , , , ,

13 thoughts on ““Derailing for Dummies”: Some Debunks

  1. Severely Unimpressed by this says:


    Fist you say, “some were their oppression like badges” – then you call yourselves “severely oppressed.” (I know – it was a joke! Right. Please.) Why add it the fact that you are oppressed and marginalized? Gives you authority to tell someone else something or wearing it on your sleeve? Well, let’s just let the person with the most privilege decide. ::eyeroll::

    The problem with this blog post is that you wrote it in the first place. Everything you said is already assumed within the satirical writings in “Derailing.” I mean, your arrogant ass acts as if oppressed people somehow need to be told that they need to be “good” people in conversation.

    Reread derailing for dummies, cause the dummies on this site need it.

    • Feminist Rag says:

      1) Please read the ‘About’ section of this blog and exercise some RESPECT – the only rule of this blog – if you are going to comment here again. If not, your future disrespectful comments will be deleted.

      2) “then you call yourselves “severely oppressed.” (I know – it was a joke! Right. Please.” —–> NO it wasn’t a joke. There is a difference between stating one is oppressed and wearing it like a badge. That is to say there’s a difference between having needs (“severe” just meaning major unmet needs) and voicing them versus being a histrionic drama queen or king. Obviously not all oppressed people are badge-wearing drama queens/kings, but there are some. I know some, do you? If not, then maybe you’re one? The signature at the end of the post was an act of transparency to say that this piece was written from both points of view (oppression and privilege) for balance; no more, no less was to be read into that other than the fact that not all oppressed people agree with all views of “Derailing for Dummies.”

      3) “Everything you said is already assumed within the satirical writings in “Derailing.”” —> Maybe, maybe not. If so, not all people know this (privileged OR oppressed). Either way, people have a right to discuss the piece on their terms.

      4) “your arrogant ass acts as if oppressed people somehow need to be told that they need to be “good” people in conversation.” —–> Our Truth, Humanity & Liberation seeking asses wish EVERYONE would be a good person in conversation and behavior which would RID all the god damn oppressions we have choking us and be able to get on with Life already. Life is hard enough as it is, we don’t need to be further choking eachother. If you want to be an asshole, have at it, you certainly have the “right” in this cruel culture, but not in Our space.

      5) “Reread derailing for dummies, cause the dummies on this site need it” —> What makes you think we haven’t? Because we don’t wholly agree with it and see some holes? Your abusive & disrespectful language only further dilutes your point and proves ours.

  2. Lissa says:

    “The problem with this sentiment is that education is an important part of activism….But it does mean that it’s counter-intuitive to talk about a problem and then chase or chastise people away if they ask questions or come into a discussion knowing less about an issue than others (assuming they are otherwise being respectful in their approach).”

    Education is important. That does not mean that it is the role of every marginalized/oppressed person to do that education, and no one should expect it. It is not always counter-intuitive to chase people away, depending on the circumstances. Sometimes there’s a deeper conversation going on and someone asks a 101 question that no one wants to answer. It’s not my job to answer. If I feel like it, maybe I will; if not, they can go Google or ask somewhere else, or wait, or just listen and watch.

    “Shooing people away to go and read up on “Issue X 101″ is dismissive and exclusionary and will not win any allies, assuming people want allies and don’t just want to “preach to the choir.”

    No it’s not. There are a zillion things on the Internet and thousands of books that do Issue X 101. Sometimes people just don’t have the patience or desire. Again, it’s not our job to educate you. We can do it, if we feel like it, but we’re not obligated to. And NO ONE IS ENTITLED TO GET THEIR QUESTIONS ANSWERED. There’s nothing wrong with not knowing, but there is something wrong with not seeking.

    “This doesn’t mean their experiences are invalid, but it does mean that the conversation will fail and turn into one of managing emotions, which the average internet converser may be ill-equipped to handle.”

    So? Sometimes marginalized folks don’t always have rational, manageable conversations. But since every conversation we have is not for the benefit of allies, that doesn’t matter. If they can’t handle the emotions, they can leave. And rational and emotional are not mutually exclusive, which means that the second sentence of your second paragraph here is making that same mistake of casting a dichotomy.

    “We need to stop looking for reasons to be offended”

    Marginalized people don’t have to look for reasons to be offended. There are already plenty.

    “and start looking for reasons to work things out and BE the change we want to see, to the extent that we’re emotionally/mentally/physically/spiritually able”

    Why do marginalized folks always have to be the ones who are the “change they want to see” but “allies” are able to run all up in and demand answers to their questions, and get upset when we’re too tired or drained to answer them and tell them to Google?

    Also, what the hell is “severely oppressed” and “moderately oppressed?” There aren’t degrees to oppression. All people are oppressed on some dimensions and not others.

  3. Thank you for helping us privileged people derail discussions more efficiently. We’ll be able to point to your blog and argue these very points against legitimate oppressed minorities. Thanks! I love it when the oppressed trip over each other in their “sensitivity,” because that plays right into our games.

  4. Feminist Rag says:

    Oy vey.

    Lissa, I got nothing to say to your comment because I covered all your points in my OP and in my reply to the first commenter.

    Francois, I have no response to your non-response and don’t know why you bothered taking the time to comment. I get it, you disagree with my points, but apparently you have nothing meaningful to counter them with other than some failed snark.

  5. Sebastian says:

    Thank you. I know that i am a bit late to this post, but I want to offer you a very sincere “Thank You” from the bottom of my heart for this. The concept behind “Derailing for Dummies” may be sound – that is, to educate people on how certain rhetorical tricks can be used to further marginalize an already oppressed group – but, the site itself is riddled with poor rhetoric and a sense of self-righteousness that is nauseating.

    The two “Derailing for Dummies” points made, that you very accurately discussed in your post, that bother me the most are the ideas that “it is not our job to educate people” and the blatant ignorance of the fact that, yes, SOME marginalized people DO like the feeling of victimhood and actively fight against anything that could change that.

    On the first point, I have to agree with you that it IS our job, at times, to help educate people about what it is like to be a member of a marginalized group. I can’t expect a person who is heterosexual to understand what life is like being homosexual (or a non-disabled person to understand what it is like to be disabled, both marginalizations I deal with on a daily basis). I further can’t expect them to run to Google every time they have a question. If I am approached by someone with an honest and respectful desire to learn what kinds of issues members of the LGBT community have to deal with – issues they often have never encountered, and thus would not be aware of – it behooves both me and the overall movement for equality to take time to answer their questions. Education is not only a part of activism, it is, in my own opinion, a KEY part of activism. How can members of any marginalized group expect to advance to a more equal place in society if we shun those people who are honestly hoping to learn? If I answered every heterosexual person’s questions with “it isn’t MY job to educate you,” what they are really hearing is “You are stupid for not already knowing what my life is like.” It is counterproductive, insulting, and dismissive.

    No, i won’t always have time to educate them on the finer points of living life as a disabled gay man. No, I won’t always WANT to educate them on the finder points of being marginalized in society. But, that doesn’t mean that I don’t have a responsibility to help those who legitimately want to learn. If I, as a member of the group that someone has an honest desire to understand better, cannot be bothered to help them understand, then how can I expect any actual progress to be made?

    Further, likely through many years of emotional, psychological, and/or physical pain due to their marginalization, many people in oppressed groups begin to develop a certain pathological dependence on the negative feelings associated with that oppression. Some people develop a sense of comfort, of familiarity, or even of nobility by being oppressed. When someone is in this boat, they can easily lash out at others for any perceived slight (be it real, or manufactured) in order to regain the sense of comfort, familiarity, or nobility they desire so strongly. As such, they ARE looking to be offended. They DO like being angry. It is a pathology, and it is reality. For other members of a minority/marginalized/oppressed group to deny this is merely to turn a blind eye to something out of a desire

    I am sorry you have had to deal with some people who want to fight you on this issue, and though I am sure they will agree with me, I have to back you on your analysis 100%. You are spot on, and I thank you greatly for voicing this. “Derailing for Dummies” is a site, a concept, that is great in theory, but filled with so many rhetorical games designed to do nothing but destroy the very dialogue that we, as a community of marginalized people, want so badly in order to move ourselves, our communities, and society as a whole forward.

    • Feminist Rag says:

      Hello Sebastian. Wow, thank YOU so much for taking the time to write such a clear and coherent comment, I almost feel like deleting my post and making its content your entire comment lol. You just laid everything out so articulately, it is one of the most refreshing analyses I’ve ever read in blog land. My wife and I refer to these pathological victimhood clingers as “badge wearers” and your description of the psychology behind it is so spot on. Do you have a blog? I’d love to hear more of your thoughts about anything life-related. Much peace and power to you brother. Thank you again, your Spirit is so refreshing and inspiring.

      • Sebastian says:

        You and your wife are right with the term “badge wearers.” They are a real group, sadly. I think it is sad, for them, that they feel such a psychological and pathological need to hold on to negative emotions that they will lash out at anyone who tries to help them. You can often (but not always) find them in the group of people who fight help with the phrase “I don’t want your help, I can do it myself.” I see it both in the LGBT community, and in the disabled community as well. There are some who are so determined to fix everything themselves, do everything themselves, even though they are fighting an uphill battle of Herculean proportions.

        It is all well and good to want to find equality and acceptance on your own, to change the world for the better and to make your place yourself. I know that feeling, and I don’t begrudge anyone that desire. However, we all, be we marginalized or not, must realize that there are times in our lives when we DO need help. We do need a person who can shoulder some of our burden, open a door for us that is out of reach, or just point us toward the right venue for our situation. Those people are not always in our own communities and subpopulations. Sometimes, as a member of a minority, we must reach out to the majority for help. That is painful for some, but it is reality and we must accept it. To not accept it, to hold on to the pain, the fear, the anger of being marginalized in society out of a sense of personal nobility is just counter-productive. We already wear enough badges on ourselves that have been placed on us by others, do we really need to place a badge of pain and anger there as well?

        Thank you for your kind words. I’m afraid I’ve never had a blog myself, but I’m always happy to share my thoughts with you here, if you like. If someone wants to hear what I have to say, I am happy to share it. My best to you and your wife.

      • J Crook says:

        FR – I agree with your assessment of Sebastian’s comments. It was refreshing to read an intelligent discussion instead of sarcasm, quoted sections of your own blog that I couldn’t find reason for or comment about, and what seemed just downright meanness.

        I once told my sister that she allowed people to take advantage of her – this was many years ago, I had never heard the term “being a victim” and was young enough to think my comment would be received for how it was meant, a very innocent attempt to say she could control the situations that bothered her so much. The result was that she stopped speaking to me, would not come to my wedding, and we were out of touch for about 8 years. Rebuilding any type of relationship was a long, hard haul, only aided with the death of my husband and my need for closeness with family. Even now, 30 years after I made that comment, there are difficult times when I need to be very careful with my opinions and comments for fear of estranging her again. Sadly, she is still wearing the badge often. I have realized the best way to try and help is to keep demonstrating how truly capable and talented she is. Maybe some day that badge will go away.

        Like your blog very much; this is my first time here and it won’t be the last.

      • Feminist Rag says:

        Hello J Crook, thanks for stopping by, I’m so glad you like my blog. I’m so sorry about your rocky relationship with your sister, that sounds tough, and like she has quite the fragile ego, which is the major issue with these badge-wearing types. I think your approach of “demonstrating how truly capable and talented she is” is a smart and loving one, and I hope it’ll help her throw the badge away and recognize and draw on the inner strength she is repressing. It sounds like a slow process, but as long as you’re both alive, there’s hope.

        Fragile ego also means low confidence, which is a shame, when people don’t recognize just how strong they are, and just how much power they have. Yes we live in an oppressive culture, but we all still have some wiggle room as far as our individual personal power and courage. Sounds like you acknowledge and use yours, which is inspiring for others because it’s not an easy thing to do in a culture that tries so hard to discourage it, especially among females, and any other “minority.” Much Peace & power to you.

  6. […] out the simple fact of life that some people DO have it worse than others (see my article on this here, especially what Sebastian says in the comments section) – what I would like to focus on is […]

  7. emeritx says:

    This is an old text, I know, but as someone who has PTSD issues regarding violence and aggression it felt in many ways good to read. Many feminist communities online have become “cull the weak” Darwinian laboratories of who is the loudest and most aggressive to call out people. Those who get triggered by aggression just leave. I find it really problematic that many people feel it’s ok to call out others on “tone policing” while actually calling them derogatory names, and are unable to see any possible problems in their own actions. As if any communities can stay healthy if it’s ok to verbally assault people for transgressions such as, for example, expressing interest in possible scientific or academic literature on a discussed subject. And yes, I do understand the academia is a place of privilege. So is the capacity to find reliable information online on subjects you have no knowledge over. And no, it isn’t always a case of demanding scientific proof to back up an argument.

    It has happened over the last five years or so, and I really miss the feeling of being able to take part in feminist action in which people actually have responsibility over their own actions and where criticism of unwarranted aggression was allowed. Where people didn’t find sufficient justification for their actions in simply “how they felt at the moment”.

What Do You Think?

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 )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ 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 )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: