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Facts are Cool

After reading John Scalzi’s post on SWM being the lowest difficulty setting in the game of life, and then reading the 800+ comments, I figured I’d join the crowd who decided to write a response. So I’ve dug up some information for those commenters who seemed to completely lose their minds…

I’ve done my best to find reliable, objective sources for all of the following information. Like Scalzi’s post, the following is focused on the United States, though the trends certainly aren’t exclusive to the U.S.

[B]lack males receive [prison] sentences that are approximately 10% longer than comparable white males with those at the top of the sentencing distribution facing even larger disparities.” -Racial Disparity in Federal Criminal Charging and Its Sentencing Consequences, 2012.

The ratio of women’s and men’s median annual earnings was 77.0 for full-time, year-round workers in 2009 … African American women earned on average only 61.9 cents for every dollar earned by white men, and Hispanic women earned only 52.9 cents for each dollar earned by white men.” -The Gender Wage Gap: 2009.

Poverty rates in 2009, from Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States (2009).

  • For non-Hispanic Whites: 9.4%
  • For Asians: 12.5%
  • For Blacks: 25.3%

Hate Crimes in 2010, from the U. S. Department of Justice Hate Crime Statistics.

  • Race: 69.8% were motivated by anti-black bias, compared to 18.2% that stemmed from anti-white bias.
  • Religion: 65.4% were anti-Jewish and 13.2% were anti-Islamic.

At birth, the average life expectancy of a white baby in the United States is four years longer than the average life expectancy of a black baby. -U. S. Census Bureau, Life Expectancy by Sex, Age, and Race: 2008.

30.4% of Hispanics, 17% of blacks, and 9.9% of whites do not have health insurance.” -Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Nearly 1 in 5 women in the United States has been raped in her lifetime (18.3%) … Approximately 1 in 71 men in the United States (1.4%) reported having been raped in his lifetime.” -National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (2010).

Nearly 1 in 2 women (44.6%) and 1 in 5 men (22.2%) experienced sexual violence victimization other than rape at some point in their lives.” -National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (2010).

Lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth “are nearly one and a half to seven times more likely than non-LGB youth to have reported attempting suicide.” -Suicide Risk and Prevention for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Youth (2008).

39.3% of white first-time, full-time college students complete a degree within four years, compared to 20.4% of black students, 26.4% of Hispanic students, 42.8% of Asian/Pacific Islander students, and 18.8% for Native American students. -National Center for Education Statistics (2010).

The event dropout rate for white high school students in 2007-2008 was 2.8%, compared to 6.7% for black students, 6.0% for Hispanic, 2.4% for Asian/Pacific Islander, and 7.3% for Native American students. -National Center for Education Statistics.

U.S. population vs. representation in Congress. “In the total population, whites make up 66.0%, Hispanics are 15.1%, Blacks are 12.8%, APIA (Asian and Pacific Islander American) are 5.1%, and AIAN (American Indians and Alaskan Natives) are 1.2%. In Congress, whites make up 85.8%, Hispanics are 5.8%, Blacks are 7.5%, APIA are 1.7%, and AIAN are 0.2%. Men are 49% of the total population, while women are 51%. In Congress, men are 82% and women are 18%.” -Ragini Kathail, Race, Gender, and the US Congress (2009).

There are only four openly gay/lesbian members of Congress (0.7%). -Congress gets 4th openly gay member (2011).


I could go on, but this seems like enough to present a glimpse of the playing field.

Now, if you say, “I don’t care about race/gender/orientation. I only look at the individual!” these are some of the things you’re looking away from.

If you say, “Why are you attacking straight white men?” then let me reiterate that I’m presenting facts and research. Are you suggesting that reality is attacking straight white men?

If you say, “But I’m a SWM and my life wasn’t easy,” I’ll tell you to take Remedial Logic. Nobody here or in Scalzi’s original post suggested otherwise.

If you say, “Women have it easier because they can use sex!” I’ll probably just ban you for being an idiot.

If you ask, “Well what do you want me to do about it?” then I’ll say I want you to be aware. I want you to recognize the problems. I want you to take some responsibility — not for historical injustices you weren’t personally a part of — but for trying to make this country better for everyone.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.



( 94 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 17th, 2012 02:55 pm (UTC)
And you know, to start things off, it's always good to talk about educational opportunities, especially for people who have yet to explore this issue.

NOT for supremacists.


If you can't make the conference, at least you can learn where to find out more.

May. 17th, 2012 03:38 pm (UTC)
I don't understand the logic of "acknowledgment of racial disparity = being racist". I really, really don't. I get people *think* they are being more fair when they say they don't see sex or color, and I get that people think they would never discriminate despite all evidence to the contrary. But I cannot cognate why someone would think discussing these things perpetuates them. Can anyone explain?
May. 17th, 2012 03:51 pm (UTC)
Because acknowledging that race exists, to these people, is Bad. If you pretend race doesn't exist, you can pretend that racism doesn't exist. Discussing race means you're reifying it, see.
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May. 17th, 2012 03:40 pm (UTC)
I have no doubt that everything you say is true. All I know is that careerwise, as a member of Canada's Military anyone can have what I have no matter thier minority status, gender and sexual preference. (Okay, handicapped people--maybe not.)
As a matter of fact, if you're a woman or a visible minority the military would try harder to recruit you, offer you more incentives to enlist, and give you bonus points on your evaluations just because. Your odds of being promoted are better. Of course, the big draw back is you have to be in the military.
May. 17th, 2012 03:52 pm (UTC)
In the US military, women are raped, and when they report it, they're ignored.
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May. 17th, 2012 03:53 pm (UTC)
Yesterday Karen Healey wrote a fantastic post in response to the "ok, I'm privileged... what do I do?" question.
May. 17th, 2012 05:28 pm (UTC)
Scalzi framed it in video-game terms, which is fine. But I think there's one bit that might be clearer in a role-gaming context: Straight white men get an automatic +3 on all Luck rolls.

Another piece of this is that the American mythos doesn't recognize the Luck factor. You're supposed to be able to do well just by hard work and determination; this is what powers the vanity-publishing industry, among other things. Skill is de-emphasized, and the value of "being in the right place at the right time" even more so. But in real life, Luck plays an important part for everyone, and straight white men have an automatic Luck advantage.
May. 17th, 2012 05:46 pm (UTC)
I'll agree to that Luck modifier, although it might be set a tad low.
(no subject) - rimrunner - May. 17th, 2012 05:58 pm (UTC) - Expand
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May. 17th, 2012 06:38 pm (UTC)
My one issue with his analogy is that he attributes all this to Some Computer, whereas I believe it is the result of social dynamics and we can do something about it each and every day.

If even one person on the Easy difficulty Gets It, I'm glad for the analogy. But he does miss the dynamic where in order to be on the Easiest setting, you have to contribute to making the game harder for everyone else.

I want people to be more than aware: I want them to act on that awareness. I want them to listen to other people's experiences and not tell them they are wrong. I want them to stand up to the thousands of ways people manifest class bias and care that their roster is nothing but Combat Rogues (and one source of Windfury). I want us all to QQ on the forums until White Straight Male gets nerfed and/or everyone else gets buffed. I want them to notice the talent points they are expect to spend in order to access easy-mode and choose not to spend them. I want them to pass on gear to the people around them, instead of focusing on gearing up themselves or their immediate raid members. I want them to prioritize the comfort and success of everyone over their own desires, and to take other player's word for what gear they want.

Real life is an MMO: no matter how broken the game is, we can choose to both work around it and advocate for change.
May. 17th, 2012 06:56 pm (UTC)
It still bothers me that he left off disability in his difficulty settings. (I know he mentions constitution as a character trait, but, eh- it just doesn't work for me.)

My life as an Asexual White Female is not at a harder setting than the life of a Straight White Male with Down Syndrome.* And a lot of that has to do with institutional problems rather than with any difficulties inherent to Down Syndrome.

But anyway...

*Not that I mean that to be limited to Down Syndrome. Any disability you're born with or that develops in early childhood is going to effect identity formation, educational opportunities, and every other aspect of your life.
May. 17th, 2012 07:13 pm (UTC)
I think you could use the same basic model that he used and switch the specific forms of privilege around, and it would still work. He's got it framed as gender, sexuality and race being part of the difficulty setting, with things like wealth and ability being variable stats in addition to that, but if you changed it to wealth, ability and geographical location being part of the difficulty setting and the other traits being variable stats, it would still essentially work, in that affluent, able-bodied Westerners in any given category would tend to have an easier time of it than others in that category who were poor, disabled, or living in a Third World country.

Being straight, white, male, affluent, able-bodied and living in a comfortable Western democracy are all forms of privilege. They all make people's lives easier than those of others without those traits, all other things being equal. And that last is an important qualifier - I don't think the idea is that race, gender and sexuality automatically trump all other forms of privilege and therefore all straight while males have an easier time than all people who are not straight white males. In fact, Scalzi stated pretty emphatically that that was not what he meant. The idea was to illustrate how privilege itself works, with the difficulty setting model. I think he chose the specific forms of privilege he did as an example, not on the assumption that they're the only forms there are.
(no subject) - serialbabbler - May. 17th, 2012 07:20 pm (UTC) - Expand
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May. 17th, 2012 10:10 pm (UTC)
One thing I liked about Scalzi's piece was his emphasis that the point of the game is to win; that there are no rewards for playing on a harder difficulty setting. I think that's an instructive part of the analogy; the goal is to lower the difficulty setting for everyone.

I would only modify the metaphor slightly:

If you live in the a modern, westernized democracy, you play Real Life v5 on a bleeding edge gaming rig.

If you live in Mexico or Russia, you're running without the security patches.

If you live in Greece, you've got a virus and you've got serious lag on the network.

If you live in the Caribbean, you've got a sluggish processor but a 55 inch monitor.

If you live in China, your playing an unpatched, buggy, bootleg copy.

If you live in North Korea you have no controller.

If you live in Bangladesh, then there's probably not much meaning in a metaphor about life being a game.
Amanda Fitzwater
May. 17th, 2012 10:15 pm (UTC)
I love to refer to the "Derailing For Dummies" site in discussions of privilege, because it sums everything up so neatly and snarkily.

One of the derails is "I won't believe you unless you show me empirical evidence". As wonderful as it is that Jim's put it right in their face here, these stats could be found with just the teensiest application of Google-Fu. In other words, the privileged are expecting the marginalized and their allies to do all the thinking and work for them, AND they don't believe in lived experience (beyond their own).
May. 18th, 2012 04:01 pm (UTC)
It would be better if you qualified "privileged" in your post. As one of the white guys in question, I appreciate it a lot when treated as an individual - something I think that should resonate with folks calling us out on denial of privilege stuff. I realize it may seem like "privileged white guy" equates to "determinedly ignorant", but it isn't. :)
May. 17th, 2012 11:46 pm (UTC)
Here's another terrific takedown on the same topic, with a delightfully snarky Twitter link.
May. 18th, 2012 12:15 am (UTC)
Hahaha that tweet is awesome.
May. 18th, 2012 01:34 am (UTC)
Don't forget that Wisconsin just repealed the equal pay for women act.

In Albert Memmi's "The Colonizer and the Colonized," he talks about how thankful he was that he wasn't a Tunisian Jew because they got treated so much worse than Black Tunisians. It was a case of being on the bottom of the social pyramid v. being one step up. Neither place is good, but thank goodness not to be on the bottom.

In my clumsy way, I'm trying to get to this point. How many SWM wish they were not born straight, white or male? As opposed to other races, genders, sexual orientations and so on, who might wish they had been born SWM in order to have those advantages, and not have to deal with the prejudices that come with them being who they are. Just who they are. Not that they committed crimes or did evil things, but that they were born. I'm not saying it's constant, but I know as a white woman, there have been occasions, especially when young, when I wish I could have been a boy, always a white boy, in order to not have to deal with some of the female prejudice.

May. 18th, 2012 02:33 am (UTC)
I remember being very happy that I wasn't male because it meant I wouldn't have to worry about going to jail for refusing to fill out a draft card when I turned eighteen. (I'm a pacifist of the non-religious variety and generally the draft board isn't impressed with "Killing other humans is wrong because I decided it is in my own little head and I refuse to do it." when determining conscientious objector status... And I wouldn't have been willing to fill out the card, at the time, because that was kind of like agreeing to something I wasn't willing to agree to. Heh.)

I don't think I could've handled jail without earplugs and massive doses of anti-anxiety medication.

Although if I had been male, I also would've been an entirely different person and might have had a different opinion of the whole thing.

/end of rambling.
(no subject) - thelauderdale - May. 18th, 2012 09:15 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - serialbabbler - May. 18th, 2012 02:53 pm (UTC) - Expand
draft dodgers - (Anonymous) - May. 22nd, 2012 04:53 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: draft dodgers - serialbabbler - May. 22nd, 2012 06:28 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: draft dodgers - ginmar - Jun. 6th, 2012 12:38 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - ginmar - Jun. 6th, 2012 01:20 am (UTC) - Expand
May. 18th, 2012 12:59 pm (UTC)
Thank you for another great post.
May. 18th, 2012 05:23 pm (UTC)
Oh, thanks for this, I'm in an argument about this elsewhere on the net. Having mere facts on my side won't actually help, of course, but may as well do it right.
May. 18th, 2012 06:34 pm (UTC)
The thing that started to irritate me in the comments at Scalzi's post was the whole "but this is what happened to me so obviously your logic is flawed." What Scalzi basically said was this is the general rule. As with any general rule, there are exceptions. An exception does NOT mean the general rule is incorrect, only that it's an EXCEPTION.

Things were even worse over at a reposting of the article at another site. You could tell that most of them didn't bother to read it ("obviously this douche isn't SWM" came up A LOT) or just couldn't see the forest beyond one exception's individual tree or DELIBERATELY misread it. It was pathetic.

And oddly, it made me glad he isn't a woman. I can just imagine the comments it would have gotten if the writer were female.
May. 18th, 2012 06:45 pm (UTC)
"I can just imagine the comments it would have gotten if the writer were female."

I made almost the exact same comment on Twitter. Pretty much every woman who read it, along with some of the men, shuddered...

I suspect I know the site you're talking about. I haven't gone over to read. As John noted, thus we see the value in moderating comments.
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May. 19th, 2012 10:00 am (UTC)
> If you say, “But I’m a SWM and my life wasn’t easy,” I’ll tell you to take Remedial Logic. Nobody here or in Scalzi’s original post suggested otherwise.

Yeah. A lot of people have trouble distinguishing between the general and the specific.

What I try to say to people is that, on *average* white males have by far the easiest path in life (in Europe and North America, at least; I don't claim to know dynamics in other regions of the world). That doesn't mean that an individual white male necessarily has it easier than an individual from another group. Just that they are more likely to, and there are inherent advantages in society in being both white and male. Whether those advantages (privileges, I guess I should say) outweigh the circumstances of an individual's life doesn't make them any less real.

By which time they've normally stopped listening to me. :)
May. 25th, 2012 03:28 pm (UTC)
Hee! I wrote a post in 2008 using "life difficulty setting" as the premise. http://rowyn.livejournal.com/277105.html :)
May. 25th, 2012 11:20 pm (UTC)
I think this means John has to give you 10% of his page clicks.
May. 27th, 2012 08:16 am (UTC)
Hey if the angry commenters are going to pretend gender and race disparities don't exist, then they can at least acknowledge the role that income and wealth plays in making these disparities worse.
Jul. 29th, 2012 02:11 am (UTC)
The “1 in 71 men" stat from the CDC survey doesn’t tell the whole story. It defines “rape” as the attacker penetrating the victim, which excludes women who use their vagina to rape a man (rape by envelopment) which is counted as “made to penetrate”. The very same survey says “1 in 21 men (4.8%) reported that they were made to penetrate someone else.” Therefore, if you properly include men who are forced to engage in PIV sex against their will, somewhere between 1 in 16 and 1 in 21 men have been raped, using the numbers in the CDC study you cited.

Additionally, the study says that 79.2% of male victims of “made to penetrate” reported only female perpetrators, meaning they were raped by a woman.
Mar. 19th, 2013 12:21 am (UTC)
Interesting facts.
( 94 comments — Leave a comment )


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