Is tall a feminist issue? (@bitchmedia)

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Is tall a feminist issue? (@bitchmedia)

Postby spacefem » Sun Jun 12, 20:18 2011

So there's an article in the recent Bitch Magazine called "Why tall is a feminist issue, too", which certainly piqued my interest! It's nice to hear someone else say that it's hard out here for a tall woman... we get laughed at in the media, we're portrayed as manly and scary, it's totally true that five strangers a week ask me how tall I am. The author says that height is just one more way where women are supposed to fit into a box that society's made for us.

But I finished the article with a sort of guilty self-absorbed "move on" feeling. The egoist in me would love to think that being tall makes me oppressed enough to inherit the earth... but it doesn't. Feminism should be a lens we use to help women as a whole, women of color, the poor, women in countries with more disparity than America or without access to education. The tall? I'm not feeling it.

I've gotten a lot better at owning my height in recent years. In high school I thought it was the glaring difference that made me not fit in, but years later I learned that everyone in high school had a glaring difference that made them not fit in. I may not have had a boyfriend, but I made the state track team three years in a row. I had good experiences. And I still have good experiences. Despite having to special-order my slacks, I'm leading a privileged life.

I think when you talk about why life's hard, you should always look outward. I see the opposite all too often, especially with my religion, where Christians are in charge of EVERYTHING but still love to claim that we need teacher-led prayer in schools (CHRISTIAN prayers of course, it goes without saying) because everything we already have is just not enough. Nah, height is its own weird blessing, and you have to take it like every other weird blessing. Men who are unusually tall live strange different lives, too. I'm not seeing the feminist tie. Is it me?

[Sorry to write about an article that's not available online... you should subscribe to Bitch anyway that's how I justify it! This issue has many other awesome thought-provoking articles so if you're feeling left out of discussion, go get it.]

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Re: Is tall a feminist issue? (@bitchmedia)

Postby lizpoona » Sun Jun 12, 21:37 2011

My negative experience with being tall is in seeing how every single couple in movies or TV has the girl shorter than the guy. Now I can see how that would grate on the self-esteem of short men(and it does)... but for me personally, the image of the girl being shorter than the guy caused me to think I was some sort of giant freak, and I've always felt lumbering and huge. I get asked every other day how tall I am, and I still get the "do you play basketball?" question occasionally. This used to bother me, but as I've grown older it bothers me less and my attitude is mostly "I'm tall, bitches, bow to my towering glory!" ...well, not really. >.> I'm just not as self-conscious.

Although, It would be nice to go through a week without being made aware that someone is intently studying my body. I've lost count of how many times I've been minding my own busy business at work and some older guy has asked how tall I am or acted like I was the most amazing thing they've ever seen just because I'm barely 6 feet. Or I'll be giving advice about a product and in the middle of a sentence they ask "how tall are you?" WHY DOES IT MATTER? I'M TELLING YOU WHICH TELEVISION HAS A BETTER PICTURE QUALITY. Or alternatively, they hit on me in the most obvious ways possible. Telling me I'm beautiful or cute or sexy or they wish I was 10 years older. I once got complimented 3 times in a row by 3 completely different people. It's a bittersweet situation. I find it flattering and my ego gets +1 for confidence, but at the same time I feel a little offended that they can't just treat me like the automaton salesperson I am and leave me alone, like they do with all of the other associates who help them. I didn't come to work to show off my body; I came to work to do my job. Drool at me all you like, just please don't shout at my from across the aisles (has happened before; a guy was whistling at me and calling me sexy from about 3 aisles away) or feel the need to inform me of how attractive you find me while I'm trying to juggle 5 different tasks. it's flattering, but also really really awkward.

Despite my annoyance with these situations, I do think it should be a lower priority of things on the list for feminists to worry about. It one of the small things we can work on whenever the opportunity arises, but it's not like we need national campaigns or anythings. These kinds of things are going to change when society as a whole finally starts to change.
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Re: Is tall a feminist issue? (@bitchmedia)

Postby cwbyrvr » Mon Jun 13, 3:36 2011

So... HOW TALL ARE YOU?! LOLOLOLOL.

Actually I recall you having answered that before, and was just being a snark. *ahem*

I'm a pretty ok height and honestly wish I were taller. No real reason for it other than typical never happy with what you have stuff, I guess.

On topic, you could say it's a feminist issue, but I don't think it's important enough to make a big deal out of. Taller than average men get crap too. So it's already equal. :P
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Re: Is tall a feminist issue? (@bitchmedia)

Postby spacefem » Mon Jun 13, 6:22 2011

Well, I hate saying that something "is a feminist issue, but not that important" because I feel like people say that about a LOT of things. And I love Bitch magazine which is "a feminist response to pop culture" and I bet people ask them all the time, "Oh come on are Ke$ha lyrics really something we need to be concerned about when there are [honor killings in Jordan]/[protesters in egypt being sexually assaulted]/[soldiers raping women in the congo]/[underfunded women's shelters everywhere]?" And the answer is yes it's all important, because by looking at the little stuff we start to get at the root of things, we deconstruct the Bad System from the bottom up. We find symptoms of the larger problems.

The thing is, I assume that really freaking tall guys get asked how tall they are just as much as I do. I literally see it as a gender-neutral issue. I have not done a scientific poll on this.

Fun fact: I've lived long enough in this body that I avoid places where I know I'll be confronted about my height... this sounds bad, but it's a socio-economic class thing. In the poorer crapier parts of town, like if I go to the flea market, people have no qualms about commenting on me. So when I go shopping there I brace myself. No one's ever asked me how tall I am when I'm browsing Coach purses at the pricey mall, they're more restrained there. Worst place ever was Fremont Street in Vegas, not only was it a trash-fest but people are drunk. Good times!

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Re: Is tall a feminist issue? (@bitchmedia)

Postby Sonic# » Mon Jun 13, 8:03 2011

spacefem wrote:The thing is, I assume that really freaking tall guys get asked how tall they are just as much as I do. I literally see it as a gender-neutral issue. I have not done a scientific poll on this.


I'm pretty tall, and it's about a 50/50 shot whether my height comes up when talking with people I haven't met before. Also, I take more notice of people who are either particularly tall or short. So I agree that the curiosity behind height cuts across genders.

There is a difference in the possible reasons for asking for my height. Besides aimless curiosity, there's also what liz notes. The woman I'm with now would be uninterested in dating a guy shorter than her. I've dated several people for whom this is the case. On the other hand, I've seldom seen a man balk on dating a partner shorter than him, though he might be surprised to date someone taller than him. These are anecdotes, I know. I'm also not sure whether there's a pattern of preferences when dating within genders, or outside of conventional genders. So, at least in the realm of amorous preference, in heterosexual encounters, there's a tendency to judge tallness differently.

For me, that means that greater height, symbolically, can represent greater prestige or power. This is something that is normally fine in a man, while it is sometimes fine (but sometimes quite imposing) in a woman. It can also represent something unusual, freakish even, such that excessive tallness or shortness opens up a body to critique. So, there's some interesting study to be done, and perhaps some cool ways to think about height, though it isn't thought of as a feminist issue. (Maybe disability studies would be a good place to think about height too?)

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Re: Is tall a feminist issue? (@bitchmedia)

Postby monk » Mon Jun 13, 12:35 2011

spacefem wrote:Fun fact: I've lived long enough in this body that I avoid places where I know I'll be confronted about my height... this sounds bad, but it's a socio-economic class thing. In the poorer crapier parts of town, like if I go to the flea market, people have no qualms about commenting on me. So when I go shopping there I brace myself. No one's ever asked me how tall I am when I'm browsing Coach purses at the pricey mall, they're more restrained there. Worst place ever was Fremont Street in Vegas, not only was it a trash-fest but people are drunk. Good times!


More fun Facts: My average 5'10 became large when I lived in Rural Alaska, the general racial dynamic was 50% Native American, 30% Asian or Albanian, and another 10% mixed all of whom averaged around 5'5"-5'7". So for five years I was almost always one of the tallest people in the room, even my wife at 5'8 went from average to tall. I got asked all the time how tall I was and my business partner who was 6'7" scared everyone.
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Re: Is tall a feminist issue? (@bitchmedia)

Postby newlydiscovered » Mon Jun 13, 20:29 2011

spacefem wrote:The thing is, I assume that really freaking tall guys get asked how tall they are just as much as I do. I literally see it as a gender-neutral issue. I have not done a scientific poll on this.

I have a freakishly tall male friend who once had a tshirt made with answers to all the questions he gets asked a million times. like, "I'm 6'5" (or whatever it was), no I don't play basketball, the weather up here is nice, etc etc", so yeah, I think they do get asked questions like that but I don't think there's the same negative portrayal of them in media, and no one tells them who they should/shouldn't date based on height.
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Re: Is tall a feminist issue? (@bitchmedia)

Postby Rainbow Dolphins » Tue Jun 14, 14:17 2011

^One could argue that particularly short men do face all of those things, though. They're portrayed as weird and inferior in the media and men are pretty heavily discouraged from dating women taller than them (at least, most women don't seem to want to date a man shorter than them). Whereas particularly short women don't usually generate too much interest.
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Re: Is tall a feminist issue? (@bitchmedia)

Postby skepchap » Mon Jul 11, 6:11 2011

I must say, I am impressed, generally, by how egalitarian this forum seems to be. :thumbup:

Yes. I think there is, sometimes, an issue about height. I'm not sure if it's necessarily a sexist issue, but it certainly could be, and quite possibly often is, depending on the pov of an individual commenting on it. But then, is there anything at all for which that isn't true? In that sense, I'm struggling to think of a topic which is not a sexist (or if you like, feminist) issue.

To be more inclusive, we might say that height is an issue in human society. :]

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Re: Is tall a feminist issue? (@bitchmedia)

Postby Sonic# » Mon Jul 11, 7:34 2011

To be more inclusive, we might say that height is an issue in human society. :]


While I am for practical inclusiveness, I am not for inclusiveness that erases useful distinctions. Height is an issue in human society, but in particular, it's distinctly an issue for tall and short women, in a way that it's not an issue for men of similar height. So when you say,

In that sense, I'm struggling to think of a topic which is not a sexist (or if you like, feminist) issue.


I think you're right. Our society discriminates between men and women so often that, while there are many issues that can be discussed at length without recourse to gender, they most often have an element that discriminates based on sex too. (Or, they're discussed at length always with recourse to gender, where such relations are more apparent, i.e. marriage.) I like to think of feminists as those people who can see and point out the gender inequalities, though some antifeminists would claim that we invent them.

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Re: Is tall a feminist issue? (@bitchmedia)

Postby God is an Englishman » Mon Jul 11, 7:52 2011

Sonic# wrote:
While I am for practical inclusiveness, I am not for inclusiveness that erases useful distinctions. Height is an issue in human society, but in particular, it's distinctly an issue for tall and short women, in a way that it's not an issue for men of similar height.

Can you elaborate?

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Re: Is tall a feminist issue? (@bitchmedia)

Postby skepchap » Mon Jul 11, 7:59 2011

Sonic# wrote: Height is an issue in human society, but in particular, it's distinctly an issue for tall and short women, in a way that it's not an issue for men of similar height.



HM. Not sure about this. Tallness is an issue for women, and shortness is an issue for men, broadly speaking.

Edit: Btw, I agree with your point about distinctions. I just prefer an inclusive starting position, where appropriate. :]
Last edited by skepchap on Mon Jul 11, 10:48 2011, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Is tall a feminist issue? (@bitchmedia)

Postby God is an Englishman » Mon Jul 11, 8:01 2011

skepchap wrote:
Sonic# wrote: Height is an issue in human society, but in particular, it's distinctly an issue for tall and short women, in a way that it's not an issue for men of similar height.



HM. Not sure about this. Tallness is an issue for women, and shortness is an issue for men, broadly speaking.

Can you elaborate also? xD

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Re: Is tall a feminist issue? (@bitchmedia)

Postby Sonic# » Mon Jul 11, 13:54 2011

skepchap wrote:HM. Not sure about this. Tallness is an issue for women, and shortness is an issue for men, broadly speaking.


Oh, I didn't mean that tallness for women was the same as shortness for women. I would call the commonly preferential treatment received by short women and tall men an issue too, because the way people respond to such height is in large part determined by gender dynamics, as tallness aligns with protectiveness and power (aspects typically taken to be masculine), and shortness aligns with vulnerability and the need to be helped (aspects typically taken to be feminine). In this case, there's a positive bias ("hey, they fulfill the requirement! I'll treat them in the way their gender-role entails") and a negative bias ("hm, a short man must be less of a man or more of a woman, and a tall woman must be more of a man or less of a woman").

The belief that height determines how much of a man or woman you are, coupled with the belief that masculinity and femininity are binaries, presents a system where people that fall within the norm are made to conform to it whether they would or not, and people who fall outside the norm are seen as bizarre, exotic, or untouchable.

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Re: Is tall a feminist issue? (@bitchmedia)

Postby skepchap » Mon Jul 11, 18:14 2011

Sonic# wrote: I like to think of feminists as those people who can see and point out the gender inequalities, though some antifeminists would claim that we invent them.



By now, you may be starting to second guess what someone like me is going to say to that, lol.

I sometimes think of feminists as those people who too often see and point out particular types of gender inequalities. :flower:

As for inventing them. Hm. I don't think so. At least, I can't think of any. I might feel that some of you overdo some of them a bit though.

Sonic# wrote:Oh, I didn't mean that tallness for women was the same as shortness for women. I would call the commonly preferential treatment received by short women and tall men an issue too, because the way people respond to such height is in large part determined by gender dynamics, as tallness aligns with protectiveness and power (aspects typically taken to be masculine), and shortness aligns with vulnerability and the need to be helped (aspects typically taken to be feminine). In this case, there's a positive bias ("hey, they fulfill the requirement! I'll treat them in the way their gender-role entails") and a negative bias ("hm, a short man must be less of a man or more of a woman, and a tall woman must be more of a man or less of a woman").

The belief that height determines how much of a man or woman you are, coupled with the belief that masculinity and femininity are binaries, presents a system where people that fall within the norm are made to conform to it whether they would or not, and people who fall outside the norm are seen as bizarre, exotic, or untouchable.



This is fab. No probs with this. We are reading from the same page on this one. :]

And, I'm going to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you'd agree with me if I said that these are useful concepts to be aware of, especially (though not exclusively of course, for practical reasons) in a hypothetical sociology classroom, but that if we (yes, even women, for whom I do accept things are different, in ways which I take very seriously, since I have two daughters to take into consideration) thought about everything in this way all day long, we'd be in danger of not treating people as individuals and situations as dynamic, multi-faceted and perhaps even too complicated to be penned down into isms and pigeonholes

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Re: Is tall a feminist issue? (@bitchmedia)

Postby HelixLuco » Mon Jul 11, 23:24 2011

skepchap wrote:
I sometimes think of feminists as those people who too often see and point out particular types of gender inequalities. :flower:

As for inventing them. Hm. I don't think so. At least, I can't think of any. I might feel that some of you overdo some of them a bit though.


my first reaction to this was "well of course we have to overdo it!" the messages transmitted by a culture don't all have to be explicitly spelled out to have a big impact, and the force of a lot of little insignificant things can't be underestimated.

This makes me even more confused about what high heels are supposed to be for.

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Re: Is tall a feminist issue? (@bitchmedia)

Postby skepchap » Wed Jul 13, 16:55 2011

HelixLuco wrote:my first reaction to this was "well of course we have to overdo it!" the messages transmitted by a culture don't all have to be explicitly spelled out to have a big impact, and the force of a lot of little insignificant things can't be underestimated.

This makes me even more confused about what high heels are supposed to be for.



Yes, indeed, but (and this applies to almost any debate, and I am speaking generally, not just to you or about feminism), 'overdo' could mean asserting the same, reasonable point over and over, or it could mean overstating the point itself. The first could be defended (even if the other party thinks you're doing it too often) but not so easily the latter. If you overstate, or exaggerate, or unintentionally skew your point, then as well as provoking debate, you forfeit at least some credibility and you are alienating many of those on the 'other side' who would otherwize want to agree with you, and you may cause more division than anything else. You are also giving those on the 'other side' who are never going to want to concede anything an excuse to disregard the reasonable component of your point.

The persuason doesn't even need to be gentle, but the more accurate, fair, reasonable, defensible, unbiased and egalitarian it is, the better, IMO.

The other example I keep quoting (because I was involved with it at another site) is how atheists characterize religion, where I was somewhat turned off by certain things (e.g. 'religion: the root of all wrong') in much the same way, even though I'm an atheist myself. Substitute 'patriarchy' instead of 'religion', perhaps, if you're of another ism. :]

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Re: Is tall a feminist issue? (@bitchmedia)

Postby Butterfly North » Wed Jul 13, 17:22 2011

The above explanation of how we might be 'overdoing it' by having this view assumes this thread is intended as part of some wider debate or campaign, which it isn't. If you give me someone who thinks feminism is BS I'm not going to lead with this as my prime example of sexism for the practical reasons you state, but it's a bit of a leap from that admission to saying if specifically asked about height and gender I should claim there is no feminist issue. That would be weird. It's a bit like observing some example of a fractional amount of climate warming and then being told to keep quiet about it because in talking about it you will undermine the argument that there is much larger warming going on. Fine if you're Al Gore, but silly if you're at an academic conference dealing with specific readings.

Basically I don't think we should base our actual opinions on how they will be perceived by others. One might want to selectively mention them and even phrase them in certain ways in order to be persuasive in certain contexts, but there is no intention to persuade non-feminists present in this thread - it is a discussion thread aimed at feminists and those interested in feminism.

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Re: Is tall a feminist issue? (@bitchmedia)

Postby skepchap » Wed Jul 13, 17:51 2011

Butterfly North wrote:The above explanation of how we might be 'overdoing it' by having this view assumes this thread is intended as part of some wider debate or campaign, which it isn't. If you give me someone who thinks feminism is BS I'm not going to lead with this as my prime example of sexism for the practical reasons you state, but it's a bit of a leap from that admission to saying if specifically asked about height and gender I should claim there is no feminist issue. That would be weird. It's a bit like observing some example of a fractional amount of climate warming and then being told to keep quiet about it because in talking about it you will undermine the argument that there is much larger warming going on. Fine if you're Al Gore, but silly if you're at an academic conference dealing with specific readings.


Sure, but I don't think I said it wasn't a separate sub-issue. I just said I preferred such issues to be framed/approached, initially, in the category, 'height is an issue for both genders'.

Butterfly North wrote:Basically I don't think we should base our actual opinions on how they will be perceived by others.


You're missing my point, about accuracy.

Butterfly North wrote: it is a discussion thread aimed at feminists and those interested in feminism.


Well, it's true, I'm not a feminist, I'm an egalitarian, with some feminist leanings, and some reservations, the latter of which I admit I am 'overdoing' a bit. :) Don't worry. I probably won't be staying long. After that, you can all get back to your groupthink. :] I'm teasing. Where's that banter smilie?

In all fairness, someone has already opined that feminism is about addressing inequalities, and I'm only clarifying that it tends to address certain inequalities.

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Re: Is tall a feminist issue? (@bitchmedia)

Postby Butterfly North » Wed Jul 13, 18:24 2011

skepchap wrote:I just said I preferred such issues to be framed/approached, initially, in the category, 'height is an issue for both genders'.


And I'm saying different contexts call for/allow different emphasis. So if someone is interested to know whether it's a feminist issue, and the answer is yes, then we should answer in the affirmative. That statement does not preclude the possibility that height also has other effects, it does not imply any such thing, etc. If someone did decide to become overly sensitive and take that statement to mean that ownership of height as an issue is women's alone, that would be because they are wrong, not because there is anything wrong with the statement.

skepchap wrote:
Butterfly North wrote: it is a discussion thread aimed at feminists and those interested in feminism.


Well, it's true, I'm not a feminist, I'm an egalitarian, with some feminist leanings, and some reservations, the latter of which I admit I am 'overdoing' a bit. :) Don't worry. I probably won't be staying long. After that, you can all get back to your groupthink. :] I'm teasing. Where's that banter smilie?

In all fairness, someone has already opined that feminism is about addressing inequalities, and I'm only clarifying that it tends to address certain inequalities.


That wasn't a snarky way at getting you out of the conversation, I was just emphasising the fact that the forum is called 'Feminism' in order to make the point that no-one could possibly read this thread and think it diminished the need for other forms of equality. So I'm trying to clarify that although feminism only addresses certain inequalities this does not mean we're 'overdoing' this point in relation to other forms of inequalities, especially since we explicitly state that we're only talking about feminism.

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Re: Is tall a feminist issue? (@bitchmedia)

Postby skepchap » Thu Jul 14, 4:13 2011

Butterfly North wrote:And I'm saying different contexts call for/allow different emphasis. So if someone is interested to know whether it's a feminist issue, and the answer is yes, then we should answer in the affirmative. That statement does not preclude the possibility that height also has other effects, it does not imply any such thing, etc. If someone did decide to become overly sensitive and take that statement to mean that ownership of height as an issue is women's alone, that would be because they are wrong, not because there is anything wrong with the statement.


Sure. I can answer the OP statement in the affirmative (not least because, well, off the top of my head I can't think of anything to do with human society that one couldn't substitute for 'tall' and for it not to be discussed in terms of feminism). And just to clarify, it is of course valid to belong to a movement which tends to focus mainly on issues facing one gender. Whether it's the best option, or doesn't have some drawbacks, are my points. And I say this, while being well aware that there is a separate, and in very many ways very good case for feminists to want a place to call their own.

But, to clarify a possible, understandable crossed wire, when someone earlier said that they saw feminism as pointing out inequalities, and when someone else spoke of the need to overdo stuff, I took it that they/we were speaking more generally, not just about the OP.

Butterfly North wrote: That wasn't a snarky way at getting you out of the conversation, I was just emphasising the fact that the forum is called 'Feminism' in order to make the point that no-one could possibly read this thread and think it diminished the need for other forms of equality. So I'm trying to clarify that although feminism only addresses certain inequalities this does not mean we're 'overdoing' this point in relation to other forms of inequalities, especially since we explicitly state that we're only talking about feminism.


Ah. My mistake, thinking that you were objecting to my sometime non-feminist tone. I may have been projecting my own uncertainties about manners there. :]

(I wouldn't have thought of your comment as snarky in any case. I would probably have felt that you had a fair point, and if I do leave at some stage, it will be because I don't want to spoil the party and not because I think anyone's been unwelcoming).

On your last point, about overdoing, can you see that from my perspective, even just 'only addressing certain inequalities' is inherently, in one sense (albeit a different sense to the one in which I was using it previously) 'overdoing' something?

Maybe there is an analogy with something else. Analogies are only useful up to a point, because no two situations are fully analagous. But still.

Take another issue, racism based on skin colour in America or, say, Western Europe, in which it is generally agreed (as in the topic of gender) that the majority of problematical issues were and still are suffered more often by one group, because of an historically prevalent culture and power structure. I suggest that there is quite a good reason, despite it being a perfectly valid idea, that starting a 'blackist' movement might not be the best idea, though as I said, entirely valid, and indeed very useful, up to a point, that point perhaps relating to what proportion of time was spent discussing the problematical issues (and how they stem from white culture) and also the degree of balanced perspective with which these matters were discussed.

Which last point would be getting into the separate but not unrelated issue (admittedly not particularly specific to this OP) of not overdoing stuff in the way I mentioned previously, in terms of being as accurate as possible.


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