The Dangers of Passive Acceptance

12 December 2014

Today’s post will be more of a thought experiment, so bear with me and let your mind and imagination roam free. If you are a person of privilege, imagine it to be taken away for the rest of this post. If you are a man, pretend you are a woman or trans. If you are white, pretend you are not. If you are straight, pretend like you are bisexual, pansexual, or asexual. I’m sure you get the point and if you don’t know these terms, it is imperative that you Google them right now, not just for this post, but for your health and safety and of those around you. First, a definition:

Passive Acceptance is easily exemplified in terms of school bullying. A bully can pick on his victim in front of other children in the same age group. When this does not illicit a negative response from peers, the bully may not come to the conclusion on their own that what they are doing is wrong. That lack of social pressure to change is passive acceptance. Humans are extremely social creatures and guilt is a very strong factor in driving social change.

So obviously, your open, roaming, wandering mind can see how passive acceptance is bad with bullying and how understanding it can empower not just individuals, but groups, to say “no” and make it socially unacceptable.

What about adults in the workplace making jokes about how gay someone is because they did some “unacceptably feminine” thing?

What about adults both in person and on the internet making fun of (and getting angry at?) the furries that were the target of a terrorist attack in Chicago because, for some reason, people just hate furries. (Seriously, tweet me if you can explain why people hate furries. A real explanation would be welcome, and not just some “bestiality” bullshit).

What about the incidents in Ferguson? The potential reach of the NSA? Hate crimes against trans people? This shit gets deep and the more you think about it, the more you just want to rule the world so you can make it stop.

But clearly, you can’t just actively work against all of these things and help right all of the injustices in the world. You would probably lose your job, family, sleep, health, and life. But you can choose to not be so passive and, most powerfully, I think you can choose to inform others. These things are so dangerous not just because you passively accept them, but because everyone does, and a large portion of people may not even know they are doing it, or that these things exist, or are worse than they thought.

A good example of this, and one that I personally try to talk to other people about when the subject is brought up organically, is sex education. As a high schooler, I passively accepted that my hetero-centric, abstinence-only sex education program (complete with pictures of genitalia infected with any number of STI’s, shock pictures, essentially) was “good enough.” I personally feel that doing this was a missed opportunity in the education of everyone around me. We didn’t know that other sexualities were an option, or that people could be confused about their gender identity, that gender and physical sex were different things. So many missed opportunities. What happened instead? Teenagers wanted to have sex, so they did. People got pregnant. Fathers abandoned mothers. Mothers gave their newborns up for adoption. It was dumb. It makes the school’s sex education plan look dumb. It makes the education system look dumb. I personally blame this system, at least in part, for my inability to introspect in high school and my delayed coming out. If I had come out, I would definitely not have been safe.

Maybe teaching people about condoms could have prevented all the teenage pregnancies? Even preventing one of those would have made it worth it, don’t you think? Maybe teaching people about other sexualities and genders (and that it’s not just a “bad choice” someone is making) could have helped prevent bullying, torture, and suicide. Maybe teaching people is better than trying (and clearly failing) to controlling them. To help combat this and prevent the passive acceptance of this system, I have made it one of my life missions to be as open and accessible as possible about sex, sexuality, and gender to those around me, including my younger siblings. If anyone has questions, they can ask me and if I don’t know, I’ll do my best to find out.

Want to learn more about sex? One of my picks this week is Dr. Lindsay Doe and for good reason. Check her out!

Have you been the victim of or perpetuated a problem of passive acceptance? What can you do to change that? Is education the best proactive tool? (I’m seriously asking because it’s the best one I can think of.)

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