Hugo award winning author John Scalzi recently wrote a post titled Straight White Male: The Lowest Difficulty Setting There Is, which pretty much blew up the Webz (at least in my corner of the world).

Because of all the backlash he got over the post, he also posted a follow up explaining some of his conclusions and why he bahleted comments from jackasses (really kind of self-explanatory there, John, IMHO!).

The original post was ingenious, because it took the always politically charged concept of privilege (as in, “straight white male privilege) and explained it using the metaphor of video game settings, in which the SWM setting is the lowest difficulty setting there is.

There are two aspects of this I really liked and think are important to note:

1. By using this metaphor, Scalzo is acknowledging that the “game” (real life) is not actually easy for anyone by default, there are simply degrees of difficulty that can be affected by a large number factors. All things given, though, the SWM setting is the easiest. This is a good way to explain to people who complain that SWMs don’t have it easy, as if that exempts them from privilege, that it’s not about the lack of difficulties but rather how many are stacked against you;

2. I think this also takes the wind out of the favorite pastime of some angry activists, which is to go around grading oppression as if it some kind of contest. Because using the metaphor, it makes it clear that the issue is less who has the most obstacles but that oppression is built into the game for just about everyone.

What I don’t like about the metaphor is that it turns life into a first-person shooter, although I suppose WoW could be used instead. My point being, we’re all in this together; and while SWMs can’t just hand over points to other players, in order for the difficulty levels to level out (as it were) we have to act as a team. But as Scalzo himself admits, it’s just a damn metaphor and can only go so far.

And certainly, SWM as individuals do pay a price for their privilege difficulty setting, something that has only recently been acknowledged or studied. Patriarchy and all that comes with it has not been kind to any of us, on the whole.

Which, in my mind, proves without a doubt that the whole fucking game is rigged and needs to be tossed.


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