August 24, 2008

Personally, I'm Anti-Tolerance

I hang out in a number of places where diversity is discussed. Differences in weight, cultural standards, socioeconomic status, religious practices, age, physical ability, skin color, sexual preference, gender identity, sexual practices, communication styles--either everybody's grappling with them or I'm only interested in the people who are. And yet, there's one thing I run across in almost all these places that would drive me away if I were any less stubborn.


One little word, it almost looks helpless sitting alone like that. Nothing about it warns of the headache that I get every time someone uses it.

"We should work to increase tolerance of _________."

"________ is tolerated much better than it used to be."

"I've always thought of this community as so tolerant."


Could we be more exclusionary as we seek inclusion? Could we find a word to more clearly state that power lies where it has always lain? Could we use one to make it more obvious that membership of the outsider is temporary and conditional? Could we draw the line between us and them any deeper?

It's a big, weird world out there, people. In here too, for that matter. Wake up and embrace it. If you hold back and tolerate it, you're missing half the point and all the fun.


Anonymous said...

Found your blog through Thus Spake Zuska where I thought your comments on "Women With Their Sexy Hawt Bodies" were very insightful. Happy to see we share views on tolerance as well! "Tolerance" to me implies allowing a behaviour that you don't actually think should be allowed. Either something's ok or it isn't, tolerance really should be a non-issue.

Stephanie Zvan said...

Hi, Felicia. Thanks for the kind words! I don't always feel like I know how to make my point at Zuska's, with the wild diversity of viewpoints she gets there. It's nice to know someone got something from my comments.

Anonymous said...


When I'm working around outside at the cabin, and I accidentally step in dog shit with my old work sneakers, and don't want to mess around with that but just want to keep hauling rocks or planting seed or mowing the lawn or carting fishing and boating gear back and forth, I tolerate the dog shit on the bottom of my shoe for as long as I need to.

It is simply the wrong word and the wrong attitude.

To me, tolerating another human being is when someone does something so annoying or wrong that you've got to say something (or slap them in the face or beep at them or whatever) but since you think they may have a shotgun in the back of the truck, you don't do it. You tolerate the dog shit.

Stephanie Zvan said...

How, um, vivid. But yeah, that's about it.

I think every once in a while that tolerance has a place as a minimum standard of behavior for people who just don't get the world in general. Then one of "my people" uses the word, sweetly and earnestly, and I want to throw things. I realize all over just how apalling it is.

Anonymous said...

"Toleration is not the opposite of intoleration, but it is the counterfeit of it. Both are despotisms. The one assumes to itself the right of withholding liberty of conscience, and the other of granting it. The one is the pope, armed with fire and fagot, and the other is the pope selling or granting indulgences.
Thomas Paine

Stephanie Zvan said...

Thanks, Jeffry. I hadn't seen that before.