The Thinking Woman’s Crumpet

(this entry is CC’d. If anyone wants to download some pictures, do a voice over, and throw this up on our Khan Academy for Anthropology, be my guest)

Anthropology is, in many ways, the art of taking implicit, taken-for-granted meanings and making them explicit. This is important because human beings cram a tremendous amount of meaning into everything we do, and yet much of the time we are only vaguely conscious of the meanings we surround ourselves with  — and if you are a cultural outsider, you may miss them entirely. Just as learning the grammar of a language will help you understand it and write clearly in it, learning to make cultural meanings explicit helps us understand and express ourselves to others. Take, for instance, the thinking woman’s crumpet.

The other night I was watching a documentary about Shakespeare written and presented by the historian Michael Wood. As the documentary went on and I spent more and more time watching Michael Wood describe the Tudor police state with great enthusiasm, it occurred to me that he might be physically attractive. So I turned to my wife and asked: “is he attractive?” She thought for a minute and said she didn’t think so. But since she is a professor, just to be sure, she looked him up on wikipedia. “Apparently,” she said, “he’s the thinking woman’s crumpet.”

If you are British, or an anglophile American, it is not too hard to understand what it means to say “Michael Wood is the thinking woman’s crumpet”. Implicitly, you might understand that educated middle-class women find Michael Wood attractive even though he is not conventionally attractive. But as an anthropologist, I want to move beyond this implicit awareness to a richer, more explicit understanding of this phrase, an understanding of it that explains what it means even if you don’t even know what a crumpet is, much less what it symbolizes to the British. I’ll begin by talking about what it means to be a ‘thinking woman’ and then I’ll move on to the ‘crumpet’.

The noun phrase “thinking women” seems at first cut to describe women who think, but this is not exactly right. I’m not British and not an anthropologist of Britain, so I may not have all the details right (anthropologists are, like everyone else, fallible). But the UK is a class-conscious place and I think that the term is meant to invoke a certain socioeconomic position and the entire set of habits and dispositions that come along with it: affluent and educated, refined enough to be attracted to someone’s personality as well as their looks, etc. ‘Thinking woman’ is just two words but for those with the cultural knowledge necessary to decode them it summons up an entire way of classifying people which is more or less systematic. In particular, it implicitly defines large swaths of the population as people who ‘don’t think’. These people are usually less wealthy, less educated, and less powerful than ‘thinking people’. Anthropology as a discipline often finds these kinds of systems of inequality hiding within our implicit meanings, and as a result we’ve grown to be very mindful of the way that power and inequality are omnipresent in human life.

In addition to class, the phrase “thinking woman’s crumpet” has a lot of implicit things about gender relations in the UK within it, things which can be (as we anthropologists like to say) ‘unpacked’ or made explicit. The term is actually a transformation of the pre-existing phrase ‘thinking man’s crumpet’. The phrase was (according to Wikipedia and Google) originally used to describe Joan Bakewell, a TV presenter in the sixties. The comedian who invented it did so as a joke but, like most labels that stick, it made explicit a set of ideas and desires that were at work implicitly. Bakewell was intelligent, articulate, and chic and object of desire for male viewers of a certain social position.

Something happens when you turn the phrase around so that women, rather than men, want ‘crumpet’. The idea that ‘thinking women’ can want ‘crumpet’ has a certain empowering air about it — if thinking men can find articulate and intelligent women attractive, why can’t thinking women find Michael Wood attractive? I would say that the phrase has a whiff of feminism about it (sensing cultural meaning, like smelling a scent, has a certain indomitability that comes from being deeply embodied, and yet is also intangible and ephemeral). But ‘feminism’ is the wrong word to use here, since the term invokes a cultural move that is opposed to the sexual objectification of women and other people. That ‘thinking woman’ can have ‘crumpet’ is an ’empowering appropriation of the male gaze’. Or, in plainer english, women assert their equality with men by adopting male ways of looking at and finding people attractive, ways which in themselves might seem sexist. Or, as the British say in another culinary metaphor that I don’t have time to unpack here, ‘what’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander’.

So that was ‘thinking woman’. Let’s turn now to ‘crumpet’, the second part of the phrase I’ve been examining.  As we’ve seen, there are people like Michael Wood, who is “thinking woman’s crumpet” and Joan Bakewell, who is “thinking man’s crumpet”. But what is plain, unmodified crumpet?

At a certain level, the answer can be easily found on wikipedia: crumpet is a griddle cake, one of the large number of foods Europeans (and the people in their settler colonies) cook by heating flour, water, a fat (typically butter) and a bit of salt and/or sugar on a griddle or pan and leavened with yeast and/or baking powder. If you can read this blog entry in the original English I wrote it in you will already be familiar with pancakes, biscuits, waffles, crepes, and similar foods which are the cousins of crumpets. Americans may even be familiar with “English muffins” which are something like crumpets.

Now we face the very common anthropological problem of people’s use of metaphor. Michael Wood, on the face of it, has almost nothing in common with crumpet. Crumpets are seven centimeters in diameter and Michael Wood is around six feet tall. Crumpets are inanimate, while Michael Wood moves under his own power and enthusiastically describes the Tudor police state. Crumpets are eaten by British people, but British people would consider completely disgusting the idea of killing and eating Michael Wood or Joan Bakewell or any other human.

Or would they? Like many peoples, the British often draw metaphors between people and food, and in the metaphor hunger for the food is equated with sexual desire (an anthropologist would describe both of these as ‘appetitive longing’). Thus, for instance, a pastry shell filled with fruit called a ‘tart’ is often used as a metaphor for a sexually promiscuous woman.

And in fact ‘crumpet’ is a term used to describe a certain kind of sexually attractive woman. My knowledge of this topic is extremely limited, but according to the youtube documentary “Crumpet – A Very British Sex Symbol” the term originated in the 1930s with the rise of mass media such as the television and film. It denoted scantily clad, voluptuous women whose appearance in movies and television was inappropriate but not actually pornographic. The pieces they appeared in were low-brow and down-market — vulgar and working class. Apparently men of the thinking class weren’t supposed to like that sort of crumpet. They preferred Joan Blakewell.  At times there’s a strong feel of class warfare to the youtube documentary — for instance where the narrator accuses Monty Python of objectifying Carol Cleveland while other films (not made by Oxbridge grads) present crumpets as empowered in their sexuality.

It’s hard for me to say as a cultural outsider and non-expert, but I think that calling a woman ‘crumpet’ evokes a wide range of associations: just as a crumpet is not a proper, nutritious meal, crumpets are not properly modest women; watching a crumpet on TV, like eating a crumpet, is a sort of cheap fullfilment — perhaps a guilt pleasure? Do working class people eat crumpet while upper class people eat some other sort of griddle cake? Its hard to say.

All I wanted to establish here is that even simple phrases like “thinking woman’s crumpet” contain within themselves incredible depth. Because they are part of a tightly interwoven and rich cultural system, understanding them requires that they be placed in their cultural context. In this case, this involves everything from British food to the class system to the history of mass media. At the same time, making the meanings of ‘thinking woman’s crumpet’ explicit makes cultural insiders see their own culture in a new way because it forces them to rethink what they used to take for granted — indeed, it may actually prompt some of them to learn about television shows and movies that have shaped their culture in ways they didn’t previously understand. Above all, unpacking the term ‘thinking woman’s crumpet’ allows us to take a look at how anthropologists interpret cultural materials.


Alex Golub is an associate professor of anthropology at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. His book Leviathans at The Gold Mine has been published by Duke University Press. You can contact him at

76 thoughts on “The Thinking Woman’s Crumpet

  1. A person who finds it offensive uses his own preconception about the expression “dumb blond” in his interpretation.

    Just like a person of African descent “uses their own preconception about the expression” ‘n-word’?

    I don’t mean to claim that calling someone a dumb blonde is as offensive as calling someone that. But the principle is the same.

    Evidently, you believe that it is possible to be wrong about an interpretation. So why did you deliberately and egregiously err in your comment about crumpets? Seems like an odd thing to do.

    The stuff that causes human action is physical matter arranged in ie bodies and enviroments. Not brain states as such.

    Of course stuff in the environment causes human action, but only by affecting peoples’ brains. The phrase “thinking woman’s crumpet” can only cause human action if it impacts on the human’s mental states. It has to go through your brain – that’s how humans act. There’s no way around this; human actions result directly from their brain and nerves, on the basis of data received by those things about the world. That is how the relevant causation operates.

  2. I forgot to add. In my comment, what makes the blond dumb is not the color of her hair but her watching of men and collecting of phone numbers all day. Who, in her right mind, does that?

    You interpreted my comment as offensive because your past experience and preconceived notion about the expression, “dumb blond”, affected your interpretation. You are the proof that you are wrong.

  3. Also it cant be determined wholly by what happens in the brain if it depends on things that happen outside the brain, like eating or wearing clothes. That is a contradiction. Or a weird use of wholly determined.

  4. “Evidently, you believe that it is possible to be wrong about an interpretation. So why did you deliberately and egregiously err in your comment about crumpets? Seems like an odd thing to do.”

    Of course you can be wrong with your interpretation if you don’t interpret what you see. Interpretation is a web of processes. Seeing is the first process. How can you call my first comment a recipe for baba ganoush when you don’t see “1 dozen of roasted eggplant,” “a cup of tahini” and “salt and pepper to taste”?

  5. Or a weird use of wholly determined.

    The only event that wholly determines all others is presumably the big bang and the resulting arrangements of matter in certain quantities with specific causal properties that have ended up forming everything that has ever existed.

    But with regard to human actions, I could be under a delusion in which I believe I am in the Sahara desert, thirsty for water and crawling on my hands and knees in pain while actually being in King’s Cross train station in the rain, in which instance my actions have been caused by my brain. Actions are determined by brain states in that sense; in that case my actions might have been caused by a drug, and in other cases they are caused by my brain and senses interacting with the environment – but these things only cause my actions at all if they cause my brain to be in a particular state. This is the sense in which I am using “wholly determined”. We would have to go back 14,000,000,000 years to discover the ultimate cause.

    How can you call my first comment a recipe for baba ganoush when you don’t see “1 dozen of roasted eggplant,” “a cup of tahini” and “salt and pepper to taste”?

    Clearly these meanings were hidden in your words, and only the initiated can see them.

    Or, more plausibly, your claim was in essence that it is not possible to be wrong in interpretation, and that cultural reasons for interpreting things incorrectly are acceptable but others aren’t. Those are both really wrong; you can be wrong in your interpretation, and there are no grounds for believing that cultural reasons for being wrong are preferable to any others. You asked, “is my interpretation wrong?”, and it was, and it resulting from consciously known preconceptions has nothing to do with its validity.

  6. “Clearly these meanings were hidden in your words, and only the initiated can see them.”

    I guess tasseography is your thing. Spare me from nonsense.

    “Or, more plausibly, your claim was in essence that it is not possible to be wrong in interpretation, and that cultural reasons for interpreting things incorrectly are acceptable but others aren’t. Those are both really wrong; you can be wrong in your interpretation, and there are no grounds for believing that cultural reasons for being wrong are preferable to any others. You asked, “is my interpretation wrong?”, and it was, and it resulting from consciously known preconceptions has nothing to do with its validity.”

    Don’t put words in my mouth. Fallacious statements irk me. The interpretation I’ve been trying to explain to you is the sound one that is a result of a careful scrutiny. Misinterpretation is not a sound interpretation. Anthropologists should try to come up with sound interpretations and avoid misinterpretations.

    Marxist anthropologists interpret poverty in a certain way. Biological anthropologists have their own interpretation. Both interpretations have bases. They do not resort to tea leaf-reading.

  7. Marxist anthropologists interpret poverty in a certain way. Biological anthropologists have their own interpretation. Both interpretations have bases. They do not resort to tea leaf-reading.

    And your interpretation of the “thinking woman’s crumpet” was dreck. Your statement,

    The interpretation I’ve been trying to explain to you is the sound one that is a result of a careful scrutiny

    does not accord with the fact that your “interpretation” lacked any reasonable basis and flowed from a set of consciously held false beliefs.

    Is my interpretation wrong? I don’t think you can fault an interpreter who interprets according to her cultural, economic, educational, social background.

    Those are your words.

  8. “Is my interpretation wrong? I don’t think you can fault an interpreter who interprets according to her cultural, economic, educational, social background.”

    Imagine you are in a community where spitting is their way of thanking. After doing someone from the community a favor and he is about to spit a big slimy one, won’t you cover your face? That’s an example how your background can affect your interpretation in the field. You just cannot ignore who you are.

    What if I’ll tell you that the basis of my interpretation of “the thinking woman’s crumpet” is the Filament magazine that uses the same expression as its tagline. The magazine is erotic and intended for women. The last time I checked, the featured men looked ugly to me but actually desirable.

  9. corrections:

    After doing someone from the community a favor and he is about to spit a big slimy one at you, won’t you cover your face?

    What if I’ll tell you that the basis of my interpretation of “the thinking woman’s crumpet” is the Filament magazine that uses the same expression as its tagline?

  10. Yes, Jeremy, you are right. Obviously I hit a nerve if Rex felt the need to single me out for ridicule, and it speaks volumes about his actual (v. espoused) commitments to racial and gender equality that he did. Rex actually thinks that it is acceptable to treat me differently *because of my race and gender*, and evaluate my comments differently, though he publicly claims neither to be racist nor sexist. And all this relates *directly* back to his own crumpet post, my comments about it (and why race is in fact NOT epiphenomenal to this discussion such that it should be marginal and marginalized, or just seen as ‘my issue’ which I just keep bringing up in the way that supposedly occurs in anthropology seminar discussions); it also relates directly to comments/digressions on and to this post, including of brain states and (mis)interpretations.  

    The link tying all these seemingly disparate comments together is the Cynthia Feliciano article I posted above on white Internet daters gendered interracial dating preferences.
    Here it is, again:

    Like Rex, the vast majority of white Internet daters claim not to be ‘racist’ (the scare quotes are to indicate that how I as a critical race theorist use, define, and deploy this term is at variance with how it is generally used, understood, and defined, and to indicate that being racially-motivated in one’s actions can occur independent of consciously ‘hating’ people because of their racial category assignation), and yet these white Internet daters have clear racial preferences in who they decide is ‘crumpet’. And this holds true even for the white Internet daters who actually check that they have “no racial preference”: their dating behavior still shows clear patterns of gendered racial exclusion, and they are the same patterns shown by those who did not check “no racial preference” on their online profiles. In short, the determination of ‘crumpet’–including for ‘thinking men’ and ‘thinking women’–was (and is) racially evaluated. The same education, interests, personality traits did not situate all equally as potential ‘thinking person’s crumpets’, because knowledge of a person’s race influenced and determined this decision-making process (i.e. brain state). People have preconceived ideas about others because of race (yes, including–and often especially–sight unseen), preconceived ideas they may not even be conscious of themselves (or just don’t want to admit openly because of the social stigma attached to being seen as ‘racist’ and ‘a racist’, especially when one is supposed to be a ‘thinking person’–like, say, an anthropologist), and these preconceived ideas about race structure, determine, shape, inflect who people find attractive and are attracted to: both at the level of sheer physical beauty, and at the level of perceived (social/cultural/background/personality) compatibility. As i wrote before: the social calculus of attraction and the calculus of social attractiveness.

    Similarity and difference is perceived through race, with all sorts of (often erroneous) assumptions being made about what people are like, how they’ve grown up, what motivates them, how friendly or passive they are being made because of race (e.g. racial stereotypes) such that even when whites said they had no racial preferences for online dating, their behavior, in the aggregate, showed otherwise because they were consistently–and systematically–exhibiting very easily identified (and for me, predictable)  gendered racial preferences that are directly linked to extant racial stereotypes and racial hierarchies. The systematicity of (racial) preferences in relations of (white, male) power. Race structures perceptions of attractiveness. The social world influences brain states. Brain states don’t exist in a (corporeal, asocial) vaccuum. This is why I linked socio-cultural systematicities and corporeal systems. They co-produce each other. Always. But that Rex felt the need to ridicule me for making this *fundamentally anthropological* point is just very sad. And yes, it is also a comment on his actual v. espoused commitments to racial and gender equality. And this is why ‘discussing white privilege’ matters and is not epiphenomenal to this crumpet discussions, or so many other anthropological discussions from which it is consistently–and predictably–evacuated.

    Just because one thinks one is not racially motivated does not mean that one is not racially motivated. And why on earth is this a scary and ‘radical’ anthropological statement, as opposed to a mundane, obvious, and prosaic one? Especially twenty-six years after Writing Culture? Self-reflexivity?

    This post, and Rex’s abusive response to my comment, is yet another reminder of the Brodkin et al. article on anthropology as “white public space”. Just shouldn’t have been that hard to acknowledge why race–and whiteness–actually did matter in an analysis of this post. 

  11. All of that may be true. It might even be relevant, if this was a discussion about something comparable to the study you link: ie white American’s racial preferences in dating. But this post isn’t about Americans. And its not about racial preferences in dating. The only link is that it is about “white” people, broadly defined.

    You still don’t explain, really, why race is more important here than any other kind of identity. Your entire argument would work just as well if you substituted the concern with race for a concern with able-bodiedness. All of the “crumpet’ are able-bodied, are they not? Especially telling is how the idea of a “thinking person” works to reinforce dominant normalizing and privileging discourses that value certain nondisabled bodies (“intelligent”) the most highly. Where is your analysis of this fact? Why aren’t you asking: why are there no disabled crumpet? If you want further evidence of this relationship: we even have, right in this thread, someone using disability (via “thought experiment”) as proxy for something else (what? humanity? subjectivity?) in a predictable but frankly problematic way…

    Further, all of this assumes a context of the heterosexual matrix. Why is the thinking woman’s crumpet necessarily a man? Why are these terms, man and woman, already taken to be stable and already clear, to be prediscursive? Why aren’t you talking about that? Where’s the queery theory?

    This could continue all day.

  12. manaiku: your answer is an example of derailing a discussion of race and white privilege. That you can’t, or don’t want to see, a link between Feliciano’s study on racial preferences in dating and the larger issue of how race structures perceptions of attractiveness, writ large, in both an upper-class white English context and American one (after all, these are the contexts from which Rex himself drew his analysis) is itself instructive. My comment is not any less valid or relevant because I did not also bring up normative assumptions about able-bodiedness. That should also be factored in: in addition to, NOT as a replacement for a racial critique. And given issues of georaciality and the *global* hegemony of white beauty ideals (especially originating from and reinforced by US media and it’s global, hegemonic circulation), thinking more critically about whiteness applies in this case such that my comments are most certainly NOT relevant only in relation to the US or the dating patterns of white Americans in the US.

  13. Of course it assumes a heterosexual and heteronormative matrix. Again, of course there should ALSO be a queer critique. And, again, this neither supplants nor invalidates the racial/whiteness critique. And it is ridiculous to imply that it should. Hello, intersectionality????

    Why always this let’s talk about something else so as not to think critically about race, whiteness, white privilege, white supremacy, georaciality, and global racial hierarchies? A race, class, gender, (dis)ability, age, queer critique (and others) can all co-exist simultaneously. Why always these ‘let’s look at something else do we can displace the racial analysis as necessary, constitutive, and legitimate’ tactics.

    Moreover, I am not the one assuming the heterosexual and heteronormative frame. I am simply working with what Rex wrote, which was about a woman talking about a white man being a “thinking woman’s crumpet”, alongside comments on women who were “thinking men’s crumpet”. So please don’t derail my entirely relevant and legitimate racial analysis by claiming I am advocating things that I am not.

  14. Bringing up heteronormativity and disability derails your discussion about race and white privilege, but your discussion of race and white privilege doesn’t derail the discussion of the original blog post? And you don’t see that as an obvious double-standard? Now THAT, I think, is instructive. My discourse is a self-conscious derivative of your own, with the identities (the “bone-to-pick”) switched up. If you believe they are legitimate factors in addition to the racial critique, then how can me raising them up possibly derail your discussion unless you are implicitly privileging that racial critique over all possible others?

    As for the second part, I don’t know how to put this delicately, but what an American thing to think.

  15. Yes, *derailing*:
    Especially since, maniaku, nowhere in ANY of my comments did I say that a racial analysis should be included–or privileged–because it is the most important identity or the most important category of and for analysis. But that this is how you read my comments–**(mis)interpreted** them, to link this comment to other responses to this post–should certainly be subject to anthropological analysis of its own. What ‘brain state’–or, dare I say, ‘system’– makes such a consistent (mis)interpretation possible, such that the site Derailing for Dummies can predict this kind of a ‘misinterpretation’ as a to-be-expected response to a non-white woman trying to ‘discuss white privilege’?

    Derailing indeed…

  16. maniaku: you are arguing with the proverbial straw man, and not what I have actually written. And yes, you are derailing.

  17. No, maniaku, your comment is not a “self-conscious derivative” of mine, it is a disingenuous and self-interested bastardization of my comments. Your comment is derailing because you made a point of introducing queer and (dis)ability theory to displace having a racial critique you don’t want to engage because it is legitimate and dismcofits you. I displayed no such resistance, and thus am not guilty of the ‘double standard’ you accuse me of. I happily welcomed such critiques in addition. Because, yes, they are valid too. ALL of them should be applied to this post. And this is not derailing.

    Get clear on the actual definition of derailing before you use it, and accuse me–erroneously–of it.

    And no, asking what role race and whiteness play(ed) in discussing who gets to be ‘crumpet’ is not derailing, nor is it US-centric. It is just good anthropology.

  18. Which of those derailing strategies do you think I am using? And what is the definition of derail that you think I should use?

    “Soon the website will undergo a name and domain change for a less ableist title”


  19. If you are sincerely interested in not derailing conversations of race/whiteness/white privilege, you will do the work of figuring this out for yourself. Written sincerely, and without vitriol, rancor, or sarcasm.

  20. Fair enough– Let’s do a bit of work and see what you could mean.

    These seem to all be No’s:


    Within these, the No’s:
    A In B Situation Is Not Equivalent To X In Y Situation
    I’m Just Saying What Other People Believe. I Never Said I Agree
    I Said SOME Marginalised People Do That, Not ALL
    Aren’t You Treating Each Other Worse Anyway

    Your Experience Is Not Representative Of Everyone
    Unless You Can Prove Your Experience Is Widespread I Won’t Believe It
    You Have A False Consciousness
    But It’s True!
    Don’t You Have More Important Issues To Think About
    You’re Just Suffering Privilege Envy
    Well I Know Another Person From Your Group Who Disagrees!
    You’re Not Being A Team Player

    You’re Not Being Intellectual Enough/You’re Being Overly Intellectual
    You’re Arguing With Opinions Not Fact

    But That Happens To Me Too!
    Anything You Can Do – NEW!
    But I’m Not Like That – Stop Stereotyping!
    But If It’s Okay For Marginalised People To Use Those Words, Why Can’t I?
    “It’s A Conspiracy!”
    Who Wins Gold in the Oppression Olympics?

    Possibilities: You Have An Agenda, You’re Interrogating From The Wrong Perspective

    Let’s examine these two then:
    You Have An Agenda
    A close relative of the tactic used above, use this one in a similar fashion, implying that the Marginalised Person could never be speaking from a position of integrity or with pure intent because they have “an agenda”.
    Popular for use in discussions about homosexuality, for example: “the gay agenda” – the claim that gay people’s fight to be recognised is simply a desire to “recruit” people into the “gay lifestyle” and turn them “against” the “wholesomeness” of heterosexuality, but it is versatile – also apply it to women’s rights, groups advocating for religious tolerance & diversity and for trans* folk!

    In this way you get to both undermine them as a human being and further subject them to discrimination through your paranoia and refusal to take them seriously. After all, if you characterise their struggle for acceptance and equal rights as acts worthy of a comic book supervillain, you further dehumanise and demoralise them and this will strengthen your position.

    Ultimately, you can simply dismiss out of turn any and all of their points, no matter how valid, because you can just proclaim that they: “have an Agenda!”
    Okay, that’s a No.

    You’re Interrogating From The Wrong Perspective
    This is a very special tactic but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be freely or liberally used. If anything, it means you should use it as often and as widely as you can.
    You see, in this one you get to insult their intelligence and perceptiveness but in a very subtle and underhanded way! This one is very useful in discussions about literature and other media or academia.
    The gist of it is this: there’s nothing offensive in there, you just don’t get it (because you are too stupid)!

    For example – you might want to impress your belief that context is irrelevant (there’s no racist parallels in a mythological planet where beautiful white elves keep horrible, animalistic orcs as slaves – it’s completely detached from earth’s history!), or that they’re just reading it wrong (well sure, you could take that attitude if you approach it from that perspective, but that’s not the perspective it was meant to be read with so your argument is just flawed!).

    Once again (and truly a fundamental aspect of derailing) you demonstrate your lack of awareness of their issues but you also get to tell them that they’re wrong because you (and all the other Privileged People®) simply know better. Try it out and just wait and see what you get back.

    Burn, baby, burn!

    Also…a No.

    That exhausts the list. So you’ll have to be more specific what you mean.

    On a definition of derail:

    Oxford Advanced Learn’s Dictionary: to leave the track; to make a train do this.

    Not really applicable. For the internet aspect of this term:

    Urban Dictionary: The act of throwing a thread in a discussion forum off topic, oftentimes so much so that the original discussion is unable to continue.

    This is a no, since the original discussion is not about race/white privilege.

    It’s actually not that easy to find a good definition for derailing, apparently. As far as the (awfully named) Derailing for Dummies site goes, they don’t define derail but seem to suggest that it would be “dismissing their opinion as false and ridiculing their experience.” Neither of which apply.

    And that’s where the work ends.

  21. Oh, to add one more:
    Don’t You Have More Important Issues To Think About
    When you’re beginning to feel backed into a corner, you could do worse than to trot this one out.
    As with the best of all these techniques, this step operates on several levels. First of all, it communicates to the Marginalised Person™ that you think the entire debate is trivial and below consideration, indicating you entirely disregard their feelings and emotions. Secondly, you disown responsibility for your part in the debate and anything that you’ve said that may have been discriminatory or offensive.

    Finally, you reinforce your Privilege® by suggesting that it is Privileged People’s® job to set the agenda for the Marginalised Group™. After all, how could they possibly know what issues they should prioritise for themselves, they’re far too inferior and stupid! You, with your objective, ractional Privileged® perspective, on the other hand, know exactly what is most important and it is definitely not confronting you with your own bigotry and ignorance!

    No again…

  22. DWP, thanks for your answer and other comments you made on this blog (under this post and others). It is very instructive and thought-provoking to read what you write, and to follow the links you provide. The way you articulate structures, processes of embodiment, and emotions is pretty much the kind of anthropology I, for one, am interested in reading and researching. And obviously, as this thread among others illustrates, white privilege is to be understood, described and fought against among anthropologists at least as urgently as anywhere else (sadly, indeed).

  23. Never mind; consider the last two posts retracted. I can’t delete my own comments but I asked for them to be removed.

  24. “Imagine you are in a community where spitting is their way of thanking.”

    That would be so cool! Where is that place? Seriously, how the hell did I go this long before hearing about these folks? Are they the cultural ancestors of hipsters?

    If that place doesn’t exist, then can we admit that the range of human, patterned group, human variation is not infinite? In fact, predictably variable? If that’s the case then human behavior can be understood as being normally distributed within a range of possibilities X given Y set of ecological, biological, social, customary, linguistic, technological and historical variables? If that’s the case, and it is, then it would mean that cultural relativism would be defined as the commitment to trying to understand a group from both its common and unique place on the finite, continuum of behavior and thought.

    Or, we could go with your wholly radical, and misunderstood conception of cultural relativism.

    Given the nature, theme, tone, and prevalence of Incompetent Competence Bias, I’m assuming these are things you’re probably just learning about this in an undergrad course, and feel the need to educate the rest of us on a core concept of the discipline, rather than listen to what someone is telling you and honestly thinking about it before replying.

  25. Rick,

    I don’t think accusing someone of being less educated than you is a productive way to continue a conversation.

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