Watching Town Bloody Hall the other week made me dig out my copy of How To Suppress Women’s Writing by Joanna Russ. The second chapter, ‘Bad Faith’, is only two and a half pages but is as concise a laying out of the over-riding issue as you could wish for:
Conscious, conspiratorial guilt? Hardly. Privilege groups, like everyone else, want to think well of themselves and to believe that they are acting generously and justly. Conscious conspiracy would either quickly stop, or it would degenerate into the kind of unpleasant, armed, cold war with which white South Africa must live. Genuine ignorance? Certainly that is sometimes the case. But talk about sexism or racism must distinguish between the sins of commission of the real, active misogynist or bigot and the vague, half-conscious sins of omission of the decent, ordinary, even good hearted people, which sins the context of institutionalized sexism and racism makes all too easy.
This rather more elegantly states what I was flailing towards over the course of these three posts. As recent year’s have proved, there is a lot of this around in the genre and a few more people could do with reading Russ’s book:
At the level of high culture with which this book is concerned, active bigotry is probably fairly rare. It is also hardly ever necessary, since the social context is so far from neutral.
Emphasis in the original and there is a lot more where that came from.