Just Five Questions »« Marketing Atheism

You’re Complaining to the Wrong Department

I understand the impulse to write a post like “Being Right Doesn’t Guarantee That You’re Not Wrong“, Jacques Rosseau’s guest post at Martin Pribble’s blog. I really do.

In this fight over making our movements more welcoming to women and other marginalized groups, there have been a lot of people complaining that they’re being shot down and mistreated for asking questions. There have been a lot of people offerning up naive statements and opinions pulled out of thin air and feeling mistreated over the response. There’s been a lot of personal narrative offered up to humanize the problems we’re talking about.

It’s been working, too. Most conferences are considering inclusion when setting their speaker lists, if not yet setting themselves a goal of parity. More people are recognizing the role of pseudoscience in maintaining inequalities. More events are accessible locally, on a budget, and with child care. More groups are setting anti-harassment policies in place and listening to the corporate world in figuring out how to enforce them. More prominent people are stepping up to point out how marginalizaion occurs online and to demand that it stop. Progress has been painful, but it has been remarkably quick.

Given all that, it’s an easy thing to advocate caution. “Surely one side of this can’t have a monopoly on truth. Surely all this emotion has to have a downside. Surely we need to make accommodations for those who are bewildered by the pace of change. Surely some of these complaints must have merit.” Eh, maybe.

I’ve certainly seen some recommendations I disagree with and some factually wrong assertions made by people on “my side” in the last couple of years. The thing about them, though, is that they haven’t been broadly taken up. There is a personal, emotional component to these arguments, but they are still happening in a community that values facts and research. If someone prominent enough makes such a recommendation or assertion, it gets argued over very publicly. If it’s found to have no merit, it gets dropped (except by those people who keep bringing it up to demonize the group). If it happens in a comment, it may get ignored or challenged, depending. If it gets repeated in comments, it definitely gets challenged.

Honestly, it’s a little bit funny, in a bang-your-head-on-the-wall way, to be told, “You may be wrong”, at this point in the game as though it were a new idea. Where does Rosseau think all of this fighting is coming from if not people saying we’re wrong that there are problems that need to be fixed? When does he think I or any of the rest of us don’t get challenged on these topics? Of course we can be wrong. We’re not allowed to forget that for a minute.

This is one of those arguments that is part truism and wholly useless in its lack of specifics. If I’m wrong about something, tell me what. If you do a better job of it than the Dunning-Kruger victim who tried to say I couldn’t be cyberstalked because I’m a public figure, I’ll probably even engage on the topic.

The real (largest) problem with Rosseau’s piece is that it’s talking to the wrong people. It’s telling a group who is told constantly that they may be wrong that they may be wrong. In doing that, it makes itself superfluous. If it wants to sort out the problem of people of sincere motives being mistaken for trolls, it needs to take its arguments to someone else.

No, I don’t mean Rosseau needs to address the trolls. They’re pretty well beyond help at this point.

There is a (relatively rare) problem with naive people of good intent being mistaken for trolls in these discussions, and it needs to be addressed–by talking to those naive people of good intent. If Rosseau wants to address the friction between the crusaders and the educable bumblers-in, that’s where he needs to turn his attention. He needs to say something more like this:

If you haven’t been paying attention to what has been happening in the atheist and skeptical movements over the last couple of years with regard to inclusion, and if you aren’t already familiar with these discussions from other walks of your life, you’re going to find this a confusing place to be for a while. It’s okay to be confused. It’s even okay to ignore these discussions for a bit while you get your feet under you in the movement. There are plently of places talking about other things. Even among the places that focus on these issues, there are plenty of other things going on. Read those.

If and when you decide you want to know what’s going on in the inclusion argument, understand that it is just that. This is an argument that has been going on for quite some time. And it is an argument, with lots of information presented and lots of assertions made and refuted over that time. Beyond that, there is a side argument going on about values, about whether inclusion is even something desirable, and you know how arguments about values get.

If you decide, more than just wanting to understand the argurment, that you want to join it, it may be helpful to think about this much like the long-running debate over evolution, complete with the side argument about faith versus fact. That’s a hard thing to do, because unlike evolution, this is an argument about the daily lives of people. We have a tendency to think we understand human behavior, but that’s our cognitive biases talking, our tendency to generalize to everyone from our own experiences. Succumbing to that bias here will get you in trouble, just as assuming you understood evolution because you spend time around plants and animals would get you in trouble in the middle of a debate between a creationist and someone who really understands evolution.

Just as with those debates, it’s okay to sit back here and not air your naive “understanding” of what’s going on. There are some very well educated people at work here. Watch. Listen. Learn. It’s an opportunity you don’t get every day. My biology education ended in junior high (I studied chemistry and physics), but I’ve learned so much reading biologists addressing creationist questions and debate points. You can do the same here.

At some point, you’ll have a question. There’s a good chance it’s not a new question, and if you’ve been paying attention, you probably have a good idea where you can find an answer. Go look. Browse a little and further your education even more.

Or maybe you’ve already done that (smart person), but your question isn’t one you’ve seen addressed. Then it comes time to ask.  You’re asking in the middle of an argument, so there are a few things to keep in mind.

  • Here be trolls. By now, you’ve seen them. Don’t act like them. Don’t argue from ignorance. Don’t act entitled to one-on-one instruction.
  • These are busy people. Show them you’ve done your research. Tell them where you looked for answer to your question.
  • Education you may not be the highest priority for everyone. When they point you to your answer, go read it. Take some time to think about it. If you still want clarification, ask whether anyone has time for a side conversation.
  • If you don’t receive the reception you want, place the blame where it belongs. That’s usually on the trolls. If it’s not, you’re probably not in an educational forum. Ask where you can find one.
  • Be polite. Say, “Please”, and, “Thank you.”

Imagine if every person who entered these arguments in good faith but without the education to argue effectively on the topic received and followed that advice. [Imagines. Enjoys. Weeps.] Why don’t we have that expectation? Why do we allow naivety to dictate to expertise on this? Why do we act as though every venue must be educational, even when we claim we know better?

The simple answer to that is that the privileged (default) perspective and the naive perspective happen to line up on questions of inclusion. Rosseau argues that the majority sometimes gets things right despite their privilege. This is true, but this isn’t one of those times.

Comments

  1. F says

    Hmm, let’s see. Less privileged individuals may misread someone or simply be wrong about some specific thing even though the theory and intent behind their position is undeniably true. Check.

    Those arguing against a feminist position largely and generally dismiss everything about feminism from the bottom up, and those mistaken for being anti-feminist or wrongly berated are in minority circumstances. (Wait. What is like a giga-check? Check ^9?)

  2. Beatrice says

    This, so much.

    It’s funny (not really) how one side is always simultaneously expected to adhere to the highest standards of civility and give a lot of slack to everyone else just in case they are poor misguided souls with good intentions.

    Honestly, I find wasting time on giving a chance (and another and another) to newcomers who claim good intentions despite showing anything but, a much greater loss than losing a couple of honest guys who really were just asking questions. Meh, if they really mean to support the cause they won’t give up because someone was rude, they’ll either educate themselves or come back again.

  3. oolon says

    Honestly, I find wasting time on giving a chance (and another and another) to newcomers who claim good intentions despite showing anything but, a much greater loss than losing a couple of honest guys who really were just asking questions. Meh, if they really mean to support the cause they won’t give up because someone was rude, they’ll either educate themselves or come back again.

    Well there is of course the lurker factor – when taking down someone who appears to be just asking innocent questions then lurkers will decide the commenters are a bunch of ….. There seems to be a lot of people who took a bad experience on blogs on this network and really inflated it into all out obsessive hate. There are also people who claim to have read FtBs and don’t like it because of the clique of attack commenters without having commented themselves – these people seem to be more likely to believe the ones that irrationally hate all things FtBs.

    Obviously I have no figures to back up how much of a problem it really is – but when there are a band of merry haters spending large amounts of time on parodies of FtBs then you have to wonder. I think Pharyngulas new ‘safe’ moderated threads should make it a more friendly place for those that want it while keeping the shit flinging in the thunderdome thread.

  4. Jennifer says

    I concur in the post, and oolon’s comment. I’m just dipping my toe into the waters here again after first emerging from lurking months ago to raise what is still a real concern of mine, though not as well-articulated as I wish I had (different FTB blog). I’m still reeling from receiving reply comments that talked to me like the person thought I was an ignorant fucking asshole! Since then I’ve learned a lot about not blundering in to a conversation, but I still think commenters who turn on blunderers tend to be unnecessarily – and unconstructively – barbed and mean.

  5. smhll says

    [1]These are busy people. Show them you’ve done your research. Tell them where you looked for answer to your question.

    [2] Education you may not be the highest priority for everyone. When they point you to your answer, go read it. Take some time to think about it. If you still want clarification, ask whether anyone has time for a side conversation.

    I wanted to speak to these two points.

    Regarding point 2: sometimes people have to stop educating or even stop chatting and just put their energy into defending themselves. This is fairly natural behavior when one feels attacked.

    As to point 1, I keep wanting to make a comparison to automated voicemail systems and phone trees. Lots of people hate getting canned information from a recorded voice, however organizations automated giving answers to questions for a reason. And that reason is that human labor is expensive. People who pay nothing to read this blog (and the ones hosted adjacent to it) are being unreasonable in my mind when they ask people who already doing quite a bit of free work (housework) or underpaid work in real life to provide customized service to them. Especially if the person is hardheaded or persistent and wants answer after answer.

    There are many people who are dishing up their knowledge for free on the internet. I recommend either looking for them in a focused way, or just taking a random walk to see what one can find. The fact that some people are desirous of sharing knowledge does not obligate everyone one encounters to do the same thing right this minute.

  6. Bubba says

    I find far too many of the comments are aimed at trying to make the commenter look cool and clever. The reality is they just look like assholes. I’ve gotten very selective in my commenting for that reason and don’t consider myself a part of any of this movement garbage and don’t waste my time with conventions or any of the gatherings. I just don’t have the time for narcisitic jackasses.

  7. Beatrice says

    Doing it for the lurkers. That’s a good reason to make an effort and do some things. The difference is in our opinions of what those things are.

    You seem to be starting with the premise that lurkers are people who have stumbled onto FTB (let’s not make this just about Pharyngula) yesterday. If we step out of line, these unknown lurkers will get the wrong impression and leave in a huff. Or without a huff, who knows since, you know, lurkers.

    What I’ve seen people do and what I appreciate is not letting anyone spout their sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia or any other kind of hate even for a moment. Not letting bigotry go without at least one commenter saying that it’s unacceptable. I see that as something lurkers can benefit from.

    Lurkers usually, as the name says, lurk. They are going to read more than just that one thread, or just those couple of comments directed at one commenter. They are getting an education. Just glance at any thread with Pteryxx posting.

    And besides, the same advice Stephanie gives to first time posters goes for new lurkers. Read the links, educate yourself. FTB is big and internet is bigger. People on FTB write about different topics and they have different approaches to moderating commenting.

  8. rq says

    As a lurker slowly de-lurking a little bit, I would like to say that I don’t always read comments, depending on the topic of the post, because it CAN get a bit scary (to me). THAT being said, and being a somewhat shy lurker myself on highly-contentious topics, I have also followed quite a few ‘dangerous’ comment threads with great pleasure at the educational and informative material found within.
    I myself haven’t had a bad experience yet (scarcity of comments), but I haven’t had any reason to be particularly apprehensive about or discouraged from participating. (Then again, I rarely follow up on my comments, mostly due to time differences and constraints – probably something I should work on.) People in general seem quite willing to accept new de-lurkers and commenters, expressing support etc. (One can wonder whether they want a new chew toy or a new opinion, of course… ;) ) but I do agree whole-heartedly about the educating oneself issue. One of the main reasons I tend to stay away from the contentious threads is because I don’t feel educated enough about a particular issue. So I read that post, and some of the comments, and hopefully some other links, but never as much as I would like (above-mentioned time constraints). And I refrain from asking too many questions or blindly commenting my half-educated opinion, because most of the time, the questions get answered anyway and the opinion tends to get enlightened.
    And if they don’t, I figure they’ll come up some other time, and no matter the snarky commenters, I keep coming back. :) Something like that.

  9. CT says

    I think if the expectation is that the commenters all be educated about what the subject is before responding then the comments shouldn’t be used at all. Not that what I think matters because you know I don’t bother to read every damn thing about every damn thing before I comment.

  10. says

    CT, I can see from your comments here and at Ophelia’s that you’re upset about something that happened somewhere. To the best of my recollection, nothing happened here that would lead to that kind of anger. Please correct me if I’m wrong. I don’t know why you appear to be angry at me.

    Do you disagree that we are not obligated to hand-feed people looking for information on creationism? Do you disagree that other commenters in a thread are people with the right to their own time? Do you disagree that lurking and following links is a good strategy to learn about a topic oh which you don’t know much? Do you disagree that we tend to overestimate how much we understand human behavior because we have experience being (one, singular) human?

    What are you actually disagreeing with here? Or am I just a good person to be angry at for something someone else did?

  11. Beatrice says

    Yes, because expecting people not to ask the same question that has already been answered seven times in the same thread is just like expecting them to know everything about everything.

    Do you do that when you talk to people in meatspace? Just dump any stupidity that crosses your mind and expect them to explain it to you with patience because you need every info to be delivered to you on a silver platter? Because I would consider it polite that you show at least marginal knowledge of what you are talking about when you join the conversation. If you have no knowledge, then at least a sincere desire to learn (is it any wonder that people who start of with questions like “But what if she [the rape victim] is lying?” don’t usually receive much benefit of the doubt). If not, then you are making something that used to be a conversation into your private lessons. It’s a small wonder strangers on internet are not willing to indulge people like that, especially when those people show little to no interest in information that is not delivered in the exact way they want (links, for example, are often too much of a bother since they require some minimal effort from the reader).

  12. Beatrice says

    I see I’m doing an awful job in distinguishing a general “you” from “you, CT”. Just to be clear, I am not accusing you CT of doing the JAQinf off thing in comments. I remember reading you, but remember no such incident.

  13. jamessweet says

    There is a (relatively rare) problem with naive people of good intent being mistaken for trolls in these discussions,

    I don’t think it’s all that rare. Actually, I think it’s pretty common.

    I’m not entirely sure what to do about it, though. Some people seem to be better than others at discerning the honest-but-wrong from the trolls, and at dealing with them using an appropriately firm but gentle hand… but I dunno how much of that is innate ability vs. something you can learn, and in any case it’s hard to say to someone who is on the receiving end of rape and death threats that at times they’d be more effective if they judiciously exercised more patience with some of those they disagree with.

    But I really think it’s not rare. I see it happen a lot. Hell, it’s happened to me on occasion, though I’ve had enough experience with being wrong to tough through the beat-downs and come out the other end having learned something.

    Not for nothing, the people who seem to be the worst afflicted with Hyperactive Troll Detection seem to be those who most vehemently deny that it’s never a problem… FWIW…

  14. Pteryxx says

    jamessweet: how are you defining “troll” for this evaluation, though? Because while I think “trolls” that mean ‘don’t believe what they’re saying but just want to start fights’ are relatively rare around FTB, “trolls” that mean ‘have no intention of arguing in good faith and just want to shut the women up’ are very common.

  15. says

    Or even, “feel entitled to take charge of the direction of conversation” without specifically trying to stop any person or group from participating, just obstructing conversation about the topic at hand.

  16. Pteryxx says

    *nod* in my mind, I consider ‘obstructing conversation’ via derails and such to be a subset of ‘shut the women up’.

  17. Beatrice says

    Example : Timon on Ophelia’s thread yesterday. He derailed while somewhat loosely holding onto the topic, at the same time managing to insert some pretty bad statements about rape victims.

    I’m not sure if trolling was his primary goal, but he was pretty successful at it anyway. All perfectly polite, of course.

  18. says

    I see a lot of facebook postings where someone fails to read or understand an issue, and then fails to read the 7 or 8 comments on the post before complaining. Example: Someone posts the Gerber baby food contamination hoax, someone else briefly explains it’s a hoax with a relevant link, then several more people all say “Thanks so much for the warning!”

    The best part is the next round of commenters who say “Jeez, would you check out things before you post them? Don’t you know that’s a hoax?” Also completely missing that it’s been covered in earlier comments. If you don’t have the time or inclination to read just a little bit in the same place you’re commenting, maybe you shouldn’t be commenting. *sigh*

  19. rrede says

    I enjoyed your take on Rousseau’s post very much: I’ve read it a couple of times (read about it over on Ophelia’s blog) (I’ve been reading/lurking over at a number of the ftbs until I began commenting recently–learned about the blog group from Manboobz–I comment there under ithiliana. Before MBZ and now, I mostly read blogs, not commenting on them, and did my online stuff in LiveJournal and Dreamwidth). I’m interested in social justice communities online (I’m a humanities academic who does research on social justice issues in online fandom)–so what drew me over here was the social justice work being done in this network, in the context of atheism.

    I agree with what you’re saying in terms of the wrong department–and I’d go a little further in terms of the impact of the text tends toward undercutting the work being done here.

    My evidence for my sense that the text does not read like anything an ally would write stars with these the two most prominent examples:

    To be clear, this blindness is bad, and needs correction. It’s certainly bad if we create, endorse, or fail to combat a climate of hostility to any poorly defined (and heterogeneous) group like “women”. And the fact that some women believe that such a climate currently exists is a problem in itself, whether or not you’re complicit in creating that climate. In fact, it’s a problem whether or not such hostility even exists – unless you want to claim it’s a complete fabrication, the perception most likely finds inspiration in some forms of behaviour or speech that we could modify at little or no cost.

    The term “blindness” instead of privilege is problematic (and ableist).

    The use of “we” vs. “women” implies that the atheist community is “not women,” i.e. it is men, and men are the ones who have the agency in this paragraph (and mostly throughout the piece I think). If “women” are not part of the community, then what are we?

    Language in phrases such as “poorly defined (and heterogeneous) group like ‘women’” and “whether or not such hostility even exists” works negatively to undercut the apparently positive claims that “we” (men–are “men” a poorly defined but heterogeneous group as well, or are men is the default, the norm in this construction?) need to “combat” this perception (even if it’s not true!). (A whole discussion of war imagery in this text could be done–the “battle between the sexes” is a longstanding cliche that doesn’t seem to be losing ground at all even after a century or two of usage.)

    In fact, it’s a problem whether or not such hostility even exists – unless you want to claim it’s a complete fabrication, the perception most likely finds inspiration in some forms of behaviour or speech that we could modify at little or no cost.

    This sentence is just sort of a hot mess, mostly because of all the embedded clauses (embedded clauses are “whether or not..” and ‘unless you want to claim” and “that we could modify”) make it difficult to decode — connected to this difficulty are the ambiguous pronoun references (I find it hard, and I’m an English professor).

    So: I think the first “it” refers to the perception of hostility. The perception seems to be the problem “whether or not…hostility even exists.” The second “it” may be the perception of hostility, or it may be hostility: I’m not sure who is hypothetically wanting to claim “it” could be a fabricaton.

    In any case, the culminating point seems to be that whatever (perception or hostility) is based on actions and speech that “we could modify at little or no cost.”

    If men could modify their actions and speech at little or not cost, um, then why is there such ongoing and constant pushback, resistance, and hostility to the poorly defined group of women insisting on oh, equality under the law, equal access to education, etc. There’s a whole centuries’ long history here–and the idea that men could change their actions or speech easily, no big deal, is mind-boggling.

    This one paragraph qualifies, limits, and (in my personal opinion) corkscrews and obfuscates whatever the point may be. I would not consider the person who wrote this an ally in any way.

    This comment is getting horribly long–will break now and do another one, sorry for spamming.

  20. rrede says

    The second problematic paragraph:

    What this crude form of identity politics misses is that blackness or whiteness or whatever-ness is only one feature of identity. Sometimes a powerful one, to be sure, but nevertheless, I might have far more features in common with a randomly selected black South African than she does with another randomly selected black South African. The same principle applies with gender, and just as we shouldn’t use the race card, but instead look at the arguments and evidence, we should avoid using the gender card.

    I do not accept the criticism that social justice work/civil rights operates on a “crude form of identity politics” (though opponents often straw man the work being done in just this fashion).

    The kyriarchy (as opposed to patriarchy; link leads to definition) is constructed on a crude binary foundation when it comes to social identity: white/black being a dominant racial category in some nations (with the U.S. and South Africa being two places where it was most viciously realized), and binaries of gender as male/female.

    The point is that those constructions were used to support legal and systematic oppressions: no, race or gender isn’t all of one’s identity (and NOBODY whose work I’ve read in social justice claims that!!), but when the law says that people identified as “black” or “women” by the kyriarchy cannot vote, cannot attend school, cannot work in certain professions, that’s the focus of the activism, damnnit.

    When individuals who share the identity category of women (however “poorly” defined–me, I tend to say anyone who identifies as a woman is one!–and yes, the category of “women” is multiple and complex, involving different ethnicities, ages, nationalities, sexualities, gender identities, and abilities) are harassed in ways that individuals who share the identify category of men are (mostly) not, then yeah, that is the focus of the critique/activism (both Jim Hines and John Scalzi have done excellent posts about how they as men who blog get entirely different types of responses, even hostile ones, than women do–heck, there’s growing scholarship on it–give me a moment and I’ll link!).

    So the claim that women in the atheist communities are “playing the gender card” strikes me as a bad faith claim, and is presented without any real definition or evidence (and the p.s. I don’t want to present specifics because, friends, and I just want to make a general point, doesn’t convince me of anything beyond more bad faith).

    The attempts of various civil rights and social justice groups to oppose the systematic inequalities which are built into the kyriarchical foundation cannot simply discard the social and cultural identities–the process of deconstructing those categories are a reaction to the ‘crude’ form, but go beyond it–there’s a reason why intersectionality (moving beyond considering only one axis of identity) is so important these days–and one reason why I like the blogs I read over here is that both in the bloggers and the comments, there is an awareness of multiple and intersecting issues involved in social justice.

    TL;DR, but anybody who accuses somebody of playing the race card OR the gender card is somebody I do not consider an ally, and suspect may be an antagonist.

  21. rrede says

    Ibis3: Thanks, and love the full nym!

    I’ve begun commenting more the last few weeks — today was sort of in between grading for my mini term (the fall terms starts here on the 27th), ACK!

    And the way the discusions flow across the network is fascinating, so I think I have to read.ALL.of.it!

  22. says

    I find it kind of amazing that some of this has to be spelled out. If we replace “but what’s wrong with asking someone for coffee? Do you want to outlaw flirting?” with “doesn’t evolution say that dogs should give birth to cats and that the universe came from nothing exploding?” I don’t think these people would even notice that the response was mocking and assumptions of either willful ignorance or trolling.

    Or, at least, they wouldn’t lose any sleep over it. When you replace these 101-level social justice questions with traditional skeptical topics, it becomes patently obvious that some people are expecting a double-standard. There are some blogs, there are some threads, where the commentariat is willing to abandon the relevant topic and give some wandering commenter the benefit of the doubt, and provide them with point-by-point rebuttals and well-researched arguments regarding their ignorant questions and assumptions about evolution/conspiracy theories/alternative medicine/quantum physics. Hell, I’ve been that patient commenter myself, taking the role of volunteer educator. But the benefit of the doubt is just that: a benefit. It’s a luxury, granted by commenters who have a surplus of free time and patience and goodwill, and bloggers who don’t mind wildly off-topic arguments raging in their comment threads. An ignorant creationist wandering into a discussion on a science blog is not entitled to a complementary comment-based crash course in basic biology. They’re entitled to a “look, you’ve obviously been wildly misinformed. Here’s your link to Talk.Origins, do some reading and come back when you aren’t quite so ignorant.”

    There’s no reason the same shouldn’t be true for feminist/social justice topics. The only reasons some people think it ought to be true are A) because many of the ignorant wandering commenters in this case are also members of the skeptic/atheist community, and B) because the science is softer and fuzzier than “look at all these transitional fossils.”

    The A) point is a silly and artificial distinction. After all, random commenting creationist might agree with us on all manner of other things besides the existence of deities and the history of life. Doesn’t change our approach to their claims and ignorance (much, anyway). We shouldn’t treat people with kid gloves just because we all arrived at the same conclusion regarding Bigfoot or vaccinations. Hell, if anyone should be able to take vigorous argumentation revolving around long-held beliefs, you’d think it would be skeptics. Moreover, we shouldn’t assume that just because people agree with us on one or several topics that they do so because of reason and evidence. That creationist might agree that aliens don’t visit Earth and abduct humans because the Bible says God only created life on Earth. Similarly, that skeptic might only disagree with alternative medicine because acupuncture comes from China, and they’re intellectually and racially inferior.

    The B) point hits up against a lesson that, I would think, skeptics should learn early on, which is that reality is more complicated than you think it is. Sometimes, when you’re talking about the emergent properties of multiple moving pieces, drawing from complex biological and historical causes–that is, society, you’re going to end up with complicated descriptions and difficult answers to your questions. But the easy answers–whether they’re “God did it” or “well, what did she think was going to happen if she dressed like that”–are often wrong, because they’re borne out of that collection of cognitive errors and biased thought processes that we call “common sense” or “gut reaction.”

    Use your gut for digesting. Use your head for thinking. And use your Google for researching before you jump into the deep end of a comment thread, regardless of the subject.

    Sorry for the excessively long post…and sorry for posting it twice when it didn’t go through :).

  23. Gen, Uppity Ingrate says

    Rrede, that was amazing. Thank you so much.

    As a (white) South African I will go as far as state that anyone (especially from this fucking country with this fucking history we have!) who talks about “playing the race card” unironically is suspect to the n-th degree.

    In fact, I would argue that it is impossible, at this stage of South Africa’s history, for people born in South Africa to NOT have been impacted (either positively or negatively) by their race and the systemic racism and blatant human rights violations and harm that was legislated for so long and that said impact could not but permeate just about any aspect of a given person’s life.

    So I completely agree with you – not an ally I’d feel comfortable having at my back.

    The way you analysed the language and meta-language was phenomenally educational and I thank you for it.

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