EDIT: Keenan has apologized.
You’re all probably familiar with the saying “Don’t feed the trolls.” It’s a good mantra to live by. When someone is doing or saying something for the sole reason of riling you up, it’s best not to give them the satisfaction. Ignore them, or the trolls win.
This, however, does not mean we should shut up about everything.
That seems like a pretty easy concept to grasp, right? That some things are worth responding to. That sometimes, staying silent is worse than speaking up. That change involves saying “I disagree.”
I wish more people understood this, but sadly it’s not true. It’s especially not true when dealing like things like racism, homophobia, and sexism. Under the guise of concern, people insist that disadvantaged groups suffer in silence. But it’s not concern – it’s distaste that these loud, uppity blacks/gays/women are causing them the slightest discomfort.
Telling someone to shut up and deal is the essence of privilege.
I bring this up because lately women have become particularly vocal about the internet harassment they face. These are sadly things I’m all too familiar with as a female blogger. And they’re not just “trolls.” There are oodles of men (and some women) out there who are disgustingly misogynistic. The abuses we face are no less real because they’re written or transmitted electronically. If you haven’t yet, do yourself a favor and read “A woman’s opinion is the mini-skirt of the internet” and “”You should have your tongue ripped out”: The reality of sexist abuse online.” And check out this post about the new twitter hashtag #MenCallMeThings, which ends on this particularly relevant note of the sort of thing outspoken women hear:
STOP TAKING IT SO SERIOUSLY. “Extremist,” “humorless,” “PC,” “whining,” “bitching,” “complaining,” “divisive,” “single-issue,” “feminazi,” &co. You have simply GOT TO STOP IDENTIFYING PROBLEMS! Men can do all that for you! Also, should you accidentally identify a problem, stop acting as if that problem bothers you, or is bad! If you get all riled up about this, you might end up, like, solving something. And we don’t want that, now do we? Therefore, I beg of you, ALL of you: Shut up.
To put this in perspective, this is the same silencing tactic the religious try on us outspoken atheists. When have you heard a person tell atheists to criticize religion more? No, they’re always saying that we’re divisive, abrasive, and there wouldn’t even be a problem if we just accepted the status quo and stopped whining. So the atheist movement should be much more understanding about this topic, right?
Rebecca Watson recently called out a comedian who targeted her with a completely nonsensical, bizarre, misogynistic rant. This was partially spurred on by the aforementioned outspokenness from other women writers. But according to Keenan of the University of Northern Iowa Freethinkers and Inquirers, Rebecca needs to stfu and deal .
The point you receive pushback and feel the need to voice your disgust is is the perfect time to prove that you aren’t taking them seriously, however. There is a fantastic political theory out there called the “Spiral of Silence” theory and it basically posits that the less attention you give a fringe group, the less willingness they will have to express their unpopular ideas in public, and therefore less other people will be exposed to them. This is how racism became unpopular in America. We are now seeing the same phenomenon with homophobia which, just like misogyny, is still very prevalent in the media.
Gee, thanks for that helpful advice, privileged white dude! Not patronizing at all to tell disadvantaged groups how to deal with problems you don’t experience!
And I hope Keenan isn’t a sociology major, because this is just embarrassing. People who are sexist are sadly not a fringe group – they are the majority. Racism did not start to become unpopular because black people sat peacefully and quietly. They spoke up, marched in the streets, held sit ins and protests, and caused a general stink. GLBT individuals, women, and other disadvantages groups inch slowly toward equality because they do the same. Social change takes activism, not twiddling your thumbs. People are never going to change their minds unless they’re challenged.
The rest of the post isn’t even worth debunking, since it’s just them taking an obvious dump on Rebecca Watson, basically calling her an attention whore for speaking out about these sorts of things. Which is completely unsurprising coming from UNIFI, since they have a particular hate-on for Rebecca Watson ever since she rightfully criticized some of their members for their ignorant, sexist comments. Apparently you’re not allowed to do that unless you’re also a student. I don’t follow that logic at all, but it doesn’t matter. I’m also a student leader, so I guess that means I have the green light to criticize other student leaders when they say ignorant, privileged bullshit!
So please, please don’t shut up. When men come out of the woodwork and tell you to tone it down, it means crank it up to eleven. Their concern is just fear that they’ll have to change.
EDIT: I originally misattributed this post to the webmaster of UNIFI, Adam Shannon, while it was actually a repost from UNIFI member Keenan. My sincere apologies to Adam for the confusion.