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May 09 2014

“But a feminist was mean to me!”

Every so often a man publishes some screed about how he’s no longer a feminist because feminists have been mean to him. Every very often, some white person opines that they’d be totally on board with this whole anti-racism thing except that people of color are just so damn rude to them all the time. Or a religious person says that atheism is wrong because atheists are condescending. Or a person who consumes animal products dismisses the idea of veganism because they, personally, found some vegan or other to be annoying.

I have seen this happen enough times and with enough different beliefs and social groups that I’ve noticed it as a pattern. I’ve written before about the specter of That One Meanie-Face Feminist Who Got All Bitchy When I Offered To Pick Up The Check, without which no discussion of feminism with a non-feminist man could possibly be complete. This supposedly very rude woman from my interlocutor’s distant romantic past is now trotted out what I imagine is very often to provide an explanation for the man’s distaste for feminism. Or, perhaps with a caveat, “modern” feminism.

But it doesn’t happen just with feminism. It happens with every political issue.

First of all, the most important thing to remember is that when feminists(/women/people of color/vegans/etc.) are accused of being “mean,” this is only actually the case a fraction of the time. (Even if the exact fraction is debatable.) A lot of the things that get people with minority identities or viewpoints are labeled “mean” go completely unremarked-upon when done by someone with a dominant identity or viewpoint. I have a lot of theories for why that is: the expectation that minority or subordinate groups be quiet and not rock the boat; the unfamiliarity that people in dominant groups have with those views and opinions; and the stereotyping of certain groups, such as women and people of color and especially women of color, as being “emotional” or “hysterical” or “angry.” This leads to the simplest cognitive bias of all: confirmation bias. You expect a woman of color to be angry, and lo and behold, you perceive her that way.

“Mean” is in the eye of the beholder, and it’s easy to rationalize why a certain tone or behavior from a female feminist is “mean” while the same tone or behavior from a man is not. And that’s not even to imply that anyone is lying or intentionally skewing anything. It’s subconscious; that’s why it’s called a bias. I have no doubt that everyone who has ever accused me of being “mean” about my feminism genuinely felt that I was being mean to them. But that doesn’t mean that perception wasn’t influenced by their bias.

I’ve seen this play out numerous times with my own writing. A year ago I wrote a post about street harassment that went viral and got tons of comments about how I’m being so mean to men and clearly I hate them and blame them for everything. (For a fun exercise, count how many times I use the phrase “not all men” or variants thereof in the post.) And look. You can disagree with my entire thesis–that “compliments” made to random women on the street are a sort of power play, and that the reason many men feel so compelled to make them is because they’ve been socialized to believe that their opinions on women’s looks are extremely important and worthy of expression–and still see for yourself that there’s no way a person thinking clearly can conceive of that post as being “mean,” or of me as “hating men.”

But sometimes feminists (and vegans and atheists and whatever) are mean. Of course they are. Everyone is mean sometimes, but “default” categories like “white” and “male” are made invisible because they’re considered the norm from which everyone else deviates, so nobody besides women and minorities and their allies usually makes much of fuss about the meanness of men or white people specifically.

For instance, if you do not identify as a feminist or you consider yourself actively opposed to feminism, you probably don’t think of yourself or others like you as especially mean. It looks a little different from over here, though. I’ve been angrily fumed at and condescended to by you. I’ve been called every possible insult and every slur that could possibly apply to someone like me–bitch, cunt, whore, slut, dyke–by you. I’ve been threatened with various acts of violence. I’ve been alternatively called gruesome and unfuckable and told exactly how I should be raped.

And yet, except for when I get especially upset (which isn’t very often anymore) I avoid claiming that everyone who disagrees with feminism is “mean” (or much worse), because I actually have evidence that that’s not true. Most of the people I’ve met in my life have been opposed to feminism, and most of them have been perfectly decent people.

Hopefully we’ve established that people of all genders and races and religions and political beliefs can be “mean,” although some get accused of it much more readily and harshly than others, and not necessarily because they are any more likely to be “mean.”

Now let’s get to the main point, which is the utter ridiculousness of dismissing someone’s argument or opinion merely because you find them to be mean.

It doesn’t actually matter if a feminist is mean to you–at least, not in terms of making up your mind about feminism. Feminism is based on a wide variety of observations and theories that are empirically testable. Either women (especially women of color) make less money than men for the same work or they do not. Either women are less likely to become CEOs and film directors and elected politicians or they are not. Either women are held to impossible and unfair standards of beauty that are impossible for most of them, especially for women of color and women who are not thin or able-bodied, to achieve, or they are not. Either women are interrupted much more often in conversation by men or they are not, and either resumes and applications belonging to men are more likely to be read and approved of than those of women or not. Either women (especially women of color and women with disabilities) are subject to extremely high rates of domestic violence and sexual assault or they are not. Either people of all genders are frequently blamed for being sexually assaulted or they are not. Either trans people, especially trans women, are socially persecuted for allegedly violating the gender binary or they are not. Either men are expected to be “strong” and “manly” at the expense of their emotional needs, or they are not. Either women (but not men) face a double bind between being considered competent but unlikable or incompetent but likable, or they do not. Either reproductive care for people with uteri (but not for people with penises) is constantly being attacked, or it is not.

Hundreds or thousands of pages of research are available about all of these questions. Even if you peruse the research and find it wanting, the reason you are not a feminist should be because you don’t find the evidence compelling, not because some woman yelled at you for offering to pay for her meal. I’ll still disagree with you about the evidence, but at least then you have a real argument, and not one entirely based on feelings.

Likewise, the criminal justice system is demonstrably discriminatory against people of color at every level regardless of whether or not you personally enjoyed your recent interactions with people of color. The production of animals for human consumption has negative effects on the environment even if many vegans are snobby. There is no, and has never been, any evidence for the existence of a higher power, even though some atheists are pretty crappy to religious people. (By the way, one way to help would be to stop calling them mentally ill, but you already know that)

It’s common to claim that a feminist who is arguing with you and also calling you names is making an ad hominem fallacy, although the argument there is usually less “You’re wrong because you’re an asshole” and more “You’re wrong and, by the way, you’re also an asshole, so there’s that.” Bu in fact, it seems like an ad hominem fallacy to dismiss someone’s arguments because they’re mean. People aren’t wrong because they’re mean; they’re wrong because they’re wrong.

If I wanted to, I could explain to you that 2 + 2 = 4 in the most nasty, condescending, stuck-up, snarky, hateful, vicious way possible. (I’m trying to imagine this now, and it’s funny.) You might never want to interact with me ever again, but that doesn’t mean 2 + 2 suddenly doesn’t equal 4 anymore.

What would be fair to say is that you’re now upset and not interested in trying to learn about basic arithmetic from me anymore, so while you still haven’t been convinced that 2 + 2 = 4, that doesn’t mean it necessarily doesn’t. You can also say that the emotional response that you’re experiencing is interfering with your ability to think clearly about this subject.

Feminism is not as clear-cut or obviously correct as 2 + 2 = 4, but the same principle applies. It’s natural to start to feel very bad when you perceive (accurately or otherwise, doesn’t even matter) that you’re being personally attacked, and that can make you not want to engage with this person, listen to their arguments, and reevaluate your own opinions in response. But that doesn’t make them wrong; it just makes them ineffective–for this particular purpose in this particular situation. Remember that meanness is somewhat in the eye of the beholder, and what may seem mean to you may be just a normal spirited debate to someone else.

At this point, the rational thing to do is to tell yourself that your unwillingness to agree with or even consider the person’s opinion has less to do with the merits of the opinion and more to do with your emotional response. Disengage, let the emotions subside, and, if you’re interested, find another way to learn about the view in question.

And now I’ve written over 1,500 words, and, to be honest, I think most of the people who say things like this already know all of this. Of course someone being mean to you doesn’t suddenly invalidate all of their opinions. So when you say that you disagree with feminism/veganism/atheism/anti-racism/queer rights/whatever because someone you have apparently designated an official ambassador of one of those views was unkind to you, you probably really mean one of these two things:

1. I disagree with feminism/veganism/atheism/anti-racism/queer rights because I hold a diverging opinion.

2. I feel hurt by a discussion I had with a feminist/vegan/atheist/anti-racist/queer rights advocate, and that makes me not want to think about this issue anymore or reevaluate my opinion on it.

Say what you mean.

~~~

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60 comments

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  1. 1
    Dave Muscato

    For me (personally), it’s really not covered by either of these two things at the end. It’s more like:

    3. I can’t process what you’re trying to explain when you yell at me, badger me, mock me, call me names, and use buzzwords I don’t understand, and I only have so much patience before I decide it’s not worth it to get this information from you (and I will seek it from another source instead).

    It doesn’t mean I don’t want to think about it anyone, it doesn’t mean I’m unwilling to reevaluate my opinion, and it certainly doesn’t mean I disagree or hold a diverging opinion by default.

    If I signed up for a math class and the teacher yelled and me and called me a douchebag in front of the class, I would switch sections! Wouldn’t you?

    1. 1.1
      Miri, Professional Fun-Ruiner

      FYI, this post was in no way meant as a response to you on your recent threads. This is about people who actually reject social justice/feminism/whatever because someone who represented those views was mean, whereas you were merely setting boundaries/expectations about discussions in your space–not making claims (at least not that I saw) about what you believe or agree with.

      That might be why this post doesn’t seem to cover your concerns, but thanks for sharing them anyway!

    2. 1.2
      jrfdeux, mode d'emploi

      I think the difference, Dave, is that your math teacher hasn’t been oppressed for his or her skin colour or gender all their lives. Oppressed people have a damned good reason to be angry, so when someone of privilege says “Hey, I get your point, but you have to be nice about it” it’s frankly galling as fuck.

    3. 1.3
      WithinThisMind

      The first time someone asked me the question, I answered nicely.
      The second time someone asked me the question, I answered nicely.
      The third time someone asked me the question, I answered nicely.
      The fourth time someone asked me the question, I referenced back the original three times.
      The fifth time someone asked me the question, I referred again back to the original three times.
      The sixth time someone asked me the question, I referred again back to the original three times.
      The seventh time someone asked me the question, I got a little cold but answered it again.
      The eighth time someone asked me the question, I got a little cold but answered it again.
      The ninth time someone asked me the question, I got a little cold but answered it again.
      The tenth time someone asked me the question, I pointed out I’d already answered it six times and encouraged them to read the previous answers.
      The eleventh time someone asked me the question, I pointed out I’d already answered it six times and encouraged them to read the previous answers.
      The twelfth time someone asked me the question, I pointed out I’d already answered it six times and encouraged them to read the previous answers.
      The thirteenth time someone asked me the question, I got a bit sarcastic but answered it again.
      The fourteenth time someone asked me the question, I got a bit sarcastic but answered it again.
      The fifteenth time someone asked me the question, I got a bit sarcastic but answered it again.
      The sixteenth time someone asked me the question, I asked why they hadn’t read any of the nine times I’d already answered the question.
      The seventeenth time someone asked me the question, I asked why they hadn’t read any of the nine times I’d already answered the question.
      The eighteenth time someone asked me the question, I asked why they hadn’t read any of the nine times I’d already answered the question.
      .
      .
      .
      .
      The hundred and first time someone asked me the question, I provided a list of links showing where the answer could be found
      The hundred and second time someone asked me the question, I pointed out that just two posts ago, I provided a list of links that answered the question
      .
      .
      .
      .
      .
      The five hundred and fourth time someone asked me the question, I linked them to the list of links helpfully compiled on the website that came up first when someone typed the question into google
      .
      .
      .
      The thousand and twelfth time someone asked me the the question, I pointed out it had been answered many many times already and asked if they were too lazy to do a bit of homework or just too willfully stupid to comprehend the answer.
      .
      .
      .
      The five thousand and thirty-second time someone asked me the question, I told them I was sick of dealing with over-privileged, misogynistic trolls who clearly weren’t asking the question in good faith, being that the answers were all over the damn place.
      .
      .
      .
      The ten thousand and ninety-third time someone asked me the question, my response consisted of two words, the second of which was ‘off’.
      .
      .
      .
      I’ve now been asked the question for the hundred thousand and forty-fifth time, and once again, someone is again purporting to be genuinely surprised I’m not absolutely thrilled at the thought of taking time out of my day to educate them on this easily available information while being polite, courteous, and absolutely understanding of my dehumanization and objectification because if I’m not, they can’t possibly ‘process’ the answer and therefore it’s all my fault when their bad behavior continues.

      1. 1.3.1
        Tigger_the_Wing, Back home =^_^=

        Thank you, WithinThisMind. Perfectly sums up a lifetime of interactions for someone who isn’t a member of the ‘default human’ group in their culture.

        Do you mind if I bookmark this?

        1. 1.3.1.1
          WithinThisMind

          Not at all. I have it copied into a txt file on my desktop just due to how many times I’ve had to make this particular point.

          1. Hershele Ostropoler

            How ironic.

        2. 1.3.1.2
          Pen

          Perfectly sums up a lifetime of interactions for someone who isn’t a member of the ‘default human’ group in their culture.

          It does indeed, and that’s why whenever I see anyone shouting at someone for the reasons above, I think ‘I could be shouting a you within ten seconds of us starting a personal conversation and you would have no idea why and you wouldn’t see it coming…

          How about we all consider increasing our awareness and empathy a little bit? Sure, I’ve been asked such and such a question 1,000,000 times (or worse, heard such and such an ignorant statement) but you’ve only asked it/said it once. That’s pretty easy to understand, isn’t it? An obvious fact on a planet with 7 billion people.

          1. WithinThisMind

            —-How about we all consider increasing our awareness and empathy a little bit?—

            What a great idea! Why don’t you expend a little bit of effort to educate yourself instead of feeling entitled to have someone else do your homework for you?

            You are not entitled to my time and attention. Just as you shouldn’t expect to be able to stop someone on the bus and demand they explain how to calculate 2+2 because they happened to be complaining about people not leaving adequate tips, you shouldn’t be whining and demanding women stop what they are doing to explain to you feminism 101 because they are asking to just be left the fuck alone!

            Seriously, how stupid do you really have to be to demand a woman take the time out of her day to explain the basics to you, when most of the time the entire thread is about how men are feeling entitled to women. Do you just not notice the inanity of such a request? Does it really inspire no cognitive dissonance to demand a woman explain to you WHY she wants to be LEFT ALONE?

            How is it really that hard a concept to grasp? I mean, I assume you can chew gum and walk at the same time, and clearly you are capable of using the internet, so how is it this particular concept is really that hard for you to understand?

            You don’t ‘need’ to ask the question. The fact that you are asking the question is part of the problem. If the answer isn’t completely clear to you right off the bat, it is because you have not yet examined your privilege and thus any answer I give is completely meaningless due to your lack of intellectual honesty on the issue. I can lead you to water, but if you aren’t going to drink anyway why not save both of our efforts and just buy yourself a fucking map?

            And why should I bother to answer, when it’s clear you aren’t going to read my answer, just as you didn’t actually read and attempt to grasp the post I already made in this thread, where I stated specifically that the answer to the question is available all over the fucking place? The only reason you are asking the question again is because you are attempting to derail, to make us give up in frustration of going over 101 so damn many times we give up and never manage to move on. You aren’t seeking knowledge. If you were seeking knowledge, it’s freely available. There are dozens of search engines and websites that could provide the knowledge. Usually, just reading the fucking thread will provide the knowledge.

            And yet, the question gets asked again. And again. And again. And again. And again. And then some jackass comes in again and says ‘yes, but I never asked you before so why are you being mean to me?’.

            Well, that’s because you aren’t ‘just asking questions’. You are derailing. You are being an entitled asshat. You are demanding women stop what they are doing to cater to your needs. You are a living demonstration of the problem.

            So yes, by all means, increase YOUR awareness and empathy a little bit. I encourage you to do so. See, that’s been the answer to the question all along.

          2. Seven of Mine, formerly piegasm

            How about we all consider increasing our awareness and empathy a little bit? Sure, I’ve been asked such and such a question 1,000,000 times (or worse, heard such and such an ignorant statement) but you’ve only asked it/said it once. That’s pretty easy to understand, isn’t it? An obvious fact on a planet with 7 billion people.

            Or:

            “Sure, I’ve only asked such and such a question once but, given that there are 7 billion people on this planet, I doubt I’m the first person to have asked it. The answer is probably somewhere on the internet, so why don’t I just Google it instead of demanding this person take the time to explain it to me?”

    4. 1.4
      Seven of Mine, formerly piegasm

      If I signed up for a math class and the teacher yelled and me and called me a douchebag in front of the class, I would switch sections! Wouldn’t you?

      But you wouldn’t reject the entire field of mathematics because of a bad experience with one teacher. Miri is talking about people rejecting feminism because they feel a particular feminist was mean to them; not about people simply seeking another venue in which to learn.

    5. 1.5
      njuhgnya

      “buzzwords I don’t understand”

      Like what??? Privilege? Intersectionality? Patriarchy? Rape culture? These are all pretty basic things, if you can’t read a single blog post about whatever, why do you think your opinions matter?

  2. 2
    Dave Muscato

    It doesn’t mean I don’t want to think about it anymore* (not anyone)

    If I signed up for a math class and the teacher yelled at* me

    1. 2.1
      WithinThisMind

      If you sign up for Calculus 4 and ask the teacher to hold up the entire class to explain to you basic arithmetic, why are you at all surprised the teacher yelled at you?

    2. 2.2
      SallyStrange

      By the by, I am rather frustrated by your total lack of response to my 100% civil posts on your FB threads. I also think it’s kinda shitty that you deleted the thread that gave rise to the discussion without an explanation or a mea culpa about having hurt people (and I know you know you hurt people). I feel it is uncivil. I would like to point this out, but I fear you will perceive this as badgering. Perhaps you will think it is unfair of me to expect a response so soon. So, I’m waiting. Then I log in here and see that you have time to read Miri’s post and respond.

      Any advice on how to proceed? I feel as if I am walking on eggshells to try to get through to you. Which is rather unexpected for someone who proclaims his disdain for the concept of “safe spaces.”

    3. 2.3
      SallyStrange

      As expected, Dave never returned. I would say I’m disappointed but I’m not. Fuck American Atheists, the organization.

  3. 3
    gworroll

    I’m debating if sharing this on FB is worth the inevitable flame war.

  4. 4
    Greta Christina

    Yes. This. So much this.

    The expectation that every single member of a marginalized group should be expected to be an ambassador for the entire group is, itself, a form of marginalization.

    And the expectation that every single member of a marginalized group must behave perfectly at all times in order to have our marginalization taken seriously is, itself, a form of marginalization.

  5. 5
    Ariel

    And now I’ve written over 1,500 words, and, to be honest, I think most of the people who say things like this already know all of this.

    I agree. That’s also the reason why I think the second half of your post (unlike the excellent first one!) misses the mark.

    The phenomenon you describe is indeed common enough. A person saying that he disagrees with feminism because feminists are mean? Surprise, surprise: the phenomenon is real. I saw it as well. Many times.

    But how can they disagree with feminism for such a reason? Aren’t they aware that this is fallacious? Hmm, I think they are. You also think they are (you said it yourself). So … what the hell happens?

    My own opinion on the topic: I think you misdiagnose the situation. I think that these people do not treat feminism as a mere theoretical position, to be agreed or disagreed with in abstract terms. They treat it rather as a political/social movement. And their negative reaction shouldn’t be interpreted in purely theoretical terms. The crucial part of this reaction – as I see it – is a refusal to support the movement. (Or something even stronger than that: a declaration of war.)

    Viewed in these terms, the reaction becomes more understandable. It is also not based any more on a simple logical fallacy. You can agree (more often than not) with a given group on a theoretical level. But if the members of the group are “meanies” – if they use name calling, public shaming, browbeating as their standard techniques, if they are too impatient (after ten thousand times, let’s say!) to explain anything, if many of them are embittered, vengeful and full of spite, then … well, then you will think twice before giving them power.

    This is how I interpret the reactions you described. I think the people you mentioned are against feminism in the sense: they do not want to see feminists in positions of influence and power. They do not want to vote for them. They do not want them to dominate the universities and the media. They are horrified at the idea of a public discourse and public morals dominated by the “meanies” – whether these “meanies” are theoretically right or not.

    In effect it’s not “I disagree with your theoretical tenets because you are mean” – I think this is a misreading of what actually happens. It’s rather along the lines “I do not support your movement, because you are too dangerous to be given power. And you are too dangerous not because you are wrong, but because you are mean.”

    The first part of the OP (“It happens with every political issue”, and all the rest in this vein, with some really excellent observations) handles exactly this issue. Will it be enough to mollify the critics? I don’t think so; many of them will still believe that feminists are meaner than most other groups. Be that as it may, I like the first part. The second (imo) is barking up the wrong tree.

  6. 6
    AMM

    My own take on the “I used to be a feminist until some feminists were mean to me” whine is that the people who say this were never feminists to begin with.

    Actually, my darker suspicion is that it’s one of the following:

    (a) they (male) never even pretended to be feminist, and if they were more honest it would be more like “well, I might have gone along with some feminist idea some day if you [or Rebecca Watson, or whoever] hadn’t said something I didn’t like.”

    (b) “I used to pretend to be feminist in the hopes of getting laid, but when those <epithet deleted>s got mad at me instead of putting out when I hit on them, I decided to go back to being a sexist douchebag.”

    (And, yes, in a comment to a recent post at FtB, someone actually said that Rebecca Watson was why he wasn’t a feminist “any more.” Because “guys, don’t do that” is such an abusive thing to say.)

    If you truly believe that half of humanity deserves to be treated like human beings rather than disposable consumer products, you’re hardly going to be put off by a few of them acting like jerks. (I’m assuming purely for the sake of argument that the feminists in question were in fact acting like jerks.)

  7. 7
    scenario

    I had a math teacher in the 9th grade who described herself as a feminist. She had all of the girls sit in the front of the class and the boys in the back of the class. She told all of the boys that men were scum and worthless. She also told the boys that she would not answer any of their questions because men are worthless. The boys were to stay quiet and never say a word or ask any questions or they would get detention. This was the pattern for the whole year.

    I can see where someone in that class could generalize and think that if that is what feminism is about, I don’t want any part of it. Even at the time, I never really considered her behavior to be typical of feminists.

    I understand where answering the same stupid questions over and over again is frustrating. I can also understand where someone who knew nothing about a field and tried to ask civil questions about where they could get information about the topic and repeatedly got attacked might develop a dislike for the topic.

    1. 7.1
      WithinThisMind

      —-I had a math teacher in the 9th grade who described herself as a feminist. She had all of the girls sit in the front of the class and the boys in the back of the class. She told all of the boys that men were scum and worthless. She also told the boys that she would not answer any of their questions because men are worthless. The boys were to stay quiet and never say a word or ask any questions or they would get detention. This was the pattern for the whole year.—-

      Is this the same town where women are having a dozen abortions each and regularly waiting until just before crowning to have the abortion? And the town where Christians are actually forbidden from praying in school or wearing crosses in public?

      In the future, please try to make your ‘scenarios’ somewhat closer to believable.

    2. 7.2
      queequack

      I had a math teacher in the 9th grade who described herself as a feminist. She had all of the girls sit in the front of the class and the boys in the back of the class. She told all of the boys that men were scum and worthless. She also told the boys that she would not answer any of their questions because men are worthless. The boys were to stay quiet and never say a word or ask any questions or they would get detention. This was the pattern for the whole year.

      You should add chastity belts and zombie Solanas to this shitthatneverhappened.txt.

      I think you might be trying to make a point that, hey, I don’t entirely disagree with (see below). But you’re making it badly (again, see below).

      1. 7.2.1
        scenario

        It may not sound believable but it did happen to me. It is a very vivid memory, partly because it is so different than all of the memories I have when talking about feminism with people. My point was that even at 13 years old I looked at it as just one persons opinion. I did not generalize her extreme opinion to all feminists. I grew up in a very liberal family in New England. Had I been raised in a conservative environment, her views could have reinforced negative stereotypes about feminism.

        Most people are not as rational as they think they are. People tend to view things with an emotional mind. If someone says something that they agree with in an angry or hurt tone it is a sign of sincerity. If someone says something that they disagree with in an angry or hurt tone it just shows that they don’t know what they are talking about.

        1. 7.2.1.1
          WithinThisMind

          —-It may not sound believable but it did happen to me.—

          Sure it did.

          Such an event would of course have been newsworthy, given that an entire 9th grade class worth of parents would have immediately hit the roof at the very notion. I mean, for fuck’s sake, a teacher asking a student to put a bible away and pay attention makes national news.

          So I’m sure you can back up your claim by providing links.

          1. scenario

            How do I provide links to something that happened 40 years ago? Not all personal experiences are well documented. The news media was not the same in 1974 as it is today. Even if she was fired that day, it wouldn’t have been in the papers. I don’t remember if I complained to my parents but if I did nothing came of it.

            If someone posts a story about something that happened between their sibling and them when they were 10 years old, what kind of documentation is acceptable? What if the sibling doesn’t remember the incident? Does it mean that the person is lying?

            I know that this is an only a personal experience. It is an example of one very vivid negative experience with someone who claimed to be a feminist. I never claimed that it was a common experience. Memories change over time. Maybe she wasn’t as bad as I remember her. I really doesn’t matter for this point.,

            My point was that experiences which are very unusual can carry more weight than they should. If you meet 100 ardent and reasonably polite people in a particular group and one really over the top rude person from that group, who are you going to remember?

            I remember her vividly but the effect on me was to be curious about what feminism really stood for. If I had had a different background, it could have gone a different way.

          2. WithinThisMind

            So not only are we supposed to believe you, but we are supposed to believe such behavior was tolerated from a female teacher 40 years ago?

            Assuming you are not telling a bald-faced lie (and that’s a big assumption), I think that you should probably consider that you had a nightmare or saw some sort of film and are mistaking it for reality.

            And as I stated to you originally, next time you pull a ‘scenario’ out of your ass, I suggest you put a little effort into making it believable.

          3. Miri, Professional Fun-Ruiner

            WithinThisMind, I’m going to ask you to end this line of argumentation. It’s starting to approach gaslighting. Even if these events didn’t actually happen, scenario clearly believes that they did and isn’t going to stop just because someone on the internet told them it sounds unrealistic. And if it DID happen, then you’re trying to convince someone that their memories and experiences are illegitimate, and that can be very harmful.

            In any case, this has become nonproductive and has basically turned into “Nuh-uh! Uh-huh!” That’s not the sort of discussion I’m interested in hosting here.

            Thanks for your understanding and cooperation.

          4. scenario

            Thank you Miri. I am not at all offended by WithinThisMind’s skepticism. I will freely admit that a 40 year old memory of something that happened to me when I was 13 years old may not exactly match up to what really happened. Memories do change. My best guess about what really happened is that she said something once when she was in a bad mood and I took it to heart and it affected how I heard everything else she said for the rest of the year. But that isn’t how I remember it.

            The topic is – but a feminist was mean to me. Many if not most people think with their emotions not their logic. When I was a teenager one mean thing could overwhelm 100 good things. If the internet existed when I was a kid and I went to a site and said something personal and 20 people were supportive, but maybe skeptical and one person called me a liar, I would remember the person who called me a liar. If this happened at three or 4 different sites, I’m sure that as a 14 or 15 year old, I would have felt that everyone was against me. It wouldn’t really matter that the supportive people outnumbered the hostile people 20 to 1, I would have focus on the few hostile ones.

            If I lived in an environment that was hostile to feminists, I’m sure that a few years down the line I would remember the rude feminists and totally forget about the nice ones.

          5. oolon

            Not totally unbelievable as it sounds like the blue eyes / brown eyes experiment … The lasting the whole year bit does come across as an embellishment given the unreliability of memory. However as Miri says that isn’t a productive line of argument cos made up or not, year or a few weeks, it’s unethical unless there was consent from the kids / parents. And even if totally true one awful teacher who called themselves a feminist is irrelevant to feminism.

            Google “The Angry Eye – Brown Eye-Blue Eye Experiment – part 1″ if you’ve not seen it.

          6. WithinThisMind

            I apologize, Miri. I’m just sick of the real life ‘examples’ that don’t pass the basic sniff test being trotted out on this and a thousand other topics. My reaction probably has a lot more to do with dealing with a family member all week that’s been on the ‘but Christians are soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo persecuted’ meme.

  8. 8
    queequack

    I have noticed, however, that unnecessary meanness and anger (which is, let’s be honest, generally of the flailing incoherent kind, as opposed to the cold righteousness that I know certain people like to imagine themselves as projecting), generally go hand in hand with bad logic and poor argumentation. Not always, but often. Because of course, even if feminism is right (about whatever), it’s possible to make its case badly. You can cite dubious statistics, or argue from anecdote, or overgeneralize, or etc. In that case, the other person might be acting completely rationally by rejecting your premise- again, even if you’re right.

    Anyway, this doesn’t invalidate anything you’ve said; meanness and good sound logic are not mutually exclusive. But they seem to be negatively correlated, which might be something to think about, if you’re considering being mean.

  9. 9
    suttkus

    At the college I used to attend, I held the door open for the person behind me one day. The woman in question chewed me out for being a sexist bastard. Of course, I was unaware at the time that I held the door open that she was a woman. I was simply holding the door open for the person behind me whose footsteps I heard. I hold the door open for people. It’s polite.

    I didn’t realize I was supposed to generalize this incident. One feminist acted like a jerk to me once. DAMN YOU FEMINISM!

    Back when I was 6, we were going on a field trip to somewhere, and I sat down on the bus. Shortly thereafter, a black child demanded that I give up my seat to her because she was like Rosa Parks and my parents owned slaves. At the time I’d barely heard of slavery (and I was pretty sure it was over with when my parents were too young to own any) and had never heard of Rosa Parks. I was baffled and she started to throw a royal fit before the teacher practically threw her into a different seat.

    Clearly, I should have a generalized dislike of black people. Somehow, I have failed as a member of the dominant race and gender. Maybe it’s not too late.

    The biggest bully in my first grade class was a white boy. Obviously, no reason to generalize anything from that. We’re good.

  10. 10
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    “A feminist was mean to me” certainly isn’t a reason to reject feminism, though it may be a reason to avoid that particular feminist (or feminist space), with the caveats you’ve mentioned.

    I think at least part of the time, though, the argument isn’t so much “a feminist was mean to me, therefore while I might otherwise sympathize with feminism, I will reject it and never support its goals!” I think what happens to some people (I’ve fallen into this at times) is closer to:

    “I want to do the right thing, but whenever I try to do anything, someone yells “WRONG!” and some insults, and when I ask what would be right they just yell “EDUCATE YOURSELF!” and sometimes more insults. So I try to, and…rinse and repeat. And it’s costing me, emotionally and perhaps socially, and clearly isn’t making any actual difference. So why bother?”

  11. 11
    WithinThisMind

    —-“I want to do the right thing, but whenever I try to do anything, someone yells “WRONG!” and some insults, and when I ask what would be right they just yell “EDUCATE YOURSELF!” and sometimes more insults. So I try to, and…rinse and repeat. And it’s costing me, emotionally and perhaps socially, and clearly isn’t making any actual difference. So why bother?”—-

    If everyone’s first reaction is to start screaming at you, I suggest you heavily rethink what you are doing.

    See, if one person says you are a creep, they might just be overreacting a bit.
    If two people say you are a creep, you might want to check your location.
    If three people say you are a creep, you might want to rethink your approach.
    If everyone is saying you are a creep, well, that’s probably because you are a creep.

    Even as frustrated as I am with this shit, I don’t start off yelling. Even if I am in a place where it is specifically stated that 101 level inquiries aren’t welcome. If you come in and ask the question without all the stupid baggage – ‘geez, bitches, I’m trying, why won’t you help me’ – I’ll answer. Once. Almost everyone will.

    But if you show you haven’t even read the initial posting or the thread (both of which happened to answer that question multiple times), yeah, probably going to get angry and tell you to educate yourself. But you know what? That’s because well, you should follow the advice you were just given and educate yourself instead of expecting it to be handed to you on a silver platter by demure, servile womenfolks.

    The part you aren’t getting is that the coming in and asking the question and demanding women do your homework for you is part of the problem.

    1. 11.1
      Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

      Was that supposed to be a reply to me? Because I didn’t ask a question, I elucidated a position which the main thrust of this post was a potential strawman of (without positing it or arguing in favor of it) – you can tell this because it’s in quotes and preceded by a lead-in that identifies it as a feeling that’s been held by others, and the rest of your comment is lazy, copy-pasted boilerplate that doesn’t address either my point or my actual positions at all.

      1. 11.1.1
        WithinThisMind

        —-Was that supposed to be a reply to me?—

        I set off the part I was responding to, thus I’m unsure why you are asking. No… wait…. I’m not.

        —-the rest of your comment is lazy, copy-pasted boilerplate that doesn’t address either my point or my actual positions at all.—

        Thank you for volunteering yourself as an example.

        Once again, the question was answered. But since getting the answer wasn’t the desired goal of the question, the answer was once again willfully ignored and the accusation thrown out of ‘but why you gotta be soooooo mean to me’

        Maybe, instead of taking the time to type out yet another ‘question’, you* should demonstrate your desire to learn by actually reading the already provided answers.

        Now, I’m going to address further this ‘point’ – “And it’s costing me, emotionally and perhaps socially, and clearly isn’t making any actual difference”

        It’s costing you. Emotionally. Socially. It’s costing you that feminists aren’t taking time out of their day to nicely, politely, servilely answer your question in spite of the copious answers already available for your easy perusal (http://finallyfeminism101.wordpress.com/). That’s costing you. Socially.

        Meanwhile, I can’t go online and play a video game, getting my geek on, without being told I’m fat, ugly, or slutty (http://fatuglyorslutty.com/).

        But it’s costing you. Emotionally.

        Meanwhile, I can’t walk down the street without having somebody scream out commentary on my body or ability to provide them with sex (http://www.everydaysexism.com/).

        But it’s costing you.

        Meanwhile, if I try to get a job in my chosen field, I will be underpaid, under promoted, and generally treated in a condescending manner. (http://mansplained.tumblr.com/).

        And I know, it’s like, totally hurtful and costing you, right?

        Meanwhile, 1 in 4 women are sexually assaulted and a woman who dares request a guy not corner her in an elevator at 3am is subjected to years of brutal threats and harassment (http://skepchick.org/2011/09/mom-dont-read-this/)

        But no, I totally get it. My unwillingness to cater to your ‘needs’ is costing you.

        Well, here you go. I’ve just provided you with the answer again. Oh, right… I didn’t do it nicely enough. So it doesn’t matter anyway, fuck feminism, right? FSM forbid we expect you to get a little actual perspective and maybe, just maybe, to check your privilege?

        See, I get that you seem to think that some of these guys are genuinely ignorant and want to learn. I bet some of them are. And some of them are probably even pretty nice guys. But my point, the one you ignored, is that how they go about it is part of the problem.

        Let’s go back to that teacher example, shall we? You know, this one here –

        “If I signed up for a math class and the teacher yelled and me and called me a douchebag in front of the class, I would switch sections! Wouldn’t you?”

        It’s a good example and he doesn’t even realize it proves our point.

        So, you signed up for a math class. But instead of buying the textbook, paying attention during the lecture, and doing the homework, you just raised your hand in the middle of a test on quadratic equations and asked ‘but teacher, I don’t understand how you can put 2 and 2 together and make 4, can you explain to me how to count on my fingers?’

        Now, you may be genuinely ignorant. You may genuinely want to learn. But isn’t expecting the entire class to come to a halt so the teacher can explain it to you kind of a douchebag thing to do? And if you were a student in that class and saw someone do that, wouldn’t you be thinking ‘jeez, what a fucking douchebag?’

        And whose fault is it when you flunk out? Yours, or the students who wouldn’t let you copy their homework? Yours, or the teacher who wouldn’t give you the answer key for the test?

        Coming into the conversation and asking the question, over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over is part of the problem. You feeling entitled to come in and ask me to patiently, clearly, concisely, politely, nicely, oh, can’t forget nicely or that it’s got to be your specific definition of ‘nice’ and you are allowed to move that goalpost at whim, the answer to you again is just as much entitled behavior as that of the guy who expects me to smile and flirt with him on the bus just because I happen to be existing as a female in public? You even have the exact same reaction if I don’t comply – ‘jeez, what a bitch, that’s what I get for trying to be nice’.

        There is a book I recommend you read. It’s called ‘Why are you Atheists so angry’. It’s amazing how parallel so many of the examples are to the question of ‘Why are you Feminists so angry’?

        My plans for this evening were originally to be at a pathfinder game. But alas, after having my character sheet taken out of my hands by a ‘gentleman’ so he could ‘check to see if I’d done it right’, a behavior he did not repeat with any of the guys at the table in spite of us all being strangers to each other, I began to feel unwelcome. When this was further made clear by immediately being hit on and talked over, I left. That’s a social cost. It comes with just existing as a female in public. Ah well, on to trying to find another gaming group in a semi-rural area.

    2. 11.2
      Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

      ..oh, wow, just saw that bit above.

      Explains a lot.

    3. 11.3
      scenario

      There is a lot of misinformation out there in the world. It can be frustrating to quote a college psychology textbook word for word and be told ” WRONG, Educate yourself, we’re not a 101 website.”

      I know that I have had to reeducate myself when I try to have a discussion on a social justice websites. Many times I run into situations when I find belief’s that I was taught at home, school, and in various psychology books I have read are totally wrong. Once someone explains what the problem is, I usually agree with them and update my information. I have found that arguments that are accepted on one social justice website can get an OMG I Can’t Believe You Said That on another social justice website. For example, go to different social justice sites and look at what people say about sex work. Or listen to what some feminist say about trans-gender issues.

      Someone very close to me who is a person of color went to a talk at their school about diversity. I don’t want to go into to much detail but the speaker, who has a Phd in Woman’s Studies and has been teaching it for over 20 years at a local university was woefully inaccurate when she talked about racism, ageism, and especially trans-gender issues. Two trans-women had to leave they were so upset. She basically blew off anyone who questioned her.

      People can easily graduate from college with knowledge that directly contradicts what is being said on many social justice websites. If I was attacked at a social justice site for repeating what I learned in a psychology class I had taken a year or two before, it might affect my opinion of feminism.

      If I was lukewarm on feminism and constantly got conflicting info, like praised on one site and attacked on another for the same opinion, I could see myself just saying the hell with it.

      1. 11.3.1
        Seven of Mine, formerly piegasm

        You’re right that until pretty recently, feminism has been almost exclusively a cis-het white woman’s movement. There’s more pushback against that recently but there’s still no shortage of feminists who are some combination of sex-negative, racist, homophobic, transphobic, or ableist. Feminism isn’t monolithic. Even in a group where everyone largely agrees on the broad strokes, you’re still going to get individuals who disagree about some of the finer details. That’s true of any subject.

        Also, being praised vs. being attacked? Are you in it for ally cookies, or are you actually trying to understand the issues? Are you helicoptering in and depositing an opinion into an ongoing conversation and then getting annoyed if that opinion doesn’t garner the same response it did the last place you offered it? Or are you following the whole conversation and asking for clarification on points you don’t understand? When you go to a site and people seem to be contradicting something you heard elsewhere, do you ask them about it? Do you tell them “hey this other place said XYZ on this subject. You guys seem to disagree and I’m having trouble spotting why. Could you help me understand?”

        1. 11.3.1.1
          scenario

          It’s not so much the cookies as feeling blindsided. Someone reads a few books on a subject, Reads a bunch of blogs. Goes to a few seminars. They think that they have some handle on what feminism is. They post to the first blog and get interesting and informative feedback, some positive, some negative. Goes to a different site. Says basically the same thing and gets OMG, I Can’t Believe You Said That. Tries to ask what’s wrong and gets We’re not a 101 website. Asks where what site they can learn more since their just repeating what they’ve learned at other feminists websites, seminars and books. Gets, We don’t have time.

          Real example. First a disclaimer. I am telling this solely from my side of the story. I am sure that I worded what I said very badly and used buzz words I didn’t know I was using. I believe that what I said was offensive for some reason that I do not to this day understand. I am very sure I misread what the other party said, in every step of the process. At the time, I read every post multiple times to try to understand what the other party was really trying to say and never really understood it. I am telling this more as an example of how I felt than as a word for word review, since that is how many people think.

          I posted what I thought was a very bland, ordinary statement. It was the third or fourth post in the topic so I wasn’t entering into a conversation. I said something like, open communication is very important to a healthy relationship. The first few comments were informative. Then one of the mods on the site came in and said OMG I Can’t Believe You Said That. I (and several other people) asked what is wrong with listening to your partners needs. The moderator said (what I and several on the site heard as) their partner has no say in the relationship, That what they say is law. I said that that doesn’t sound like a very healthy relationship. I was gang attacked because I don’t have a right to decide how other peoples relationships should work.

          Now I am sure that I misread what was said every step of the way. I am sure that we were talking at cross purpose. But how will I ever figure out what I said that was wrong? I tried googling variations on why open communication is a bad thing and got nowhere. I’ve never seen any view like the moderators view on any website or book before or after. At the time, I repeatedly asked why is open communication a bad thing and just got back, we’re not a 101 website.

          Now I’m still annoyed over a year later but I’ve marked it off to, I screwed up somehow and maybe some day I’ll figure out how.

          Many people judge things by what feels right rather than what is factually right. Someone who grew up in an environment that was hostile to feminism might take an incident like this as proof that feminism is wrong and feminists are hostile to men.

          1. Miri, Professional Fun-Ruiner

            Probably a good time to point out that there’s no International Council on Feminism that gets to determine what is feminism and what is not, so anyone can make any sort of claim and call it a feminist claim, or say that they believe this because they’re a feminist.

            Just look at the fact that feminism is used to support and fight for trans women, and also to dehumanize, misgender, harass, and threaten them. It is used to support pornography and sex work as potentially fulfilling forms of sexual expression, and to fight them as exploitation and abuse of women.

            You can find someone who will argue any ridiculous thing and call it feminism. Doesn’t make them NOT a feminist, but it does make their interpretation different from the mainstream, or perhaps different from that of people who are taking an intersectional approach to things.

          2. Seven of Mine, formerly piegasm

            I’m not really sure what you want anyone to say to that story. You don’t say what site, what the OP was about, what specifically you said, what specifically anyone else said. I get that you don’t remember the details but it’s just not very illuminating.

            Maybe you found a site full of people with a too-high opinion of their level of expertise on the subject. Maybe you did just misunderstand that badly. I don’t know.

            Not long after the launch of the A+ forums, a section was added for 101 questions. The main forums were supposed to be for experienced people to discuss more advanced topics. If someone started “just asking questions” we’d direct them to the education forums. The 101 section was full of reference material and stickied posts and frequented by people who didn’t mind answering basic questions for the 1,000,000th time.

            We still got a steady stream of people in the main section of the forums asking us to justify the existence of feminism. It doesn’t get much more basic than that. When directed to the 101 section, can you guess what happened? They didn’t thank us and go read. They threw tantrums about how pompous and arrogant it was of us to suggest that they needed to be educated about anything.

            When people tell you their space is not a 101 space, it’s time to stop demanding they take the time to educate you and find a 101 space. You can do this, funnily enough, by Googling the term “feminism 101.”

            At the time, I repeatedly asked why is open communication a bad thing and just got back, we’re not a 101 website.

            Um. At what point, when asking a question and not getting a useful response, do you consider the possibility that your question has missed the point so spectacularly that there is no way to give a simple answer? I mean…what do you think people mean when they tell you theirs is not a 101 space? They’re telling you your question is so basic that answering it would be a significant derail from the conversation they’re trying to have. And instead of shutting up, reading along and letting them have their conversation (or just finding a different website), you decided to keep repeating the same question. And you’re not sure why their response was less than gracious…

  12. 12
    smrnda

    Could part of this be a cognitive bias issue? People notice ‘a feminist was rude to me’ because ‘feminist’ already stands out as not the default and an exception, the way people might talk about ‘unqualified minorities’ being promoted, ignoring the unqualified white men advanced by nepotism. In that, it’s part unconscious (assuming the default perspective) but also an issue of lazy thinking and total unawareness of how what we notice is shaped by what we expect.

    It also seems like a type of confirmation bias. It wouldn’t surprise me that a person opposed to feminism is going to be looking for ways to be offended by feminists and feminism. I’m also fairly sure part of it could be that women who identify as feminists might be examined more harshly.

  13. 13
    scenario

    I fully admit that I was almost certainly in the wrong in this situation. I deliberately kept it vague because I know I was in the wrong and what I did wrong is not the point of the post. It’s the emotional response that people have to a situation like that that’s the point of the post.

    The topic is a feminist was mean to me. Why do people say that they hate feminists because they are mean?

    My example was an example of when I said something bland and innocuous on a feminist website. Open communication is a good thing in a relationship. I expect to be criticized. I expect that someone might tell me to stop saying stuff that so basic. The first few comments were legitimate criticism. Then a moderator comes in, totally over the top furious over something that the previous posters seemed to believe was bland and obvious.

    I know how I would have thought of this situation when I was a teenager. If I posted something that I thought was basic and obvious and most people seemed ok with it but a moderator threw gasoline on the flames and deliberately picked a fight, I would have been very hurt. I’m sure that I would think something like, if that’s who they choose for moderators, I don’t want to have anything to do with these people.

    One rude person should not condemn an entire group. When the one person is a person that the group chose as their spokesperson, it can have a much larger impact than it really should have.

    Overall, I think that the people here at FTB are excellent. You rarely see the authors of the blogs throwing gas on the fire. They tend to do the opposite. Miri showed that here in this thread several times. The commentors can be over the top on occasion but you should expect that.

    1. 13.1
      WithinThisMind

      —My example was an example of when I said something bland and innocuous on a feminist website.—

      A couple years ago, an acquaintance of mine was telling a story in which she felt a store clerk had been just horrendously unfair to her. In her story, he had discriminated against her for breast feeding and asked her to leave and she just couldn’t understand how anyone could be that cruel.

      Except… as it turns out, I was there.

      See, this acquaintance had two children. And while she was attempting to nurse, the older child was running around the store like a water buffalo on crack. He was squealing, mishandling merchandise, running into people, throwing things, etc… The clerk tried multiple times to get him to go back to his mother. Hell, so did I. He kicked me. Finally, he stood at the door to the changing room she was using to nurse in (holding up people who wanted to be trying on clothes, btw) and told her she had to supervise her child. So she set down the infant, and walked out of the changing room without bothering to put her shirt back on or even readjust her bra.

      It was the final straw, and the clerk yelled at her to leave and said he was going to have a trespass order sworn against her so she could not come back.

      But that’s not the way she tells the story. And I think she genuinely remembers the story the way she is telling it, though I couldn’t say if that is because she is delusional or because she has told it so many times that she has rewritten her memory of the actual occurrence. But what I can tell you is that when she has seen someone else acting the way she did that day, she has roundly condemned them. If I had a video tape of the events as they occurred, it would probably take her a few moments to recognize herself.

      This is an example of why context and self-evaluation can be so important. You said something you claim was ‘bland and innocuous’. But was it actually? Was it appropriate to the thread? Did you have a history there that made it difficult to take your comments at face value? Was the moderator looking to pick a fight and ‘throwing gasoline on the flames’, or did you step on a moderator’s last nerve.

      I’m sure you think of yourself as the innocent party. I’m sure you think what you said was bland and innocuous. But I’m also sure that if you linked us to the thread where all this occurred, our interpretation of the events would likely be very different from your characterization of them.

      Perhaps, if this is happening to you as you claim, you should reexamine your posts objectively to determine if you are genuinely coming across as ‘bland and innocuous’ as you claim. An honest evaluation may help you come to the root of the problem.

  14. 14
    scenario

    The thread is but a feminist was mean to me. When someone says “someone is mean to me”, they are giving an emotional response. Logic does not enter into it.

    For the purpose of this discussion, it doesn’t really matter how I screwed up. What matters is how I felt about the situation. As an adult I know I screwed up. As an adult. I know that I am not into social justice enough to make it worthwhile to continue posting on that site, so it is not worth figuring out exactly how I messed up over a year ago. If the same thing had happened to me when I was a teenager, I might have said, “The hell with it. They don’t know what they are talking about.”

    Have someone pull out a random paragraph out of their college psychology textbook and post it online.

    There are two comments.

    The first comment says, I can’t believe that they are still teaching this nonsense in school.
    Another comment says, I can’t believe you said that. You are a total ******.

    What would your emotional reaction be to each comment? Since you are posting something you copied from a college textbook, how could you know that it would have that kind of violent reaction? Might someone who is slightly against the ideas presented on the website take the 2nd comment personally and end up more against the ideas presented than when they started?

    I’ve tried to make it clear as I can that i know I messed up. I used a buzzword that meant something different on social justice sites than anywhere else or I worded it badly in other ways. Once again, I am not trying to defend my actions. I am talking about emotional reactions to situations that occur regularly on the internet.

    Once you have stuck your foot in your mouth there is no way to fix it once a moderator has declared war on you. If you try to apologize and explain what you meant, you have 20 people telling you no that is not what you meant, this is what you meant. If you stop posting, they hold it against you. Each time they explain what you meant, the explanations get more and more insulting, more and more detailed. Once people start piling on, no one listens to anyone else anymore. If the internet was around when I was a teen and something like that happened to me once or twice, I would have hated feminism, at least for a little while.

    1. 14.1
      Flewellyn

      I recognize Scenario as a former (not banned, but left) poster from the A+ forums. Scenario, there are three problems with what you are doing here.

      First, you are bringing business from another forum into the discussion here, where it doesn’t belong, and where it doesn’t help your case. You are belaboring the specious point that being told you are wrong is hurtful and damaging, and practically ignoring Miri’s points above about how your personal feelings about how you are treated should not enter into how you assess the validity of a theory.

      Second, you’re really leaving a lot out, such as what it was you said that was wrong, and how it was responded to, and doing so in a patently dishonest way. I won’t go into the details because they are irrelevant, but suffice to say, what you were saying on the forums was not “quoted straight from a psychology textbook” in terms of correctness, it was more along the lines of “quoted straight from an MRA handbook”. But go on pretending that we were so unreasonable.

      And, finally, you’re taking the comments of this post, which is about how men who say “You feminists are too mean!” are showing a lack of logical thinking and are making their reactions to feminism all about their own hurt feelings…and showing a lack of logical thinking by making your reactions to feminism all about your own hurt feelings.

      Seriously. Give it a damn rest.

      1. 14.1.1
        WithinThisMind

        —-I won’t go into the details because they are irrelevant, but suffice to say, what you were saying on the forums was not “quoted straight from a psychology textbook” in terms of correctness, it was more along the lines of “quoted straight from an MRA handbook”. But go on pretending that we were so unreasonable.—

        I had a hunch, given the determination zie had in painting hirself as the victim.

    2. 14.2
      Seven of Mine, formerly piegasm

      For the purpose of this discussion, it doesn’t really matter how I screwed up. What matters is how I felt about the situation.

      Actually, it does matter how you screwed up because you want us to believe a) that what you said was innocuous and b) that the response you received was an unreasonable dismissal devoid of any explanation. You’ve gone to great lengths to explain to us that you’re sure you were wrong and have been unable to parse exactly why. Therefor, why you think your judgement should be trusted regarding whether your comment was bland and innocuous, what constitutes legitimate criticism, or exactly how angry it would have been appropriate for the mod in question to be is beyond me.

      I appreciate and believe that you thought your comment was bland and innocuous but clearly your audience disagreed. And instead of saying to yourself “maybe my comment wasn’t as bland and innocuous as I thought,” you skipped straight to assuming that the mod in question was overreacting.

      Also, now that we know A+ is the site in question: they have a 101 section. You could have gone there and made a post along the lines of “Here’s an OP; here’s the comment I made; here’s the response I got. Can someone please help me understand where I went wrong?” But instead, it sounds like you just persisted in derailing the thread by repeating your question and eventually flouncing from the site altogether.

      And really, unless things have changed drastically since I was last active at A+, they make no bones about what their mission is. Their mission is to provide a safe space for marginalized people to make themselves heard and to be able to get past the 101 stuff without constant derails from dudebros who can’t abide a space which doesn’t preference their feelings and opinions. There is no pretense that they will be gentle with people who think they’re going to show up and demand to be spoonfed a primer on remedial feminism (or any other form of advocacy) in the main forums. They’re very up front about being unwilling to assume good faith from newcomers and, last I knew, they gave all newcomers a basket of links detailing the posting rules and moderation policies as well as giving some guidelines regarding kinds of behavior that will receive short shrift. So color me unsympathetic that you got set down hard for behaving the way you did there.

  15. 15
    nrdo

    Miri, thanks for the insightful article. In my experience in online venues, the discussion doesn’t proceed according to norms of debate that happen in person. You have much less insight into the motivations of the other parties. You also don’t have the academic “principle of charity” that enjoins people to seek the most reasonable interpretation of statements. So, in addition to not dismissing a person’s position because they are “mean”, I try to proceed with the additional assumption that the rude person themselves is actually nice (or at least amenable to rational discussion) in other contexts. It’s better than going around hating people.

  16. 16
    scenario

    First let me repeat again. I was in the wrong in this situation. I was completely wrong. While I do not understand every single nuance of the situation, I freely admit, I was in the wrong. I don’t want anyone to see me as the victim. I was not the victim. I was the one in the wrong. I do not and did not intend this as an attempt to defend myself. I was attempting to show how someone could misinterpret a situation when they screwed up massively.

    I intended this whole argument to support Miri. People should think logically but frequently do not. Why do people feel like they are attacked when they are not? Why do people overreact? I like the idea that people should make their decisions based on facts and logic and not solely on emotion. As Miri said, just because someone make you angry doesn’t mean they are wrong. Unfortunately in the real world there are a lot of people who believe that truthiness matters more than truth. People can easily feel like they were attacked, even when they were in the wrong. When people get defensive, thought processes stop.

    I’ve tried to talk about my emotional thought process vs my logical thought process. I haven’t done a very good job of it. I’ve tried using made up scenario’s in the past but they usually don’t work because people don’t think they are realistic. I was trying to use a real world situation but I deliberately kept the details vague. I wasn’t attempting to hide anything. I said many different times, in many different ways that I was in the wrong.
    The exact details of the situation were not necessary to show just how badly I screwed up and misinterpreted the situation.

    When I described the post the first time I used the words, “I posted what I thought was a very bland, ordinary statement.” By using the words “I thought” along with words like misread, talking at cross purposes, worded very badly, offensive, I screwed up, etc I was attempting to state very clearly that I knew I was the one in the wrong. Saying that I do not understand every nuance of why I was in the wrong is not intended as a defense of any kind.

    My observation is how do people react when they say something very badly and imply all sorts of things that they didn’t intend to imply. This sort of situation comes up all the time when people are new to a topic. It can even come up with people who are experience in a certain topic but are trying to look at a different facet of the situation.

    There are many paths someone can take when this sort of thing happens. You can learn from your mistakes and try again later. You can learn from your mistakes and realize that this is not the place for you. Many people who think emotionally just blame the other side. This is the easy way out for a lot of people.

    I am not planning to make any more posts on this. I just intended to make a simple observation that sometimes someone with good intentions can totally mess up and insult people and cause an argument. If that person thinks emotionally, it is often easier for them to just blame the other side. I mistakenly thought that by using a real world situation where I messed up royally and said what my feelings (not thoughts) were at the time might explain my point better. Obviously I didn’t do a very good job of it.

    1. 16.1
      Seven of Mine, formerly piegasm

      I mistakenly thought that by using a real world situation where I messed up royally and said what my feelings (not thoughts) were at the time might explain my point better.

      I get the reaction you had. I understand completely and I think most of us here probably do too. I modded at A+ for some months early in its existence and I’ve seen your story 1000 times. You could have been reading from a script. There’s probably an entire conversation to be had about how, being male, you exist in a culture which automatically treats your viewpoint as valid and your opinions as always worth hearing. You’re probably very unaccustomed to such an unceremonious dismissal. It’s no great surprised that you would find it disconcerting.

      Members of marginalized groups though? The idea of everyone’s perspective being worth hearing about? That’s a pie in the sky aspiration for us. We’re routinely dismissed. We’re expected to provide a dissertation’s worth of evidence for every minor claim while cis-het white dudes expect to (and do) have their word taken seriously about things they know nothing whatsoever about. See government panels about women’s reproductive health care with no women on them. See Piers Morgan convening a panel of cis-het people with no particular experience on trans* issues to discuss the validity of Janet Mock’s (a trans woman author/activist) own account of her own life, while excluding Janet Mock herself despite having interviewed her earlier in the same show (incidentally, you could probably write a book trying to unpack that whole fiasco). Ad infinitum.

      And A+ is a space designed for the explicit purpose of turning that dynamic upside down. Not that members of dominant groups are dismissed out of hand, but there’s a conscious effort there to make sure the marginalized voices are heard above all others. The moderation is heavy-handed 100% on purpose. It’s an approach whose bad faith actor detection will generate false positives as it seems to have done with you. That’s a price they’re willing to pay because, if they’re not, it just becomes yet another space on the internet where cis-het white dudes dominate every conversation.

      So, TL;DR it’s not that we don’t understand the reaction; it’s that we’re unwilling to protect the feelings of well-meaning cis-het white dudes at the expense of marginalized people.

      1. 16.1.1
        scenario

        Thank you. I appreciate the feedback. I want you to know that I learned a lot from A+ that I have tried to incorporate into my life. One thing that changed in me is that things like using words like gay or bitch as an insult make me really mad. I never liked them but I now have a visceral reaction when I hear them now. I just have to say something. I see examples of privilege everywhere I look. A couple of weeks ago two black men and I were waiting for a clerk. When the clerk came, he walked by the two black guys and asked me what I wanted. I actually did a double take. I see people assuming that men knows about cars, computers etc and women know about cooking, cleaning etc. It drives me crazy. Sometimes it true. Sometimes it isn’t. It’s a nonproductive, useless assumption.

        I can intellectually understand the frustration of marginalized groups. Its fine when someone disagrees with you. It is frustrating and humiliating to be simply blown off when you try to express an opinion. I have seen it too many times in the past. It’s one of the things that attracted me to places like A+ in the first place.

        I haven’t posted in a long time, not because I was angry but because I realized that I didn’t fit in. It was too frustrating to me to put my foot in my mouth again and again and make it even worse by trying to explain. There are just too many words, sayings etc that have more than one meaning that I do not grasp yet. I kept getting blindsided when I spent over an hour writing a post, trying to think of any possible way that it might offend someone and try to make it as factual as I possibly could and still end up insulting someone.

        This is off topic, but I had to tell you (plural) that I appreciate everyones feedback here both positive and negative.

        1. 16.1.1.1
          WithinThisMind

          —-It was too frustrating to me to put my foot in my mouth again and again and make it even worse by trying to explain—-

          Let me try to offer you a piece of advice that will help you in situations like this.

          When I tell you I find something offensive, I don’t want you to spend thousands upon thousands of words explaining how you didn’t mean to offend me. I don’t want you to ‘explain’ how you didn’t mean it that way. I don’t even want a dozen words of apology. I don’t want multiple long posts trying to explain how from your point of view you didn’t know any better and I should show you pity and compassion. I don’t want paragraphs of you trying to justify why its not really that bad. And I don’t want to spend hours answering your questions about the minutia of why it’s offensive while you debate my answers.

          I want you to stop doing it.

      2. 16.1.2
        queequack

        You’re probably very unaccustomed to such an unceremonious dismissal. It’s no great surprised that you would find it disconcerting.

        God damn, talk about presumptuous, self-centered obliviousness.

        1. 16.1.2.1
          Seven of Mine, formerly piegasm

          Huh. Funny, I thought scenario had actually spent quite a number of posts telling us how taken aback he was by the reception he got. Obviously people are often taken aback by things they’re totally accustomed to, thus requiring self-centered, oblivious presumption on my part to make such an inference.

          1. WithinThisMind

            Multiple posts here, multiple posts on A+, all with him whining about being ‘blindsided’ when as it turns out, people did spend a lot of time trying to explain to him what was wrong, many quite gently, while he refused to actually listen or back down.

            As the saying goes, if you really want to learn: Shut Up and Listen.

  17. 17
    WithinThisMind

    Here is another good article on this issue – http://www.shakesville.com/2014/05/i-write-letters.html

    1. 17.1
      scenario

      One question to WithinThisMind, listen where? I’ve read FTB almost daily since the day it opened. I read every single Faq on all of the blogs multiple times. For everything that is in the faqs, there are hundreds things that are not. Just saying were not a 101 blog doesn’t help when you’re not speaking the same language. I agree 99% of the time but it is difficult not to say something foolish when there are hundreds of words and phrases that mean something subtly different to someone well versed in social justice issues.

      Some people kindly explain. I am very thankful for that. Many people just say read the faq for things that aren’t in the faq assuming that people should be able to read between the lines and understand things that just are not there.

      One time I almost got into an argument but someone was kind enough to tell me that a phrase that I never really thought about was abelist. I was remembering when I was told that I had cancer about 10 years ago and as soon as I heard the word cancer, all I heard from the Dr. was blah, blah, blah. At that moment I was neither calm nor rational. I was incapable of making any decision. That was the situation I was thinking about when I used the phrase calm and rational in a post. Someone immediately pointed out how calm and rational is abelist. I thought about it for a minute,agreed with them, apologized, and they allowed me to rephrase what I said to better communicate where I was coming from. I seldom use that phrase anymore. I tried looking for the term in the faq and it wasn’t there.

      Usually it is the 8th or 10th angry post before I find out that the reason everyone is mad is because I used a phrase like calm and rational. They either say read the faq, or we’re not a 101 website, or just post a long angry post where the person never really says what they’re angry about. If I say I’m sorry, I don’t understand, it’s like throwing gasoline on the fire.

      Its frustrating when I agree with people wholeheartedly and want to support them but we don’t speak the same language and probably never will.

  1. 18
    The Reading List, 5/14/2014 » Almost Diamonds

    […] “But a feminist was mean to me!”–”Everyone is mean sometimes, but ‘default’ categories like ‘white’ and ‘male’ are made invisible because they’re considered the norm from which everyone else deviates, so nobody besides women and minorities and their allies usually makes much of fuss about the meanness of men or white people specifically.” […]

  2. 19
    What I’m Reading, May 21, 2014 | Cryptic Philosopher

    […] “But a feminist was mean to me!” Miri, Brute Reason, May 9, 2014 […]

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