Victimhood makes rudeness ok, yes? No.


Skepticlawyer has a great post with great comments on manners and geekdom and victim status as all-purpose excuse for off-the-charts rudeness.

There are various manifestations of these atrocious manners, but they seem (to me, at least) to boil down to an inability, on the part of certain men, to take ‘no’ for an answer. I think this is tied to participation in various ‘geek’ subcultures (both on-line and off-line, so while it may be convenient to blame the internet, blaming the internet is unfair). Participation in these varied subcultures is seen to give people something of a pass for rudeness. The justification proffered is that participation in the subculture resulted in bullying when the man in question was young, conferring victim status on him as an adult. And, as I’ve pointed out elsewhere on this blog, wrapping oneself in victimhood is often a way to avoid having to take personal responsibility–for anything.

Read the rest.

Comments

  1. jasondick says

    Personally, I tend to try to limit my rudeness to people who have demonstrated themselves to be morons. For example, these sorts of statements will bring out the rudeness in me:

    “The Earth is 6,000 years old.”
    “Global Warming is a government conspiracy.”
    “The Tea Party isn’t racist.”

    …and so on and so forth. I see no reason to apologize for or excuse it. It may not be very effective, and so if I actually have a relationship with the person I’ll tend to be a lot more patient. But I usually don’t care all that much.

    I think that if you feel you need to excuse your rudeness, then you know you shouldn’t be doing it, and really need to stop. Maybe I should stop. But again, don’t care that much. At least I’m reasonably confident that most of the people I’m rude to really deserve it.

  2. julian says

    Outside of the ‘geek’ community, has anyone noticed this? I’ve been told it’s common enough among some groups but damned if I can’t find any examples of it.

    I’ve seen people who’ve used their history to justify wrong and inappropriate behavior (for example, the mother that frequently beats her daughters because her mother beat her) but those people never openly recognize or acknowledge what they’ve done is ‘bad.’

    Among geeks, on the other hand, we seem to be able to admit that those actions are generally wrong. We just don’t see why we should limit ourselves by that knowledge. (or maybe that was just me)

  3. croizat says

    Skepticlawyer writes:

    “I’m curious to learn more, because if nothing else, the recent exercises in geekish manners blindness–both online and off–show that at least some victims are contributing substantially to their own losses. And because we as a culture valorize victimhood, they are being allowed to argue that they don’t have to change their behaviour.”

    …shades of gnus methinks.

  4. Egbert says

    It is immaturity to become angry at the slightest offense, but unfortunately, it’s natural to become annoyed or angry in any interaction that involves opinions, especially opinions about right or wrong.

    Also, nothing is worse than being told paternally to stop being rude, it only brings out the rebellious inner child if you’re inclined that way. That is another coercive form of external oppression and control which is unjustified.

    Since I think anger drives our opinions on right or wrong, then it naturally follows that such arguments are going to be heated and hostile. It is also natural to become annoyed when you’re trying to unpack a fallacious line of reasoning.

    If we are going to take ourselves seriously as sceptics, humanists, liberals, naturalists, then we must be mature in our methodology and not allow our own emotions and biases to interfere with our reason, even if they fully justified. If we don’t respect others as individuals, no matter how wrong, then we are guilty of a kind of hypocrisy.

  5. jasondick says

    Egbert, I don’t agree with that, at all. Some ideas are simply not worthy of any sort of respect, and ridicule can play a place in making those ideas less acceptable. I certainly wouldn’t equate blatant misogyny with simple rudeness.

  6. Egbert says

    I don’t think ideas need to be necessarily respected, In fact they can be strongly argued against and condemned, but I did say that others need to be respected as individuals. Dehumanization and stereotyping are the sort of things I have in mind as the effect of ignoring someone as an entity unto themselves. (I am as guilty of this hypocrisy as others and I am trying to change that.)

  7. says

    Thanks for the link-love, Ophelia. The comments thread is now even longer and more interesting! If nothing else, it reveals quite a bit of complexity and cultural difference in how we relate to each other, but also that we are less good than we once were at pointing out when people are doing the social equivalent of drinking from the bidet… (‘well, it looks sort of like a water fountain…’)

  8. Dave says

    The problem with the interweb is that there are millions of people on it who are only too happy to behave in a way which makes any reasonable ethical concern for their existence as fully-rounded individuals effectively impossible.

    It’s not only hard to work through a process of remembering that someone is a suffering, imperfect being, doomed to die, when they are trolling you [or, indeed, apparently sincerely treating you like with less consideration than they would a turd on the floor], it’s actively counter-productive. While you’re trying to be nice, they’re firing up the next salvo of abuse.

    Sometimes you need the killswitch; sometimes, like the moderators at Making Light, you need to actively ban people just for being rude. Any site which becomes a place where insulting incivility predominates is a failure, and should be shunned.

  9. jasondick says

    Egbert: It’s certainly not the case that others should always be respected as individuals. This is most especially true when they espouse ideas that do serious harm. For example, when a person attempts to argue that women don’t deserve the same rights as men, well, that is a position which should rightly bring a lot of vitriol upon that person. It’s not just a bad idea, it’s a demonstration that there is a horrible person behind that idea.

    And while it may not always be immediately obvious, the same goes for other ideas such as creationism and global warming denialism, as those ideas are massive impediments to good education and government policy. They may not have the same sort of emotional resonance with many people as racism or sexism, but they easily do comparable harm.

    Of course, there is an argument to be had that such direct, acerbic tactics aren’t very effective. But I do find it amusing that, almost as a rule, those attempting to make the claim that acerbic tactics aren’t effective use the exact same tactics while making that claim.

  10. says

    Hmmm, I don’t like the buyer-seller approach to personal, especially heterosexual relationships. People aren’t “goods” in any sense and the dynamics involved are far more complicated. I’m pretty sure that a lot of women wouldn’t settle for the kind of man portrayed in the post even if the male:female ratio were 1:10 and she got the offer. I want a partner in my life, not a household application.

    So, yes, to treat people as human beings should have value regardless of sexual relationships and “avaiability”.
    But the victimhood is another version of “those uppity womens”. We don’t have to put up with your bad manners and habit to spend 100% of your free time with your hobbies just because you are a man. If you get a “no” you don’t become a victim of any kind. Because no preventable harm has come to you by fault of another person. It really, really isn’t her fault that she doesn’t like you.

    I don’t know how this became about YECs and AGW denialists, but even there it might pay to first treat that person as if they were making an honest mistake, with dignity and respect. Because you never know why they believe what they believe before you ask them.

  11. jasondick says

    Gileill, sorry, I didn’t really mean to make it about other issues. I was more trying to point out that the statement that rudeness is the problem here is, well, too general a statement. Specifically, this is sexism, plain and simple. And no amount of victimhood excuses sexism.

    I don’t think there is any problem with being rude to people because of the ideas they espouse, if those ideas are harmful. Though in some cases it may be a poor strategic decision (it depends upon what you want to accomplish), I don’t see it as being inherently wrong.

    But there are huge problems with being rude to people because of who they are. There can be no excuse for that.

  12. Egbert says

    I think it all comes down to justice. Is justice based on other people’s opinions? Or what is the most popular opinion? Or life experiences? Or rational principles? Or the culture we grew up in? Or our emotions?

    I think it’s a bit of everything if we are all being honest. And so I want to understand the best approach to justice, and I can’t help but think liberal principles, values or ideals are the best way. That is why I’m changing and trying to find a consistent ethical approach to justice.

  13. Egbert says

    Why is sexism unjustified? Because it breaks the principle of equality (or am I wrong?)

    Therefore are we justified in breaking the principle of equality in the case of sexists? I have to say no, that does not make sense. That is why I see it as a kind of hypocrisy.

    The basic principle of equality or of universal human rights don’t have exceptions, that is inequality and what justifies sexism to begin with, in their case the exceptions are women.

    That is the reasoning I’m trying to make to show how Gilell’s view is a mature view, and why the argument about rudeness against sexists (or anyone else we disagree with) is a kind of hypocrisy.

    Another problem is to treat rude people or ‘dicks’ in exactly the same disrespectful and rude way, yet another kind of hypocrisy.

  14. says

    Egbert, talk about a philosophical conundrum for the ages!

    I’m not a philosopher, and there are times when law answers the same question very differently from philosophy: sometimes, for example, it is permissible to attack the person on the stand qua person (when counsel have attempted to credit the witness, for example). This, in philosophy or logic, is ad hominem. There are many other instances of divergence: where law allows appeals to authority, for example, or argues against moral ideals like forgiveness or benevolence. In a bail application at committal, to take another example, the Crown case is construed at its highest, which in offences of alleged violence is likely to see the accused remanded in custody.

    And yet he is still presumed to be innocent.

    Still, when it comes to justice, law starts in the same place as philosophy: justice is giving each and every person his or her due. How this is worked through practically is very distinctive:

    http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/justice-virtue/ (the philosopher’s view)

    http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/tort-theories/ (the way lawyers use justice in one area of law, specifically tort/delict, which I drew on in my piece on rudeness)

    Because I’m a lawyer, and lawyers bend the argumentative rules of philosophy and logic quite a bit, I’m reluctant to rule any argumentative method ‘out of court’ so to speak. I do think, however, that if we are to argue, then there ought to be rules, and these rules ought to have wide application (so I think being a victim doesn’t excuse or justify bad behaviour like sexism).

    However, separate from justice, there are broader issues concerning how one ought to behave purely to facilitate social engagements with others. I have not only noticed wide divergences between people (to be expected), but also a worrying link between certain subcultures and bad behaviour, all the way along the severity scale from plain bad manners to defamation and incitement.

    H.L.A. Hart once suggested that the first principle of the rule of law could be ‘that there be rules’ (the first principle is usually given as ‘treat like cases alike’). I think paying attention to the idea of rules is at least interesting, and likely to be productive.

  15. SallyStrange says

    Egbert, I suggest you go to Manboobz.com and try your approach on some of the out-and-proud misogynists there.

  16. SallyStrange says

    Another problem is to treat rude people or ‘dicks’ in exactly the same disrespectful and rude way, yet another kind of hypocrisy.

    I disagree. There’s a world of difference between “I treat you with disrespect because of the type of genitalia you happen to have” and “I treat you with disrespect because you endorse inequality.” The former is illogical; the latter is not.

  17. Kirth Gersen says

    Certainly there is atrocious behavior — we see it on a daily basis. However, I wonder how much of the perceived bad behavior, victimhood, and geekiness in the article referenced are due to simple confirmation bias and/or halo effect from men whom the observer simply finds unattractive? We know that taller, better-looking people are assumed to be smarter and more skilled, and are quickly, unconsciously, and automatically forgiven for offenses that would permanently brand a shorter, less-attractive person as a social outcast — and we know that these types of bias are extremely powerful. The next time we berate the geeky person for a social faux pas, maybe we should be sure to berate the tall, handsome Prince Charming or Princess Diana for the exact same behavior.

  18. SallyStrange says

    Now I’ve had a few more minutes to think about things…

    Why is sexism unjustified? Because it breaks the principle of equality (or am I wrong?)

    Are you making the assumption that all human beings deserve dignity, equal opportunity, and equal rights? Then sexism is not justified. If you are not making those assumptions, then that is a different discussion than whether or not the demands of feminism are being met in a particular setting. If you’re trying to advocate for equal rights for women, and you find yourself bogged down in a philosophical discussion of whether those assumptions are justified, and how, then you’re doing a poor job of defining the narrative.

    Therefore are we justified in breaking the principle of equality in the case of sexists? I have to say no, that does not make sense. That is why I see it as a kind of hypocrisy.

    The gentleman doth protest too much, methinks. Sexism is an idea. A sexist is a person who agrees with the idea of sexism. All people are equal, but all ideas are not equal. We really do not need to give equal time to airing the idea that women are not people. Just like we no longer need to expend our intellectual energy debating whether black people are intellectually inferior to white people. If someone wants to hold those ideas, that doesn’t mean they are deprived of the protections of the law, but they don’t get to expect to have their ideas treated with respect. They don’t get to demand that we listen to them and refrain from mocking their illogical and harmful ideas.

    The basic principle of equality or of universal human rights don’t have exceptions, that is inequality and what justifies sexism to begin with, in their case the exceptions are women.

    People are equal. Ideas are not. You are conflating people with the ideas they hold.

    That is the reasoning I’m trying to make to show how Gilell’s view is a mature view, and why the argument about rudeness against sexists (or anyone else we disagree with) is a kind of hypocrisy.

    Your concern about the perception of maturity is noted.

    Another problem is to treat rude people or ‘dicks’ in exactly the same disrespectful and rude way, yet another kind of hypocrisy.

    Sexism is not an idea that deserves anyone’s respect. People who agree with sexism should be made to understand that. Your reasons for labeling this approach as hypocrisy are flawed and based on an erroneous conflation of people with the ideas they hold. I don’t respect the ideas you’re advancing here. If you put them into practice, they would result in sexists and other bigots mistakenly assuming that their ideas are valid and worth discussing.

    So, I’ve made it clear that I don’t respect your ideas, at least as you’ve presented them here. What about respecting you as a person? Well, I don’t think you should be denied the protection of the law because of your mistaken and potentially harmful ideas. I respect you enough to clearly explain why I disagree with your ideas. If you respond in an incoherent and irrational fashion, I’ll conclude that you’re not worth that measure of respect, and simply make it clear to you that I prefer not to associate with people who like to make a comfortable and welcoming space in their community for sexists and other bigots. I may do that using polite language or rude language, but the result is the same: these are my values, you don’t share them, leave me alone and I’ll leave you alone.

  19. Ophelia Benson says

    That’s a very good point, Kirth. The bias and halo effect also come into play (this seems obvious, yet it may not be) when one goes off someone – things that seemed quirky and amusing yesterday are tiresome and nasty today (and vice versa, fortunately).

  20. Egbert says

    SallyStrange,

    If you see my comment 6 I said “I don’t think ideas need to be necessarily respected, In fact they can be strongly argued against and condemned, but I did say that others need to be respected as individuals.”

    I am not defending sexism at all, or sexist ideas. I am suggesting, like yourself suggested, that people are equal and therefore are to be treated as individuals and with dignity and respect.

    It might seem a strange thing to do, to treat someone with vile views with respect and dignity, or someone who committed an atrocious act of evil with respect and dignity. I think that is a strange kind of principle and it seems fair that people argue strongly against such a thing.

    It’s a bit like Osama Bin Laden being allowed a full Islamic burial at sea, with all the respect, ceremony and dignity. It’s both bizarre and in a sense an honourable thing to do, to someone who was dishonourable, vile and evil.

  21. SallyStrange says

    I don’t think telling a racist that his ideas are stupid, illogical, and unworthy of respect, and that his continuing embrace of these ideas will likely disqualify him for membership in polite society, qualifies as denying him dignity and respect as a human being. Even if you use a lot of “fuck”s along the way.

    Where’s the hypocrisy, Egbert? How do you define “treating a human being with dignity and respect”?

  22. SallyStrange says

    I am not defending sexism at all, or sexist ideas.

    What if you are, without being aware of the effect of your actions?

  23. Egbert says

    Sally, I get the impression that because you disagree with me, that I am now a sexist or some horrible person. While I might be a horrible person (who knows?), I don’t view women as inferior objects.

    I tried to set out my reasoning (however poorly) in my above comments.

  24. SallyStrange says

    Sally, I get the impression that because you disagree with me, that I am now a sexist or some horrible person. While I might be a horrible person (who knows?), I don’t view women as inferior objects.

    What precisely makes you think this? Quotes please.

  25. says

    That is the reasoning I’m trying to make to show how Gilell’s view is a mature view, and why the argument about rudeness against sexists (or anyone else we disagree with) is a kind of hypocrisy.

    Now, wait, that’s not the argument I made. Maybe I worded it poorly. My argument about respect and “politeness” if you want to call it that is twofold:

    A) Every person has a dignity for the simple reason that they belong to our species. Yes, even Ken Ham. Forcing him to wash himself in a barrel of feces and then drink cow-piss would go against his human dignity, no matter how horrible the man is. His humanity should be respected. His works can be drowned in the shit and piss as a pretty adequate symbol. He can also be called a poopyhead.

    B) The second part was to give people the benefit of doubt and try to find out why they think what they think. Are they ignorant? Have they been brainwashed from early childhood on?* Or are they simply totally unwilling to even make an honest argument, to listen, to debate, to think?
    In the latter, I support and use all the rudeness it takes to chase them away, publicly shun and ridicule them.

    However, I wonder how much of the perceived bad behavior, victimhood, and geekiness in the article referenced are due to simple confirmation bias and/or halo effect from men whom the observer simply finds unattractive?

    Hmm, who said that geek people are short and ugly?
    I think you do have a strong point that people who fall short of mainstream attractiveness do have a harder time, but if I look at other subcultures, this doesn’t seem to hold up.
    Two I’m partly familiar with is “happy medieval pseudo re-enactment” and the other one are goths. In both groups the in-group “normal” is quite different from the out-group normal. And although not as severe as hardcore-geek subculture, there are generally more males than females. Yet the problems don’t seem to exist to that extend (there are idiots everywhere)

    *Since you’ve been following this blog, you’ll have read at least parts of Libby Anne’s writings about her childhood and youth. I went to her blog and read the whole thing and it deeply moved me. When this young woman came to college and spouted out all her ultra-rightwing christian hate about abortion, evolution and gays, was she to blame for it? Or was she a victim?

  26. says

    I think you do have a strong point that people who fall short of mainstream attractiveness do have a harder time, but if I look at other subcultures, this doesn’t seem to hold up.

    Reading this again shows that this makes absolutely no sense. Sorry for the nonsense. I’ll rephrase and then go to bed.

    1)I think you do have a strong point that people who fall short of mainstream attractiveness do have a harder time

    2)but if I look at other subcultures, the idea that it is mostly based on confirmation bias doesn’t seem to hold up

    I hope that makes more sense

  27. Egbert says

    Giliell, I apologize if I misunderstood your points. I tend to skim reading comments and of course I often misunderstand or misinterpret people that I’m unfamiliar with.

  28. SallyStrange says

    Egbert, you strike me as dense and overly self-impressed. You don’t strike me as a rabid misogynist, but the fact that you got all defensive about it doesn’t speak well for either your intentions or your reading comprehension.

  29. Classical Cipher, Murmur Muris, OM says

    Sally, I get the impression that because you disagree with me, that I am now a sexist or some horrible person. While I might be a horrible person (who knows?), I don’t view women as inferior objects.

    Wow, that was really a bizarre misreading on your part, Egbert. To the point of being disingenuous. If you don’t want to be insulted, you might want to try not putting insults in other people’s mouths.

  30. Egbert says

    I don’t think it was bizarre. I think everyone has trouble understanding other people, especially strangers. I understand hostility when it is aimed at me, and it is a game, not rational or civil discussion. It’s an internet game, and that is a game I am trying not to play.

  31. SallyStrange says

    Hey Egbert, if it’s not bizarre, and if it’s just a game, then you should be able to point me to the exact place where I said or implied that I thought you were a horrible person/misogynist.

    What I DID say was that in my opinion, your preferred approach would lead to misogynists feeling encouraged and supported in their toxic views.

    It’s really not difficult, if you think I said X, to quote the passage where I said X.

    If you can’t do that then I’d say you suck at playing this game.

  32. SallyStrange says

    Oh wait: you’re trying NOT to play this game. Well no wonder you suck at it. Sorry, reading too fast.

    In any case, what the fuck are you trying to do?

  33. Kirth Gersen says

    Gilliel, thanks for the clarification. I agree at the level of an in-group microcosm, my assessment of the larger-scale dynamic would be false. I’m also interested in one particular micro-micro interaction, though: that of the “entitled geeks” vis-a-vis Skepticlawyer in particular. In other words, are they labelled as geeks by Skepticlawyer specifically, or are they self-identified as such? Is their sense of entitlement evaluated independently of their bestowed “geek” status? Etc.

    Don’t get me wrong; I know a lot of proudly self-identified “geeks” — the kind people who dress up for Gen Con, etc. — and the level of mysogyny among them seems to be pretty high. I’m not convinced, though, that it’s any higher than the level of mysogeny among, say, self-identified athletes. I’d say that poor behavior and warped thinking is fairly ubiquitous, in fact… and I guess where I’m headed is that it needs to be combatted in general, among all groups, and not simply confined to one specific group that a particular observer seems to dislike to begin with.

Trackbacks

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>