Known (among women at least) as someone to avoid »« The council is leaning

A camel with a hammer offers a tap upside the head

Dan Fincke has a good point in comments on his own post about namecalling on blogs (or on his blog, which comes to the same thing). It’s a point that I probably ought to do a better job of keeping in mind.

The post says don’t call people demeaning names, and says why. (It’s obvious why, of course, but having it spelled out is useful.)

Words like these use emotional violence to coerce people with the aim of driving them into submission. These words aim to do that by demeaning them so that they feel worthless and hated. These words aim to irrationally gain leverage in an argument by making someone feel intellectually insecure and interpersonally rejected if they do not concede the other person’s debating point. These words try to drive people away with hostility. And, finally, these words try to coerce moral agreement by making the implicit threat of stigmatization and ostracism of any who differ.

A commenter makes a distinction between kinds of namecalling.

Stupid, jerk and asshole though? These are NOT minority-bashing words that silence a marginalized group of people. They’re just offensive words (and even there, jerk and stupid are just mildly offensive, IMO).  Sometimes the actions and words of others deserve to be called out for being stupid.  Often, people act in certain ways that are indeed undesirable and they deserve the label of jerk.

Dan rejects the distinction.

Stupid is a serious word that torments more people than tranny does.

And no, it’s not about “playing nice”, it’s about having mature, civil discussions like adults, not like playground bullies.

“Stupid” is just not a word that smart people have ruining their self-esteem from the time they’re little kids.

And even yet, it is a false and belittling word that is counterproductive to constructive discourse. Calling someone stupid tempts them to either slink away in shame or to fight back with equal emotional abuse.

As I said – he has a point.

And another point.

I’m pretty sure, based on my knowledge of human psychology and what other less educated people have indicated to me, that when you belittle other people as stupid those who feel intellectually unequal to you are being made insecure and nervous that you would do the same thing to [them]. It’s bad enough they feel intimidated to begin with. It’s insensitive of you to carelessly use words that relate to their insecurity. They are likely to identify with whomever you’re denigrating and feel at least a twinge of anxiety over it. “Check your privilege” (as the kids like to say).

Yes – that is undeniably a point.

Comments

  1. says

    Excellent post. Any attempt at going meta (talking about who is talking, rather than what points they are making) runs the risk of derailing the conversation, insults doubly so, and slurs most of all.

  2. 'Tis Himself says

    I have seen people be extremely rude without using any naughty words. Lying, logical fallacies, quote mining, ignoring pertinent rebuttals, are all forms of rudeness which don’t entail calling anyone bad names. I would rather have someone use foul language at me while treating my arguments with respect than someone be absolutely correct in their language while indulging in dishonest arguments. But that’s just me. Other people may have other priorities.

  3. says

    D4M10N:

    Any attempt at going meta (talking about who is talking, rather than what points they are making) runs the risk of derailing the conversation…

    Wrong and disingenuous — pointing out dishonest action and calling it dishonest is not a derail, because it is the dishonesty itself that derails the discussion; furthermore, the point was specifically addressing “stupid”.

    “Asshole” and “jerk” == “you are behaving unacceptably”; “stupid” == “you are less intelligent”. The former are social policing, and that’s not wrong unless we actually want assholes and jerks around (and I highly doubt Ophelia does). If someone is being dishonest, has it explained to them repeatedly, and they keep doubling down, then they are an asshole who does not deserve to take part in the discussion because they are doing nothing but holding it in place. It is not wrong to tell assholes to go be assholes somewhere else if the community wants to make itself asshole-free.

    And, really, why shouldn’t a community endeavor to be asshole-free?

  4. Ken Pidcock says

    And, really, why shouldn’t a community endeavor to be asshole-free?

    Yeah, but it’s reasonable to ask how that’s best achieved. In my experience, assholes thrive on personal conflict. Admittedly, my experience is limited, but I’ve never witnessed an asshole called to account. If they could be…

  5. quietmarc says

    ‘Tis Himself @2: Are they mutually exclusive? Why can’t a blog discourage name-calling while at the same time discourage the type of rudeness you’re talking about?

  6. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    After the hideous behavior you’ve dished out to feminists through your participation in the #FTBullies hashtag, and you expect to show up here and affect concern for high-minded dialoque, #1? As though no one would remember you?

    The living end.

  7. says

    I sorta kinda like it, but I think it’s not without problems.

    The main problem is that it requires heavy and thoughtful moderation, so it’s only suitable for lightly-trafficked blogs. It’s too easy for rules-lawyers to game. A bully issues non-banned verbal abuse until a target snaps – and then the target of the bully is banned. A very common pattern.

    I really do wish there were a distinction drawn between the personal and group insults. There’s an important qualitative difference between “cunt” and “fuckwit”.

  8. karmakin says

    I thought the same thing Josh.

    In any case, there are about a billion ways to be rude…even if you’re just going to cut out “insults” where you draw the line is going to be contentious in and of itself, and it really does open the door to it being an unconscious double standard. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with such a policy, but like everything else, the devil is in the details.

    I mean, the obvious question here…is calling someone a misogynist a slur? It’s the same as calling someone a jerk or an asshole I think.

  9. says

    I’m familiar with the bully-until-they-snap problem, and I won’t be giving that a pass.

    A more general problem I have is simply wanting to express anger and wanting to leave room for other people to do that. But I think we can probably figure out how to do that without namecalling.

    Let’s try to shift ourselves in that direction and see how it goes, eh?

    Mind you, the windows are open and there’s some tiny child down the hill who’s been squeaking and skreeking for the past hour and I long to shout obscenities out the window at her. But I shall refrain.

  10. 'Tis Himself says

    quietmarc #6

    Are they mutually exclusive? Why can’t a blog discourage name-calling while at the same time discourage the type of rudeness you’re talking about?

    It’s my experience that many blogmeisters will wield the banhammer for naughty words while ignoring dishonest arguments. I’ve left one rather famous blog when the blog owner threatened to ban me for calling someone an asshole when xe continued to use fallacies after these fallacies were pointed out.

    Yes, in a perfect world we’d all be nice to each other, not using bad language or mendacious arguments. In reality, the general concern is with form rather than substance. How something is said is deemed more important than what is said.

  11. says

    No, calling someone a misogynist is not a slur. Neither is calling someone a libertarian, a socialist, an anarchist, a Tory, a Democrat, a Republican…you get the idea.

  12. 'Tis Himself says

    Ophelia, I think by now you’d know me well enough to know that I’m not bashful about calling someone out for dishonest arguments.

  13. karmakin says

    That makes sense, so it depends on the usage. If it’s used as describing someone’s ideology, it’s treated like other ideologies.

  14. Wowbagger, Deputy Vice-President (Silencing) says

    As I’ve said on Twitter, not getting emotional about social justice is a luxury only those who don’t need it changed in their favour have – and I think that’s an aspect Daniel is forgetting. Sure, it’s nice to want a level playing field, but that seems to ignore the reality of what’s going on in meatspace.

    People have a right to be angry at injustice, and it’s wrong to equate appropriate anger at dishonesty that perpetuates that injustice with the actions those who prompt that anger – calling someone a bigot for using a gay or racist slur, for example.

    Also, like ‘Tis at #7 pointed out, it’s easy to pick out the people using words on the ‘bad words’ list; it’s much more difficult to weed out the dishonest, JAQ-off, hyperskeptical rules-lawyers whose polite-but-profound lies are far more derailing and harmful than swearing – apart from anything else it reveals them for what they are, which is important when you’re dealing with fence-sitters who aren’t familiar with those particular techniques.

    It’s shorthand, in a way. A means to flag someone as dishonest so anyone reading their comments can apply a more critical approach to see what’s really going on.

    Daniel’s blog has already been gamed by someone using what he’s written, and you’ve already got one of the most profoundly dishonest commenters floating around the intertubes right now praising this at comment #1.

  15. Wowbagger, Deputy Vice-President (Silencing) says

    I think Daniel also has the luxury of not being anywhere near as big a target for scumbags dishonest commenters as you do, given he hasn’t been prominent in the current kerfuffle.

  16. Eidolon says

    O.K. I usually just lurk but I want to add a couple of ideas here. First, as soon as there is any disagreement with anyone, there is often this stream of insults often based on the word ‘fuck’ or ‘douche’. I have to say that this sort of snappy dialog is about what you’d expect to hear from 7th graders who have discovered them just recently. This is not not a substitute for actually thinking and debating.

    As for using name calling as a label – I think that is dishonest BECAUSE it only reflects your opinion with nothing factual to back it up. See what I did there? I used the magic word BECAUSE and then said why I thought it was dishonest.It may be emotionally satisfying but it gives no information beyond the fact that you are angry.

    I think the changes considered can prove to be positive because it can move the dialog forward.

  17. nohellbelowus says

    @2:

    Word.

    Add clever, “sophisticated” insults to your list, too. It’s the intent behind the words that matters most. I, like you apparently, try to parse an argument no matter what kind of language is employed. I might ask someone to cease and desist with insults simply to expedite things and for reasons of clarity, but I’ll never use my objections to tone as a counterargument.

    I’ve made the following point in other threads, in a different context: people need training in how to interact properly online (if in fact there is a “proper” way). Reading blogs, or watching videos doesn’t constitute real practice for learning how to write online with passion and conviction, or for how to participate in online debates. One simply has to submit posts, and then reply to the responses from others, often including trolls and other people who may vehemently disagree.

    Over the last few years, I’ve seen remarkable changes in the way some people express themselves (I’m also looking directly in the mirror). I know my own progress is due to a significant amount of practice online. If I had the time, a longitudinal study could be performed to track a given sample of online participants, to see how their modes of expression evolved or improved with time and effort, in terms of the amount of insults and abusive language.

    The data from this study could then be used to calculate the average “time constant” of “etiquette evolution” for new posters, so that blog veterans could then simply check their calendars and say “Keep working on it, asshole. You’ll get there.”

    (Just a bit of humor on that last point! And if somebody now uses that line on me, go peel Ray Comfort’s banana.)

  18. Ockham's Soul Patch says

    One way to avoid name-calling is to call out behavior, rather than labeling a person. “That was a dick move”, rather than “You’re a dick.”

  19. Wowbagger, Deputy Vice-President (Silencing) says

    Eidolon wrote:

    First, as soon as there is any disagreement with anyone, there is often this stream of insults often based on the word ‘fuck’ or ‘douche’.

    I don’t believe it happens ‘often’ here at B&W. Elsewhere, sure – but not here.

    I have to say that this sort of snappy dialog is about what you’d expect to hear from 7th graders who have discovered them just recently.

    Have you considered that there are people who might have a reason for being angry and expressing it using those sorts of words?

  20. LeftSidePositive says

    I think that is dishonest BECAUSE it only reflects your opinion with nothing factual to back it up.

    This is an embarrassing false dichotomy that is utterly unworthy of utterance in any skeptic forum. There is no reason whatsoever that profanity may not be surrounded by valid and thoughtful argument, and profanity in no way precludes the words around it from having meaning, any more than the words “you” or “topography” do. Moreover, an argument from assertion–or just a flat-out-lie–may be phrased in the most polite Oxford-style English but that is no guarantee that there is anything factual to back it up.

    You have tried to collapse two completely orthogonal vectors (tone, substance) and tried to pretend they are one and the same, and we will not tolerate such pathetic, lazy thinking here.

  21. Eidolon says

    left side @23

    I’ll ask what additional information apart from your anger does calling someone an “asshole” for example convey?

    I am unsure why you see that as a dicotomy – I have said that I consider a statement dishonest. I have said It is dishonest because no facts have been offered in support. This is not an either/or. Now – if you see that as a dicotomy – a forced choice please elaborate.

  22. smhll says

    @23

    I think it could be useful to ask that insults be connected to reasons for the insults.

    One commmenter saying “fuck off”, makes it clear that one would like it if the other poster left the thread or stopped posting. It doesn’t convey much other than disapproval.

    Saying that one poster is an asshole or an asshole with terrible ideas is okay with me, but I would suggest that saying someone is an asshole BECAUSE ___ or someone’s idea is flawed BECAUSE ___ conveys extra information of a useful variety.

    (I think advanced feminists and humanists can catch an unfortunate or unpleasant implication in a sentence much faster than a social justice noob can stop to reflect. Yes, the trolls are falsely disingenious, but some of the more honest people on the wrong side of history are just actually dense (or young and ignorant), IMO. I have sometimes been tempted to post in words of one syllable. People who have been referred to Feminism 101 links but have been too lazy/impatient to read them likely don’t have sufficient background to understand some of the replies they get. No one must spoon feed them, yet they seem to choke on anything smaller than ideas that are broken down into very tiny pieces.

    I don’t want to offend the non trolling “opposition” — many of you are not dumb — but I have seen some astonishingly dim (and unsupported arguments) made. I mean jawdroppingly cliched and ill-thought through.

  23. karmakin says

    I think advanced feminists and humanists can catch an unfortunate or unpleasant implication in a sentence much faster than a social justice noob can stop to reflect.

    It’s not just noobs.

    It might be better to say that it’s easier to see something when we’re actively looking for it or on guard from it. That’s not always a bad thing, of course.

    I may be a bit on the jaded side right now, considering that it seems to be a pattern for me right now, but there’s a quite a bit of bruhaha going on right now about in-group/out-group dynamics. The problem with these types of policies, that even if they are well intended (and I think that this is), it can easily result in an opposite result, which is creating a more insular “circlejerk” as they call it in some circles. It can also result in a “safe space” not actually being a safe space which is really bad because it means that people can and will get blindsided.

    I’d highly suggest Natalie’s post on trigger warnings (and the comments) for a good discussion on how such concepts can go horribly wrong, when we take these things for granted.

  24. says

    I enthusiastically agree with Dan Fincke (not as a person, just the ideas).

    Additionally, I don’t enjoy seeing “I didn’t say what you didn’t say that I didn’t say” pollution. The thread would be a lot easier to follow if all parties simply restated (with fresh clarification) what they actually mean to say, irrespective of precisely how it had been previously misunderstood.

  25. says

    I notice no one has addressed the point I made in comment #3.

    Calling someone “stupid” is an insult because you’re saying they’re of lesser intelligence than you.

    Calling someone “asshole” or “jerk” is not, because you’re telling them that they’re behaving unacceptably.

    Before laying an ‘insult’, ask yourself the following questions:
    1. Has the person been given an explanation of what they are doing, and a fair chance to work through this explanation and get it?

    2. Have I accounted for the person’s past behaviour, and given them appropriate credit?

    3. Am I telling the person anything other than that their behaviour is unacceptable?

  26. Silentbob says

    @ 30 Setár

    You forgot question #4:

    “Why am I trying so desperately to rationalise being rude when I know perfectly well that all I have to say is, ‘I find that behaviour unacceptable’?”

  27. maureen.brian says

    Let’s see if we can get at this by turning it around a little. That turning comes in the form of questions to sensible people like Eidolon and Daniel Fincke, whom I like but with whom I do not always agree.

    Question One: Suppose that in a blog discussion I make a point, any point about anything. Someone comes along and quibbles and over the course of a couple of hundred comments I take 20 opportunities to clarify, to rephrase, to provide links, to point out his sloppy language and his logical fallacy. Suppose I spotted long ago that his case, if he were defend it at all, would depend upon some theory long since discredited – the inheritance of acquired characteristics, the notion that IQ tests record some inherent quality of the brain, say – but he refuses to defend. In fact, he refuses to direct a reply to any specific point made by someone with a “woman’s name” though his sniping is sort of uni-directional.

    Throughout, he has not used a single rude word. At what point am I allowed to call this person a shit and do I need the permission of a third party to do so?

    Question Two: Does politeness itself have an intrinsic value so great that it over-rides all the times that the pretence of it has been used to keep people in their place, to other, to put someone off their stroke in an argument, to dog-whistle in an army of others who also have no interest in either fact or philosophy but are equally keen to put down this uppity woman, Black person, gay bloke over there?

    If that intrinsic value exists, when is it usefully deployed? In a written medium, shouldn’t a distinction be made between deliberate rudeness and ripe language and can attention to the verbal dimension only of politeness silence those who most need to be heard?

    (Remember that I am in the UK where I have been watching Mr Romney upset everyone in sight while his language remained as clean as his magic underwear.)

  28. says

    I’m finding myself wondering if Dan ever read Greta’s post on Atheists and Anger.

    Anger is a valuable thing, a powerful thing. It conveys passion for what you believe in. No, it’s not an alternative to actual arguing, but for the most part it isn’t used like that. It’s used as an enhancement, on top of fully thought out arguments. It takes it from “Here’s what I think” to “here’s what I think, and I am damned passionate about it.”

    There are a lot of problems with implying that everyone needs to be nice about everything. Some arguments, sure, it can be a nice polite debate. Maybe Dan’s posts are all about topics like that, things uncontroversial that don’t spark fierce attitudes. I don’t know for sure, because I’ve never been particularly compelled to read his blog.

    But for a lot of topics anger is insanely warranted, and calling people out for justified anger is really just wrong. Take for instance, on the topic of homosexuality, how many homophobes are so fond of ‘Well geee, I’m entitled to my opinion!”

    Are we supposed to respond with “Well okay, you’re entitled to your opinion?” “I find your position to be incorrect” ?

    Those are totally devoid of any meaning behind the words. Treating debates like that implies that the topics at hand are trivial or debatable, that it’s all just an academic exercise and that the results do not affect anyone. In a lot of cases, that is not true, and it’s in these cases that the vitriol (or ‘rudeness’) comes out so much, and is so valid.

    And in those cases, when it’s one side against another and one side is spewing hateful garbage (even if it’s polite) are people really supposed to act entirely detached in an attempt to not be ‘rude’? Is it really so wrong to tell someone who is saying stupid, hateful things that they are making a stupid argument and that they’re being complete assholes? When it is entirely true?

    I’m also finding myself wondering if Dan’s afraid of heights, because my is he on a high privilege-podium.

    Really? Stupid is just as bad as ‘tranny’? ‘Tranny’ doesn’t torment as many people as stupid does? The number of people tormented by ‘Tranny’ matters?!

    Stupid carries with it a culture that treats people with contempt, that meets people with violence for the crime of trying to pursue happiness as best they can, that murders people for what they are? A culture that treats human beings as less than that?

    Calling someone stupid reminds them of the hatred and fear that they face in their every day lives because of what they are? Makes them feel unwelcome in society, reminds them of multiple instances of when this feeling was affirmed?

    Really?

    That? That is fucking stupid, and Dan is an asshole for even the slight implication of such. And I find no issue with saying so, because what Dan is saying is echelons more rude and hateful.

    To think he even uses the phrase “Check your privilege”. It’s so clear that he’s never done so.

  29. says

    Oh, and more on why it’s so wrong to get pissy over rudeness-

    One huge damn annoyance faced by feminists is the idea that anger is “un-ladylike”. As such, the ability to be unabashedly mad and raw when arguing for feminism is liberating and fantastic, and hearing nonsense about rudeness can sound a lot like hearing arguments about being ‘ladylike’.

    Something Dan clearly does not and cannot understand.

  30. says

    Maureen – good questions. There’s a kind of passive-aggressive hyper-“politeness” that can be a lot more irritating than the common or garden kind, especially when it’s combined with a self-admiring and prolix rhetorical style as if the writer fancies her/himself a close cousin of Samuel Johnson or at least Oscar Wilde.

    I’m not going to rule out telling such people they’re being shits.

    I’m not really declaring new rules – not least because I haven’t really declared old rules. I guess I prefer to keep things flexible. I’m suggesting a nudge in a better direction, I suppose. Including to myself.

  31. says

    While I disagree with Dan on a lot of points, if he wants a debate format (which appears to be his goal) then having some tighter controls on conduct make sense. The kind of debate he’s looking for isn’t going to occur where people are strongly emotionally invested or focusing on individuals instead of ideas.

    It’s fine for his own space and his rules seem reasonable for achieving his goals. When I’m looking for a dispassionate debate, I know where to go.

    The question is: Do you share the same goals? “You’re being too emotional” is a classic derailing tactic. It also makes it much more difficult for minorities to engage in a discussion, because while the white/straight/cis/male/middle class/what-have-you people can keep their cool, since they’re unaffected by the topic, those who are actively victimized by a system have a much harder time not being emotionally invested. It’s not an abstract topic being discussed; it’s their lives.

    Someone might avoid using the word “tranny”, but discuss in a perfectly calm and polite tone that transsexuals shouldn’t be allowed near children. No personal insult is being made from the privileged viewpoint, but from the viewpoint of every single transsexual that is a personal insult, as well as just another one of the aggressive acts of the majority to keep them marked as subhuman.

    It’s devastating and cruel, but it’s polite. This is one of the reasons why I’ve never really gotten behind trying to limit the language of others or encourage them to use more humanizing speech. It doesn’t change the underlying bigotry; it only helps mask it and allows people who are doing very little to feel accomplished for no other reason than that they avoided a slur. Someone can refrain from calling me a dyke or my partner a tranny. Grand. That doesn’t mean they’re treating us as human beings, though. It might be “polite”, but it isn’t civil and it isn’t helping anyone except the majority.

    Politeness automatically favors the majority because of this. It masks bigotry and allows people to appear reasonable as they discuss horribly dehumanizing ideas, while gagging the oppressed because they might just be too angry to respond in the same dispassionate tones.

    I’m not saying that insults and swearing need to be allowed to give a voice to minorities–I have a foul-mouth, but don’t generally engage in direct insults and still manage to express myself–but it definitely is a more complex issue than just forbidding certain types of language.

  32. Makoto says

    I think the point is anger isn’t the same as rudeness. I can channel my anger into deep research to disprove point by point some screed by someone I vehemently disagree with. Or I could take the shortcut and insult them. I think the point by point approach helps more – perhaps not the person I disagree with, but in the end, I feel better (I’ve taken the time to prove my point), and maybe someone else will read what I wrote and say “huh, maybe that other poster was wrong, I should do some more reading”. Just insulting someone doesn’t often lead to external research.

  33. Dave says

    The meta-meta point, if I may, is this: do you expect your contribution to be merely part of a never-ending stream of discourse that is essentially irrelevant to material reality, or do you expect it to be political?

    Because if it’s political, you will end up in a situation, hopefully [because if not you really are wasting your time] when some people have to be coerced into doing what you want. Even if all you want them to do is “peacefully accept the existence of gay marriage/atheism in public life/women with opinions…” Some of them you may persuade, but some of them you will have to coerce. Even if that coercion takes the indirect form of tactfully-worded policies. They will have to be enforced, or they will have no effect.

    So, discussion about the infinitely-expandable boundaries of the possibility of remaining polite is nice, but if you want such discussion to ever get outside the bubble of mere talk, politeness will never be enough. Sooner or later, one must be the stronger party, or one loses. If politeness is a tactic in gaining support, all well and good. If it is an end in itself, then it is an ever-decreasing circle.

  34. says

    Dave – the second.

    But…I think that coercion happens partly because of discussion. Discussion changes social pressure, and social pressure coerces. In fact discussion can be a form of social pressure.

    Lots of things combine to make that coercion happen, but discussion is one of them.

    I agree that politeness can be a tool for shutting up angry underlings (@ 37). A guy who used to comment here was a classic example of that – long wordy patronizing guff ‘splaining why sexism isn’t. Easy for him.

  35. karmakin says

    @34: One of the big problems is a lack of awareness (or maybe just self-awareness) about intersectionality. There’s a lot of privilege scales out there, and just because you’re OK on a few or even most of them, doesn’t mean that you got that privilege thing solved.

    In this case, you have someone that has a slight case of academic privilege. (If more extreme examples make it clearer, the anti-FTB writings of John Loftus come to mind).

  36. Emburii says

    I actually feel this way about how the word ‘misogynist’ gets used for anyone who disagrees with a feminist position. The word implies flat-out hatred and ill-will, and seems more likely to turn people off who might be disagreeing based on acculturation or privilege. Now, it’s certainly accurate for some people (Justicar, johngreg, Hoggle), but other times I’ve seen it thrown at people who merely seem clueless rather than malicious. I’m not going to tell people not to say it, but evaluating whether it seems too strong a term sometimes might be appropriate?

    (I waited a day or two to post this because I was and am a little worried about how it’ll be taken. I pretty much expect to get flamed, and I’m usually one of your supporters when I do comment).

  37. says

    One problem I see is that people like “winners”, and often take the side of the people who display a clarity of purpose and righteous passion… even if they don’t have the facts on their side. You can be technically correct, but if you come off as weak or uncommitted a lot of people won’t listen to you. There are people who reject “emotional arguments”… and as long as those people are happy with the status quo they’re fine. If they actually want to change anything, they have almost certainly chosen to lose by not using one of the most powerful weapons they’ve got.

  38. says

    Emburii #42:

    I actually feel this way about how the word ‘misogynist’ gets used for anyone who disagrees with a feminist position. The word implies flat-out hatred and ill-will…

    This is a category error. “You are being misogynist” =/= “you are a misogynist”. The latter is what implies hatred and ill will. The former is simply a statement that the person’s actions are misogynist regardless of intent.

  39. says

    This is reminding me of a scene in the book The Wars, where Lt. Ross is getting orders from Cpt. Leather on how to deal with a German attack. When Ross is watching Leather make decisions, he is astounded by the fact that Leather is going through tactical motions that completely ignore the state of the battlefield.

    Fincke has dropped the ball hard by not accounting for “asshole/jerk”. I second the point that he’s expressing academic privilege; he does not have to deal directly with most of these issues because he’s safe and sound in his professorship, and is condescending to those of us on the front lines who actually have to deal with it — not least of which because many of us are actually members of these marginalized groups while Fincke is still a white male.

    I understand the need to use less pure insults, but can we please ditch this assumption that we’re working with perfectly spherical cows, or rather perfectly rational minds, and admit that some people won’t shape up and thus have to be made to ship out? We use the term “straw Vulcan” for a reason, after all…

  40. Emburii says

    Setar, I understand what you’re saying and I think maybe I’m not explaining it clearly. An example is how someone says ‘I don’t think women should be getter special opportunities, just equal ones, and feminism wants to give them special treatment and that’s condescending and wharglebarlll…’, and they are called a misogynist because by disagreeing with feminism, by definition they must be one. ‘Misogynistic’ is a pretty strong term for this, though, and telling someone they hate women when they know they don’t have any such strong animosity doesn’t make a better argument. Said blatherer about special treatment and so forth is still wrong, of course, but there are better ways to make the argument.

  41. Michael M says

    If people who want to be confrontational when engaging creationists want to paralell creationist discourse with a pigeon defecating on a chess board, why do they get upset when someone else points out that behaving like the pigeon is especially unbecoming of the human player?

  42. says

    Emburii #46:

    ‘Misogynistic’ is a pretty strong term for this, though, and telling someone they hate women when they know they don’t

    That’s the same category error. You’re not paying attention. Read again:

    “You are being misogynist” =/= “you are a misogynist”. The latter is what implies hatred and ill will. The former is simply a statement that the person’s actions are misogynist regardless of intent.

    The problem isn’t the people calling out misogyny, it’s that the people responding make category errors and assume that the accusation is one of intent, not one of action.

    What you’re telling me is that we shouldn’t expect people to have enough reading comprehension to tell the difference between “are being” and “are a”. I reject this, because this isn’t first grade. If you can’t tell the difference between “you are being…” and “you are a…” your problems have less to do with social justice specifically than with your education period.

  43. todd says

    Grimalkin:
    “Calling someone stupid reminds them of the hatred and fear that they face in their every day lives because of what they are? Makes them feel unwelcome in society, reminds them of multiple instances of when this feeling was affirmed?”

    Stupid is a word I’ve called myself since I was a child. I knew I wanted to be smart, but I couldn’t do it, no matter how much I tried. I struggled through school, with teachers complaining that I was much smarter than a C average student. I tried college, but failed miserably my first year. It wasn’t until I discovered I had ADHD that everything made sense. I’m not stupid. In fact, I’m actually pretty smart at some rather peculiar things. Still, I struggle with a heavy duty inferiority complex because I can’t “buckle down” and “apply myself”.

    Whenever I see that word, I think of how stupid I am compared to all the people who are so much smarter than me, because they didn’t waste their childhood staring out the window in school and now have lot’s of nice degrees proving how smart they are. I don’t have those. I went back to night school to get my degree at a small liberal arts college and ended up graduating with a worthless magna cum laude on my diploma. Worthless because I didn’t learn anything new. I was too stupid to take courses that required me to challenge myself. That would have required “buckling down” and “applying myself”. I can’t do that because I’m fucking stupid. The diploma is a lie and I’m a fraud.

    What’s my point? If you want to describe bigotry, plus use a different word. Stupid is an incredibly painful word with massive collateral damage for anyone with a learning disability of any sort. I hate that word almost as much as I hate the word smart. But that’s another rant.

  44. says

    Emburii, I’m not going to flame you! And I agree with you, at least I think so – I don’t think the kind of antifeminism that starts with confusion about feminism is, is misogynist.

    I suppose literally the other kinds aren’t necessarily misogynist either, but at this stage of the game…well, I have a hard time seeing how they can quite help it.

  45. Emburii says

    Setar, the discussion isn’t always so clear-cut. That’s also assuming that people can easily separate the difference between behavior and self and arguments can become very heated very quickly with such distinctions getting lost in the fray. That’s not really about education so much as human nature. ‘Misogynist’ is a very strong term that is likely to be perceived badly in such circumstances. This doesn’t make it wrong, but I do question its application as a primary attack.

    Ophelia, that’s a good way to put it; that confusion isn’t necessarily hatred. This doesn’t mean I think the word should never be used (as noted, it’d be hard to assume anything other than malice befitting the term on the parts of Justicar or johngreg or Hoggle), but I do feel it’s overused and is counterproductive for the same reasons that Daniel doesn’t like ‘stupid’.

  46. LeftSidePositive says

    @Eidolon #25

    I’ll ask what additional information apart from your anger does calling someone an “asshole” for example convey?

    It communicates that you think they are behaving in a socially unacceptable manner. It communicates that certain behavior is harmful to others and indicative of a number of undesirable character traits including, but not limited to: selfishness, inconsiderateness, mean-spiritedness, rudeness, pomposity, etc., etc., etc.

    I am unsure why you see that as a dicotomy – I have said that I consider a statement dishonest.

    You also seem to have no idea what “dishonest” means. “Dishonest” is when one says something that is not true, or is likely to be interpreted in a way that is not true. Saying something without backing it up is lazy, but it is not dishonest.

    I have said It is dishonest because no facts have been offered in support.

    And this is where you make your utterly embarrassing error. For you to assume that no facts are offered in support of someone being called an asshole is CODSWALLOP, and shows severely deficient thinking on your part. No one word in the English language could POSSIBLY be expected to communicate both what you think of someone and why you think it. (German, maybe not!) Even just the word “incorrect,” which is about as polite as possible, needs other words around it to show why one is incorrect to give it any value. As I have already explained to you, there is nothing in profanity or invective that prevents the surrounding words from communicating all the substantive support, and you have quite obtusely stated that name-calling MUST INHERENTLY mean that no real argument is being provided IN ADDITION to the profanity, and that is simply nonsense.

    You also fail to understand that a strong assessment of someone’s intellectual shortcomings is necessary to ground the discussion and clearly state limits of what kind of dishonesty/bigotry/intellectual laziness will not be tolerated. If all you provide is long-winded explanations without a clear thesis of what you’re trying to communicating (including the full linguistic power of why someone is not only factually, but morally, wrong in what they are arguing or how they are arguing), readers will get lost and people can pretend that one is more tolerant of their viewpoint than one really is (for instance, when Richard Carrier basically handed Thunderf00t’s ass to him, but did so in a very academic tone, Thunderf00t’s fans insisted that Richard Carrier agreed with them even though he was criticizing every single piece of Thunderf00t’s argument, but he didn’t straight up offer his (apparent) thesis that Thunderf00t was being a mendacious, sexism-denying, rape-culture-enabling, privileged twit, so his supporters could selectively interpret what he was saying).

  47. LeftSidePositive says

    @smhll, #26:

    I think it could be useful to ask that insults be connected to reasons for the insults.

    I agree, and I hold myself to this rigorously. HOWEVER, Eidolon was not saying this–he was saying that insults CATEGORICALLY did not include the reasons for insults, and were therefore “dishonest” (which is a category error to boot!).

  48. says

    Left –

    @Eidolon #25

    I’ll ask what additional information apart from your anger does calling someone an “asshole” for example convey?

    It communicates that you think they are behaving in a socially unacceptable manner.

    Actually no. What would convey that is “you’re being an asshole.” Not you are one. People have said that before, but clearly it’s worth repeating. I think that distinction matters enormously. I know for a fact that I take criticism in that form a fuck of a lot better than I take it in the ontological version.

  49. says

    I’m a bit surprised you’re so completely on board with the line of reasoning Dan is pursuing there, about generic, individualized insults being perfectly comparable.

    Haven’t you been pretty consistently a whole lot more angry by those who refer to you by the c-word, and hurt by those who’ve defended them, than anyone calling you “stupid”?

  50. LeftSidePositive says

    Ophelia, I agree to a certain extent, but at a point, what are we other than what we do? I feel that once a behavior is frequent or severe enough (and especially if it is intentional) it does in fact reflect on the person themselves. If we insist on NEVER talking about what kind of *person* is making faulty, dishonest, bigoted, derailing arguments, we are still treating very toxic people as legitimate contributors to debate, and once behavior becomes too egregious, I feel that this distinction no longer holds. Humans are social animals and we care about our reputations and how our character is perceived, but if we can maintain our self-image and act as though our opinions are somehow separate from who we are and that we are not responsible as people for how we act and what we believe, then there is much less social cost to saying and doing things that are dishonest and/or harmful to others.

  51. says

    “Stupid is a serious word that torments more people than tranny does.”

    And really, your reaction to this is “he has a point”?

    Not “he has some issues with understanding good taste and what is or is not a reasonable analogy to make”?

  52. (e)m says

    @49 Todd
    I see your point and understand how you have problems with people using the word stupid as an insult. However, the word stupid isn’t usually the prelude to a beating or worse. Daniel Fincke said, “Stupid is a serious word that torments more people than tranny does.” He is technically correct, but very wrong because of the nature and severity of how stupid is used is not even close to how “tranny” is. Stupid is a common insult, but “tranny” is a threat. To treat the two as even on the same level is mind boggling. You don’t have to worry about passing as smart to avoid being beaten, raped or murdered. I suffer from ADD and dysgraphia. I have been called stupid by many people. I vilify myself as stupid pretty often as well. Most of the people I know these days consider me pretty damn smart, but I have had to overcome many hurdles in order to get to this point. This can not even compare to the threat of being called a “tranny.” I am afraid to pursue, or even think about transitioning due to societal pressures. Every time I hear that slur, I die a little inside, and feel like I just have to accept that I will always have to live as the gender I was assigned at birth. This complicated further by the fact that I’m bi-gender. Do you have any idea what gender dysphoria is like? You can call me a coward, you can call me stupid, but please don’t call me a tranny.

  53. Marta says

    Name-calling is name-calling, but it’s just weak-sauce to refuse to make a distinction between “asshole” and “cunt”. It’s arguable that a useful purpose is served by name-calling of any type, other than as an expression of frustration and/or anger. Calling me stupid, on the other hand, or dumb, or the like usually makes me shrug, but calling me a cunt makes me want to kick the name-caller’s teeth out.

  54. Josh Slocum says

    Natalie is right. Fincke’s inability to distinguish between the levels of harm in “stupid” and “tranny” is ethically appalling. And his double-down in the comments proves her right again; he’s so high up on Mount Privilege he can’t see the little ants at his feet.

    It is possible to state that you’re not going to tolerate certain kinds of language without making false moral equivalencies and dismissing important differences in verbal violence. Fincke’s post was not that.

  55. says

    Something tells me that we’ve hit a massive blind spot with regards to trans issues. I wonder what.

    Stupid is a serious word that torments more people than tranny does.

    Oh. Yeah. That.

    “Stupid” is bad. I’ve been saying that all thread.

    But “stupid” is barely comparable to “tranny”. Hell, even though it’s potentially ableist, it doesn’t compare to other ableist slurs, most of which used to be actual diagnostic categories.

    Dan, Ophelia, this is a massive fail =/

  56. says

    Did I say I was “completely on board”? I said he has a point.

    Yes, I think “cunt” is worse, but Dan’s point suggests to me that I may underestimate the badness of “stupid.” I didn’t grow up being called stupid, and Dan points out that that too is a form of privilege.

  57. says

    Okay. I mean, I get the idea that “stupid” isn’t necessarily an innocuous term. That’s an interesting question to raise. But I’m sure you can understand why I found the way Dan phrased that to be pretty horribly insensitive, and the doubling-down he’s been doing over there, including directly arguing that there aren’t any meaningful differences, with no acknowledgment that there was anything wrong with what he said… well, it steers things pretty far away from simply asserting that “stupid” might be something worth taking more seriously. And for you to quote that particular statement without any acknowledgment of the insensitivity, tastelessness and implications of equivalence, did end up coming across as approval, or at least an absence of noticing the pretty serious problems.

  58. 'Tis Himself says

    I believe Dan’s point is that there are more stupid people than transgender people. As a result, the umbrage at being called stupid is more widespread than the threat of being called tranny. So what if there are more stupid people than transgender people? Many stupid people don’t recognize their stupidity.¹ Most if not all transgender people recognize being called tranny as a threat.²

    ¹Kruger, Justin & David Dunning (1999). “Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One’s Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments”. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 77 (6): 1121–34.

    ²(e)m post 58 supra.

  59. says

    Someone calling me a muppet, stupid, imbecile – okay, I don’t like it but it’s qualitatively different from being told “calm down, love” or any sexist put down – that really throws me into a rage. “Stupid” is individual – and even may be reasonable as there are a lot of subjects I am stupid about. “Calm down, love” simply says, you are an inferior, hysterical being by nature of your gender. It’s insulting in a totally different way.

  60. Marta says

    But don’t we learn in grammar school not to call people “stupid” or “idiot” or “moron”? Generally, we all know that this kind of name-calling is uncivil, don’t we? The distinction to make is between what is rude and uncivil versus what is de-humanizing, which is speech of a higher order of magnitude altogether. “Cunt”, “nigger”, “tranny” are words that are designed to dehumanize–to make the person they’re aimed at into “things”, rather than people. There may be a point in making “stupid” and “tranny” equivalent, but it gets by me.

  61. mandrellian says

    Josh 6 & Wowbagger 16:

    Glad I wasn’t the only one who noticed. Some peoples’ concern for elevating the discourse really does ring hollow given their twitter track record.

  62. says

    Also, I don’t think his point meshes with how I define and understand privilege. Privilege, at least as I’ve always understood it, involves significant and consistent assignment of advantages to one class of human beings at the expense of another. As such, it is not simply having a single benefit, even inheriting a single benefit, that someone else did not. This is why I don’t take concepts like “female privilege” seriously, even if there are some circumstances where it is occasionally beneficial to be female or read as such.

    Also, him citing “privilege” like that, at the same time as reacting with anger to those pointing out how his own views here are pretty noticeably coloured by his own, along with misapplication of terms like “being silenced”, seems to me to be veering very dangerously close to the topsy-turvy, inversions of social justice language we see amongst MRAs, the tea party, ERV, etc. “Persecuted Christians”, “female privilege”, “reverse racism”, etc. Him using those terms to make a point, and shield it from disagreement, from a position of relative power and privilege is something I see as an extremely dangerous road to start walking down. Not in the least in how it can discredit such terms or drain them of meaning.

  63. says

    Marta, yes, but then on the internet we unlearn it again!

    I thought Dan had pointed out a blind spot of mine. That’s all. No that doesn’t mean I think “tranny” and “cunt” are trivial, or comparable. I don’t think that.

  64. says

    P.S. Even just seeing the word “tranny” used as frequently as this in a discussion, absent of malice, hostility or anyone actually being called that, is extremely uncomfortable….

  65. says

    Natalie, where did Dan misuse “being silenced”? I just did a search and I don’t find it.

    I didn’t see him doubling down when I read the comments yesterday – he was just insisting that all name-calling is bad and he didn’t want to divert the subject to which is worse. I don’t really agree, but I don’t see that as doubling down.

  66. says

    He used “silenced” towards the bottom, in reaction to my comment where I said he had “pretty epically dropped the ball” and asked him to try to listen to those with direct experience of slurs vs. generic insults.

    He said I was “trying to silence him” in response, which is IMO a pretty big misuse of the term, since I generally understand it as people in a position of power using that power to, well, silence particular dissenting voices in a discourse, not simply someone responding negatively to something someone said. It seems an awful lot like people saying “free speech!” in similar contexts.

  67. says

    @73 – That wasn’t directed at you or anyone in particular. It was just an aside, because I had noticed myself feeling really anxious seeing it being used so much, and I thought that in itself was a pretty telling example of how much of a gulf exists between the intensity of slurs like that and casual, generic insults like “stupid”.

  68. (e)m says

    @70 Natalie Reed

    P.S. Even just seeing the word “tranny” used as frequently as this in a discussion, absent of malice, hostility or anyone actually being called that, is extremely uncomfortable….

    Me too. It hurt me to write it and I am sorry that it has hurt you.

  69. says

    Natalie, did you see this? For formal occasions (such as exams), all Oxford University students will be able to wear the male or female academic uniform as they choose and not be reprimanded or disciplined. “The new dress code laws, which come into force next week, follow a motion put forward by the university’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Queer society (LGBTQ Soc) was passed by the student union.”

    That means that transgendered students will no longer have to wear clothing that seems wrong to them to write exams.

  70. (e)m says

    @64 ‘Tis Himself
    While I appreciate the citation, I can only speak for myself and not the Trans* community at large. Other than that I fully agree.

  71. says

    Someone who has been browbeaten with the idea that they’re stupid will be sensitive to hearing it again. Someone who has been criticized throughout childhood will be unusually sensitive to any criticism. Any insult to the person instead of the argument, idea, or belief can derail the discussion as its target becomes more defensive and focuses on dismissing everything the insulter says. Be angry but try to focus on the actions and the topic instead of the speaker.

    “That is a ridiculous idea!” can get you farther than “You’re a moron to believe that!”

  72. Stacy says

    “Stupid” is a pretty generic term. It gets used a lot, and rarely precisely. I feel safe saying most of us here would never call a cognitively disabled person stupid or “idiot”–but many of us, myself included, would and have called smart or average-intelligenced people that when we think they’re not thinking clearly or arguing honestly.

    So I suspect the word really isn’t being used in the way Dan points out it can be. It’s an imprecise word, and he’s conflating one sort of use with others.

    And I agree with those who are arguing that though the word can be problematic, the harm it does is not comparable to the harm done by slurs that target groups of marginalized people.

    Not saying that it isn’t worthwhile thinking about possible splashback caused by words that I hadn’t worried too much about using before. Personally, I found it rather liberating to hang out at Pharyngula and learn that 1) People could express their anger, and that’s OK; 2) I could do likewise; and 3) I could get called “idiot”, and not fall apart, but instead learn to depersonalize a bit and focus on the argument (which accompanies the name-calling except when the goal is to dismiss and discourage actual Trolls.)

    But because something doesn’t bother me doesn’t mean it can’t be a problem for somebody else. Nothing wrong with thinking twice before using the word.

  73. says

    I’m familiar with the bully-until-they-snap problem, and I won’t be giving that a pass.

    I thought you were familiar with this, Ophelia, and I’m sorry if I gave the wrong impression. I meant this as an illustration of how such a policy requires careful moderation. Inattentive moderators, just looking at maybe the last half dozen posts in such a case, can easily form the wrong impression of who’s at fault. I’ve seen that happen on busy forums.

    As to the slur vs insult question, I think it’s sufficiently important that you (generic) should make the distinction – even if you intend to ban both. It’s debatable whether insults help or hurt an argument, and where the acceptable boundaries are. It’s *never* debatable whether slurs like t_y, c_t, n_r etc are acceptable. (And I’m not being prissy censoring the words, I’m trying to avoid harm.)

  74. says

    Joe – well, see my new post. It kind of says…yes but, that doesn’t mean I want to emulate philosophical discussion. I recognize its virtues, but I get bored with it quickly.

  75. says

    Well… I specifically distrust philosophers because I feel like they’re too often playing word games. Or, sort of saying that they are “getting to the heart of the matter” when they are really “stripping away all meaning and context” and treating the issues of human beings like academic puzzles. It isn’t just their language or their desire for formality, it is the use to which they put formality and language that often bothers me.

  76. Phil Rimmer says

    Ophelia Benson-

    “I agree that politeness can be a tool for shutting up angry underlings (@ 37). A guy who used to comment here was a classic example of that – long wordy patronizing guff ‘splaining why sexism isn’t. Easy for him.”

    Please stop mind reading. Please!

    “Easy for him”. That insult right there may in fact be a good guess, but you don’t know this for a fact. “Probably, easy for him” is good enough for your purposes, surely?

    Presumptions of another’s intentions, attitudes or motivations, stated or imputed as facts, are the most disgraceful kinds of marring of rational public debate to my mind.

    Targetting mere words, the evidence in support of the use of which you may actually supply, rather than targetting unevidenced assumptions of another without some suitable allowance for your own error seems almost certain to place appearance before truth.

    I would have one rule. “Don’t mind read and assert as fact”. Would I delete the post? Nope just highlight the irrationallity. This, not good!

    (Your sexist poster might have had much hardship getting to that position. He might not be a he, or been a he for that long or a dozen other stories I could make up. I must say this is a modest example. I have seen much worse.)

    Why did Ophelia do it? A put-down, pure and simple? Thoughtlessness? Well I have guesses and thats all they are. I’m actually terrible at mind reading….

  77. Michael M says

    The general course of these discussions seems usually to proceed with a profound lack of acknowledgement on the part of the advocates of insult and invective that people often are influenced in ways that are not completely under their conscious control to make decisions based on there emotions. In other words, insulting someone or inveighing against them will often invoke a semi-conscious emotional response that will subsequently affect their ability to make rational decisions based on the substantive content of what they have been told. The plain English summary is: insulting people can (and often does) make them less willing to believing you, so the “truth” of the insult is almost completely beside the point as far as the persuasive force of the argument goes.

  78. says

    Phil Rimmer – you’re the one making assumptions here. I do know; there were email exchanges.

    And in any case I didn’t do any mind reading. “Easy for him” is not mind reading. The same would apply to me (for instance) if I went around lecturing black people on the harmlessness of racism. That would be “easy for me” because it doesn’t apply to me.

    Your over-reaction to 24 words in which I didn’t do any mind-reading is bizarre.

    I don’t remember who you are, by the way, but I take it you’re well pissed off.

  79. Pteryxx says

    In other words, insulting someone or inveighing against them will often invoke a semi-conscious emotional response that will subsequently affect their ability to make rational decisions based on the substantive content of what they have been told.

    Point: insulting someone or expressing anger at them can also invoke an emotional response that will subsequently affect their ability to rationalize away the substantive content of what they’ve been told. Quite a few commenters on Pharyngula have attested to this; and emotional response is also why empathy-provoking appeals such as personal stories are effective in getting recalcitrant listeners to take evidence seriously that they ignored or dismissed before.

  80. says

    Oh god no – I’ll never give up blatherskite.

    But look, there’s always the pope and Tony Blair and Michelle Bachmann and so on. We still get to use our words.

  81. says

    Dr. Fincke has an advantage in the context of a Philosophy blog, where thought content is privileged over emotion. I don’t think it will be easy for him, but not as hard as doing the same, elsewhere.

  82. davidmc says

    Phew. Thats a relief. Its very late, and although i would like to use it tonight., i shall have to forego that pleasure.

    Nighty, night.

  83. Phil Rimmer says

    Ophelia Benson

    “That would be “easy for me” because it doesn’t apply to me.”

    Yes but you know about you. You know you are white with no experience of discrimination (let us say for arguments sake). But I can’t say it about you because I don’t know about the horrendous grief on the Hispanic side of your family (say). You don’t know this man’s (?) story. You take the gender of his name and go from there alone. Remember I allowed “probably”.

    The example was indeed slight in this instance, I’m afraid, but it was to hand. I notice you doing this sort of thing a lot though, and I find it quite common on a few of the nearby blogs. I personally find it maddening in the extreme when directed at me (not by you so far….), told what my motives are with shameless certainty.

    Pissed off? Good call, and left open for a come back if needed.

  84. says

    I already told you it’s a man (unless of course it’s a woman faking it, but we don’t suspend the use of all 3d person singular pronouns on that basis). The ? after ‘man’ is superfluous.

    Yes, I take his gender and comment on that alone because that is my point. We are allowed to do that. We are allowed to say white people shouldn’t minimize racism because they’re not the ones it harms. We are allowed to say men shouldn’t minimize sexism because they’re not the ones it harms. That’s not mind-reading, it doesn’t depend on knowing everyone’s history, let alone what’s in everyone’s mind.

    Ok, you’re pissed off. Noted.

  85. smhll says

    I’m fed up with trolls. I know trolls have the ability to sneak around gaps in the rules, but I was sort of optimistically hoping that Dan would ban a lot of derailers, and then some interesting discussion would take place.

    Even though I think he will attempt to be sensitive to marginalized groups, I don’t think he can possibly filter out all of the insults or pokes in the comments or even in his own replies. Which is worrying.

    People who disagree with me may think that my “offense detector” is a magnifying glass or a microscope. Not true. My “offense detector” is in my nerve endings.

    I don’t think Dan can create a fair and tolerable place for people of color, women and other marginalized groups if he runs his blog on the ‘pings’ of his own offense detector alone. Like many of the rest of you, I would predict that his posters, already a lot with male names, will get more and more homogenous, as “others” lose patience with having to to debate uphill all the way, and as some rush out because it’s not worth the risk of pain from micro and other aggressions.

    I’m still interested in seeing how it runs as an experiment, even though I think I know the outcome. I still hope it’s possible that privileged men talking to other men will make some progress, since some of them may have come a little way on the journey of moving past the distorting lens of privilege and can assist. They speak each other’s language. Maybe they’ll untangle some thoughts that are too loaded to talk about in a more mixed group. IDK.

    I’m going to treat it academically, since I don’t consider their conclusions to be legally binding on me. (And, if it gets offensive, I’ll stay away.)(And I know my ability to be semi-detached comes from my relative privilege.)

    I do agree that people who have “no skin in the game” have +50 invulnerability, and I believe that that sucks.

  86. says

    We are allowed to say white people shouldn’t minimize racism because they’re not the ones it harms. We are allowed to say men shouldn’t minimize sexism because they’re not the ones it harms.

    Should anyone minimize either racism or sexism?

  87. says

    That’s a silly, trollish question. It’s obvious that that’s not what I’m saying.

    I am not at all trying to be trollish or argumentative, just want to know what you meant; that is why I asked.

  88. says

    Okay, please explain further what you meant. In that process I hope a context of better understanding will develop such that I can explain why I think my question was not silly.

  89. Michael says

    We are allowed to say men shouldn’t minimize sexism because they’re not the ones it harms.

    I assume you mean “directly harms”? Lots of men have wives, daughters and female friends who suffer from sexism and although we don’t feel the hurt directly we still feel it.

    I’m still interested in seeing how it runs as an experiment, even though I think I know the outcome.

    It’s surely not that dramatic an experiment. I’ve known lots of internet forums that have had a rigidly enforced “play the ball not the player” rule. Like the old RDnet forums. Ophelia does it herself in comment #102.

  90. Phil Rimmer says

    Opheliea Benson-

    “Yes, I take his gender and comment on that alone because that is my point.”

    And for that individual say with 100% certainty he can have no skin in the game. He was a he for sure , he wasn’t transgendered, he wasn’t homosexual, he wasn’t as Michael proposed a highly empathic witness to the harms done by sexism to his nearest and dearest.

    Again my example was not strong, merely convenient to raise the topic.

    My last on this, I promise. It is the certainty with which you attribute a negative to an individual to discount their contribution on those occasions which offends rationality for me. The proper inclusion of probabilities before condemning to stereotype (for instance) or otherwise intuiting motives or intentions, would transform for me the appearance of the the quality of debate. I don’t wish to deny you your point….ever, ever, but I would like an acknowledgment of the fuzziness of imposed group identities and the rich potential variety of individuals.

  91. Tony •King of the Hellmouth• says

    Alethea:

    There’s an important qualitative difference between “cunt” and “fuckwit”.

    Thank you.
    There really is a difference, and I think Dan is being insensitive and privileged. While he more than likely has been insulted in the past, I doubt Dan-as a white male-has been the victim of transphobia or homophobia. To someone who has, equating words like ‘tranny’ or ‘faggot’ with words like ‘jerk’ or ‘asshole’ draws a tremendously false equivalence. The latter two are certainly insults. The former are not just insults, but they’re insults aimed at or derived from a marginalized group of people. They simply are not at the same level. One set of words is impersonal, the other is completely personal. It’s an attack on not just what someone has said, but the person themselves. As I said to Dan, sometimes calling out someone for being an asshole or a jerk can be effective. Granted, just saying ‘you’re an asshole’ isn’t very productive, but one can construct an argument against someone and call that person an ‘asshole’.
    If I’m called a fag, and I respond to someone by telling them not to be a jerk or that they’re being an asshole, the verbal smack can be an effective way of quickly letting that person know that I’ve been offended. Not everyone has the vocabulary that Dan has to be able to civilly explain to someone why their insult was hurtful. Moreover, many people would quickly lose interest in a long winded explanation of why their insult was hurtful. The verbal smack can serve as the vehicle to a long winded explanation however. Sometimes people respond to bluntness. Sometimes they don’t. I’m not advocating people insult every troll or creationist each time one rears its head (though in the case of repeat offenders, I can certainly see occasions when doing so wouldn’t be out of the question) but insults are a tool in the arsenal, and my feeling is that Dan wants to eliminate some of those tools, without recognizing their effectiveness.

  92. Tony •King of the Hellmouth• says

    Ophelia:

    A more general problem I have is simply wanting to express anger and wanting to leave room for other people to do that. But I think we can probably figure out how to do that without namecalling.

    You’re not going to institute a similar ban then? Are you just hoping that we’ll try to ‘rise above’ on our own?

  93. Tony •King of the Hellmouth• says

    Grimalkin:

    I’m finding myself wondering if Dan ever read Greta’s post on Atheists and Anger.

    FWIW, I agree with what your comments to Dan.
    What’s more I’m at a complete loss as to why he banned you.

  94. Tony •King of the Hellmouth• says

    @47:

    why do they get upset when someone else points out that behaving like the pigeon is especially unbecoming of the human player?

    Perhaps because this theoretical person doesn’t agree with what is or isn’t ‘unbecoming’.

  95. Tony •King of the Hellmouth• says

    Natalie (this isn’t directed at you):

    I mean, I get the idea that “stupid” isn’t necessarily an innocuous term.

    I’m trying hard to understand how stupid could even be listed among the others [on Dan’s list] as a bullying term. I will admit that I may be operating from a privileged position , so I’d like to ask anyone who has been bullied or insulted by the word stupid (or for that matter, idiot or moron): why does this word belong on a list of socially unacceptable terms to use?
    I’d further ask anyone else, is there some cut off point for words or phrases that shouldn’t be used? I thought (perhaps incorrectly) that the slurs and insults that are considered intolerable are those aimed at innate physical or mental characteristics. I will condemn the usage of words like faggot, dyke, retard, cunt, and the like. Once we start getting away from obvious terms like that, and into the realm of terms like ‘dumb’ or ‘stupid’, I start to wonder where we stop. Will it come to a point where we shouldn’t use mean or obnoxious?

  96. Tony •King of the Hellmouth• says

    Natalie @70:
    I understand what you’re saying. While I limit my use of the word to a discussion of this sort, I will refrain from doing so.
    I’ve faced a similar level of discomfort when seeing (or even using-again, in this type of talk) the word ‘fag’ or ‘nigger’. I’ve been working to overcome that discomfort, but it’s a work in progress (I’m not at all insinuating that you do the same).

  97. Tony •King of the Hellmouth• says

    Improbable Joe:

    Well… I specifically distrust philosophers because I feel like they’re too often playing word games. Or, sort of saying that they are “getting to the heart of the matter” when they are really “stripping away all meaning and context” and treating the issues of human beings like academic puzzles.

    Word games. That feels like what Dan is doing on a certain level. I get what he’s going for (to a point), but it seems like he’s divorced from the reality of the damage some words do, which is why he draws a false equivalence between his list of banned terms. It is almost as if he’s philosophized his way so high that he can’t see the demonstrably higher amount of harm a term like ‘t****y’ can inflict compared to ‘stupid’ or ‘asshole’.

  98. Godless Heathen says

    @Improbable Joe,

    I specifically distrust philosophers because I feel like they’re too often playing word games. Or, sort of saying that they are “getting to the heart of the matter” when they are really “stripping away all meaning and context” and treating the issues of human beings like academic puzzles.

    Yep. That’s why I strongly dislike philosophers/philosophy as well.

    I also think that philosophers, more than many other people, fall into the trap of thinking they can be completely rational and that emotions don’t/shouldn’t affect thinking. Which is not true (on both the don’t and shouldn’t sides).

  99. Godless Heathen says

    I recognize its virtues, but I get bored with it quickly.

    Same. This is one reason I don’t go to more atheist events/conferences. Too much philosophizing.

  100. says

    Phil Rimmer @ 108 – to repeat – I’d had exchanges with this particular guy via email, so I did know some of the things about him that you assert I don’t know. (That of course assumes he wasn’t playing a lying game, but so does everything we attribute to other people. That assumption is tacit in everything.)

    In any case – to repeat again – it’s a general point that doesn’t depend on particulars. Ceteris paribus, men aren’t well placed to experience misogyny in the way that women do. Your objection is largely irrelevant to that point.

  101. Lyanna says

    I don’t think Dan Fincke has a good point exactly (for the reasons Natalie Reed got at earlier), but I think he’s sort of gesturing in the direction of a good point.

    I think a helpful rule is to attack specific behaviors or patterns, and avoid making vague broad sweeping statements about a person, as much as possible.

    Like, “you’re stupid” is a really broad and vaguely used and probably inaccurate dismissal of a person’s cognitive skills.

    “Your argument is stupid” is a little better, but still not much.

    “You fail to acknowledge facts X, Y and Z, which others have repeatedly pointed out to you, proving that you’re either not paying attention or you’re being dishonest” is way more informative, way less dismissive of the whole person, and no less harsh. That’s important, because harshness can be good and necessary.

    Similarly, “you’re an asshole,” while unconnected to any type of privilege (it’s not even prejudiced against people who were labeled ‘stupid’ as children), isn’t all that helpful.

    “You’re making a misogynist argument” is better.

    “You’re saying that a woman complaining about being called a cunt is a bully, while not saying anything about the people calling her a cunt. This shows a total lack of proportion and respect for women.” Better still, IMO.

    And of course racial and sexual slurs are by definition broad sweeping statements about a person (and every other person in their race or gender!), so they’d be out.

    I don’t really want any of the above to be rules, other than a rule against racial and sexual slurs. More like internalized norms.

  102. beth says

    @Tony

    I’d like to ask anyone who has been bullied or insulted by the word stupid (or for that matter, idiot or moron): why does this word belong on a list of socially unacceptable terms to use?

    Having been frequently called “stupid” by my older brother throughout my childhood, I am someone who was insulted and bullied by the use of that word. It negatively affected my self-esteem for decades as an adult. Probably still does, but I tend to be able to brush such insults off a bit easier now that I have Ph.D.

    What words are acceptable and what words are not is entirely dependent on the social setting. “Stupid” belongs on a list of socially unacceptable terms to use when establishing an ‘safe’ environment for discussion of ideas that are strongly tied to personal identity, such as religious beliefs.

    I’d further ask anyone else, is there some cut off point for words or phrases that shouldn’t be used? I thought (perhaps incorrectly) that the slurs and insults that are considered intolerable are those aimed at innate physical or mental characteristics. I will condemn the usage of words like faggot, dyke, retard, cunt, and the like. Once we start getting away from obvious terms like that, and into the realm of terms like ‘dumb’ or ‘stupid’, I start to wonder where we stop. Will it come to a point where we shouldn’t use mean or obnoxious?

    My understanding of Dan’s policy would be, yes, it is inappropriate to call people ‘mean’ or ‘obnoxious’ in comments at his blog. In short, don’t insult people using any sort of language. Criticize their ideas instead.

  103. jackiepaper says

    I grew up with a learning disability and I’ve been called lazy, stupid and crazy my whole life. Don’t dare use me as a reason to tell women and GLBTQ people to be nicer to their attackers. I’m sick of seeing marginalized people being told to tamp down their rage and to take their abuse more politely. Why did Dan use “tranny”, instead of “nigger” when he was claiming that “stupid” is as cruel and socially unacceptable as gendered and racially based insults? I suspect that’s because more people are comfortable minimizing and ignoring the effects of trans/femaphobia than they are racism. Sure he can toss that word around as if it is no more hurtful than being called “stupid”, but that does not mean that the rest of us should pretend we grew up with Dan’s privilege. We do see a difference. Those of us not cis, straight, white, males got called stupid too. Only we were called “stupid dyke”, “stupid cunt”, “stupid nigger” or “stupid fag”. I’d also like to point out that a man may consider “stupid” as equally asshole-ish as “cunt” only because he has never been called a “cunt”, has never lived in a society that punishes “cunts” as routinely and severely as ours does. “Tranny”and the like are as much threats as insults. It does not suggest you have a diminished capacity, it suggests a complete lack of humanity. Labeling a behavior as stupid or a person as a “fuckwit” simply does not have the chilling effect that racial and gendered insults do. They are different. This false equivalence is sickening.

  104. jackiepaper says

    …When I say he did not grow up in that world, I mean to say that he grew up in it, but was not targeted by it and like all of us with privilege, he may not have even noticed what others had to and continue to endure. This seems very common.

  105. says

    Beth @ 120 –

    I would put it a little differently, because I don’t think we want to lose evaluative words like “mean” and “obnoxious” from the discussion – or even “stupid” applied to ideas, rules, systems, group beliefs. But, again, I think it should be “that’s a mean thing to say” or “you’re being mean now” as opposed to “you are mean.”

    And I agree with Lyanna about internalized norms as opposed to rules.

  106. Godless Heathen says

    I assume you mean “directly harms”? Lots of men have wives, daughters and female friends who suffer from sexism and although we don’t feel the hurt directly we still feel it.

    But on the other hand a lot of men have blind spots with regards to sexism, so they don’t feel hurt by everything that’s sexist the way their wives, daughters, and female friends probably do.

  107. Tony •King of the Hellmouth• says

    jackiepaper:
    I agree with everything you wrote @121.

    To understand Dan’s position, I’m trying to imagine never insulting someone else. I have a former boss who IMO violated a lot of basic human rights and acted totally inappropriately (sexual harassment of a female employee; Pteryxx I’ll have to tell you about this one day. It’s separate from the *other* occasion I mentioned in the past and involves a different boss) on several occasions. I’ve been very vocal in my condemnation of his actions. I have called him an idiot. I have called him a fuckwad. I’ve called him a piece of shit. I’ve done so largely in the context of discussing the crap he’s done, so my insults are not divorced from the reason for my anger. I understand Dan is trying to create a certain space, with a certain tone on his blog, but I wonder if he(and others who dislike any insults used in conversation, formal or informal) would like to see society at large adopt the same type of policy. I feel like I would be unable to express the depth of my intense dislike for this man [my former boss] without utilizing insults. I feel passionate in my near hatred for him (yes, I own the fact that out of everyone I’ve ever met, I pretty much hate this guy-exclusively for how he has treated others) and that passion comes through quite a bit clearer through the use of insults. I don’t know that it would have the same effect if I watered down my criticisms of him. When I’ve explained to people why I feel the way I do, I employ non gendered/ableist/racial insults, but I am very clearly making statements about the man. When I’ve referred to him as a sack of shit, most people sit up and take notice of what I’m saying. It’s almost like a verbal bomb that gets peoples’ attention in a way that saying I really don’t like this guy may not get across (at least not as effectively).
    I will say I appreciate the fact that Dan is discussing this topic, as there is plenty to say on the subject. I just don’t like the ‘my way or the highway’ nature of his new rules.
    ****
    (on a completely unrelated note, does anyone know if there is a way to indent paragraphs when commenting?)

  108. Phil Rimmer says

    OB-

    “We are allowed to say men shouldn’t minimize sexism because they’re not the ones it harms.”

    I pointed out how certain men could experience sexism personally.

    Then OB said-

    “men aren’t well placed to experience misogyny in the way that women do.”

    Hmm?

    The fact is, misogyny is still sexism and a homosexual male may have great insight into some of the major parts of it. My plea was for a reasonable discount to absolutist statements in the light of this with regard to individuals.

    To repeat, the specific case was not my point, just the fact of the automatic TOTAL denial of any chance of a voice of an individual albatrossed by you with a group identity (a loose social construct at best). Why not issue a challenge as to why someone thinks they have some insight into the matter of x, if they consider themselves a member of group y?

    I broke my promise with this my last last post. Apologies, but I shall be happy if it is allowed to stand, commented on or not or deleted. I will have had a final final answer from you in any of these ways.

  109. Smhlle says

    @ 52

    Ooh! You made me think.

    IF Daniel Fincke’s politeness policy works out to be “You can say anything as long as you phrase it politely”, then I really agree that marginalized people and people with unpopular opinions really have something to worry about.

    I do not think that is quite the effect he intends, but policing blog posts is probably like trying to steer an avalanche of cats. I hope he steers well, but the ‘cats’ may be both uncooperative and wily.

  110. says

    @ 128 – oh please. You’re like children saying “but what if my leg is on fire?” when they’re told to be quiet for the next hour. A gay man might have some insight into sexism, or he might not, but he won’t have the experience of misogyny that a woman has.

    (Oh oh, cries Phil, what if he’s a cross-dresser? Still not the same.)

    What I said wasn’t automatic. Who’s mind-reading now?

  111. Michael says

    I assume you mean “directly harms”? Lots of men have wives, daughters and female friends who suffer from sexism and although we don’t feel the hurt directly we still feel it.

    But on the other hand a lot of men have blind spots with regards to sexism, so they don’t feel hurt by everything that’s sexist the way their wives, daughters, and female friends probably do.

    Agreed. But I wasn’t making a claim that all men feel the hurt of sexism applied to their family and friends and I certainly wasn’t claiming that they feel it in the same way. I was just rejecting the claim that men (by implication all men) are not harmed by sexism.

    To disprove a “for all” claim all you need is a single example to which it doesn’t apply. The fact that the claim is true for “lots” doesn’t help you. Sorry I’m a mathematician.

    Michael

  112. Phil Rimmer says

    OB-

    “What I said wasn’t automatic. Who’s mind-reading now?”

    If that is rhetorical, you. If not…

    Not me. You have outlined a process that is automatic (all of group x have no voice on this experience of group not x). I don’t need to mind read. You told me straight.

    Or I am mistaken and you are you saying you would only seek to deny the man’s right to speak on x based on evidence of behaviours that reasonably nail him as ignorant (as in my weak example, most likely) and use the short hand “you are ignorant of x because you are, male, white, straight…” BUT would allow others to say the same things if there was no corroborating evidence of ignorance to add to the fact of maleness.

  113. (e)m says

    @121 Jackiepaper

    I grew up with a learning disability and I’ve been called lazy, stupid and crazy my whole life. Don’t dare use me as a reason to tell women and GLBTQ people to be nicer to their attackers. I’m sick of seeing marginalized people being told to tamp down their rage and to take their abuse more politely

    and

    I’d also like to point out that a man may consider “stupid” as equally asshole-ish as “cunt” only because he has never been called a “cunt”, has never lived in a society that punishes “cunts” as routinely and severely as ours does. “Tranny”and the like are as much threats as insults. It does not suggest you have a diminished capacity, it suggests a complete lack of humanity. Labeling a behavior as stupid or a person as a “fuckwit” simply does not have the chilling effect that racial and gendered insults do. They are different. This false equivalence is sickening.

    Thank you. Consensual hugs are offered if you want them.

  114. maureen.brian says

    Phil Rimmer,

    You may well be bright enough to perceive fully what is wrong with an individual insult. You could even have done your doctoral thesis on the effects of irrational gender biases on both men and women in some particular profession. If so, bully for you!

    What you do not share is the experience of being a woman and subjected to the rapid-fire assault of insult, slur, unquestioned assumption, failure to notice that you qualify for that promotion or whatever. And it lasts for life.

    Any fool with a little training can put one bug under a microscope and regale an audience with his account of how it looks and what it does. It is not the same experience as living in a sewer full of creepy-crawlies and, if you try to get out, being told that the previous 25 generations of women were “perfectly happy” to live there so what’s wrong with you, fergawdsake.

    If you have experience of being a woman then I think you should tell us because otherwise it begins to look as though you think this discussion is all about you. It is not!

  115. 'Tis Himself says

    I have never personally experienced sexism because I’m a cis-hetro male. I’ve read about the effects of sexism. I’ve spoken to women about sexism. I’ve even been present when sexism was directed at women. But I do not have personal experience of sexism.

    Phil Rimmer apparently takes it as a personal insult when women make the same observations about him.

  116. Phil Rimmer says

    maureen.brian

    “If you have experience of being a woman then I think you should tell us because otherwise it begins to look as though you think this discussion is all about you. It is not!”

    Not only do I not think this is about me and my feelings, I also do not think it is about women’s feelings. It is about feelings and handling them to best effect in a debate or discussion with others. It is about a principle of not labelling people with certainty without good evidence.

    I am not one to speak of the suffering you have palpably experienced. I am borderline normal empathy (on the low side). I know. I have done the tests. There is less of my mind to read than you might imagine. Behaving logically and rationally is how I manage the world best. It helps when others oblige. Some, however, seem prodigiously empathic to my cool eye. I think this sub thread is about them and their voice, whatever gender, race etc, and how you other empaths treat them.

  117. Phil Rimmer says

    “Phil Rimmer apparently takes it as a personal insult when women make the same observations about him.”

    Sorry. I don’t understand this. I haven’t been anywhere near insulted. I think rationalism has taken a bump though. All this emotion intuiting is hard work to follow.

  118. maureen.brian says

    Phil, dear, there is a logical and rational flaw in the case you are making.

    Much of what has a negative effect on women and on all the other groups to whom this applies is deliberately designed to work at the emotional level. It is set up to embarrass people, to undermine their confidence, to make them feel that if they ask for, say, women’s toilets in the Physics Department they are being unreasonable, demanding and taking resources away from more important people.

    In particular, these techniques have been honed over the centuries to pass under the radar, to be invisible to the average reasonably confident person who has no training in spotting them and is a bit low on empathy. Were you boasting about that, by the way?

    You may also have noted that the negative responses to, initially, a polite request for bog-standard good manners at conferences were predominantly from privileged males and 100% emotional.

    My “suffering” is not the point, nor do I accept that classic put-down from you. I belong to three of the regularly marginalised groups though together we make up well over half the population but I am still a relatively privileged straight white woman. The thing is, I recognise that.

    Curious, isn’t it, that ‘Tis Himself can be totally male, totally impressive in his use of hard fact, logic, reason, whatever, and yet has never to my knowledge felt the need to deny that emotion is part of human experience and in play most of the time – whether you like that fact or not?

  119. kassad says

    Stupid IS hurtful. And saying “it is not as hurtful as tranny, nigger, cunt,…” was not Dan point, he in fact said exactly that in the comments.

    I had a friend who was verbally abused by his parents. “Stupid” was pretty much how he defined himself since as long as he could remember. We talk for hours to him, especially in high school when he started to have even worse self-esteem. He killed himself at 17 years old.
    My mother was dyslexic and dyscalculic (so am I) but it wasn’t until she was an adult. As a result, she always had a low self-esteem, amplified by the fact that she was adopted and her mother was an english teacher and her father was an engineer. She barely finished high school. My father is a naval engineer, one of the youngest Navy officer there was, graduated high school with 2 years in advance. He is smart and never had any issue about it. Despite his many qualities, he is not always the most insightful man and has difficulties really understanding my mother’s issues. He is intelligent, he loves her partly because she is intelligent too and they have a lot to talk about. Where is the problem right? This is why one of the more vivid memory of my youth was the look on my mother’s face when, in a banal discussion, my father said that what my mother’s argument was stupid. It was not aggressive, not a put down, at least that is not what my father intended at all. He probably forgot about it in minutes. But the recoil from my mother, the hurt on a her face stayed with me even if I did not understand it until years later.
    This word “stupid” defined how my mother saw herself in the world how she envisioned her relationships, how she raised us. It took tremendous effort to surmount the hurt it did to her.

    I am sorry if I run a little long and recited my life story, but the stories of my friend and my mother are not rare. And they are not “innocuous”.

    I think that the phrase about “stupid hurting more people than tranny” was ill-advised, and understandably offensive to many people. But the whole “stupid is barely offensive, look at people being called cunts! Now that is suffering, not those hurt fee-fees from cry-babies that are simply called stupid” hit something in me. I feel like people dismissing this word are privileged not to have their intelligence (and thus their personal worth in some cases) questioned or taught that they never will have anything of value to contribute, ever.

    Anyway, sorry for the long post.

  120. says

    Phil Rimmer @ 136 –

    It is about a principle of not labelling people with certainty without good evidence.

    For – what is it now? The sixth time? seventh? – I have good evidence about the guy in question, and I didn’t label him “with certainty.” It’s not dogmatic or excessively “certain” to say that men don’t have experience of being women or that women don’t have experience of being men. (That was the whole point of Tiresias, after all.)

    You seem to think you’re hyper-rational, but you’re doing a shitty job of taking in what anyone else says.

  121. 'Tis Himself says

    Phil Rimmer #137

    I think rationalism has taken a bump though. All this emotion intuiting is hard work to follow.

    Rationality does not mean abandoning emotion. As maureen.brian notes (and thank you for the compliments Maureen), I can be rational and emotional simultaneously. This is how most people operate.

    Phil Rimmer #136

    Behaving logically and rationally is how I manage the world best. It helps when others oblige.

    You claim to be at the edge of empathy and to prefer rationality. However you are coming across as annoyed that other people are being emotional in this discussion. Hence my comment about you appearing insulted.

    Ophelia Benson #140

    You seem to think you’re hyper-rational, but you’re doing a shitty job of taking in what anyone else says.

    My reaction as well.

  122. Phil Rimmer says

    @138 maureen.brian

    There is much in your post I would like to comment on, but I think it leads us away from my simple point. I have no contention that misogyny is a real problem needing active solutions today. However, I don’t for an instant see malicious agency as the main driver for their apparent invisibility. Merely being commonplace will do.

    I am truly puzzled how my reference to your suffering became ironic “suffering”. Is that what you were implying? I despair at this intuiting of motivations, if so. It seems to me common on these threads and the source of a potential positive feedback, a howlround cacophony of potential misunderstanding.

    I recognised and fully fessed up that I had no empathic insight into being a women and what that meant. None of this is about me or my feelings. That was my point.

    Your point about emotion I shall deal with shortly. But no good decisions would be made without emotions to provide the relative values of potential outomes

  123. Phil Rimmer says

    @140

    OB- “I have good evidence about the guy in question”

    Thank you. That was one of the “boxes” I offered that you could tick @132. The second box I offered to be ticked immediately after was, without that good evidence of a lack of emotional experience of the topic, would you allow men to express similar views on sexism? (The issue was about sexism, not misogyny, not how it is to be a woman. Something a man can experience.) Will you tick that box too?

    I never claimed hyper rationality. (Where did that come from?) I claimed less than sparkling empathy and intended to show my dependence on others to explain their feelings which I could then rationally work with.

    Can (some) men talk with authority about sexism?

  124. says

    Phil Rimmer @ 142 – I want us to be led away from your “simple point” – because your simple point is wrong, and because you pay no attention to my many attempts to tell you why and how it’s wrong.

    I wish you would drop your “simple point.” It’s more simplistic than simple, and you’re just repeating it instead of engaging.

  125. says

    Phil Rimmer @ 143 – don’t patronize me. I told you I had exchanged emails with the guy in question long before comment 132; I told you that at the beginning.

    Where does the “hyper-rationality” claim come from? From what you said @ 136 –

    Behaving logically and rationally is how I manage the world best.

    You’re not managing the world best here. It’s not working.

  126. Phil Rimmer says

    @141

    I am lower than average in empathy not unemotional. As I said to maureen.brian emotions give values that allow better quality judgments to be made. Phineas Gage is the (rather poor) example often used to illustrate this. (Intellect intact but emotions pole-axed, he could not choose the better alternative having no gauge to judge by.)

    What I don’t do so well is know what someone is thinking without a deal of evidence or time to work out all that is going on. I can in fact do very well on empathy tests if I am given enough time. I write lists of alternatives and score them. This isn’t good in realtime but is great in places like these. I get emotional in response to my intellectual understanding, but I know this isn’t real empathy.

    “However you are coming across as annoyed that other people are being emotional in this discussion. Hence my comment about you appearing insulted.”

    No, frustrated at the goalpost moving, and the incorrect mind reading mostly. Thanks for the explanation though.

  127. Phil Rimmer says

    OB
    “You’re not managing the world best here. It’s not working.”

    Clearly not. Sigh. I guess you’ve been patient. Thank you.

    Its weird here for me. No one answers my specific questions. And I don’t know what else to do.

    Can (some) men talk with authority about sexism?

    Anyone?

  128. maureen.brian says

    Phil Rimmer @ 142,

    You are doubtful about “malicious agency’. Well, that’s your term rather than mine and it’s probably too early to say. What we do know is that an existing hierarchy, one which greatly benefits a small proportion of the people, is under challenge, very vocal challenge. We shall see how things turn out.

    I turn naturally – it’s the way I was taught – to the possibility of historical precedents and in this case a whole bunch of them fall into my lap. You could fill a library with books already written on social change resisted by those who paid great attention to their possible loss of status and rather less to the longer term benefits to the whole society. This is a recurring theme throughout the story of the Roman Republic and Empire. I’m sure it happened long before that in places with which I am less familiar.

    For a wonderful example of the tricks the powerful will get up to in order to retain their power I can think of no better introduction than Machiavelli’s The Prince – written in exile centuries ago, still totally relevant and full of laughs. If you’re hungry for more I’d back that up with the verbatim transcripts of the Putney Debates of 1647.

    As for this “suffering” business – you were the one who introduced the word on the basis of no information at all. Was that choice emotionally driven? I only ask because it looks like a defensive reaction. Yes, I’ve been in a few fights – lost a couple, even – but as I was later able to at least suggets to you I’m among the lucky ones. I’ve always been an uppity, articulate bitch and always had that extra bit of status which allowed me to speak up for myself. I’ve also had good opportunities as a Trade Union rep and later as chair of a thinktank to hone my ability to express political ideas. And this is a political discussion we are having.

    Such usage is offensive both as a form of othering – look it up – and because it is a variant on the ad hominem fallacy which operates thus ..

    You are not winning an argument when you think maybe you ought to so you pick upon something which may be true of your opponent (or may not) but which draws attention to the fact that your interlocutor is not perfect, is not bionic, is not infallible. When I was a kid it was my nose they used to disparage me, now I am 70 it can be my age. No matter! It is a cheap trick. It says nothing to the validity or otherwise of what either party is saying but it can get in the way of that rational discourse you value.

    I am not suggesting that you used it consciously or meant to offend but we all learned to argue in some particular time and place where it is as easy to pick up bad habits as good ones. It is certainly something you need to make yourself aware of if you intend to be part of this now near-global discussion, more than a year at full pelt and showing no sign of ending just yet.

  129. Phil Rimmer says

    @maureen.brian

    Surely the pre-eminent example of malicious agency in these matters is religion, RCC, Islam etc.? This is one of the primary reasons for reining it back. Nothern Europe is in the vanguard. I am not at all clear about current agents though.

    Re Suffering

    I took this-

    “What you do not share is the experience of being a woman and subjected to the rapid-fire assault of insult, slur, unquestioned assumption, failure to notice that you qualify for that promotion or whatever. And it lasts for life.”

    -to be your own experience, allowing you the insight into the misogyny we were speaking of. I presume evidence to be first hand unless indicated otherwise. My apologies.

    Thanks for the time taken.

  130. Tony •King of the Hellmouth• says

    Phil:
    YES, MEN CAN SPEAK ABOUT SEXISM. There. Can we move on?

  131. callistacat says

    @Phil Rimmer Just my opinion, not with authority. After just being called “worthless privileged riff-raff” on Taslima’s blog by a man who believes he’s some sort of expert on the subject, I’m quite sick of men telling me *with authority* what is and isn’t sexism/misogyny.

  132. callistacat says

    Oh and we’re all “worthless privileged riff-raff” if we are women who haven’t been genitally mutilated and still think we’re feminists.

  133. rrede says

    Phil

    Can (some) men talk with authority about sexism?

    I am not sure (reading this post and thread as a whole) if you can even understand the following, but as a person who studies a lot of discourse issues (english teacher!), let me try!

    Your question seems to be phrased as requiring a Y/N answer.

    Here’s what that means: http://www.englishclub.com/grammar/verbs-questions_types.htm

    The problem is that the issue you are addressing (the relative extent to which “men” can speak with “authority”–which you do NOT define!) cannot be answered YES or NO (and your ongoing insistence that it be answered is starting to verge on behavior that can be seen as trolling). Also, your question fails to acknowledge that talking about sexism is not completely neutral and open-ended: flat out denial of sexism is talking about sexism, is it not?

    Your question really should be phrased as the more open-ended type requesting information: same site as above scroll down.

    You also insist a lot upon your logical/rational nature–I don’t know if that somehow connotes that you want a simple, authoritative answer to the question, but that’s how I’m reading it).

    I would answer your question shortly and simply by saying: IT DEPENDS!

    It depends on who the man is, and what the communication situation is, and who the audience is, and a whole lot of other factors (limited but not including other axes of identity).

    There are feminist men who have spent a lot of time thinking about and reading works by and communicating with feminists who can address the issue of sexism–but it’s not always appropriate for them to do so (if they’re drowning out/refusing to let speak a woman feminist).

    Then there are those lovely men who come barrelling into feminist discussions to explain that women are all doing it wrong (that’s related to the concept of mansplaining: http://tigerbeatdown.com/2011/08/29/chronicles-of-mansplaining-professor-feminism-and-the-deleted-comments-of-doom/

    Those men are talking about sexism, often, but do not have any authority beyond their own perceived expertise as men who have historically been given social authority over women–that authority is being challenged in many ways in the US these days (and elsewhere–but I don’t have the authority to speak about elsewhere because I am not familiar with those other cultures/places!).

    The issue of who can and does speak for feminist movements (a complex and major issue) cannot be answered simply and universally: it depends.

    Do you see the problems with your question?

  134. says

    rrede @ 156 – your “Also, your question fails to acknowledge that talking about sexism is completely neutral and open-ended: flat out denial of sexism is talking about sexism, is it not?”
    should be “Also, your question fails to acknowledge that talking about sexism is not completely neutral and open-ended: flat out denial of sexism is talking about sexism, is it not?” – right? That seems to be what you mean, so I changed it – lemme know if it’s not!

  135. rrede says

    Ophelia:

    OOPS, yes, you’re completely correct–thanks for catching.

    Got lost in my syntax.

    And I swear the hotter it keeps being in Texas, the more my brain is decaying….

  136. Phil Rimmer says

    Thanks all. I’ll be back to this as soon as I can.

    Very quickly-

    Callistacat- I had to go and review your upsetting debate. (Your account of your personl experiences was telling.) What appeared to be going on was a series of reciprocal voice-denyings, which seemed a pity. I thought a better debate could have been got. I will offer a more considered view and answer questions later.

    OB and Tis. Authority can look wrong here but of course I intend these general ideas

    4. An accepted source of expert information or advice

    5. Justification; grounds: On what authority do you make such a claim?

    6. A conclusive statement or decision that may be taken as a guide or precedent.

    A better definition in this context for me would be along the lines “the possessor and primary source of evidence about a subject”. Simply-“someone who knows what they are talking about because of experience.”

    rrede-

    Its entirely up to you to say- If you mean X then yes, if you mean y then no. I asked for some men (any men) of which the statement could be said to be true. Qualify away, but in order to be able to make some decisions a yes no answer will help us. It will help us draw a line in the sands about our behaviours for instance. I’ll come back to this too.

  137. Phil Rimmer says

    rrede-

    Another quickie I’m afraid. What I should have said in my last post was-

    Ideally we should be forming simple clear questions that are well understood as they stand (or with additional definitions if needed) such that they can be reliably refuted. Yes, this is “Popper Lite”, a sawn-off version of the scientific method. If we can clearly answer no to my question, with a cogent definition of authority appended, we can have complete confidence in stopping any man talking as if with authority(defn. knowledge from experience) on the subject of sexism. If the answer is “don’t know” or “yes”, then we are obliged to do the due diligence to assess that assumed authority. (In fact, just as Ophelia Benson did with my poorly chosen example.)

    Tony •King of the Hellmouth

    Pedantry and trolling are neither attractive but only one is malicious. (I am about a third of the way through on my journey, but I can see I might have to take this elsewhere if I come across so badly.) I believe this is on topic being about offensive speech, the worst crime for me being an erroneous accusation and voice-denial based on misapplied group identities.

    My two further steps (which as I say may belong elsewhere) are to show how substantially men and boys may be harmed themselves not only by sexism against themselves, but more importantly, also by sexism towards females. My third part is to suggest that the voice-denying strategy effected by virtue of denying that there are any harms to men from sexism against women, say, may turn out to be counter-productive in the long run. Having men realise that sexism towards women is indeed harmful to themselves is a substantial part of making the problem self repairing. These two modes of thinking, though, are mutually exclusive.

  138. RuQu says

    I’m new around here.

    And I will be honest and say I only read about 40% of this long comment thread.

    I wanted to point out two things:

    1) I didn’t see anyone suggest “Ignore them” as an option to someone saying something that got you upset. Trolls, people who you consider ignorant or are using an argument you are tired of correcting…perhaps just ignore them? Engaging them fills the comments with material you feel is rudimentary, clutters up the comments for other readers who agree with you, and escalates the emotional level. You are likely to tell off trolls rudely, sometimes with false positives, and likely to condescend to those who may be innocently ignorant (as opposed to willfully so).

    2) Who are these blogs for?

    This is a big question. Are they only for social-justice experts? My wife is a feminist. I support equality (not just for women) in the practical sense (ie eliminate inequalities in pay, rights for LGBTs, job opportunities, violence, etc), but, as a mixed-heritage male, I personally prefer to be called a man or a person or by my name rather than called “Hispanic,” “Latino,” or “part-Hispanic.” I’ve been told social-justice experts consider my beliefs naive and even harmful, that avoiding the issue perpetuates it despite my anecdotal experiences to the contrary.

    Does that make me the enemy, because my experiences differ from what is considered established here? As a “social-justice noob” should I simply avoid these blogs?

    Or, as a person with similar goals and interests, am I not exactly the target audience? “Social-justice experts” alone can’t change the world without reaching out to the rest of the population. Using an educational background in social-justice (ie Feminism 101), or adherence to certain social justice beliefs (ie labels are good), as a checkpoint to decide who is allowed in, or who gets insulted and driven away, severely limits your audience, and reduces your ability to do outreach to people who are already your natural allies.

    It also doesn’t help that many people in this country who lack privilege may also lack education or come from cultures or socioeconomic backgrounds that are not naturally aligned with some of your views. A “blue-collar” worker may recognize that discriminating against women is wrong, may come to a feminist blog, and then may speak as comes naturally to them, using language that some find offensive even if it wasn’t meant to be so. When driven away, they leave with a very negative view of feminism. How does that help your goals?

    Perhaps I’m way off base. Perhaps these forums are meant for an in-crowd of people who already share the same ideas and beliefs.

    As a newcomer, hostile language, even when not directed at me, and insulting people for not being familiar with decades of social-justice literature and history creates an environment that is not particularly welcoming.

  139. says

    RuQu – good points. I suppose partly it’s that a particular thread will go in a particular direction, and that can trigger some of the problems you mention. I’m not sure all threads are like that.

    Another part is that no one can appeal to everyone. People talk about what interests them, and that won’t appeal to everyone. Still, there’s a difference between that and being overtly hostile to newcomers; I don’t want to do the latter. (On the other hand when newcomers make their debut by delivering a noisy protracted scolding – I tend not to rush to give them a hug.) (I don’t mean you! What you said isn’t a scolding.)

  140. RuQu says

    Ophelia:

    That all makes sense and is how conversations naturally flow. And I’m sure (most) posters don’t intend to drive newcomers away.

    I guess I just want to remind all the veterans that newcomers are good, even if they can be ignorant, tiresome, or annoying.

    Every newcomer is one more person who may be hearing your message for the first time.

    Drive them away or dismiss them, and they may forever harbor a resentment towards your agenda.

    Welcome them warmly, and you have an opportunity to guide them towards the light. Understand that this is a slow process! Even if they leave without being convinced, their opinion of your goals will be higher, and they will be more likely to support them in the future.

    If that seems tiresome, exhausting, or repetitive…let someone else do it and ignore them.

  141. callistacat says

    @Phil Rimmer

    I agree that sexism often hurts men. I think most feminists acknowledge this. Stereotypes about what is proper masculine and feminine behavior can be harmful and limiting to both sexes.
    And I know that men, especially young men and boys, will often encounter threats of violence and/or ostracism if they stand up against sexism directed at women. That’s something that I think should be explored more.

    What I have a problem with is men lecturing me about what is and isn’t real sexism/misgoyny, or saying that sexism against women is either a thing of the past or doesn’t exist at all in first world countries. Not living 24/7 as a woman, how could they have any real authority on the subject? They haven’t walked a mile in my shoes.

    The conversation with the poster “…” on Taslima’s blog is something I encounter frequently from atheist men. It’s not accurate and I genuinely resent it when men use women’s issues as an excuse to discredit and dismiss feminism as a whole. It’s the “Dear Muslima” tactic. There is a lot of violence against gay and lesbians in third world countries that is extreme and horrifying, but rarely do I hear it used by straight atheists to tell GLBT athiests in first world countries to STFU about the discrimination and violence they experience, because others have it worse.

    (Maybe I’m wrong about that, not being GLBT, so please correct me if that’s statement is inaccurate or clueless. :/ I don’t claim to be an authority on GLBT issues!).

  142. Phil Rimmer says

    rrede

    Sorry for my brevity. “We” means everyone. I am suggesting that it would be advantageous to everyone to be able to form their questions in simple refutable forms. I always presume an IMHO or at least an IMO scattered through the pieces I read and rather fail to add them as often as I should.

  143. Phil Rimmer says

    @callistact

    “And I know that men, especially young men and boys, will often encounter threats of violence and/or ostracism if they stand up against sexism directed at women.”

    Too right!

    There is one very common instance where male sexism against women harms boys. Many homes that are broken are broken on the backs of sexist behaviour by the husband against the wife, and children both witness and are harmed by the outcomes. Young children are just being wired up in that pretty permanent way as these experiences happen. This is before they form their separate identities in adolescence and witnessing abuse of the person they depend pretty much entirely on, in an atmosphere of violence will permanently change the outcomes of their development, brains pickled in a corrosive marinade of cortisol. I would propose this may even be of more permanent harm to the children than to the directly abused mother, who may have not herself experienced such badly timed stress.

    (Again this is not my story. My dad and mum were going down this path and life was absolute hell, but 1963 happened my dad let(!!) my mum get a job and learn to drive and no future “letting” happened or was required.)

    How this all too common experience plays out for boys and girls will certainly differ and boys may be co-opted to the dark side by the father as a least bad survival strategy, but in many many instances I contend boys will take that experience and form a visceral hatred of those sexist behaviours that wrought misery for them. (This outcome because sexist men are often more generally abusive also.)

    I am nervous about commenting on your exchange on the other thread. I can see your points, but I earnestly believe you have too readily discounted some of his points. Even if he is an idiot as evidenced by his belief that Greer’s wacky opinion represents all (or is characteristic)of feminism.

    The belief that groups are defined by some tight set of characteristics ruins too many discussions.Ascribing individuals to such groups to voice-deny them compounds this.

    I still believe you possibly both misidentified and therefore misunderstood the other.

  144. rrede says

    Phil:

    “We” means everyone. I am suggesting that it would be advantageous to everyone to be able to form their questions in simple refutable forms. I always presume an IMHO or at least an IMO scattered through the pieces I read and rather fail to add them as often as I should.

    “Everyone” is a meaningless category in the context of this discussion: and if you wish to signal that your posts are your own opinion, stop using the plural pronoun which implies you are speaking for more people than yourself. Maybe this rhetorical habit is carried over from science writing which is often done by a group (mostly made up of white cis straight men), but it’s inappropriate in this sort of communication situation–i.e. a blog where you are not part of a group or collective, and where you have no authority to speak for anyone but yourself.

    Your question is not simple, it is simplistic.

    Perhaps in science (may I ask what your discipline is?), the structure for forming questions in Y/N form can work (does X have the characteristic of y), but human language is not a science in that sense (linguistics can be categorized as a science OR a humanities OR a social science depending in large part on what part of linguistics the scholar is working in; sociolinguistics, which is what I’m using in this discussion, along with a dash of speech act and pragmatics theory, draws more from the social sciences). Y/N questions are not as useful as the more open ended ones that lead to richer analysis. In effect, the Y/N structure you use, and how you use it, closes down discussion. It’s a “bad” (meaning NOT useful) question in the context of this blog, of feminist theories and practices, and generally in any discussion of language and who has “voice” and who does not.

    And in this section of your post, the “we” is especially problematic:

    If we can clearly answer no to my question, with a cogent definition of authority appended, we can have complete confidence in stopping any man talking as if with authority (defn. knowledge from experience) on the subject of sexism. If the answer is “don’t know” or “yes”, then we are obliged to do the due diligence to assess that assumed authority.

    Oh, good grief.

    The “we” here seems to refer first to Ophelia and the commenters here, and includes yourself as part of the community which I doubt is appropriate. I’m new here, but the reason I like and read this blog is primarily the feminist/social justice focus on atheist topics, and I can say that your language in general has a lot of warning signals for mansplaining and sexism.

    You lay down some absolute “rules” (your rhetoric does not contain any hint of HUMBLE opinion, just a protip), but you don’t have the authority (in the case of this speech situation) to do so. You can say whatever you want, of course, but it’s an inappropriate speech act (in the sense of you not having any authority to make the rules, and from the push-back you get, it seems that few commenters here acknowledge you have any authority). You can try to persuade people, but from my perspective you’re doing a lousy job.

    And part of the lousy job refers back to where this started:

    Your first post on this thread is a response to Ophelia’s A guy who used to comment here was a classic example of that – long wordy patronizing guff ‘splaining why sexism isn’t. Easy for him.”, and you exclaim:

    Please stop mind reading. Please!

    You then go on to make up a much longer and detailed scenario that is as imaginary as you claim Ophelia’s to be: all about how much hardship he may have suffered. Plus, you go on to make lots of assumption about the intent of people here.

    And you keep arguing to support your over reaction and your attribution of INTENTIONALITY to Ophelia as she notes in 92, despite her numerous posts that she knows enough about this man to make the claim she did, and that there is also enough known about men as a class to say what she did (more about this men as a class later).

    It is SOCIALLY and CULTURALLY and CONEXTUALLY easy for men (as a group) to say there is no sexism, for straight people to say there is no homophobia (as a high administrator at my university told me when I approached him to get support for a Safe spaces program), for white peole to say there is no racism. That “ease” has everything to do with their social position, and how likely they are to be punished, shunned, ostracized, harassed for making that statement: it has fuckall to do with their feelings or their experiences.

    This characterization does not apply to ever individual, but are you SERIOUSLY thinking every woman should have to do some long drawn out scientific analysis of every man to determine his authority to mansplain sexism to her?

    Really? Because that is what your rule seems to be implying “we” should do.

    You then move into a demand that your overly simplistic falsely universalized YES/NO question be answered–and start in on how all the emotionalism (the silly wimminz) are doing is harming the CAUSE of rationalism (#137). That’s a sexist stereotype right there.

    Even when your point that “sexism” harms men is acknowledged by Callisticat, she points out that the problem is not about women or feminists acknowledging the harm sexism does to men and boys but the tendency of men to lecture women on the topic:

    Callistacat: What I have a problem with is men lecturing me about what is and isn’t real sexism/misgoyny, or saying that sexism against women is either a thing of the past or doesn’t exist at all in first world countries. Not living 24/7 as a woman, how could they have any real authority on the subject? They haven’t walked a mile in my shoes.

    Here’s the thing: you completly ignore Callistacat’s second paragraph to go on at great length about damage to boys, and men.

    You completely overlook her statement (which supports Ophelia’s, and which mine supports) about the problematic nature of men (operating off their sense of the authority they have as members of the socially dominant class) lecturing women about sexism.

    Saying “men” are the dominant class is not contradicted by the fact that many men (as individuals, or as members of oppressed classes based on race, socio-economic status, or sexuality) are treated badly and even oppressed at times in ways. But I rarely see any one insisting on “men and boys” as a class who is willing to acknowledge that many of the greatest problems experienced by men in the US (all I have the authority to speak about remember) are because of racism, homophobia and misogyny (men who present as what is perceived as ‘feminine’ are harassed), or because of class.

    And your claim that The belief that groups are defined by some tight set of characteristics ruins too many discussions. Ascribing individuals to such groups to voice-deny them compounds this.

    Talk to the kyriarchial social system which has been busy defining groups by characteristics going back quite a few millennia (Aristotle on women’s inferiority to men) and which was supported by “science” (dominated by white cis straight males) for much of the history of science. A lot of feminist and other social justice work wants to push back, challenged, and dare I say, deconstruct those cultural constructs — but to do so, we have to talk about them because those system exist.

    In other words, don’t blame feminists for talking about men as a class because you guys set that up way long time ago!

    And stop mansplaining.

  145. rrede says

    Ophelia

    Reading over the whole thread again, I realized how irksome P. is–if you want me to stop responding, I will–goodness knows, he shows no ability to ‘hear’ anything beyond his own voice.

  146. RuQu says

    I’m curious, why is a term like “manpslaining” (which I had to look up) not only considered acceptable, but seems common around here? It makes sweeping, negative generalizations about male behavior and motivations. I can’t think of a great counter example, but I imagine if someone said something like “crying like a little girl,” or a clever portmanteau of that concept, it would not go over well. At all.

    Could not the same effect be obtained by a combination of pointing out the problem (ie your suggestion is overly simplistic, as rrede says of Phil’s comments*) and “Check Your Privilege?”

    When an ignorant male like Phil or myself first stumbles into a community like this, we (admittedly making an assumption about him) do so with good intentions. Perhaps a friend or loved one is facing some discrimination and we want to learn more about it or get involved.

    It will take a very long time to learn all the places our privilege shows up. That’s the thing about it, isn’t it? You don’t realize you have it by virtue of having it! Please, point it out, as we will not see it otherwise.

    But I read through some of these comments, and see things like “mansplaining” and it gives off an air of anti-male sentiment. It suggests that all voices are welcome, except those of white cis males (I think I used that correctly).

    I realize we are probably extremely annoying, unaware of our privilege in society and used to being treated with respect. I can see how this might make people want to take us down a peg, or to be disrespectful because of our ignorance or the fact that we haven’t “earned respect” yet. However, shouldn’t the goal be to treat everyone with respect by default, until they “earn disrespect,” regardless of where they lie in terms of race, gender, cissexuality, or class?

    To be absolutely clear, I am not saying that you should be treating men, or white cis men, with more respect than anyone else. Just with the same respect. I am also suggesting that, when entering a community like this, their privilege is a handicap. Not only will it take them longer to integrate, since they don’t share a common background of discrimination, but they may very well experience some emotional or cognitive pushback as they internalize the concept that they may have inadvertently been causing harm to women in their lives who they care about by perpetuating societal expectations on gender roles (ie complimenting your son’s grades and your daughter’s pretty new dress, when she does just as well in school).

    I’m not saying show them more patience because they are white, or male, but because the concepts really are harder for them not only to learn, but to accept. In the end, though, the benefits of complete equality, regardless of label, far outweigh the cost of having to re-educate white cis males, even if you have to do it one ignorant dude at a time. The fact that we’re here means we are ready to start trying.*

    *unless we just showed up to troll and be a prick, in which case fire away!

  147. says

    RuQu – rrede is the only one who has used “mansplaining” on this thread, so take it up with rrede. Since you’re giving a lot of general advice, I’ll give you a little in return: don’t give general advice that’s based on something that one commenter said – don’t treat one commenter as somehow representing “around here.”

    On your broader point, as I think I’ve already said – there’s a limit to how completely anyone can accommodate newcomers. That’s true of any medium. Should all books be adapted for small children? Should all tv shows introduce each character for each episode? Should newspapers explain everything (what is “the US”? What is “the UN”? What are “treaties”? etc) for possible Martians or shut-ins in every story?

    It’s always a balancing act. Always. How much implicit knowledge does one assume? That’s a judgement call. I could take your advice and explain the basics of feminism as a preface to every post but then I would drive a lot of existing readers away. I could assume that no one knows anything about feminism and so explain every single concept I touch on as I go, but that would drive even more people away. (A preface one could just skip; explanations of the basics woven into every post would clog every line, and render it all unreadable.)

    This is just part of life-with-media – we’re often reading things that we don’t fully understand. We may pause to look things up while reading. But it’s just not a good idea to assume universal total ignorance and start from zero with everything.

  148. RuQu says

    Ophelia:

    Certainly good points, and well taken.

    I only included the above here because this is one of two threads I’d seen about trying for more friendly conversations.

    I am highly educated, but in the hard sciences and their application. I am only barely familiar with some of the topics that come up here. You don’t have to treat people like children because they are ignorant of the jargon and consensus on common arguments in a specialized field. This ignorance would be unacceptable at a neurology lecture where everyone is an expert, but I would hope it would be more tolerated when doing activism as outreach is important for success. Obviously, if the forum is meant for activists to talk to other activists, and not laypeople, then less tolerance for that ignorance makes far more sense. If that is the purpose of these blogs and this community, I may have stumbled through the wrong door and should take my interest in social justice to a place that is less a discussion spot for activist insiders and more of an interface between activists and sympathetic members of the public. If I am in the wrong spot, please let me know to go elsewhere.

  149. says

    RuQu, no, you’re not in the wrong spot!

    But, again, it’s a balancing act. The blog is almost ten years old. It has a lot of regular readers. It’s a balancing act between writing for people who have been reading it for a long time and for people who haven’t. There is no perfect medium to find – it’s not possible.

    I guess I don’t accept your premise that there is too much insider jargon here. One commenter in a long thread uses “mansplaining” four times – I don’t see that as a terrible burden of jargon. Personally, I find Phil’s particular jargon a good deal more offputting.

  150. smhll says

    But I read through some of these comments, and see things like “mansplaining” and it gives off an air of anti-male sentiment. It suggests that all voices are welcome, except those of white cis males (I think I used that correctly).

    I realize we are probably extremely annoying, unaware of our privilege in society and used to being treated with respect. I can see how this might make people want to take us down a peg, or to be disrespectful because of our ignorance or the fact that we haven’t “earned respect” yet. However, shouldn’t the goal be to treat everyone with respect by default, until they “earn disrespect,” regardless of where they lie in terms of race, gender, cissexuality, or class?

    I think if the worst thing that is said to you is the equivalent of “you are explaining like a man” perhaps plus “… in a way that we do not find agreeable”, then that’s not much in the way of incivility.

    It’s not all men who get pushback in discussion spaces similar to this thread. It’s men who insist that they know how women should feel because they’ve gone as far as to kindly tell us women how they would feel if they were in our shoes.

    I just don’t see “explaining like a man” as pejorative, even when it is used as a criticism.

  151. RuQu says

    smhill:

    The Urban dictionary definition is considerably less pleasant than yours, even accounting for its contributors trend towards poorly implemented humor.

    I just think any gender-directed incivility is too much, as it creates a space that suggests that gender/identity isn’t welcome. Individuals can be assholes, call them on it, but leave the rest of the group that shares some biological traits with them out of it.

    Ophelia:
    I think part of it is a mistake on my part, conflating FTB as a semi-unified front, instead of hub for separate communities that sometimes overlap.

    A failure to distinguish B&W from FTB in general.

    There really aren’t many atheist communities online, and as I was looking for one, FTB was recommended by some friends elsewhere. Of course, some also recommended reading but never ever commenting as newcomers were frequently not greeted well. A little looking around turned up a dearth of other real options, as well as the cooling embers of some year long incident that likely made trolling far more common for a while there. These threads seemed to be directed at trying to simmer things back down, and I’m just trying to nudge the set-point a little more into the amateur/newcomer direction. :)

    As for Phil’s jargon, I sort of tuned out around the point of “little boys might suffer more from sexist abuse of their mothers than the mothers themselves.” I suppose a properly skeptic pose is to wait until any research on the implications for both parties are complete before making a judgment, but, as a non-social scientist, that seemed intuitively distasteful enough for me to walk away at that point.

  152. smhll says

    Hi, RuQu –

    I appreciate your gentle tone. I would never verbally smack anyone who was as mild-mannered as you in your approach.

    I polled my husband (nearest man) and he definitely doesn’t like the mansplaining word. I’ve never called him a mansplainer, and I have called myself a ‘splainer. I fall into the trap of ‘splaining a lot myself, because I am wildly enamored of my own ideas and can rarely be restrained from sharing them.

    I make an effort to be fair and reasonable. However, as long as I have to deal with not being included in “all men are created equal”, I think I have a legitimate beef. I’m not going to eliminate all critical adjectives from my vocabulary until I see a bit more niceness all around. I’ll drop “mansplainer” when the word “overreacting” isn’t used so dang often.

  153. says

    Well, that’s a good direction to nudge, RQ. I nudged myself there the other day, because I really don’t want to scare away newcomers. Then again advice not to comment may be just advice to read awhile before commenting, which isn’t so terrible – just advice to get a bit of a feel for things first.

    But either way – WELCOME NEW READERS.

  154. Phil Rimmer says

    @170 rrede

    I am rendered speechless.

    So much I don’t understand about that post…

  155. Phil Rimmer says

    @178 smhll

    “As for Phil’s jargon, I sort of tuned out around the point of “little boys might suffer more from sexist abuse of their mothers than the mothers themselves.” ”

    But I just didn’t say that! I said-

    “I would propose this may even be of more permanent harm to the children than to the directly abused mother, who may have not herself experienced such badly timed stress.”

    I then went on to propose how it could go in two quite distinct directions for boys.

    Children are notably impressionable, with some permanent result.

    “Other studies have found that childhood trauma, such as being repeatedly abused or witnessing a murder, can directly affect the way the brain functions. It was found that these traumatized children continue to show physical symptoms of fear even in the absence of threatening stimuli, almost as if their brains are “stuck” in their reaction to the traumatic experiences. (In this article’s later discussion of cortisol, the reason for this will be explored). These children have very high resting heart rates, high levels of stress hormones in their blood, and problematic sleep patterns, all of which suggest that their experiences have left their brains in a permanent state of “high alert”. Unless an intervention occurs, these children will likely develop emotional, behavioral and learning problems.”

    Information for parents from http://www.educarer.com/brain.htm

  156. jehk says

    I’ve been reading this blog (and others like Pharyngula) for years and its still intimidating to post. There’s no amount of lurking that will fully prepare someone for conversation among such a sharp crowd. You eventually have to dive in and learn from the bumps and bruises suffered along the way.

  157. RuQu says

    Phil:

    I think that was my quote, not smhill’s.

    That additional research you quoted in 183 is the sort of research I specifically said a properly skeptic position should wait for. That doesn’t change my initial reaction to it, and I assume(!) it likely invoked a negative reaction in others who may have been more directly affected by those sorts of situations, though I obviously can’t speak for them.

    I assume your intentions were good, even if it came across poorly. And certainly if we are going to study these things, we have to be able to ask the question. Perhaps a veteran around here has suggestions on how such a point could have been raised? Or is this one of those well-known things that is considered too basic to bother rehashing, and even bringing it up counts as “‘splaining?'” I’m sure Phil would like feedback here, and I know I would too. Learning from the mistakes of others is my preferred method. It’s less painful.

    I just scanned back over some of your posts and the responses, and I can honestly say I can easily see myself winding up in a similar situation. Communication happens differently around here. Saying things that seem perfectly normal and reasonable to your (our white male) ears seem to invoke a reaction you (we) didn’t expect. This is what I was getting at in 172 when I said:

    It will take a very long time to learn all the places our privilege shows up. That’s the thing about it, isn’t it? You don’t realize you have it by virtue of having it! Please, point it out, as we will not see it otherwise.

    Maybe just wait and see if anyone gives a nice response to the questions on how to do it better I asked in this post, try and learn from this event, and try and do better next time?

    smhll
    I’m trying. It’s harder than you might think, so I appreciate that it is appreciated.

    Your beef is legitimate, but perhaps there is also value in unilateral disarmament? Especially when your opponent doesn’t realize they are armed?

    Case in point, it would not have occurred to me that “overreact” would be a word that would cause offense or be seen as perpetuating male dominance. Lots of people overreact every day (ie Road Rage). Now that it is pointed out, I can see how it dismisses or downplays the experiences you have had, and how it makes assumptions about your experiences that I have no way of knowing anything about. Now I know, but how many other words seem innocent to me but not to you?

    Ophelia
    “Listen more, talk less” is always good advice. In fact, I think I might take it myself after this post.

    However, as jehk points out and my comments above about “overreact” demonstrate, there are some things just watching won’t teach. On an ideal blog with only experienced posters, I would never see anyone accuse smhll of overreacting. I might then make that mistake myself despite watching silently for months, and be bewildered when it provokes a negative reaction, get defensive, and things typically spiral poorly from there.

    I think the dissonance between how a guy thinks “I’m a good guy, sensitive to women’s issues and the rights of minorities” and being told that they are “not” that when trying to talk on these issues is difficult to reconcile. I apologize if that is considered well known and obvious.

    Before I take your good “listen more, talk less” advice, perhaps you could tolerate one more suggestion? A blog series aimed at ignorant but well-intentioned newcomers explaining local behavioral norms, examples of common mistakes, etc. “Check Your Privilege: A Newcomers Guide for White Guys Who Want to Talk About Social Justice.” Not Feminism 101 filled with history and why it matters, but a guide to the differences in social expectations and common errors of privilege. Such a resource should save a lot of frustration and annoyance on all sides.

    (insert additional apology if this fairly obvious resource has been suggested 1000 times before and this is yet another case of ‘splaining’)

    *Fades into the background to listen more and talk less*

  158. maureen.brian says

    With Ophelia’s permission I’ll just put up this post on mansplaining, now a couple of years old.

    http://scienceblogs.com/thusspakezuska/2010/01/25/you-may-be-a-mansplainer-if/

    For those to whom the word mansplaining is either new or a bit of a challenge it should help with understanding that it is a very specific behaviour. That’s why we, with our very own ladybranes, decided to give it a name of its own.

    You know, like you would if you identified a new species of hummingbird.

  159. rrede says

    RuQu:

    Some resources: I have three but am doing one per post to avoid (I hope) spam filters!

    Google search: Feminism and the sciences

    If you are active in the hard sciences, but completely unaware of feminist issues in the sciences (which has been the subject of feminist critique for decades–depending on how you define science!–I am a bit amazed. I’m in the humanities myself (English), but read across disciplines, and not only the published work by authors such as Sandra Harding and Donna Haraway has been around for a while, but there are blogs by feminists in science all over the place. One of my current favorites: Dr. Isis! Risking a second link:
    http://isisthescientist.com/

    Feminism 101

    Sexism in the Sciences

  160. rrede says

    RuQu: A common statement on social justice blogs is that the dominant group (whether it be whites, men, or straights) shouldn’t always make it about themselves–if, as an individual, you don’t mansplain (and you have not done so here), then it’s not about you.

    Maureen.Brian put up an excellent post (which I’d not seen–I’m recommending hers and not putting up the ones I have used in the past) explaining what “mansplaining” means.

    Oh, and that reminds me, another link: Check Your Privilege!

  161. rrede says

    smhll

    Complete agreement with your point about how the level of “incivility” is perceived–when the growing harassment (rape threats, death threats, outing of personal information) against women online is increasing yearly (along with, thank goodness, more pushback and support from everybody), the idea that a straight cis white man feeling that a term like “mansplain” or (as I’ve seen on Manboobz) being called a straight cis white man are insulting is………..beautifully ironic.

    RuQue

    I’m a complete newcomer on all the FTB — I avoided the atheist movement for years because it seemed to be full of well straight cis white middle-class men, and I have enough of them to deal with at my very small university in Texas. I only began reading in the network recently (and yes, there is a huge variety of different approaches in different blogs in the network), and only commented even more recently (and got roundly smacked around at Pharyangula–if you want to see examples, I am happy to link!).

    But I am a feminist, an academic, and not only am a queer woman living with a woman in Texas (and in my mid-fifties), but teach gender theory as well as a range of marginalized literatures and other courses relating to the changes in literary studies (I am the demon feminist terrorist George Will loves to hate).

    In my comments to Phil, I tried to take a more introductory approach (i.e. I didn’t assume he knew the specialized grammatical terminology I was using!), and tried to explain on a basic level — he seems v. resistant to it (and that’s NOT unfamiliar to me as a teacher of some 25 years–people often resist information they find unpalatable or challenging to their world view).

    But it’s impossible to link to every possible term used that someone, somewhere, might not know — and I do kind of figure that if people are on the internet they can google!

  162. RuQu says

    All:
    1) Thanks for all the links. I will attempt to get through most of them before posting much more.

    rrede:
    2) While I can appreciate the irony of men complaining of minor abuse online, I still think we should strive to not abuse anyone, especially not on the basis of their gender identity! There shouldn’t be an (except white cis men) clause hidden at the end of that. Not just because it is contrary to the concept of equality, but also because they are potential political allies and alienating them (us) is bad from a self-interested view.

    3) While understanding that it seems trivial or petty to ask for understanding of the white male position in context of what every other group has dealt with in the recent past, please try and take a moment to do so on occasion. As you say you have seen in the classroom, there is a natural resistance to some of these ideas. I’m a hydrographer, not a psychologist, and I apologize if all of this is well-known or discussed in those links I haven’t gotten around to yet. Resistance is only natural, considering there is certainly some, at least perceived, self-interest in maintaining our power advantage. There is also the cognitive dissonance of thinking you are a progressive liberal male who is hip with all the trendy social crusades, only to be told that things you think are helping are actually harmful. Third, once that idea starts to sink in, there is the internal struggle with the idea you may have inadvertently caused harm to loved ones. All of that takes time to shake out and re-gel into a functioning brain. It won’t happen overnight. It may not happen over the course of a semester class. A couple of links will help, but won’t make it magically click.

    I think it’s worth the patience. That said, we don’t have to put up with ourselves in the interim. Just one final bit of privilege, eh?

    Anyway, I’ll try and keep quite until I’ve at least made it through some of those links.

  163. rrede says

    RuQu

    I do not consider the use of ‘mansplaining’ to be an insult–it is a very clear, specific term that I think perfectly describes what Phil came in doing, and continued to do.

    That you do consider it an insult, is, I think your problem. If it’s not you (I said, you haven’t mansplained here that I have seen), then why take it on?

    You might want to read some on tone trolling, and also consider that the “if you’re not nice to me, I won’t be your ally” potential subtext (and you have no idea how often that appeal is made) is more likely to make me (not anybody else here; I only speak for myself) think you wouldn’t be much of an ally.

    http://geekfeminism.wikia.com/wiki/Tone_argument

  164. says

    1. Denying facts is Stupid.

    And it makes no difference
    it it is Christians who
    DENY Evolution is a FACT,
    Homosexuals are NOT Born
    OR the MANY fact which prove the Iraq War was fully justified.

    OR the fact that as people age and gain in both experience and knowledge, MANY times more go FROM being LIBERALS to becoming CONSERATIVES than go the other way.

    And FYI, simply because you may not KNOW all the things I say are facts ARE Facts, does not change them.

    2. And as Forest Gump so aptly put it:

    ‘Stupid is as Stupid Does!’

    Therfore, those who deny facts are acting stupidly
    and if they do it over and over again, THEY MUST BE STUPID!

    Period!

    END Of STORY!

  165. RuQu says

    rrede:

    I had a longer reply. I think it would have lead to further replies…and back and forth. Or a tar and feathering.

    I deleted it. (obviously).

    I’ve never been a big fan of blogs, and I don’t think I’ve ever followed one for more than a month straight, usually with months in between. I will surely drift away from here as well in a month or less. It seems that the learning curve for proper posting etiquette for a white male is probably too steep to really get a handle on fully by the time something shiny inevitably floats by.

    Thank you all for the patience, and the useful links. I think I’m going to take Ophelia’s advice now and read more, talk less (or not at all).

  166. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    Oh for goodness’ sake, RuQu, do better. People here are being very accommodating to you and it’s not going to continue forever. You’re rapidly getting into whining territory. You don’t have it so very bad brah.

  167. RuQu says

    Yes they were all very accommodating and I appreciate that.

    I also recognize that their patience would not last forever.

    I then have to weigh my personal interest in the subject (small, especially since my privilege makes it mostly academic) against the effort required to fully grasp how my privileged status guides my language choices (unknown, possibly large) and against the odds of those lessons coming at the cost of violating the standards here.

    The tone you find so whiny is not my natural one, but since this is not my territory and offense seemed so easy to cause I adopted a far more obsequious stance than I normally ever would. I imagine my natural tone of extreme confidence would almost certainly have had me doing some mansplaining, especially since gender issues are about as far from my specialty as I can get.

    My attention for this subject, which is interesting but doesn’t directly affect me, is also unlikely to last past the launch of the video game Guild Wars 2 on August 24th. Mostly I’m just bored, and since I’m helping to start a guild that JT Eberhard and a number ofFTB readers are in, I figured I’d check out what this place was all about.

    All that considered, I don’t know if I’m capable of maintaining such humility for as long as it would take for me to incorporate the unique way of communicating that is the norm here. Since I really do support the goals of gender equality and really did appreciate the patience of Ophelia, rrede, and smhll, I think it is best if I read more and talk less. Hopefully that was a more acceptable version of “that was interesting, thank you for your time, I’ll be over here playing video games while you deal with important issues in your life that don’t affect me” for you, Josh.

  168. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    Oh, RuQu, really. You don’t have to measure up to anyone’s standards, least of all mine (it ain’t my blog). I probably came off as inappropriately imperious. But still, what’s being asked of you isn’t that difficult. I do hope you stick around since it’s interesting fun tymes here and you clearly think about the implications of all these issues.

    Cheers either way!

  169. says

    I am 77 and I have been helping people since I was in the Fifth Grade. One way which I help others is to share information about things I know are from very good to great.

    And this, is One Of Them.

    ARE THERE PEOPLE WHO DO REALLY STUPID THINGS?

    Yep, there are! And you can read about them with new stroies once a week!

    While sometimes, I am one of the stupid, I hope I am never as stupid as those in this really Great E-zine named “THIS is TRUE!'” It has nearly 45,000 subscribers since Randy Cassingham started this “Weekly” in 1994,

    (Randy used to publish the “Stella Awards”)

    http://www.thisistrue.com

    I HOPE YOU ENJOY READING “THIS IS TRUE” (I DO)

  170. rrede says

    And how RuQu confirmed my on-going sense that it’s not worth spending too much time on “educating” privileged white dudes:

    1. The Violent Metaphor. At the least hint of what they perceive as “incivility” in an anonymous forum on the internet, they break out the metaphors of violence: like tar and feathering. Really? Comments here are just like vigilante justice involving mobs? The only good thing to say about this metaphor is that at least it’s not as appropriative as “lynching.”

    2. The Flounce: after they do not get immediate validation for their wonderfulness, they declare their lack of interest and need to go do Important Man stuff and flounce, i.e. there’s this GAME! MOAR important than ladiez stuff.

    2.a. They never stick the flounce. How many times did RuQu announce he was stopping commenting to read and learn?

    3. The Put Down: this silly little subject really isn’t important, it’s just the internet, etc. In this case, feminism is only of academic interest and the subject does not directly affect him.

    I wonder how many women students RuQu has in his classes (and how many women he’s failed to support, driven off with his privileged language and attitudes); ditto women colleagues. I wonder how he treats the women who are the majority of support workers at colleges.

    And, unique to RuQu (one to add to my collection), which I shall call, in future, The Uriah Heep:

    The tone you find so whiny is not my natural one, but since this is not my territory and offense seemed so easy to cause I adopted a far more obsequious stance than I normally ever would. I imagine my natural tone of extreme confidence would almost certainly have had me doing some mansplaining, especially since gender issues are about as far from my specialty as I can get.

    I think a confident person would have perhaps come into a space and said, straight up, I don’t know much about this stuff, but I’e like to learn. And then listened.

    By this, I mean confident in their ability to learn.

    Think about this experience the next time you decide to amuse yourself while bored at a social justice blog: your tone clearly offended some people here. (Plus, dude, I would bet real money there are a significant number of white men here, so it’s not just “mean feminists drive all white men away,” srs).

    The more you talk about your “humility,” the more it comes across to me as privileged dude thinking he had to “lower” himself and being oh so magnanimous about coming had in hand to the ladiez, and then being spurned. Some icky overtones of failed courtship metaphor there-“look what I did for you all, why do you not appreciate me, woes!”

  171. says

    So what seemed to start off as helpful advice on welcoming newcomers turned out to be just more But What About Meism combined with passive-aggressive complaining?

    Ah well.

  172. RuQu says

    Ophelia:

    I think I was unclear:

    Your responses to me were patient, helpful, and very appreciated.

    Thank you.

    This social justice issue is very important. Not the most important in the world, unless you include poverty and class equality (ie starving, dying children), but certainly one of, if not the, most important in the United States.

    I came here with false assumptions about how long it would take to learn to communicate in a way that would be considered acceptable here. I realize that there is still a great deal of work I need to do on recognizing my own privilege. The links you all so generously provided should help as a starting point for that. That is a process that I does not need to happen publicly, or in this forum.

    An awareness of my own (objectively poorly placed) priorities and attention span suggests that I shouldn’t waste any more of the time and patience you have generously given me. Considering it is estimated to cost ~$400 to save a child from malaria, which is about the cost of an iPad, I think we all may have some misplaced priorities. Some people drink to excess. I play video games. “Let he is without sin…” Etc.

    If I was going to get involved with social justice activism, as opposed to simply reading about it on occasion, I am sure that I could learn to change how I write, just as I am sure many straight white males who do come here often have done.

    I would hope that any poor communication on my part on my way out, after an admittedly short stay, does not cause you to throw out anything you might have found useful in my previous comments.

    I hope that you continue to welcome newcomers as nicely as you welcomed me, even though it might seem wasted when someone still decides to leave. The internet is a big place. Not everyone who wanders in will stay, even in the greatest of places. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t invite them in, though. As I said about me, I’m not big on blogs. I was trying them out lately, and the more I read of them (blogs in general), the less interested I am in reading more of them. If I’m not reading the blog, it seems odd to try and be part of that commenting community, doesn’t it?

    With that, I shall “flounce.” Not because you were uncivil, as you were all exceptionally patient, but because it just doesn’t fit well with my interests and priorities, which are legitimately mine and mine alone to decide and cast no judgment on the interests and priorities of others.

    rrede, if I offended you, I apologize. It was not intended. Thank you for your patience up until then. If it helps, I promise to stick this flounce.

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