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May 20 2013

And if you throw that bottle at the wall it will break

Now to look at some of the claims as claims. For instance in A Few Examples of “Shut Up and Listen”:

By the way, I am well aware that our communications director in his personal capacity quoted Myers approvingly. Obviously, I disagree with him on this point. The fact of that disagreement does not affect our working relationship. Paul is a great communications director. Are there limits to what CFI employees can say? Sure, but the restrictions are fairly loose. At CFI, we do not follow the rule “shut up and listen.” Generally, employees can express their opinions. There is one requirement, however. They need to supply reasons and evidence. Invoking their racial/sexual/ethnic/class identity, whatever it might be, is not considered a substitute for argument.

See, that was the problem in the talk, too. Very few people consider invoking racial/sexual/ethnic/class identity a substitute for argument, and it is insulting to imply that the people you’re addressing do. Insulting, patronizing, belittling…like a daddy talking to a chaotic hormonal teenager. Nobody invited to speak – to donate their time, as Susan Jacoby reminded us – is stupid enough to think that “I’m a woman” is a substitute for argument. That is not the point.

This is the point. Suppose employees are gathered together to express their opinions and one employee keeps getting interrupted and ignored. Suppose that employee says something and is ignored and then a few minutes later someone else says the same thing and everyone cheers and says how brilliant. Suppose things like that. Maybe it’s just One Of Those Things – or maybe the employee has a despised identity. Either way – it is possible to have a meta-discussion about the talking and interacting themselves, and about how the respective identities of the employees might be making a difference. That is not the same thing as invoking identity as a substitute for argument. That’s what “meta” means here – as Ron, a philosopher, knows perfectly well.

And – as I tried to tell Ron yesterday – “shut up and listen” is not a “rule” in any normal sense. Ok, he cites a post where PZ generalizes it into a rule – but even there it is surely clear that what is meant is “shut up for long enough to listen and take in what is being said” – not shut up and never speak again. Basically it’s just a sharper way of saying “stop interrupting” – and please don’t make me drag out all the studies of patterns of interruption between women and men.

Is saying “stop interrupting” generally seen as a Giant Law Ordering Everyone to Wait Forever While I Talk? Of course it isn’t. Is saying “dammit you keep cutting me off, it’s more of a guy thing, will you please just shut up for two minutes so that I can finish a sentence?!” generally seen as the opposite of an argument? No. It’s trying to create the necessary conditions to make an argument. Being interrupted doesn’t help, and being patronized and insulted doesn’t help.

25 comments

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  1. 1
    carlie

    I’d like to think that some kind of change of phrasing like using “I’t's my/our turn to speak right now” would help, but we all know it wouldn’t.

  2. 2
    Kevin

    No kidding, I can support secular/humanist/atheist/whatever organizations.

    I choose not to support those organizations that have clueless leaders. Because they refuse to listen to their constituents.

    Shut up and listen mainly means “listen”.

  3. 3
    Aratina Cage

    Yes. I cannot believe how badly some people are not getting it. One really needs to look at the positions of the people saying “shut up and listen!” before settling on the conclusion that it is a terrible thing to say. A person who can’t get a word in for whatever reason saying it or a person who is ignored or dismissed with prejudice saying it is not the same as an authoritarian saying it or an abuser saying it. The Joker saying it is not the same as Vicky Vale saying it. As usual, context is important.

  4. 4
    NateHevens, resident SOOPER-GENIUS... apparently...

    Complaining about the phrase “shut up”is beyond pathetic. I always hated it when people said “shut up” was “rude”. I’d say it depends on the context. When you’re pissing me off, “shut up” is, in fact, the nicest thing you’re about to hear out of my mouth.

  5. 5
    Sili

    but even there it is surely clear that what is meant is “shut up for long enough to listen and take in what is being said” – not shut up and never speak again.

    Well, unless he changes his tune very soon, I wouldn’t complain if Lindsay stopped talking altogether.

  6. 6
    Shaun McGonigal

    The main problem, as I keep saying, is that because so many critics never stopped talking and writing long enough to really listen to feminist criticism, they don’t understand that the phrase “shut up and listen” means something other than their paranoid fantasy of silencing them eternally in the name of the great matriarchy, or someshit.

    How many people refuse to read this network, or only read what is quoted by others, and subsequently claim to understand the nature of the supposed bullying? How ironic that is.

  7. 7
    Ophelia Benson

    Seriously. I just had someone telling me about some half-remembered thing about a blogger who got threats but it turned out they weren’t real threats so it just goes to show how crazy those pesky bloggers are. Of course what he was remembering was the very doctored account given by people who hate me because reasons, and of course he had no clue that that was the case (or that I was the blogger he was maligning).

  8. 8
    Improbable Joe, bearer of the Official SpokesGuitar

    Here’s the point where I poop on philosophers… or at least the ones who think that “knowing how to argue logically” means “actually arguing logically” which is a trap that too many philosophers seem to fall into when speaking outside of their expertise.

    See? I can learn to change my mind AND approach! Maybe Mr. CEO Philosopher Very Important Thinky-style Leader-Dude can do the same?

  9. 9
    smhll

    And – as I tried to tell Ron yesterday – “shut up and listen” is not a “rule” in any normal sense. Ok, he cites a post where PZ generalizes it into a rule – but even there it is surely clear that what is meant is “shut up for long enough to listen and take in what is being said” – not shut up and never speak again. Basically it’s just a sharper way of saying “stop interrupting” – and please don’t make me drag out all the studies of patterns of interruption between women and men.

    I think this is a very helpful clarification and I’m glad you made it.

  10. 10
    Gretchen Robinson

    don’t they know any women’s history? The silencing, belittling, minimizing, and that’s just for starters.

    When I gave the book the Gender Knot to a class I led, one male student said, “Oh, this is by a man. I’ll read this.” Men don’t want to read or hear anything by women; they might be wussified. We live in a culture where it’s easy to not know the results of centuries of the oppression and silencing of women. The willed blindness and willed deafness is in the culture. Why wouldn’t it be in CFI? why would we be surprised at this? Why wouldn’t we just expect it??

  11. 11
    navigator

    I guess this is the best construction I could put on his remarks, that “shut up” is just too rude. Really? If “shut up” is beyond the pale for him, he needs to spend more time looking at the comment threads so he can appreciate the heinous things that alleged skeptics say every day.

  12. 12
    Dave W

    It’s obvious that Ron Lindsay (and others) refuse to shut up and listen long enough to learn what “shut up and listen” means. They hear the first two words and immediately cease listening because they’re too busy over-reacting. It’s pathetic because “shut up and listen” is actually an invitation to engage while more fully informed. And in that sense, it’s a pretty good “rule.”

  13. 13
    sawells

    Maybe he needs some simpler formulation of the idea. Something like this:

    “Listening is when you pay attention to the mouth-noises that other people are making. If you are still making mouth-noises yourself you probably aren’t doing that.”

  14. 14
    thecynicalromantic

    While “I’m a woman” may be a terrible substitute for an argument, when the actual goddamn question is “What makes you, a woman, think you know more than me, a man, about being a woman?” then “Because I’m a woman” is actually a fairly salient answer.

    It seems to me like a good chunk of the time when people are complaining that women are giving that answer and it’s, like, such a terrible answer, they don’t mention what the question was… and it turns out the question was, indeed, some variant of “What makes you think you know anything about being a woman?”

  15. 15
    Scr... Archivist

    I would add that it isn’t just “stop interrupting”. It’s also “stop filibustering”.

    Some people never notice how much they speak. They also don’t notice who isn’t speaking, both in the sense of never seeing them and in the sense of not recognizing the pattern of who is excluded. Sometimes they need to be reminded, even the well-meaning folks.

    All this reminds me of things I’ve learned from folks like the Catalyst Project in San Francisco. In particular, “step up/step back” comes readily to mind.

  16. 16
    surreptitous57

    I so wish I could just shut up and listen as in for ever // I am perfectly fine when I
    am alone but when in the company of someone else I have to speak // Now I do
    not make excuses but I know no better // But listening to others should be what
    we should all do especially those we disagree with // And I agree with the views
    of cynical romantic and Archivist who tell it as it is // And I wish men would listen
    more to women and I include myself in that // But I would more accurately state
    it as misogynists listening more to feminists // As that is what I should be doing

  17. 17
    Ophelia Benson

    Some people never notice how much they speak. They also don’t notice who isn’t speaking, both in the sense of never seeing them and in the sense of not recognizing the pattern of who is excluded.

    That is so true, and it’s so much of what all this is about. At the same time it’s been being discussed and demonstrated for forty fucking years now yet here we still are, explaining the most elementary primitive crude basics imaginable to people who have been alive and sentient and thinking during those forty years.

  18. 18
    quixote

    All I know about atheist activism I see here, and occasionally when some new example of Dawkins’ arrogance makes the wider news. (I’m here for the feminism.) So initially I was very surprised to hear that there’s so much screaming meemie misogyny in the community. Huh? I said. What’s that about? It seems pretty much 180 degrees opposed to a spirit of rational, evidence-based inquiry, since there’s not one shred of evidence that says dumping on women is anything but bigoted.
    .
    From what I see of the misogynists filtered through here, though, it looks like there’s another and quite different motivation for “movement atheism” than mere rationality. There seems to be a whole group of people for whom it’s a badge of being smarter than the rubes, the proles, the underclass.
    .
    And any part of the underclass not performing its assigned function of admiring their brilliance is a perversion to be put back in its place.
    .
    I guess an honorable fighter will continue to argue from reason. But I can’t help feeling that it’d be more effective to ridicule their real motives. “Hey, Ron. Don’t worry. Bits won’t fall off if you listen to a female. If it really bothers you, we’ll give you a screen you can sit behind so at least you don’t have to see her.” Or something way snarkier someone smarter than me come up with.

  19. 19
    smhll
    Some people never notice how much they speak. They also don’t notice who isn’t speaking, both in the sense of never seeing them and in the sense of not recognizing the pattern of who is excluded.

    That is so true, and it’s so much of what all this is about. At the same time it’s been being discussed and demonstrated for forty fucking years now yet here we still are, explaining the most elementary primitive crude basics imaginable to people who have been alive and sentient and thinking during those forty years.

    Yes, this.

    I tend to stop listening to people NOT when I see the gender and perhaps race in their screen name, but when they say something stunningly ignorant. I am really not dismissing people due to gender (even if they do have the privilege of being open with their real names on the internet.)

    There are a lot of ignorant, new-to-social-justice loudmouths on the internet. Expecting me to hear each one of them out when there’s a lot of similarity in what they are saying is just too much.

    We have established members of atheist and humanist organizations who don’t know enough about feminism to smell a really crappy argument when it shows up. I don’t always have the time to type “this is a crappy argument because…” and drop three links which may be ignored.

    Maybe it looks like ‘dogma’ because there are certain points that we are factually (or even morally) convinced of, but we don’t want to build the complete evidence chain, starting with definitions of every word used, for every contrarian with a keyboard and a head of steam.

  20. 20
    surreptitous57

    I hate to break it to you now Ophelia but this has been going on for a little bit longer
    than forty years // This has been going on since Man [ species not gender ] first set
    foot on the planet // Which is at least two million give or take // So maybe in another
    two million we might actually achieve real equality // And no I am not joking // I wish

  21. 21
    StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return!

    @ 20. surreptitous57 :

    This has been going on since Man [ species not gender ]

    I suggest to you that the best way to specify you mean humans as a species rather than female / male as gender is to use “Human /Humanity or People.

    Also defeatism – giving up and resigning to injustice because it seems too hard – not such a big fan of that.

    I do NOT think it will take two million years.

    I hope it takes a tiny minute fraction of that. I think we need to work and push towards making things change ASAP.

    Look how (relatively) quickly we went from Wright brothers flyer to Jumbo jets, the Space Shuttle and Saturn V Apollo spacecraft to the Moon.

    Look how quickly the internet has become a major part of many people’s lives.

    Look at how quickly acceptance of gay marriage and treating same -sex lovers as people who are deserving of equal treatment has / is catching on.

    Yes, wish things happened quicker in terms of progress. But still.

    Millions of years to change social attitudes, to create new worlds and ways of thinking? Nope.

  22. 22
    Ophelia Benson

    surreptitious, don’t patronize me, please. I wasn’t saying that the subjection of women has been going on for forty years. I was saying that we’ve been talking directly about things like who interrupts whom for that length of time.

    And while we’re at it, please use normal punctuation. Your affectation with the // instead of periods is distracting and tiresome to read.

  23. 23
    STH

    I don’t have much hope that Lindsay’s EVER going to listen to anything we’re saying. It’s so much more comfortable to sit back, confident that you’re right, and never have to think about the disconcerting possibility that you might have done something wrong. If he were intellectually honest, he’d think about how smart all these people are who are criticizing his talk and maybe, just maybe, they might be on to something. But I doubt it will happen, and it’s a shame, because CFI will suffer for it. I’d love to go to WIS3, but I won’t if he’s going to be involved, and CFI won’t get a dime of my money while he’s working for them.

  24. 24
    karmacat

    . If Ron Lindsay is acting in his capacity as a director of an organization, he had better be aware of what he is saying and to whom he is talking. It, of course, surprises me that he doesn’t get that. If I talked to a group of black women (I’m white) about privilege, they would rightly think I am a complete idiot

  25. 25
    freemage

    Translation for Lindsay and supporters:

    “Shut up”: Stop interrupting, stop filibustering. Actually leave a break for the other person to speak, and to have an equal opportunity to do so. If you raise a complex point in a simple manner, allow them the time to address it with due nuance and complexity. (Anyone who has debated a gish-galloping creationist should know what happens if you assume that all points can be answered in the exact time they took to be made.)

    “And Listen”: Actually pay attention to what is being said. Take note of evidence and reasoning that is introduced. Don’t just sit there waiting until you get to speak again, while thinking about something else entirely. Use questions, not as a debate technique (again, see Creationist Debate Tactics 101), but rather as a way of eliciting more information, to better your understanding of the other person’s views.

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