I haven’t been able to get my knuckles scraped up in this particular brawl lately, but I HAVE noticed something that I feel I need to say. I intended this post for today to just be a linking post to Stephanie’s recent rundown of the situation, wherein she lays waste to the claim that our fights are about “bad werdz”. It’s never about the words, it’s about harm. It’s about trying to give offense as a strategy, one that’s intentionally chosen, by the opponents of those who dare call themselves both free thinkers and feminists.
There’s a meme hidden in amongst all these conversations that I’ve heard quite often in a different context, of religious folks “taking offense” at your “attacks” on their religion.
vjack also just doesn’t “get” XYZ-shaming.
Accusations of [insert noun of your choice here]-shaming are rarely helpful because nobody else has the power to make us feel shame unless we give it to them.
vjack apparently thinks we live in a world in which we have just one social encounter at a time and that these never add up in some way to become those emergent entities we call “communities” and “cultures”.
This is an identical construction to this other idea that one cannot “give offense”, one can only “take” it. Meaning, it is not possible for someone to be offended by something unless they allow themselves to become offended by it. It’s something I’ve heard Matt Dillahunty use several times against religious folks who claim that his ability to lay bare the hypocrisy behind their religion means he’s attacking THEM, and they are offended by such things.
But no matter how right Matt was that these people shouldn’t take offense, the specific meme that “offense cannot be given” was wrong then too.
The reason that religious folks are wrong to “take offense” when someone calls their religion nonsense is not because they are wrong to “take offense” period, or that it’s impossible for someone to give offense (intentionally or not). The reason these religious folks are wrong to take offense is because they have conflated their identities with their religions, and in showing those religions to be unfounded and illogical and self-contradictory, we ARE actually doing splash damage on their identities.
Some might argue this is a good thing (as I do), though. It is good to give offense to people when their ideologies are unfounded, by attacking those ideologies.
That’s not what’s happening here, though. Well, at least not directly.
What’s happening here is, harassers are taking parts of their targets’ identities, things that these people can’t actually do anything about and aren’t moral failings — immutable things, like their health problems or their size or their age — then attacking those things. As a strategy. As an intentionally-chosen pattern of attack. Not as splash damage, as the intended effect. Knowing full well that doing so will, in effect, deplete that person’s resources or stomach for the fights in question.
That’s why attacking people for being women by calling them cunts, attacking them for being old women by calling them cobweb cunts, attacking men who support these women as “manginas” (with all the attendant gender prescriptivism and suggestion that the only good human is a human with a penis), attacking people who are not socially-defined ideal weights for being fat (regardless of any medical reasons that might be the case — be damned with it medical reasons, fatness MUST be a moral failing of some kind, amirite?!) — all of these attacks contribute to drumming people out of the skeptical and secular communities. Not because these people’s ideas do or do not have merit, but because their attackers can’t actually confront those ideas on their merits.
When people scream about feminism, for example, being a dogmatic religion that nobody’s allowed to criticize, and yet their actual criticisms amount to calling people smelly-snatch and ‘shopping their heads on fat old naked ladies, well, that tells me these people are incapable of actually confronting some aspect of feminism on its merits. When people scream about being censored from the conversation when all they did was poison wells, pepper their posts with ad hominems (in absence of actual argument), dodge questions, victim blame, make up statistics without sources, and any of a million other ways to abuse dialog, well, that tells me these people were incapable of such dialog. It makes me think these people are seeking that blog-ban on purpose; seeking victimhood. That they were abusive of dialog for a reason: because they knew it was the fastest way to take on the mantle of the oppressed victim and join the others repeating ad nauseam that we are feminazis and dogmatic and yadda yadda blah blah fucking blah.
And what’s more, when these people scream about us making people witches-of-the-week because we dare disagree with them about something — when their entire “contribution” to this movement is disagreement with people about specific things and they don’t shut up about those things for YEARS, escalating their methods of gaining attention beyond all reason and way out of proportion of the original argument — well, they are the witch-hunters.
So every one of these memes is projection. It strikes me as parsimonious that the meme about giving and taking offense — wrong as it is — is also projection.
These people are desperately offended that anyone might honestly have objections to their behaviour — their behaviour, see, not their person. They turn objections to behaviour into witch-hunts and feminazis and FtBullies and censorship and calling people sexists and misogynists (as though that were a slur, and as though calling behaviour sexist means calling the person sexist). They do exactly what the religious person at the top of this post did in mistaking the scope of their personal identities, and take personal offense that something they consider so deeply tied to their person — their behaviour, which is absolutely mutable, but they think is immutable and sacrosanct — might be called into question.
So in response, instead of critically examining their own behaviour, or leaving these people alone and returning to their own spaces, they rather escalate that behaviour — turn it up to eleven as it were — in an outright attempt to give offense. To offend as a matter of course. To find the things that people dislike, and do those things as often and in as shameless of ways as possible. To find perceived weaknesses (like the thought that Stephanie might actually give a shit that people call her Stefunny, rather than using diminutives mid-argument as the tell that it is), then attack it as frequently and in as distributed a manner as possible.
Then they hide behind the “you can’t give offense, only take it” meme when called on the behaviour. As though it were ever even a valid construct. Which it isn’t.
In short, these people choose to harass the living shit out of their targets — so chosen as targets because they dared speak up about behaviours they found damaging to the community — and they persist until their targets give in, pack up and leave said community. If “our tribe” does such nasty things as disagreeing with people’s behaviours publicly, surely “their tribe” is justified in the targeted harassment campaigns that last for eons, right? But surely that must work the other way. If you’re arguing for your right to call me a mangina, then surely I also have a right to call behaviour misogynist and ban you from my blog. Right?
But no, they shun any responsibility for these actions, because so-and-so did such-and-such and tu quoque, even though these people honestly believe that their nastiness — a hundred times viler than any examples they ever manage to dredge up from the other side — are FREE SPEECH.
What brave heroes. And so consistent.