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“Shut Up, That’s Why” – A Follow-Up

So having a bit more fun with taking things Greta Christina said really, really well and beautifully in regards to atheism, and applying those concepts to things I’ve observed in terms of how other minority groups are treated, like in my Catches Twenty-Two post…

I’ve been thinking for awhile that it would be interesting to talk a bit about how the “Shut Up, That’s Why” non-arguments she once elegantly described being used against atheists also show up in tactics used against other unpopular ideas and movements, like feminism, queer rights, or social justice.

“Shut Up, That’s Why” was right away one of my absolute favourite things Greta had ever written. Given how much I adore her work, and how she has been possibly the single most influential atheist blogger for me, personally, that’s pretty high praise. But in all honesty, the kinds of tactics she was describing I had come across far more frequently in the context of feminism than atheism, and resonated with me on that level more strongly than on the level of being an atheist. Maybe it’s just because I do a generally lousy job of being truly outspoken as an atheist, but still… I always thought it would be interesting to explore that a bit, and talk about how “Shut Up, That’s Why” shows up in other contexts. So this is me doing so.

A “Shut Up, That’s Why” argument, to put forth a pretty simple and basic definition, is an argument that isn’t presented as part of the conversation or discussion, but designed to shut down the conversation entirely. Like for instance, if I’m saying “bacon sandwiches are delicious no matter what!” and then someone says “pshaw! You’re being stupid! Without mayonnaise, bacon sandwiches are dry and gross”, that’s not a “Shut Up, That’s Why”. That’s just responding to my claim with a counter claim. It’s legitimate. But if I make my claim about the deliciousness of bacon sandwiches, and then someone says “Why the hell are we talking about sandwiches anyway? We should be talking about the weather! And besides, my sandwich preferences are a personal matter and none of your business. And nobody wants to hear you blabbing all about what kinds of sandwiches you do and don’t like anyway.” that’s a “Shut Up, That’s Why”. It steps back and decides to attack the discussion on a meta level, undermining the legitimacy of considering the issue at all.

What’s frustrating and dangerous is that these tactics get employed to shut down conversations that are far, far more important than bacon sandwiches. Conversations about things like, say, religion’s control of the public sphere, the treatment of women within our society, systemic oppression of non-normative sexual identities, or the pervasive climate of violence and risk thereof towards trans women.

The fact that these tactics are used to shut down such a broad range of important dialogues is exactly why I want to try to demonstrate how they can occur in a variety of contexts other than atheism, and try to provide examples by which they can be recognized regardless of the exact situation or topic.

The first “Shut Up, That’s Why” Greta articulates is described as follows:

Don’t you have anything better to do? Why do you keep talking about atheism when (the economy is tanking, there are wars, people are being tortured, the planet is overheating, etc.)? How can you think this is important? Why do you expect anyone to pay attention to it?

Or, as Greta also brilliantly describes it, “The ‘How Can You Talk About Blowjobs When People Are Dying In Darfur’ Argument”.

This one is easily transplanted into other contexts, and we see it there all the time. It was in fact a cornerstone of the elevator controversy. Dawkins initial “Dear Muslima” response was hinged around suggesting that discussion of sexual objectification or harassment of women in developed “western” nations was irrelevant due to the existence of more extreme forms of sexism and misogyny in certain middle-eastern theocracies.

It’s hard to imagine what Dawkins meant to achieve by that other than the direct trivialization and undermining of the original conversation. Hence why it’s a “Shut Up, That’s Why”. Dawkins was not drawing connections, nor was he encouraging greater activism in regards to the mistreatment of women in Islam. He hasn’t exactly been pouring a ton of effort into such work, after all. He was simply trying to find an excuse for why we shouldn’t bother addressing this particular issue.

One of the neat things about human beings, and social justice, is that we can talk about more than one problem at a time, and can even work towards addressing more than one at a time. We don’t need to solve all the world’s problems one at a time, starting with the “worst” and then, after we’re done with that, working our way towards the “minor” ones. We can address anything we feel is worth addressing. Saying “something somewhere else is worse!” is not even remotely a valid criticism of someone pointing out a problem. The fact that trans women in Kuwait are being plucked off the streets by police, raped, then intimidated to remain silent through threats of further abuse, does not suddenly make the randomized violence and systemic but not-usually-physical discrimination faced by trans women in North America any less of a problem, any less worth addressing, or any less nightmarish to endure. And I’m sorry, but implying that it does makes you a horrible person.

No matter what we’re talking about, there is always a “bigger problem”. So you think women are treated poorly at sci-fi, comic book and gaming conventions? Well so what, what about reproductive rights and the way that access to contraception and abortion is being fought by the Republican party? So you think the issue of reproductive rights for women in the United States is bad, well what about the way women are treated in Iran? You think the way cis women in Iran are treated, well what about trans women in Kuwait? You think the mistreatment of trans women in Kuwait is bad, well what about the death penalty for homosexuality in Uganda? Well what about ethnic cleansing? Well what about nuclear weapons? Well what about climate change? Well about the eventual extinction of the human species? Well what about the sun exploding and wiping out the Earth itself? Well what about THE INEVITABLE HEAT DEATH OF THE UNIVERSE?!?

Religion is based on faith, not reason. It exists in a different realm from science and politics and such, and it’s not fair to expect it to compete on the same level.

This one is more difficult to see how it applies in other contexts, but it certainly does.

Religion is not the only topic that people claim is somehow departed from conventional inquiry, nor is religion the only means by which people claim that whatever tools you’re using to address the topic aren’t the relevant ones for the topic.

Remember the whole “you’re really actually a man, because science” argument? That’s actually a different form of the same tactic. You see, if I approach the question of gender from a standpoint based on the importance of self-identification, someone can invalidate my claims in that regard by claiming that “science says” I’m male, and that somehow all the fields of inquiry I’m using to support my position are irrelevant to this version of “science”, and also that this “science” gets the last word. If the science of gender variance is then introduced to the discussion, the range of relevant considerations will be narrowed… to biology, to genitals, to genetics… whatever technique works for invalidating whatever angle I’m approaching from and shutting down the discussion.

Or how about “the concept of racial privilege isn’t substantiated by the evidence” (then you present the sociological data indicating clear social inequities along lines of race) “well sociology is just soft science anyway. Can the idea of privilege work for predicting outcomes? Hrumph.”

The point is that any act of claiming that only a particular perspective, particular considerations, a particular field, particular qualifications or particular data are relevant to the discussion (whichever ones, incidentally, happen to support the conclusion they’ve already drawn) and that other perspectives, considerations, fields, and information don’t count to the discussion. It’s still the same tactic of claiming non-overlapping magisteria, and claiming that the issue can’t be discussed because whatever background you’re approaching the discussion from “can’t speak to this issue”.

Why do you care what other people believe?

This one is another that is relatively easy to apply outside of atheism, and that we’re generally all familiar with. The response is simple: because people act on their beliefs.

The idea when this argument is presented is that everyone more or less just has their own opinion, and we’re all entitled to it, and as long as we don’t push our opinions on others, we all get along lovely and find and the world is a happy song of everlasting harmony. If only that were the case.

The thing is, we do not exist in a vacuum. We share a society. We are mutually interdependent on one another. Our actions affect those around us. Even our non-actions affect those around us. And our actions are inevitably based on our beliefs and values.

So sadly, that hinge in the idyllic presentation above “as long as we don’t push our opinions on others” can’t ever actually exist. Our beliefs will always have consequences for the others in our lives. So yes, other people’s beliefs do matter, and do affect me.

“Well I think of you as a man, and I’m entitled to my beliefs, and you need to respect those, so I’m going to call you ‘he'”

While technically true that this person’s belief about my gender is their own, it does directly involve me, it’s a belief that affects me, it’s a belief that contributes to the environment in which I exist, it’s a belief that causes me harm (microaggression), it’s a belief that affects and modifies the beliefs of others, it’s a belief that can help normalize and perpetuate even more directly harmful beliefs and, potentially, actions.

I do not need to respect someone’s right to a dangerous, harmful belief, nor do I have to accept the statement that someone is “entitled to their opinions” as a means of terminating dialogue. We exist in this world together, and our actions affect one another and are inextricably intertwined, so we do indeed have a vested interest in one another’s beliefs, and everything else that may govern their choices and actions.

I care about what you believe because I care about what you may do or say because of those beliefs.

Religion is personal and private. I don’t see why we have to talk about this.

As Greta herself points out, this exact same argument was used for decades as a means of silencing discourse regarding LGBTQ people. “Keep it in the bedroom”, “I don’t mind gay people as long as they don’t act like it”, “the other day I saw two fat lesbians KISSING. It was fucking gross. Nobody wants to see that”, “Yeah, well, if you’re just going to end up looking like a dude in a dress, you shouldn’t get a sex change, because you’re never going to look like a real woman, and having a guy like that in the bathroom with me makes me really uncomfortable”, etc.

Some things are personal and private. People set their own boundaries for what they do and don’t wish to openly discuss. And that’s okay, such boundaries deserve to be respected. But some dialogues do need to happen. And sometimes the very same thing someone is claiming is “personal and private” for the occasion of shutting down the conversation is something they will push into the public sphere and attempt to legislate on other occasions (like religion, or sexuality).

Privileged parties have been asserting their own positions in regards to things like religion, sexuality and gender publicly for a very, very long time, to the extent that those positions are simply accepted as “normal”. To claim that those iterations of these things that vary from the privileged norm must be kept quiet due to it being a private matter is a supreme act of oppression.

Generally, how this argument is presented is not as an assertion of one’s own boundaries in terms of what one is comfortable discussing, but instead an imposition of boundaries on what another is “allowed” to talk about. It is an excuse to keep certain topics, identities and voices quiet, silent, subjugated.

While the “gay people shouldn’t act gay” thing is fairly obviously connected to this, I’d like to add that I think a lot of the cultural pressure placed on trans people to “pass” as their identified sex is related to this as well… the idea being that we aren’t to make cis people “uncomfortable” by allowing our existence to be noticeable. We must never be either seen or heard. Trans people are fine, as long as no cis person ever has to be inconvenienced by noticing our existence. Like atheists. And gay people. And racial minorities too, via apartheid, segregation, and the institution of ghettos.

Atheists are so superior. They act like they’re so much smarter than believers, and they think they’re right about everything.

This tactic can be used in almost any situation, to discredit a person making claims you don’t want to hear.

The truth is that every single time a person makes a truth claim contradictory to someone else’s, they’re saying that the other person is incorrect. Everybody runs with the general assumption that they’re right about whatever opinions they hold, even if they accept (as they should) the possibility of being wrong. Nobody believes something they think is wrong. If they did, they wouldn’t believe it.

Now, we can either just accept this simple epistemological fact and move on with our lives, or we can commit ourselves to total complete post-modern relativism or conceptual nihilism where we believe absolute nothing whatsoever (and are either paralyzed as a result, or hypocrites).

What’s NOT fair to do is to end up saying “GAWD, everyone who disagrees with me is so ARROGANT to think they’re RIGHT about this!”… it’s just childish. I’m sure we’ve all known a friend or relative or (ex?)spouse or someone who would constantly pull out the “you always have to be right!” thing while never acknowledging that they do this in the context of trying to prove (as always) that they’re right.

The things is, you yourself think you’re right about whatever it is we disagree about too, so just get over it, and act like a grown-up. If you think I’m wrong, then you are free to demonstrate that. I promise I’m open to your actual arguments. But chastising me simply for having a belief or position is both immature and ridiculously hypocritical. It’s also cowardly, in that it suddenly exempts you from having to go to the trouble of weighing your ideas against mine.

Atheists, of course, are not the only group accused of “arrogantly” having the audacity to stand behind their own position. Those stubborn feminazis, never listening to any contradictory opinion. Those stuck-up, elitist scientists, thinking science can solve everything. That hivemind Freethought Blogs, just hanging out with people who agree with them all the time, totally convinced that they’ve got it all figured out.

…and the countless young trans folk who, after coming out to their parents, and trying to defend the validity of their identity and their choice against the anger and incredulity of their families, were told they were “just being stubborn” and, presenting information to counter the cissexist myths and misunderstandings the parents picked up from the ambient culture, “always had to be right about everything.”

It’s always an act of dismissal, and silencing. Sometimes much more tragic and heartbreaking than others.

Atheists are so whiny.

Just like the feminists. And the gays, with their demands for special rights. And the civil rights marchers. And the suffragettes. And the abolitionists.

For all the hundreds of times I’ve been confronted with this argument used to try to dismiss or silence some kind of advocacy, I have never ever been given a decent, consistent, workable definition for what is “whining” vs. what is a legitimate criticism or voicing of concern. It seems the only real distinction is whether you agree with the objection or not.

One of the definitions of what makes something qualify as “whining” is that whining allegedly doesn’t present any solution to the objection. But sometimes voicing the concern is the solution. Sometimes simply making a presence known, or claiming empowerment through voicing one’s experiences, or letting people know that you’re not okay with something, sometimes that is a very real and meaningful step in the right direction. So is raising awareness, allowing people to simply know that there’s a problem.

Take for example someone objecting to the omnipresent homophobic and misogynistic language in the online gaming community. “Stop whining, fag. You’re not presenting any solution, you’re just bitching about it. So STFU!” … well, what kind of solution exactly are you suggesting I propose, beyond maybe “quit using homophobic and misogynistic slurs”? Isn’t that enough? Or do I need to hold your hand through it and present a systematized set of consequences, punishments and moderation strategies? Of course, if I did that, I’d be accused of censorship or fascism instead.

Drawing attention to the problem, and letting people know that the casual use of the terms of the terms “fag”, “bitch” and “cunt” and so forth are harmful and bigoted is itself part of the work towards solving the problem. Acting like this is “just whining” because it doesn’t contain some kind of structured long-term strategy that you can implement like a Starcraft build order is not a reasonable criticism. It is, like all “Shut Up, That’s Why” tactics, a means of simply shutting down the conversation, dismissing the issue, and continue to wallow in privilege, ignorance and complacency.

Honestly, I would be happy to see the words “whining”, “whine” and “whiny” removed from the language entirely. I’ve almost never seen them used in a productive way. It’s like they were specifically designed for the purpose of trivializing and dismissing the pain, struggle or objections of others. It’s the ultimate red flag for knowing when you’re dealing with a “Shut Up, That’s Why”.

I’m so tired of hearing about atheism. Can’t you give it a rest?

And you’re tired of hearing about racism. And tired of hearing about sexism. And tired of gay and queer and trans rights, and tired of AIDS, and tired of breast cancer walks, and tired of bullying awareness campaigns, and tired of hearing about murder rates and poverty and homelessness and the recession and survival sex work and climate change and everything. Fine.

I take it back. That right there is a legitimate time to say you’re whining.

Because you know what? WE ARE TIRED TOO.

I am EXTREMELY tired of women being treated as sex objects first and human beings later. I am EXTREMELY tired of trans people not having any legal protections against discrimination, and tired of us being mocked and sneered at in the mainstream press and media, and tired of constantly hearing about other trans women being murdered or feeling the need to take their own lives, and tired of people feeling content to happily send letters to The Daily Mail about how we should all just be given brain surgery (as though that gross and appalling human rights violation wasn’t actually a common institutional practice for decades), and I am really, really, really fucking tired of having to write about this shit all the time.

But this needs to get talked about. Because if we don’t talk about this stuff, if we give it a rest, nothing is going to change or get any better. We’re going to have to continue living as second class citizens while you get to relax and tune it out and, well… rest. But we don’t get that. For us, this dark, depressing, inconveniencing stuff we talk about is a constant and inescapable aspect of our lives, and one we would absolutely love to have end. But we don’t get the option of ignoring it.

So you complaining about how we draw all this unpleasantness to your attention, and ruin your happy good time feelings? Fuck you.

I’m tired of hearing your patronizing, cissexist, dismissive, privileged ignorance all the time. Can you give it a rest?

Can’t we just get along? Can’t we agree to disagree? Neither of us can prove our side with 100% certainty, so there’s no point in even having this discussion. Can’t we just live and let live?

Well… yeah… like I mentioned earlier, this could be a beautiful world if it worked that way. But it doesn’t.

The truth is, those of us who are raising these objections that you’re telling us to shut up… us feminists, and trans-rights advocates, and social justice types, and protestors, and atheists… people don’t simply let us live. That just isn’t reality. Our lives, our experiences, our rights, and even whether we live or die, is dictated by the positions of others, by the cultural climate we live in.

When I go out after dark, I am taking a risk. I am literally risking being attacked, sexually assaulted or murdered. That is because we live in a culture that objectifies and devalues women, and openly ridicules and despises trans women. Instead of “live and let live”, cis people get to live, since neither I (nor Asher) pose them any threat, and then they decide whether or not to let me live.

So simply allowing that cultural climate to exist as it does, without offering my own voice and participation, is not appealing to me. What happens to me and my brothers and sisters is dependent on the aggregated beliefs of our shared society. So yes, I am going to make my own beliefs known as strongly as I possibly can, and do everything I can to influence the beliefs of others in a direction where we’re going to be just a tiny bit less likely to get killed, or otherwise brutalized by the culture we live in.

We are all connected. Our beliefs and opinions are not islands. We depend on, and affect, one another, and our beliefs have meaning and consequences for people beyond ourselves. This is why we are in dialogue. This is why we need to converse, and share, and grow collectively. This is why we need to prod one another, and talk. In fact, we can’t even avoid it: human life is a conversation, the only thing in question or flux is how that conversation is framed, who controls the terms, and what topics are permitted and which are silenced.

This is why we cannot, and should not, shut up.

Comments

  1. Anders says

    Whining, n: A statement that not only deviates from what I believe, but does so in a way that causes me cognitive dissonance.

    Yeah, I’m not sure in what way you could be said to entertain a belief if it never impacts your behavior. So just saying that people should live and let live, and agree to disagree isn’t always an option.

    On the other hand, sometimes it is. Sometimes a person may say that a friendship is too valuable to risk over a theoretical perspective that will almost certainly never be transformed into physical consequences. In such cases I think that an agreement to disagree may be perfectly defensible. Of course, in order for it to be of any worth, it would have to encompass both parties of the conflict.

  2. says

    Excellent post! I think you have the record for Most Posts Added to my Favorites Folder per Time I’ve Known of Your Blog.

    The point is that any act of claiming that only a particular perspective, particular considerations, a particular field, particular qualifications or particular data are relevant to the discussion (whichever ones, incidentally, happen to support the conclusion they’ve already drawn) and that other perspectives, considerations, fields, and information don’t count to the discussion. It’s still the same tactic of claiming non-overlapping magisteria, and claiming that the issue can’t be discussed because whatever background you’re approaching the discussion from “can’t speak to this issue”.

    Yes! This! This expresses much better what you were getting at in the earlier post I criticized, and I like the NOMA comparison.

    The thing is, we do not exist in a vacuum. We share a society. We are mutually interdependent on one another. Our actions affect those around us. Even our non-actions affect those around us. And our actions are inevitably based on our beliefs and values.

    Yes. It’s funny how often the quarantined-belief response has appeared when I’ve brought up the ethics of belief. It’s obvious garbage and I don’t think the people arguing that really buy it themselves; but in any case, as I’ve pointed out, if they want to try to stand by it that means they’re going to have to reject all arguments about religious belief making people more ethical or altruistic or what have you, or really having any influence beyond themselves at all.

  3. Jeremy Shaffer says

    We don’t need to solve all the world’s problems one at a time, starting with the “worst” and then, after we’re done with that, working our way towards the “minor” ones.

    Not to mention that some of the “worst” problems either stem from the “minor” ones or share a cause. So if we can fix some of the “minor” problems, we may fix some of the “worst” problems in the process, or at least make them easier to fix. As an example, we can take the “worst” problem Dawkins pointed out. Sure all those things he talked about are worse than a single individual getting an unwelcomed proposition at a convention but both problems have the same root cause that needs to be addressed. By tackling that root cause we may fix the “minor” problem outright while making the “worst” problem a little easier to take care of.

    • Emily says

      And, if we can’t even manage to fix a minor problem in our own group, how can we think we can affect a major problem of the same type halfway across the world?

  4. daenyx says

    It’s only been in the last year or so that I’ve begun not to accept these arguments from friends and family. It’s resulted in a pretty large (and all for the better) turnover in the people I associate with… at least among those I have a choice about, anyway. >.<

    Thanks for this. I loved the original article, and your additions are beautifully apt.

  5. Cynthia says

    That post is…perfect. And perfectly illustrates why I will not STFU anymore. Not till we get to a time where I will not be risking my safety and life by walking alone after dark, not till we get to a time when people are not singled out because of gender, race or other personal choices/needs.

    So I guess I won’t be STFU any time soon!

  6. Yellow Thursday says

    I had to deal with this just last night. I was talking with someone on an atheist chat, and the conversation carried over into private IMs. Everything seemed fine until I said that I didn’t agree with what Dawkins said about the elevator thing. Suddenly, I was a man-hater for agreeing with Watson and disagreeing with Dawkins. The guy agreed with me that just because things are worse elsewhere doesn’t mean things can’t be improved locally, but he couldn’t see how that applied to what Dawkins said.

    Right before I unfriended him, I called him a misogynistic asshole. He asked, “Why, because I didn’t agree with you?” “No, because you’re a misogynistic asshole.”

  7. Anders says

    I’m a little worried about the ‘qualified’ argument, though.

    The point is that any act of claiming that only a particular perspective, particular considerations, a particular field, particular qualifications or particular data are relevant to the discussion (whichever ones, incidentally, happen to support the conclusion they’ve already drawn) and that other perspectives, considerations, fields, and information don’t count to the discussion.

    First of all, any act of claiming would seem to me to require some sort requires some sort of continuation later in the sentence.

    Like so:
    The point is that any act of claiming that only a particular perspective … and that other perspectives … don’t count to the discussion, constitutes a claim that must be motivated.

    The bolded part is my own, and it is an important one. Otherwise, it seems to me, you have just said that Kent Hovind is perfectly qualified to discuss cosmology. A claim that theology isn’t relevant to a discussion with Neil deGrasse Tyson isn’t, I think, particularly controversial.

    • Sour Tomato Sand says

      Well, Hovind does have a (fake) PhD.

      But anyhow, it’s not Hovind’s qualifications that make what he says irrelevant, dishonest, evil bullshit: it’s the content of what he says that makes it irrelevant, dishonest, evil bullshit. His academic qualifications really aren’t relevant to the argument.

    • says

      I think STS’s reply above slightly misses the point if the disparity between Tyson, a well-respected astronomer, and Hovind, a discredited charlatan theologian, is turned into a fallacious argument from authority (Tyson has a real PhD, Hovind bought his from a degree mill). More to the point, both of their fields of study are related to other bodies of knowledge – the truth claims of astronomy are in turn reinforced by knowledge of physics, chemistry, geology, and so on. Theology is reliant on a particular interpretation of philosophy, which also has a degree of things to say about the theory and practice of science, and there are tangential aspects of theology impacting other fields such as history, anthropology, and so on.

      So the greater dismissal of a Hovind-like claim about say, one specific item such as the age of the universe, isn’t that he’s wrong only on astronomical grounds, but that he would also be wrong based on evidence from the other sciences: physics, chemistry, geology, biology and so on; moreover, even within his own field of theology his views are a fringe lunatic extreme and other claims are not backed up by knowledge in the historical domain, or by the general study of religion, the source studies of the religious texts he believes.

      What Natalie was referring to is a particular type of argumentative strategy where a claim in a social setting that the humanities and sociological disciplines have something significant to say on the subject, is flatly contradicted and denied by a bogus attempt to decide the matter on a scientific basis, despite the fact that no one in the real world actually uses that scientific determination.

      As an example, if you look at some of the sciences you will find a number of terms where the scientific use or definition is in tension with the use of the word by non-scientists (in the field of astronomy, there is no consensus on the meaning of the word ‘planet’, despite the IAU finally publishing a definition in 2006) and it would be the height of arrogance for a scientist to claim supremacy of their usage over all others: ‘you don’t have a scientific definition of x, therefore any claims you make regarding x are specious’ is most definitely a SU,TW maneuver.

  8. ischemgeek says

    Regarding the point about being tired of hearing about it: I get that a lot from various people in my life when I’m complaining about homophobia (I’m bisexual – which means to some extent I get it from both sides: people who dislike me because I’m not straight and people who think I’m just playing at not being straight for attention), sexism (I’m a woman), racism (my partner is Native), religious privilege, ableism (I’m a moderate asthmatic and have ADHD and so I’m in the obnoxious middle ground of not looking sick but at the same time having to fight preconceived notions and prejudice about it), etc. My stock answer is, “How do you think I feel? I have to live it!”

    … Unless the person is wholly lacking in human empathy, it usually gets them to stop and think a bit. Or if not that, at least to STFU about how tired and frustrated they are that people who are affected by society’s problems won’t just sweep it under the rug like the privileged folks often do.

  9. yiab says

    Excellent extension of Greta’s also excellent post.

    There’s just one nitpick I have.

    Everybody runs with the general assumption that they’re right about whatever opinions they hold, even if they accept (as they should) the possibility of being wrong. Nobody believes something they think is wrong. If they did, they wouldn’t believe it.

    There are a few things I believe which I think are wrong. Yes, semantically that makes no sense and I agree that this means I am holding contradictory beliefs. Typically these situations contain the following factors.
    1) I have some arguments regarding a subject, which lead me to a particular position.
    2) In the past, with arguments on similar subjects and positions I have eventually been shown wrong, but it has always been a struggle for me to understand what mistake I made in the arguments. (I think this is a consequence of certain neuro-atypicalities of mine.)
    3) I have yet to find any counter-argument which is convincing to me, but my argument is also unconvincing to people whose opinions, knowledge and intelligence I respect (in particular regarding this topic).

    Basically this results in having both a belief about a topic and a contradictory meta-belief. Mind you, I see this as a flaw in myself that needs correction, and I certainly don’t want this example to be used to lend legitimacy to the “you always have to be right about everything” non-argument.

    • says

      What you are describing fits perfectly with normal human behavior. There are all sorts of things that we “like” to believe that we know may not be true, in fact they may go against the grain of the expert opinion on the subject .I for one still have doubts that Oswald acted alone, I understand that this is a pretty minority opinion in skeptic circles, but I’ll admit that I may have an irrational attachment to my own opinion.

  10. Vene says

    Your talk of the “science” argument reminded me of a couple papers I found over at AE Brain.

    Transplanted human bone marrow cells generate new brain cells.
    Bone marrow-derived cells from male donors can compose endometrial glands in female transplant recipients.

    Basically, when XX women receive a bone marrow transplant from an XY man the XY cells spread to elsewhere in her body and some of her tissue, aside from that directly derived from the marrow, is male from a chromosomal perspective. This includes neural tissue as well as reproductive tissue. Despite this, we still regard the transplant recipient as female and biologically female. To extend this to transsexuals, this means the chromosomes are not the defining trait for what determines a person’s sex. It also shows the fluidity of a biological system and I think that’s just neat.

  11. says

    Wow there is a lot packed into this entry.

    The “tired” part made me cry a little. I’m tired of even talking about social justice issues, even though right now I’m hardly doing anything, and I think my friends are tired if hearing my opinions. I’m tired of talking about the specific micro-aggressions that happen to me the most often, or thinking about them. But, I really can’t let go, and I really need to figure out what else to do that will work for me. Speaking of whining.

    On a brighter note, the “so do you, grow up” argument against the “you think you’re better than me” argument is a great idea, thank you.

  12. says

    I’m having a hard time seeing how “die cis scum” doesn’t pose a threat. Maybe this is derailment-for-dummies stuff, I really don’t know, but what if the cis “scum” in question is on the verge of suicide already (as I and many people I know have been, many times)? I still have urges to self-harm and they tend to bubble up to the surface again when I’m told to die. More often than not it’s “die atheists” or “just kill yourself already, asexuals” but “die cis scum” is kind of having the same effect on me right now.

    The thing is, a lot of us cis folks are minorities in other departments and get threatened with violence through those channels too. I don’t think dealing with privilege with threats of violence really works because it assumes that no one who is privileged in one way, has ever been disprivileged, marginalized, threatened, etc. in another. I might not be murdered or raped specifically for being cis, but for being a woman? For being atheist? For being queer?

    Again, I don’t know. (I don’t even consider myself entirely cis, but I doubt someone who wants cis people to die will take that into account.)

    • Sour Tomato Sand says

      I’m going to take a swing at this one, because I’ve spent some time thinking about it since I read the post:

      I actually HAVE thought along those lines quite a few times in the past. Granted, it was about different groups of people (I’m not going to go into what specifically, because it would involve too much personal detail). It’s an irrational thought, and a violent one, to be sure. But these thoughts don’t come from rational places. People get to the point, after being harassed, bullied and beaten enough, to where they can only express anger. I’ve been one of those people in the past. I never really wanted to kill anyone; I wanted to feel safe and warm and loved and couldn’t find that anywhere. And every time I tried, I ended up finding more danger and hatred and violence. You learn, over time, in those situations, to respond in kind.

      Now the question is whether you can bring yourself to understand the mindset involved. Are you willing to understand, or are you going to jump ship and decry someone as being horrible, violent, and worthless? And if downtrodden, abused friend came to you and said, “I can’t stop thinking these violent thoughts about ____”, what would your response be? I will tell you what happened to me– when I expressed that to my family, when I was young, they put me in a fucking mental institution. That was not what I needed, and the person who penned “Die Cis Scum” doesn’t need that either: they need someone to understand.

      • yiab says

        I think the point is that some of the people reading the tattoo also just need someone to understand.
        It sounds like what you’re saying is that there is some level of abuse and mistreatment someone can suffer that justifies or excuses their use of violent rhetoric against a group which includes innocent third parties.

        • Sour Tomato Sand says

          No, what I’m saying is that there is some level of abuse one can suffer where it is almost inevitable that they will express their anger, and anger is always in some way violent. That is not the same thing as saying “it’s okay to support killing” or “it’s morally justified to kill someone.”

          I think the point is that some of the people reading the tattoo also just need someone to understand.

          Yeah, everyone understands that no one likes being told to “die.” When you point this out when someone expresses anger over an injustice (an injustice, which, I remind you, manifests as a threat to the personal safety of the one expressing the anger) you are making it all about yourself. What you are doing is failing to understand. No one is asking you to be friends with the person who is expressing it, and you certainly aren’t being asked to martyr yourself so that they can feel better.

          If you want to understand this concept in a different context, a good book to read is If He Hollers Let Him Go by Chester Himes, which deals with it as it pertains to racism.

          • says

            I’ve been wondering lately if one of the reasons people react so strongly to “die cis scum” is because it fundamentally changes the way they can perceive us and react to us. Suddenly we’re no longer the sad, poor, defenseless and harmless victims who need their help, but instead we’re empowered and a potential threat, potentially willing and able to fight back. Suddenly how much power and understanding and rights and compassion we’re offered stops being in control of cis people, and starts being something we may just be willing to take. Then our anger, and how much we’ve been mistreated, starts looking very very scary. “What if they start treating us the way we’ve been treating them?”

          • Anders says

            No. I don’t agree. I dislike it because I cannot see how a desire to put newborn babies on the ground and stomp on their heads – as long as it’s cisbabies – can be moral. How a desire to rape a woman to death – as long as it is a ciswoman – can be moral. How a desire to open the window for a mental patient who thinks the angels will catch him if he jumps – as long as the mental patient is a cis person – can be moral.

            If this is morality, I want none of it.

          • says

            But again, you’re assuming I’ve never been in the same situation. I have, with regards to sexual people, neurotypical people, and (although I understand it’s not exactly the same, because this is a choice) theists. But I’m not sure I’d be able to live with myself if someone started cutting again (or worse) because I personally expressed violent thoughts toward them.

            And frankly, not everyone has the time, energy, social aptitude, or mental health to separate the credible threats from ones that are someone lashing out against bigotry. From where I’m sitting, someone who wants cis people to die is not different from someone who wants people who disrespect their god(s) to die. Or someone who thinks it’s okay to subject me to painful, coercive medical procedures because I was born without a sex drive. Or people who openly think it’s okay to let their children die of preventable disease rather than possibly end up like me. All of these are credible threats to me. The part of my brain which is telling me to fight or run away (or turn my feelings inward), doesn’t know the difference.

            I guess, all I am asking for is a warning on links that contain actual death threats, because I’m finding it very hard to function today after reading that.

          • Sour Tomato Sand says

            So you’ve been oppressed like that before, been personally threatened, or beaten, or survived an attempt on your life? And you don’t feel like screaming, expressing anger, telling your oppressors to fuck off and die?

            Fuck me, you’re a calmer person than I by a wide margin.

          • says

            Of course I do, and I have, many times, to my friends and family. That’s absolutely different from spouting things on the internet where you have no idea who will read your words and what they’ll do with them.

            Do you want me to say I want all sexual people to die? Even though that’s probably you, too? Probably not.

          • says

            I would understand if you did, and wouldn’t object to you voicing that anger.

            I also understand when LGB folk say “Die breeder scum”, or when people of colour express violent anger towards white people, or when aboriginal Canadians express the desire to forcefully kick us colonial descendents off their land.

          • Sour Tomato Sand says

            Well, for starters, the “death threat” was posted on a trans-friendly site, so I don’t think it’s reasonable to insist that people there should have censored their selves. In fact, the link that Natalie posted was on a radical trans-feminist site, and the admittedly “Angry List” pointed to the Die Cis Scum link, which itself was on a trans-safe site.

            Speaking for myself personally, I would want you to express your feelings on the matter if you felt them. But I’m a psychology student so I’m probably not representative of the population at large.

          • Anders says

            I would probably feel the same way, but I hope there would be a part of me who said “this is wrong. this is not me.” And even if no such part existed, that doesn’t mean that it’s right. It just means that in times of crisis our sense of morality can be lost.

            Remember, there’s a difference between understandable and moral. I can understand that people feel like this in extreme circumstances (and not so extreme; I was bullied and I remember wishing that I could do the same to them). What I’m arguing is that it’s immoral. If a person came to me and said “I feel this, but I know that it’s wrong”, that’s one thing. But a person who feels it and revels in it… that’s another matter.

          • Sour Tomato Sand says

            Anders, I’m a moral consequentialist. I have to ask: what are the consequences of a trans person expressing their anger at their treatment publicly, even using such extreme language? Well, as far as I can see, it’s got us discussing what trans people go through, and it serves to raise consciousness of the shit that they have to go through on a daily basis.

            What I’m not seeing is any trans people murdering anyone. There is a difference in that when people say they want to murder trans people, they often follow through on it. So morally, to me, there is a big difference.

          • says

            What I’m not seeing is any trans people murdering anyone. There is a difference in that when people say they want to murder trans people, they often follow through on it. So morally, to me, there is a big difference.

            This.

          • Anders says

            And if the slow and loving torture to death of all trans people in a country was televised and loved by the crowd you would be for that to.

            Well, there are many forms of consequentialists. Personally I’m more of a virtue ethicist, although I am doubtful that any single approach is going to lead to a satisfactory system of ethics.

            Also, you are making the toupee fallacy. You don’t know how many people have found this site by searching, read through the discussion and said “trans people are clearly insane and there is no way I can support them.”

          • Anders says

            Natalie – under what circumstances is it ok to want to murder children? Are there any other cases I should know about?

          • Sour Tomato Sand says

            People may have done that, but I have no evidence at hand that they have, while I do have evidence that it is making people think. People on this very blog! I can’t make a calculation of consequence based on that because I simply have no evidence whether or not there are more people becoming more interested in this topic, or more people thinking trans folks are nuts.

            Which means I can’t say whether or not it’s a morally good for trans people to express their anger at cis people, if you’re viewing “number of people turned away from or onto the trans rights cause” as the sole criterion by which we say whether it’s good or not.

            There’s no reason that should be the sole criterion. There are other things: did it make the person expressing the anger feel better? Did it help other trans people by letting them know they’re not alone in their anger? Did it function as a rally point or a discussion point? Does it provoke thought and debate? Will it make some cis people think about how they treat trans people? I’d say probably yes to all of that.

            … so, as a virtue ethicist, how exactly do you decide which personality traits are virtues? Is pacifism always a virtue to you?

          • Anders says

            Yes, I’m trying to understand it. I have spent a few days thinking through it.

            The reasoning seems to be

            X wants to kill cis people
            Y is a cis person
            Therefore X wants to kill Y

            If Y is a baby, then all we need is cold, hard logic.

          • says

            Except that there’s absolutely no way to tell if a baby is cis or not.

            Extrapolating this to being about “killing innocent babies!” is an emotionally manipulative tactic anyway. Which I’m starting to feel like you use a lot. I’m also beginning to get frustrated by what seems like highly conditional support.

            What that link is is a vitriolic expression of anger. Very, VERY understandable anger. Which I feel ze has the right to express. As I already specified I do not condone acts of violence. I should NOT have to repeat that. But I absolutely feel violent and intense language can play an important role in the empowerment of a victimized group. And I think there is a huge difference between a person threatening hir cis oppressors and the very real risk of violence cis people impose on trans people.

          • yiab says

            “Die, neurotypical scum”
            “Die, monosexual scum”
            “Die, American scum”

            Any statements of this kind (and, I’m sad to say, the way you have portrayed those who think there is a problem with them) deal with members of the marginalized group as individuals, but members of the privileged group as a faceless mob. Of the group being targeted in the statement, somebody has been beaten, oppressed and threatened quite a bit, possibly more than the person making the threatening statement. Waiting for that person to come by before taking the objection seriously is just another example of “shut up, that’s why”.

            Also, please don’t mistake “understandable” (which the sentiment expressed in that tattoo certainly is) with “excusable” or “justifiable” (which I think it is not).

            Yeah, everyone understands that no one likes being told to “die.” When you point this out when someone expresses anger over an injustice (an injustice, which, I remind you, manifests as a threat to the personal safety of the one expressing the anger) you are making it all about yourself. What you are doing is failing to understand. No one is asking you to be friends with the person who is expressing it, and you certainly aren’t being asked to martyr yourself so that they can feel better.

            Notice that I’m not bringing this up on that site, I’m not trying to tell this person that their feelings are invalid, I’m not saying that they are a bad person, I’m not saying that they’re violent, I’m not saying that their opinions aren’t worth listening to or considering and I’m not even saying that I couldn’t be friends with the person expressing it.
            I’m saying that they’re being inconsiderate, and that this appears to me to be a microaggression.

            Again, it is understandable that this person expressed themselves this way (meaning that I feel sympathetic, not that I can fully comprehend their emotional state), but that does not mean that I or anybody else should be giving passive assent to a violent statement, even if it was made without violent intent.

            Then our anger, and how much we’ve been mistreated, starts looking very very scary. “What if they start treating us the way we’ve been treating them?”

            Natalie, please tell me that you can see the difference between the following two positions.
            “What if they start treating us the way we’ve treated them?”
            “What if this person starts treating me the same way others have treated them just because I’m part of the same abstract group as those others?”

          • says

            Difference would be the latter isn’t a credible or justified fear given that you don’t know that person and they don’t pose any actual threat to you.

          • says

            Anders, your comment here is way out of line.

            You inaugurated that straw argument and now you’re asking the blog owner to defend it.

            Before Natalie answers it, I demand that you find the original author of Psalm 137, and ask them to defend what they meant by the last verse.

          • yiab says

            People may have done that, but I have no evidence at hand that they have, while I do have evidence that it is making people think.

            The plausible positive consequences of a statement like this are much more visible than its plausible negative consequences. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence unless we would expect evidence of presence if present.

          • Sour Tomato Sand says

            You can’t reduce this to a logical syllogism. Essentially what is happening is this:

            X has been threatened or beaten by cis people simply for existing while being trans. This happens because society allows for easy dehumanization of trans people. For trans women, there are a ton of readily-available terms used to accomplish this: “trap,” “shemale,” and so on. It is also accomplished through media depictions of trans people. Because of this, even if cis people don’t know openly-trans people, many have no problem treating them as less-than-human, undeserving of safety. They thus can be hunted for sport by people, without their consciousness kicking in to say “Wait! That’s a human being!”. Some of these people may even be otherwise psychologically normal. We are all complicit in this dehumanization as members of society. This becomes overwhelming for people, many of whom are simply seeking acceptance and safety, and just want to live their lives in a body that feels like their self. This dehumanization continues constantly, and legally and morally, X can’t do anything about it: chances are the police won’t take her seriously, and they can’t do anything regardless until X is actually physically hurt, and even then there’s a good chance nothing will happen to the perpetrator. So X lashes out. And in this form it takes “Die Cis Scum!”

            And what do you and others like you do? You sit there and whine about how someone is “personally threatening”, ignoring all context (like, for example, that it was posted on a TRANS-FRIENDLY SITE, not your damn Facebook wall). Get over it– this is not about you, and it is not aimed personally at you.

          • yiab says

            Difference would be the latter isn’t a credible or justified fear given that you don’t know that person and they don’t pose any actual threat to you.

            Good point. I often forget that I think about these things in a very abstract way by default.

          • says

            Oh hell.

            You know, I’ve read the Autobiography of Malcolm X. I think it’s a great book. And it starts off talking about how his father was murdered and no one in power cared. I remember how much that pissed me off, and how I gained a bit of sympathy for Malcolm X and his fellow “radicals.”

            But saying “white man is the devil” is a dumb-ass thing to say. “Death to whitey” even more so.

            And even though the chances this Asher person assaulting me personally are negligible, some people really do respond to bigotry directed at them by becoming bigots themselves. It’s not a good thing, or something people should be playing around with, even in the name of “making people think.”

          • says

            “I’ve been wondering lately if one of the reasons people react so strongly to “die cis scum” is because it fundamentally changes the way they can perceive us and react to us.”

            I can’t speak for other people with total confidence, but my guess is that mostly people react to it strongly because they hold the view that death threats are bad.

            Seriously Natalie, you’re smarter than this.

          • says

            Chris,

            if “Die Cis Scum” is a death threat, then the Internet expression of “Die in a fire” (DIAF) is a death threat.

            Also, Pharyngula has been through all this at length with the porcupine meme – check out the handiwork of the charming Wally Smith sockpuppet collective over at the Intersection, circa March 2010.

          • says

            I’m definitely on team “don’t freak out over figures of speech.” But when the statement is accompanied by an explicit “is a threat,” it’s a bit different (even if they still didn’t really mean it.)

        • Anders says

          I should not have gotten into this. Like I stated in my first post, it’s not worth risking a friendship for. I can understand that other people think this way, and I can agree to keep my mouth shut. Just don’t ask me to condone it.

          • says

            Anders, you’re not being asked to shut up – you’re being asked to consider that it’s not all about you. Consistently derailing a thread and dominating the conversation is rather entitled behaviour and isn’t conducive to letting other people have their share of the discussion. You’re welcome to declare your reservations, by all means, but once you’ve raised them you perhaps need to let things go a bit as well. Harping on and strawmanning the argument to boot was pretty fucking offensive in my book, and to be honest, was more like what I would expect of a troll than a reasonable commenter.

            From other of your comments it seems like you are investing a lot of emotional resources in commenting here, yet you’ve also indicated how precarious your mental state has been (for example, indicating how some topics Natalie has written about are problems for you). This blog is not an alternative to, or a replacement for, you obtaining therapy if you need it, and the rest of us cannot responsible for your well-being – if you are having major personal issues then you really should seek help and sort them out for yourself. It is true that we can support you in limited fashion if that’s the case, but it is not really ethical for you to expect or demand that we are obliged to give it to you, which is what I am guessing Natalie might have been getting at when she mentioned “emotional manipulation” upthread. (This is a pattern I’ve observed on other blogs with other commenters who move through cycles of abusive behaviour.)

          • Anders says

            1) I do not hold this position to be offensive. I hold it because I think that it is the right position to hold, and because I think the counterarguments are insufficient. But you are right in that I went too far. I should not have done that and I apologize for it. I will not continue the argument.

            2) I can assure you that I am getting all the available help. I thank you for your concern, but I would appreciate it if you did not drag my own private problems into the discussion.

          • says

            1) Thanks. Please don’t continue.
            2) Glad to hear you are seeking help, but bear in mind it most certainly does become an issue here if you are inappropriately seeking validation or circumscribing what other people can write to avoid ‘walking on eggshells’.

    • Chirico says

      I’m not particularly alienated or offended by the message. If anything, it’s a rather beautiful illustration that regardless of gender, sexuality, social status, race, or age, all people are capable of barbarism. That anybody can give into primal instincts of aggression and violence means that all of us have within us a monster called “fear.” That’s a profound reality that everyone should keep in mind.

    • says

      Not replying to you per se, sidneyia, but this is to highlight that we’ve got a derail on in here, being led by fair-weather supporters who are getting hot under the collar at a legitimate expression of rage by a severely marginalised person. Because Natalie saying she understands the source of that rage undermines all possible support for trans people. And one or more trans people attesting to feeling similar anger, even if they would not express it as hate speech themselves, means that the project of being a cis ally to trans people is completely off the cards.

      To repeat what I said yesterday: as a general threat, ‘Die Cis Scum’ cannot be taken seriously in any way. Even if all trans people agreed with this (which we don’t; Not All T* Are Like That), the likelihood of us prevailing against cis people who outnumber us by thousands to one against would be zero. As a group, we in fact need you, even if you don’t need us (and some of you would happily ‘throw us under the bus’ to use a slightly less violent expression).

      As an expression of trans extremism, ‘Die Cis Scum’ is as ridiculous a notion as a radical feminist extreme of imagining a world with men having been wiped out, except for a token breeding stock (which some separatists have proposed). Does the fact that that view exists mean you are going to stop supporting feminism entirely?

      So on the other hand, let’s consider taking those words as a specifically personal threat to someone who happens to meet Asher in real life. I believe Asher has been the victim of transphobic violence in the past, and so the tattoo and the unambiguous jacket with the same words writ large is a message of defiance: leave me alone. I think those who are cavilling at the bald violence of the words are (probably in good faith) missing who that message is specifically aimed at: it’s intended for the violent cis-sexists. If you’re not a transphobe whose idea of policing gender variance is bashing people within an inch of their lives, then I strongly suspect you have nothing to fear.

      Now, I get that intent isn’t magic, and that those words are intimidating to people who would want to be allies, and find this a bridge too far. That’s sometimes the problem with extremism: but the reaction should not be, because there are some extremists, I cannot support the group at all. I also think the reaction has more than a touch of the philosophy of lukewarm politeness that was criticised by Martin Luther King Jr in his letter from Birmingham Jail: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”.

      • Anders says

        Excellent point. I would like to clarify that my position in this question does not make me less determined to fight for trans rights. There is no contradiction between the two – they are expressions of the same underlying moral principle.

      • says

        Thank you for your response. I admit my initial reaction was entirely fueled by the (overly emotional and probably completely unrealistic) hypothetical “What if I met Asher face to face? Would they want to hurt me because I’m (nominally) cis?” And I fully own up to the fact that going into a discussion swinging “what-ifs” is not really good-faith discussing. So I am sorry for that.

        • says

          Actually, I think the question of personal intimidation is the most valid of the responses here, and so I’m glad you mentioned it (certainly it’s an eminently reasonable objection when compared to one particularly repulsive and illogical strawman raised upthread). I think it would be abnormal for someone to meet Asher when he’s wearing his jacket and not be intimidated in some way, whether his demeanour indicates he intends violence or not. However it’s not a credible threat that any typical trans person can give rise to, and so there’s perhaps some intent to reverse the trend of dominant cis privilege by making others uncomfortable in the way that trans people are habitually made to feel. As a trans person, I frequently feel vulnerable to violence in some public spaces just from the way other people act (and I would lose 99% of the time that anything came to a physical fight), so while I agree Asher’s tattoo or jacket is not nice for the people he meets, I fully understand where the desire to retaliate stems from (I also tend to think it’s problematic but I’m far from decided on the matter).

      • yiab says

        FWIW there is no chance that this would stop me supporting trans rights, and I agree completely that it should not stop anybody else either.

        My primary objection was based around the idea that there will be people viewing it who misunderstand who it is aimed at, thinking it is aimed at them when it is not.

        Well said.

      • Jen says

        I agree that people seem to miss the “scum” part of the message. I don’t take it personally; I see it as an expression of righteous rage.

    • says

      Personally I don’t think “die cis scum” poses a threat because for it to be a threat it would have to have credibility. There is no risk of trans people engaging in anti-cis pogroms, but trans peopel are not equally safe.

      But then, I felt that the theme of XMen: First Class was that Magneto was right about people, and Xavier was wrong.

      • says

        It’s not necessarily a threatening (though a trans person could certainly kill a cis person as easily as anyone else, I suppose). However, I would generally consider any call for any broad group of people to die unethical regardless the situation. Of course, I generally agreed with Xavier that even if humans can be horrible, it’s no excuse to sink to the level of the worst of them.

  13. Dalillama says

    An excellent post as usual. For myself, I find myself getting the most annoyed with the non overlapping magesteria types of arguements, but that may be because I hear them the most often. FWIW, the answer to the popular pseudorhetorical question about predicting outcomes based on the idea of privilege is an unequivocal yes. As with any chaotic system, the predictions are statistical in nature, and can’t be reliably applied to any particular individual, but I don’t hear people complaining that weather forecasting is useless because it can’t predict the position of every cloud. Science gives a lot of answers that make some people uncomfortable, especially people who are trying to justify something unjustifiable, but that doesn’t make the answers less legitimate.

  14. Sour Tomato Sand says

    So sadly, that hinge in the idyllic presentation above “as long as we don’t push our opinions on others” can’t ever actually exist. Our beliefs will always have consequences for the others in our lives. So yes, other people’s beliefs do matter, and do affect me.

    YES, THANK YOU. I see this all the time in the atheist community for some reason (though admittedly, it tends to be in the more libertarian reaches of the community). I notice the term “cognitive dissonance” gets thrown a lot among atheists, too, but I see it misused a lot. What cognitive dissonance actually says and its most basic is that people’s actions affect their beliefs, and people’s beliefs affect their actions. That is, when someone does something that is not consistent with their beliefs, they will either invent a justification or will change their behavior to match; conversely, when someone believes something that is not consistent with their behavior, they will change their behavior to match (or invent a justification). What it does not tell us is that beliefs don’t matter because people will just make up a justification for it, which seems to be the way it’s used most often.

    For example: “Oh, Ron Paul’s crazy beliefs don’t matter because he’ll never act on his Christian Dominionist bullshit, he’ll just make drugs legal and end the wars!”

  15. says

    “I’m tired of hearing your patronizing, cissexist, dismissive, privileged ignorance all the time. Can you give it a rest?”

    This.

    Then, this:

    “Can’t we just get along? Can’t we agree to disagree? Neither of us can prove our side with 100% certainty, so there’s no point in even having this discussion. Can’t we just live and let live?”

    I mean I am fucking tired too. Still yet, I am not going to just agree to disagree because these privileged options you state subject me and a shitton of other people to continued ostracism. I refuse to jut take it because you are tired of arguing.

    Also on the Greta Christina note on the top, the only thing that Greta does that makes me the slightest bit sad is go a few days between writing another post. I wish she would write like a thousand a day so I am never at want for some of her very balanced thoughts. It would be like totally impossible for anyone to accuse her of jumping to a conclusion without being headdeskingly wrong.

  16. says

    they think they’re right about everything

    I want to meet somebody who doesn’t. I want that person to give me an example of a belief they currently hold which they are convinced is untrue. Seems to be impossible by definition, but I’m open to correction.

  17. secha says

    Things I Learned: There are radical trans feminists.

    I was kind of under the impression that radical feminists tended to be openly transphobic. Or at least I most often hear of radical feminists after they’e done something transphobic.

  18. Anders says

    I am sorry about my behavior in this thread. I got carried away to the point where winning the debate was more important than giving my opponents a fair shake or get to the bottom of the issue.

    Xanthe, you are spot on. There are psychological issues here and I’ve mailed Natalie about them. I am working on them, but I am still very far from well. This is why I stay out of the “Politics” forum on SGU.

    Natalie, would putting me on moderator-approved comments place a very large workload for you? I think it might be good for me to cool off for a month or so. I will submit to your good sense in the matter – if you think a comment is out of line, then that comment never appears. If I can’t control my sharp tongue maybe someone else will have to. I will try not to swamp you with comments.

    • says

      Anders,

      first, this apology is a good start. Obsessing about Things on the Internet is not a good way to address psychological issues (I have similar issues with depression and other cognitive bad habits). But what is worse, is attempting to resolve psychological problems over the Internet. I really think you need to entrust that to your qualified professionals where you are, and avoid things on the Internet that aren’t helping. Stepping away from the computer sometimes may be helpful. I looked at the SGU forums earlier and it’s not as if it would be the end of the world to miss a week’s worth of comments there.

      I can’t know what you’ve been going through, but when you write things like this, I don’t think it’s really appropriate for you to fixate on someone like Natalie to involve her in your problems. It seems to be demanding on the one hand that she validate and reward you with cookies for being a good ally, while implying otherwise that dire consequences may result from something she writes which upsets you. If it were me blogging, I think I would be inclined to say how uncomfortable comments like that would make me feel, while simultaneously being hesitant to say anything that, negatively interpreted, might set you off. It’s also a crappy position to place her in.

      Lastly, I think in the circumstances it’s also presumptuous to insist that Natalie should moderate your comments by hand. Unless you’re unaware that doing so would actually involve more work than she currently has to do to approve new commenters, then you seem to be rather unabashed that your own poor impulse control is what’s at fault. You really could just try to comment a bit less often.

      By the way, feel free to complain if I’m wrong or misreading things. (But I’m not a punching bag either.) And I doubt your blog owner wants to ban people, but banning is probably an easier way out for her than post-by-post moderation.

  19. SallyStrange: bottom-feeding, work-shy peasant says

    Until you explain to me what you plan on doing to prevent THE INEVITABLE HEAT DEATH OF THE UNIVERSE!?!, I refuse to listen to what you have to say about anything else!

  20. Steve Schuler says

    Admittedly I’m fairly thick, but I fail to see the outrage of somebody adorning their body, jacket, and blog article title with “Die Cis Scum”. Natalie said:

    “I’ve been wondering lately if one of the reasons people react so strongly to “die cis scum” is because it fundamentally changes the way they can perceive us and react to us.”

    Well, my own “strong reaction” was a pretty hearty laugh and after reading through the comments thread to Asher’s blog post I came up with a tentative hypothesis that Asher has adopted the role of a narcissistic ‘Anarchist Psycho Sex Punk’ in a vain gambit to ‘shock the bourgeois’ in a (not so) furtive attempt to gain some sense of personal power.

    Why Natalie chose to link to his article, and how it might support her argument, is something of a mystery to me, but lots of things are a mystery to me.

  21. says

    Speaking of sexism and Starcraft, have you hear about this? (Self-promotion alert) Apparently, harassing and threatening to rape female rape players is as integral to Street Fighter tournaments as Street Fighter itself. The explanation smacks of “Shut up, that’s why.”

    • says

      Playing Streetfighter without sexual harassment is like playing basketball without the basketball? What, does he play some voice activated version of Street Fighter that does a hadoken whenever he calls a woman a bitch?

  22. ibelieveindog says

    “Even our non-actions affect those around us.”

    Which is why I’ve recently come out of the closet as an agnostic atheist.

    And thanks, Natalie, for helping me clear up and organise my thoughts and arguments. Those closest to have always known I’m an atheist, but I have a family get-together coming up soon, and the rumours about me have been flying!

    Also, you’re awesome!

  23. Anders says

    Remember the whole “you’re really actually a man, because science” argument? That’s actually a different form of the same tactic. You see, if I approach the question of gender from a standpoint based on the importance of self-identification, someone can invalidate my claims in that regard by claiming that “science says” I’m male, and that somehow all the fields of inquiry I’m using to support my position are irrelevant to this version of “science”, and also that this “science” gets the last word. If the science of gender variance is then introduced to the discussion, the range of relevant considerations will be narrowed… to biology, to genitals, to genetics… whatever technique works for invalidating whatever angle I’m approaching from and shutting down the discussion.

    The people who say that are ignorant of how science works (or should work). You should always choose the tools most appropriate for the job. When we make surveys, self-identified gender is the most appropriate. Anyone who claims otherwise has to argue for it.

    Now, there may be situations in which karyotype is the appropriate method – if studying X-linked diseases, for instance. But in general, when it comes to everyday life – self-identification is by far the most appropriate. And when it comes to human rights, gender should be irrelevant anyway.

  24. dfl42 says

    “The ‘How Can You Talk About Blowjobs When People Are Dying In Darfur’ Argument”

    I’ve always called this the “It’s Not Like Anyone’s Holocausting You” argument.

  25. smhlle says

    I think a working definition of whining is “bringing up a topic that I have been happily ignoring”, which may (oops) dent my happiness. (oh noes)

    I think “die cis scum” is not particularly scary because I think the percentage of cis people who feel bad about being cis or who have taken significant flak for being cis is quite small. I think mostly everyone who is cis is quite unruffled about being cis. (But if someone wants to tell me different, I will listen.)

  26. Jurjen S. says

    An excellent extension of Greta’s original piece indeed, and reading it, it strikes me that it should be fairly obvious that most of the “shut up, that’s why” arguments (and I use the term “argument” loosely) can so easily be reversed.

    I’ll buy the “non-overlapping magisteria” claim when religious doctrine stops intruding on the reality in which I, and the people I love, live; as long as there’s a single politician out there pushing for legislation that will relegate certain people to second-class citizenship because of their sex/gender, sexual orientation, religious beliefs (or lack thereof), ethnicity etc. and until religion is relegated to theologians in some ivory tower debating how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, I will not accept that the magisteria are “non-overlapping.”

    And you’re tired of hearing about atheism? I’ve been incessantly confronted with other people’s religion for nigh on forty years; you think I’m not tired of hearing about that?

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