Catherynne Valente Lays Some Truth On You
Posted on April 6, 2012 Posted by John Scalzi 202 Comments
About the Christopher Priest’s Clarke Rant and why a woman wouldn’t have been gotten the same pass for it that he did.
As a reminder of my own thoughts on the general topic of men and women talking on the Internet: The Sort of Crap I Don’t Get.
If you don’t think this all still applies, I want you to think about that #GOPWarOnCaterpillars entry. Imagine what would be in the comment thread if I were a woman. I can imagine it. It’s not especially nice.
While I don’t disagree with her central premise, It would have been a lot more compelling if she hadn’t used examples in which she compared the feedback that relatively unknown women bloggers received to the response to those of a single distinguished male writer. It sets up a bit of a straw man in which she conflates gender abuse with the responses from rabid fans when a nobody criticizes their favorite books.
Matt: I don’t think the women bloggers she listed are “relatively unknown.” Sady Doyle, at least, is very, very well known as a feminist blogger. She may not be particularly well-known in SFF circles — I know I’ve heard her linked and quoted and mentioned from several separate sources on my blogroll, but I have a lot of overlap between SFF circles and feminist circles in those particular blogs, so I honestly don’t know — but she’s not obscure. And I’m pretty sure that one of the other bloggers she mentioned without a name is actually a reasonably well-known SFF writer; if that’s not who Ms. Valente was thinking of when she made the example in question, it still applies.
Granted, the people she named tend to be pretty outspoken, and not afraid of being blunt about it. But, well, that was part of the point of the essay. Being outspoken and blunt and critical gets you a lot more backlash if you happen to be female (or if readers think you are), as a general rule.
Because guy “nobodies” regularly have to deal with comments about rape and other attacks distinctly targeting gender?
(Also, just because you don’t know who those women are doesn’t make them “nobodies.”)
Beyond this, Cat makes the point that women writers don’t do this sort of intense criticism in part because they know what the response is to women expressing intense criticism, which is something you are either eliding or missed entirely. The fact that women writers don’t feel safe to express themselves however they choose because they know, based on other womens’ experiences, is a pretty significant point, which deserves better than your dismissal via “strawman” argument.
I feel compelled to point out that if you name your blog, “Requires Only That You Hate,” you can’t be too terribly shocked when you attract a bunch of bile-spewing Neanderthals in your comment threads to do just that.
One of the effects of this kind of dichotomy is that you simply won’t see distinguished female authors say the same kind of things that Priest said.
I do agree that women face much more disturbing, often vicious, comments from those who disagree with them. It is particularly disturbing to see it happen with the SF/Fantasy field, with which I identify. I’d like to know to what degree this happens within the SF community to leaders in the field like Ursula Le Guin, Mercedes Lackey, or Elizabeth Bear (for example) who have enormous credibility from their own work vs. comments from an outsider who (while maybe has some following) has no professional credibility with the people that are making the hateful comments.
Please see my added comments above. Cat is making the argument that to a large degree you don’t see women writers making this sort of commentary because they know what happens from there.
I think if you believe that women writers will find themselves insulated from abuse based on their stature, you may be charmingly optimistic.
Beyond this, is there a compelling reason a woman writer in the genre should voluntarily subject herself to abuse so you might be satisfied Cat is making a relevant point?
I can pretty much assure you that were her blog called “Kittens & Puppies are Disappointed in These Books”, she’d get the exact same bunch of bile-spewing Neanderthals.
Putting the onus of other people’s bad behavior on the title of her blog, comes dangerously close to victim blaming.
Ive read “Requires only Hate” for a while now…she is very entertaining.
But I understand that “Requires only Hate” is a poo-flinger extraordinaire. That is part of her schtick.
She is someone who goes out of her way to get the responses she gets. She goes personal first, early, and often. She has no problem with firing the first shots in her war against “neckbeards” and others. She gets responses she gets for being someone who goes out of her way to be as insulting and denigrating as possible to people with whom she disagrees, not because she is a woman.
To say she gets attacked and called a “rabid animal” for being a woman and calling a book out for being sexist is disingenuous. To say what she does is comparable to what Christopher Priest did is laughable.
Bringing her up out of a true context of the conversation that led up to that crack did nothing to further Ms Valente’s argument, if anything it undercuts it.
Maybe if there were a mention of the long running war of insults between “RoH” and others (Scott Bakker, Peter Watts, etc) beforehand…
Matt, suggest you go back and read – not just skim – both the previous thread of Scalzi’s and Cat Valente’s posts. The question of who is and isn’t famous is both a derail and wholly misses the point. If it takes being a “leader in the field” of SFF for a woman to be able to post criticism without getting rape threats and having her children’s schools posted in public, that rather proves Valente’s point, doesn’t it?
I understand that it’s very disturbing and difficult to acknowledge that a beloved community is full of the same vile humans that one hopes to avoid by being part of that community. Denial doesn’t help the situation, nor does contortionist logic.
Mercedes Lackey, by the way, has indeed talked in the past about stalkers and harassment from ‘fans’.
Man, I love Cat. And thank you for posting this. I suppose I should say I love you, too, Scalzi. There, I said it. For the world to hear!
To say she gets attacked and called a “rabid animal” for being a woman and calling a book out for being sexist is disingenuous.
Happily, this is not the argument actually being made, although clearly it’s the argument you wish were being made.
“To say she gets attacked and called a ‘rabid animal’ for being a woman and calling a book out for being sexist is disingenuous.”
Well, no. If the language of insult towards women is heavy on animal metaphors — and it certainly is — then it’s not disingenuous in the slightest to point out when it’s being used and what the effect of it is. Any long-running feud between the participants is useful context, but it’s not necessarily here nor there in discussing which words are used for invective, and what the assumptions are underneath them.
However, as Mythago notes, you may have missed the actual argument being made.
Matt, regardless of their stature in their respective fields relative to Christopher Priest, the central point is that when bloggers like Sady Doyle say something critical, they get comments like this. (Massive trigger warning for pretty much all common triggers.)
While your question appears to miss the point of Ms. Valente’s post by a wide margin, it did make me curious when you wrote ” I’d like to know to what degree this happens within the SF community to leaders in the field like Ursula Le Guin, Mercedes Lackey, or Elizabeth Bear…”
Ninety seconds of of google-fu later, here is what I found:
An article on the go-to geek haven, Wired.com, reporting on Ursula Leguin’s high profile resignation from the Author’s Guild after their acquiesnce to the copyright settlement with geek idol Google. Read the *very first* comment (note: the comments scroll in reverse chronological order, with the earliest at the bottom of the page).
Sorry, I’m not sure why my link didn’t work, so I’m trying again now. Link goes to a roundup of insults and abusive comments Sady Doyle collected from all the times she said something vaguely controversial.
Matt: Elizabeth Bear has most certainly had to deal with this, as well, as she was the lightning rod during Racefail. Beth B is correct in that I was referencing a couple of other well known female authors, but I didn’t want to name them in case they didn’t want it discussed. Sady Doyle is an enormously well known writer, Laurie Penny is quite famous. She has more followers on Twitter than any of us and is regularly on the BBC. Requires Hate is not as well known, but she’s also /a fan/ who receives this level of abuse /from authors/ which is so wildly inappropriate I can’t begin to express it.
TW: I am aware that people use the idea that she’s mean to justify what they say about Requires. I even pointed it out in the article. But why should she have to be nice about a book she finds wildly sexist? Much as there was an oblique value to Priest’s post, there is a value to having SOMEONE have the bravery to stand up and point out how misogynist much of SFF is. Sometimes shit needs to be stirred up. She shouldn’t have to sugar coat it. But of course women do. That’s the whole point. What Watts did, to my mind, is much worse than disliking a book with verve and crass humor, because he is an author and she is a fan and up and coming reviewer, and gendered, threatening abuse with that directionality it is not appropriate.
I agree wholeheartedly with Valente’s premise. I even agree with Doyle as a good example. Conflating Watts, particularly in that exchange, with these other commentators was misleading at best.
As an aside, Watts has had trolls wish rape on him, but in a much more highly charged atmosphere. I am not in any way contesting that the bar for such abuse is not set ridiculously lower for women.
TW: There is a major difference between calling someone names and saying they deserve to be tortured to death.
maygra: I don’t think there’s any need to be cautious about this. keithrc IS victim-blaming – and ironically, he’s making Valente’s point. In essence, he’s saying that if a woman has a snarky, aggressive, in-your-face blog, that she has no cause to complain if she receives gendered harassment and threats of the sort that would never come up if the identical blog were run by a man.
I think the colloquial version of this is “She asked for it.”
Mythago: victim-blaming is absolutely not what I said or did. I said ‘not surprised’ and called her abusers Neanderthals. Read it again.
I wonder how many generations it takes to rid the world of an unsuitable prejudice. If it weren’t such a devious thing – hiding concealed inside the noses of so many who devoutly believe they themselves have no issues with prejudice, it could be eradicated in a couple of generations.
But it’s a multi layered thing, with each layer having its own set of wrongs, each generation having to force those wrongs into the light.
I suspect that we will not see it gone from the world for many more generations. Because the subtle nuances that come toward the end of the cycle are the hardest to be rid of.
wait, are you suggesting that because Requires refuses to “play nice” when she writes what she needs to write about, she therefore deserves and should expect to be threats of violence, rape, servitude, and death? To be dehumanized with gendered insults?
because thats what it sounds like youre saying to me.
p.s. “watch your tone” is a classic derailing technique.
You implied a causal relationship between her choice of blog name and the presence of Neanderthal abusers. Did you not intend to?
On the flip side of Matt’s argument, I guarantee there are millions of people who’ve never heard of Christopher Priest, “giant” in our field or not. So his Priest=”God” and “bloggers I’ve never heard of”=”nobodies” makes no sense in this context even on that level.
Matt, you also sound as if you’re saying, “Well, all that abuse is really okay, so long as it’s a nobody getting abused. Because professional credibility is what actually matters.”
keithrc: You said you can’t be too terribly shocked when you attract such comments.
That’s just it. You *should* be shocked. That’s the whole point. Death threats and rape threats to another human being for speaking their mind should be shocking. But because they’re happening to a woman, people aren’t shocked. People react with indifference, as if it’s expected. Your comment says she should have expected it. And that’s the point. No one should be required to expect it. No one should be told they’d better watch what they say or they’ll get threats of violence if they aren’t nice enough.
That *is* victim-blaming.
And again, if these threats were *only* happening to women with blog titles with things like “hate” in them, your comment might have made sense. It’s not. It happens to plenty of women who speak their minds, whether or not they do it politely (see that Ursula LeGuin link, above), whether or not they even had any say in the issue at hand (cf. death/rape threats received recently by Seanan McGuire when Amazon mistakenly released her book early), even when all they want to do is have a good time (google for articles on the abuse women gamers regularly get in online gaming).
All we have to be to get threats of violence is women who say something on the internet. It happens whether we have “hate” in our blog titles or not, so please don’t set up or buy into that false cause/effect relationship.
Hmm. I can see where a causal relationship was implied, although that was not my intention. However, even an implied causal relationship is not a value judgement, as in “She asked for it.” I know better than that.
Vixy, et al:
I disagree with your formulation that implying a causal relationship = blaming the victim, but I understand that this is likely the wide interpretation. I apologize for the misunderstood comment and withdraw it.
keithrc; you did indeed call out the bile-spewing neanderthals; however attributing their bile and presence to the name of the blog does, in fact, imply, “what did she expect, naming her blog that?” which is but one step away from, “what did she expect, wearing that short skirt?”
I’m not calling you an ally to the neanderthals, I was giving you the benefit of the doubt regarding your rationale of the bile. There is none. It is victim blaming to put the cause of the bad behavior on anything or anyone other than those exhibiting vile behavior. The name of Sady’s blog is not the problem here.
I think there is a fundamental lack of understanding at work here. I think too many men do not realize that women live with the threat of encountering a human monster every day. They do not understand the impact these hateful comments can have on a person, or they don’t care. They use the annonimity of the internet to launch these cowardly, ignorant, sexist, hateful attacks, that most of them would never have the balls to say to someone’s face.
I was fortunate enough to grow up surrounded by wonderful women, and I still am surrounded by them. As far as I know, none of them has ever had these things happen to them. I realize I could easily be completely ignorant of the actual truth of this, and I hope I’m not. I was the rail thin, too tall, socially and physically awkward, smart kid with glasses growing up. Like a lot of you out there, these things often made me the target of bullies. It taught me how cruel and ignorant people could be. As I got older and grew into my frame, the bullying stopped, but it left me with zero tolerance for ignorant, hateful bullshit.
Now, I am 6’6″ tall, 350 pounds, mostly muscle. Honestly, I probably missed my calling as an offensive lineman or a middle linebacker. But, I didn’t like football growing up, because that’s where most of the bullies were. I am literally a huge SF/F geek. I go to conventions, and other events fairly regularly in the area I live.
To those who perpetuate this bullshit behavior, know this. If I ever run across one of you smirkingly bragging about putting a woman in her place, for any reason, least of all daring to have an opinion, know that I am not afraid of intimidating someone to thier face. I don’t like to be a bully, I don’t like or want to hurt anyone. But, we will find out just how much you like having your person threatened, just for being what you are. Because you will actually deserve it. I will not ever touch you, however, unless you throw the first punch. Then, I will put you down hard. Just because I feel that you might be one of the ones who is actually a threat to someone, and not just a posturing coward. Believe me, don’t believe me. Think I’m bragging or exaggerating all you want. But, if you see a giant coming toward you, you might want to watch what you say. Because I have zero tolerance for pett, cowardly, sexist, hateful bullshit, and I will let you know that.
I apologize if I come across as equally sexist with what I’ve said here. I just feel very strongly about this. Honestly, I don’t care about your race, gender, ethnicity, or age. If I see someone being treated as less than a person I will defend them. I just feel it is the right thing to do. I wil stop ranting now, and get off this soapbox, before I fall on my face.
I read a lot of Requires Hate’s posts. Some of them are funny and sharp. But it is not just crass humor: if she gendered her identity as male, you would probably find her some of her use of violence and invective to be part of the problem Valente describes.
John, I think you are missing that there was no direct causation between Requires calls (someone else’s) book sexist and Watts calls her an animal. There was some back and forth discourse that led up to that point.
I would also argue that “animal” and “rabid animal” are if anything generally directed at men. The fact that specific animal names are applied to women in derogatory and abusive manners, does not mean that just any animal related word is gender laden and/or directed at women.
I also question Valente saying that Watts should use kid gloves on up and coming bloggers because he is an author. They are both adults and adept at their chosen debate styles. I would almost say Valente is taking a patronizing, oh she’s just a rambunctious scamp attitude towards Requires. Requires is an adult and not shy of bringing a bazooka to a knife fight. Watts escalated the rhetoric to go where Requires already was. Should he have been gallant about the whole thing?
Valente also fails to mention the 5,000 posts of debate on Watts’ blog where Watts attempts to come to grips with exactly why he said what he did and whether he should have behaved differently. I am not going to say either side looked great in this exchange, but Valente’s take is not all that nuanced in my opinion and looks like it is already damaging Watts reputation with people who will never have the time to read the whole story. (Frankly, I think Watts would have been better advised to not play Mercutio on Bakker’s behalf, but funnily enough, Watts’ wife (who is also a great genre writer) was upset at how Requires was treating her friend Bakker.)
Lest that last sentence be misconstrued. I believe Caitlin Sweet also wrote in defense of Bakker on her own behalf. I was not implying she needed her husband to fight her battles.
Hmm, his whole argument breaks down when he gets into people saying the woman commenting should be raped and immediately says it’s “hate speech”.
So, to summarize his essay: If a woman had said it, she wouldn’t get away with it. Because people would leave exactly the same hateful and moronic comments but because of her status of a woman some comments would be considered “hate speech”. So if I (stupidly) say to a man I disagree with “shut up! go make me a sandwich, bitch!” or “A**hole, you should be r*aped” he “got away” with it; if I said those same evil comments to a woman she suddenly didn’t “get away” with it.
And I thought we were supposed to consider women our equals…
Scott, are you being deliberately disingenuous? Do you really think (and I’m using that word loosely here) that there is perfect equivalency between those two things?
Upon rereading your second-to-last sentence, I’m actually not even sure what you mean.
“Upon rereading your second-to-last sentence, I’m actually not even sure what you mean.”
Also, missing the fact Cat is a woman does not suggest a particularly close reading.
There seems to be more of a focus on whether Cat Valente’s personal experience of the issue “counts” than on the actual issue itself.
The name of one specific blog has fuck-all to do with the easily-observable fact that — all else being equal — people online who are easily identifiable as female get significantly more shit in general and more sexist shit in particular when they express their opinions. In some sense, this is depressingly unsurprising because the same damn pattern exists in meatspace, even in spaces that are oh-so-fuckin-evolved.
What to do when it happens: speak out against it. Because staying silent isn’t enough.
What *not* to do when it happens: mansplain it. Because it makes you sound like a condescending idiot.
Scott, your comment makes no sense.
There’s an interesting, largely unresolved sub-argument there between Foz Meadows and yuki_onna there about whether this is or is not a disproportionately US problem.
I think that, in the Anglosphere, the US has by far the biggest problem with religious-right-inspired misogynist politics; but when it comes specifically to the SF community, the recent statistical explorations by James Nicoll and others suggest to me that literary SF is actually far more male-dominated in the UK than it is in the US, so I wonder if there could be a difference in geographic variation between the subculture and the general population.
In many states, it is impossible to rape a man pursuant to the legal definition in that state. “I would like to perform criminal deviate conduct on you” just doesn’t have the same impact, so is probably directed at men less often.
Re: “rabid animal”
As the author of, if not THE, certainly A book on insults (INSULTS EVERY MAN SHOULD KNOW, only $9.99)! I wanted to chime in on the idea of calling a woman of color a “rabid animal.” In a public insult fight, the question of escalation is both a tactical question and an ethical one. Tactically, if you escalate too much too quickly, the audience turns against you. Ethically, escalation often leads to sexist, racist, and other oppressive gambits that people of good will generally wish to avoid. Or at least wish to avoid being publicly associated with.
Both women and people of color have been denigrated as animals and as animalistic for centuries. in literature, in racist pseudo-science, in casual remarks, you name it. That makes calling a woman of color a “rabid animal” a significant escalation. Calling me a “rabid animal” would just be another insult, but against RoH it is a racist and sexist insult. In the same way, comparing the face of President George W. Bush to that of a chimp is just an insult; doing the same to President Barack Obama or to First Lady Michelle Obama is an insult and racist. Why? Because for centuries blacks have been denigrated as apes, ape-like, and as less evolved near-apes. Connecticut WASPs, not so much.
Watts blundered tactically, tried to power out of it, and then finally retreated. Ethically, I think he realized that his escalation was ethically inappropriate when he learned that RoH is a woman of color, but he’d pushed too far into enemy territory and couldn’t just say “Sorry!”—but that’s his problem.
It is perfectly appropriate for people to complain about bazookas at knife fights, especially when the bazooka is a sexist and racist one. It’s also perfectly appropriate to shout to the audience, “Hey, look at the big sexist and racist bazooka this guy is aiming at my li’l ol’ knife!” If someone can’t handle escalations properly, they should leave insult fighting to the experts. Or at least read up on the field a bit first.
Scott: “So if I (stupidly) say to a man I disagree with “shut up! go make me a sandwich, bitch!” or “A**hole, you should be r*aped” he “got away” with it; if I said those same evil comments to a woman she suddenly didn’t “get away” with it.”
I’m not entirely sure what you mean by “get away” with it. However, you’re leaping to a false conclusion. No one has claimed that if you said it to a man, it would be fine The fact being pointed out here is that a disproportionately large number of people say those horrible things to men than to women, and they do it whether the women being threatened were saying vile things or polite things or saying nothing at all but just playing online games.
PrivateIron: “I also question Valente saying that Watts should use kid gloves on up and coming bloggers because he is an author.”
Well, she didn’t say that. She said that in her opinion it’s inappropriate for authors to comment on reviews.
*sigh* I meant to type, “a disproportionately large number of people say those horrible things to women than to men.” I should stop posting while at work.
@Kilroy . . . Seriously? You think that people who happen to live I jurisdictions where there is no legal definition of rape that allows a Maine victim are therefore unaware that men can be (and even, occasionally, are) raped. And that the reason male loggers are so much less often the recipients of threats of violence than female bloggers is because there is no legallly defined way in the place where the attackers live to rape a man?
Threats of sexual violence can be made regardless of the egalitarian status of the genders involved. The point here is that, for the most part, such threats are directed by men at women who have stepped out of line, whatever that line may be in the head of the person making the threat.
I have often suspected that the people who use rape as a threat against women do not use it as a threat against men at least partly because they can imagine themselves “putting that bitch in her place”, whereas doing so to a man would involve – ew! – homosexual activity. That is, they can conceive of themselves, at least in their minds, committing a criminal assault, but not a queer one.
This differences in how one verbally attacks a man and a woman often have something to do with heteronornality, as well as the obvious gender issues.
I loathe iPad “autocorrections”. The first paragraph should have read:
@Kilroy . . . Seriously? You think that people who happen to live in jurisdictions where there is no legal definition of rape that allows a male victim are therefore unaware that men can be (and even, occasionally, are) raped. And that the reason male bloggers are so much less often the recipients of threats of violence than female bloggers is because there is no legallly defined way in the place where the attackers live to rape a man?
It goes well beyond fame. I used to be part of an online community that discussed politics. At first it was quite civil, fun, interesting, even enlightening. Then some folks came in with some rather extreme views, and some of their posts seemed to give an odd sort of permission to others to run to the extremes as well. At first I was pretty well exempted from the vitriol that was hurled, mainly because I used my initials rather than my name. I watched as other women on the board were called all sorts of awful names, were derided, even threatened with rape, other physical abuse, etc. I called one of these idiots out on this and his response made me realize they all thought I was male. Someone ‘outed’ me as being female and then all hell broke loose. I can’t tell you the amount of hatred that was directed at me, the variety of names I was called, the slurs on my appearance, the detailed descriptions of what I ‘needed’ done to me so that I could ‘know my place.’
The worst part of it? At least to me? Men who I had believed to be my friends, who I had been to parties and get-togethers with in the real world, piled on that ugly little bandwagon. Even some of the women did. It was nutty. I ended up extracting myself from that community, both on line and off. It also caused me to be much more circumspect about what I say, especially online, especially when I use my name. I rarely comment anywhere (even here) because I just don’t want to deal with the belittling, the insults, the mean and hateful responses and the threats. So, in my experience, it just doesn’t matter what level of fame you have, it is the sin of being female that is often the only reason needed to make someone the object of spew.
Gawker Media Group has made a shift in their commenting system which requires commenter accounts to be linked to Facebook / Twitter / some other social media site, thus reducing / removing the sense of anonymity from comment threads . . . I’d suspect that commentards would be less likely to threaten rape / murder / abuse if they knew those comments could be traced back to them.
There was a trend in sports reporting a few years back for reporters to trace obnoxious comments back to the people who left them and to confront them with their obnoxious comments in real life. Most of the commentators were apologetic and flabbergasted to be speaking to with a real live sports reporter.
It would be nice if we could trace some of the hate back to those who spewed it . . .
sorcharei: words have meaning. words don’t always have the same meaning. From where i’m sitting (meaning specific location, not some perspective), men can’t be and aren’t “raped”. Frankly, I think the legislature is a little backwards here and this needs to be fixed, but I don’t make the rules, I just enforce them. Not saying sexual violence against men does not occur, it does. And the level of punishment is actually identical, it just has a different name. Point was, the statement wouldn’t make any sense against a man in some locations.
I want to put on my condescending asshole hat again for a few more thoughts I’ve been having about this. Real quick, this is not directed at anyone specifically, and is not in response to anyone’s previous comments.
“Hate Speech” has as much if not more to do with the reaction of the recipient, as it does with the intent of the speaker. I don’t care if you think you’re being funny, or clever, or whatever else. If you tell someone you want to rape them, or something equally vile, with no thought of how they are going to take it, I don’t give two shits about your intent. It is “hate speech,” and quite frankly you are a fucking asshole.
If you do say things like this to people, without the intent to hurt them, ort diminish them, or to put them in their place. Whatever the hell you might mean by it, you need to take a long hard look at yourself to find out where these vile things are coming from.
Interesting blog post. I’m reminded of the time that I (male) was in a discussion on Reddit about feminism or sexism or gender or… something. I don’t quite remember. It was fairly heated. One commenter just outright asked me “Are you a man or a woman?” I refused to tell him (or her… but probably him). I said I didn’t see how it was relevant, and that I wouldn’t be answering. Immediate change in his demeanour. I guess he thought I was trying to dodge the question in order to appear male, so he started to treat me as if I were a woman. Man, I took some real atrocious crap from that guy.
After a while, I did reveal I’m male. Never heard from him again.
It was a fascinating experience. It was similar to the time that I (heterosexual and cisgendered) took a bunch of homophobic and trans-bashing crap (yelled at me in the street, no less) for daring to wear a kilt. Experiences like that give you a tiny insight into how other people live, and the terrible crap they need to put up with. I highly recommend that everyone try something similar, if they have the chance.
I don’t wish to derail the conversation here, but as an example of how badly we (collectively) deal with gender, there’s an ongoing trainwreck at Lawyers, Guns, and Money:
No actual females involved, just the perception of the natural world as ‘female’. Some people have brought enough crazy to open an asylum…
Oh,I dunno; she has a point, but it’s partial.
I thought (and said in so many words) that Priest was a whining, entitled, narcissistic opinionated twit with a self-esteem problem.
(Too much of it, which is the most common form. Self-esteem is like wearing spandex; a privilege, not a right.)
I certainly didn’t take him seriously or wish to engage with his arguments; I’ve heard that screed before, particularly the dinging alarm-bell that goes off when a SF author starts talking about ‘transcending genre conventions’, and it just made me make a mental note never to take anything he said about literature seriously, ever again.
People say things on the Internet they wouldn’t in real life because they’re freed of the wholesome social or physical fear of retaliation.
Having someone get really, really angry with you in person is unpleasant and can be dangerous. In flesh and blood confrontations, there’s a feedback — partially unconscious — which keeps things under control most of the time.
Certainly I’ve had people say things to me on the Web that don’t happen in person. Unfortunately computers have no “punch function”. Add in anonymity and instant posting, and you’ve got real problems. Plus flash-mobbing is so much easier on the Web, where people tend to associate with those who agree with them most of the time and so get deeply unrealistic feedback on how prevalent their views are.
And there’s also still a difference in styles of personal interaction between the genders which the Web tends to highlight, because as the saying goes here nobody knows you’re a dog.
Women are often surprised and shocked at how directly brutal males can be with each other(*), particularly when it’s not a Defer to the Big Bull Gorilla situation or otherwise structured precisely to avoid the problem. Not that women are inherently nicer, but they tend to be a bit more subtle, on average. In mixed-gender situations ‘in person’, things are a compromise.
(*) I had a woman comment to me once that on their own, men don’t act like human beings; they act like bears with furniture. Anyone who’s been in a boarding school or a barracks would have to conceed she has a point.
Suppose Bob leaves a laptop on the hood of her car and it gets stolen.
If Alice says that Bob deserved to have that laptop stolen because she left it out, then I would say that he has blamed the victim. If Alice says that Bob shouldn’t have left the laptop out because it was likely to be stolen, then I would describe that as making an observation about likely outcomes, but it would not be blaming the victim.
Suppose that Bob leaves his laptop out on a picnic table and when it rains, it is ruined. So is this outcome his fault? I would say yes, it was a predictable outcome. But what about the theft case? One can argue there are many places in the world where it is a near statistical certainty that the laptop will be stolen, so in one sense, a risk management sense, it may be Bob’s fault that the machine was stolen, but in a moral sense, the fault lies with the guy who stole it.
I tend to think that the phrase, “blaming the victim,” means unjustly assigning blame in the moral sense, not assigning blame in the risk management sense. The victim doesn’t deserve his or her fate, even if it was predictable. This sort of thing comes up in discussions about the cause of the 9/11 attack.
I thought that keithrc was making a statement about the blog title having a negative impact in the risk management sense, not in the moral sense.
All that aside, if all a woman has to do to receive threats of death or sexual violence is have an opinion about anything, then that is bad. It may not be shocking because it is so frequent that there is no surprise about it, but it is bad.
“Anyone who’s been in a boarding school or a barracks would have to conceed she has a point.”
SIR I WENT TO BOARDING SCHOOL AND I AM HERE TO TELL YOU —
“People say things on the Internet they wouldn’t in real life because they’re freed of the wholesome social or physical fear of retaliation.”
i.e., the John Gabriel Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory.
There is the problem that this elides the root issue of why people (and bears with furniture) have not been sufficiently socialized not to be such, just because they do not have the fear of immediate physical retaliation.
This is also why in my comment rules I note, “A good rule of thumb is to comment as if the person to whom you are commenting is standing in front of you, is built like a linebacker, and has both a short temper and excellent legal representation.”
However, as noted here and elsewhere, women who comment online sometimes don’t have to worry just about men being dicks on the Internet, but also making an effort to threaten them in the real world.
John, thank you for bringing these posts to our attention. I’d read Shauna Ahern’s before (the one that you link to in your “The Sort of Crap I Don’t Get), but I’d refrained from doing more than read. As of today, I’m doing more. I’ve now blogged about it.
Honestly, blogging about it scares me. Nobody knows who I am — and yet, what if the rape-threaters stumble across my blog? I am not a fearful person, and yet, a large part of me hesitated to hit “publish.” If there’s even a remote possibility that they might find me, wouldn’t it be safer to keep quiet?
But I can’t. I don’t want to give in to fear. I don’t want fear to determine how I live my life. So the post is now live.
John Scalzi, people like you give me the courage not to keep silent. Thank you.
First: to be clear: I support Valente’s general argument. I support Doyle and even Require’s rights to engage in their brand of discourse. I even think that mode does work on occasion. (Further, I actually saw a lot of Requires’ points about Bakker’s lame reponses to her critique, though frankly the woman has the introspection/self critical faculty of a non-introspecty thing with its break lines cut on St. Nonawaresville’s Day.) I certainly disagree with anyone making abusive remarks about people in general and I deplore that it is far more common or “acceptable” when directed at women. I only disagree with Valente’s characteristization of Watts in this specific instance.
@Vixy: Requires was not commenting on Watts’ work (at least not initially.)
@Nick: If I understand your post, I think you contradict yourself. Also, I am going to assume the “misread” of my paragraph was actually an ironical turn of the tables. I was so pwned!
Is Watts the misunderstood paragon of virtue? Nope. Is he what Valente says and keeps saying he is? Nope.
Carrigan brought up earlier that Gawker is now forcing people to associate their comments with an account somewhere else – as a means of forcing people to take responsibility for what they say in internet debates. Overall, this seems like a good idea to me. I definitely believe that many outright assholes would become more shrinking violets if their words could be traced directly back to them.
On the other hand, though, I think about the fear that women (myself included) already often have about speaking our minds in any forum, for precisely the kinds of reasons brought up in this post and the thread of comments here (see the post from Courtney Cantrell directly above mine). And I wonder: will forcing people to identify themselves in these forums have the unfortunate unintended consequence of also giving women *more* pause in expressing themselves? I, for one, would likely not comment in any online discussions about these topics if they had to have my name attached to them. My line of work is simply too imbued with implicit sexism and bias as it is, and jobs in my field are too hard to come by to risk offending the good ol’ boys club which for me, sadly, comprise the PTB.
PrivateIron, I didn’t misread your post; I simply used your terms and correctly described who brought what to that insult fight. Hardly my fault that you got it wrong. My reasoning as to why Watts is the one with the bazooka and how he was able to lose because he used the bazooka in a knife fight makes up the bulk of my comment.
John: “There is the problem that this elides the root issue of why people (and bears with furniture) have not been sufficiently socialized not to be such, just because they do not have the fear of immediate physical retaliation. ”
— G.K. Chesterton once remarked that all religious dogmas have to be taken on faith… except one, the Dogma of Original Sin. Of that, there is abundant objective proof.
A large percentage of the human race is just rotten bad, and most people will be bad given the right circumstances and sense of invulnerability. Always has been that way, always will be, and human nature has no history. I don’t get upset about this; it’s like getting enraged with the weather. You just have to deal with it — the equivalents of having a roof overhead and wearing temperature-appropriate clothing.
If you’re percieved as weak and vulnerable (often because you -are-), a lot of people will treat you like shit just because they can. That’s certainly been my experience of life and what I know of history serves to confirm it.
Ultimately, respect is largely based on fear — hence the way the Mafia use the term. And people identify with power; hence the genuine tears that often greet the death of mad-dog dictators like Stalin or Kim.
The disrespect people have been noticing directed towards women is, I would say, not just a matter of prejudice (though there’s plenty of that); it’s also that the men in question simply aren’t afraid of the women in the way they would be of a man, however unconsciously and/or theoretically.
Women have less power; people fear power, fear breeds respect. Lack of the ability to instill fear breeds contempt and makes you a target for agrression. You’re swimming with sharks 24/7.
The life experience of these guys has taught them that pushing a man too far may result in a Screaming Baboon Frenzy incident, and so they’re a bit more cautious about it — even with the anonymity of the Internet tthere’s a certain difference, much of the time, because the fear is partly subconscious.
I’ve often felt it might be socially beneficial if we revived dueling, but modified so that strength and skill
didn’t play any role.
Something like competitive Russian Roulette, with a second non-fatal alternative that just caused excruciating agony.
A good friend of mine was a young, up and coming Levinas scholar back in the day, but as the years passed he became more and more critical of the man, until he finally decided to publish an article to that effect – only to discover that he was now an ‘anti-Semite.’ He remains dismayed and mystified to this very day, but he shouldn’t. This is just the way coalition psychology works: we are literally hardwired to chuck reason out the window and resort to social shaming and personal attacks whenever identity becomes an issue. It makes a whole helluva lot of evolutionary sense.
Peter called ACM a ‘rabid animal’ simply because she had called me every name in the book (and the list keeps growing!) – and I find myself continually amazed to see how this debate has morphed, taking his one instance of name-calling as year ZERO, the original sin.
ACM, on the other hand, started calling me ‘shit-eater’ etc., after I posted a piece on her blog entry labelling me the ‘Prince of Misogyny’ on the basis of skimming the first 6 pages of The Darkness that Comes Before, asserting that she knew this was even the case IRL. Peter’s wife, Caitlin, who actually knows me IRL took exception, and here we are!
My questions, the one ACM and her comrades find so offensive, are simply, What criteria does ACM use before broadcasting that someone is a misogynist? Real reputations, job applications, and so on are at stake. You would think that SOME kind of standards apply. So then what are they?
No answer, just another stream of name-calling, ridicule, and self-congratulation.
My second question was, How do the kinds of male-shaming tactics she use accomplish anything positive?
Jonathan Haidt’s THE RIGHTEOUS MIND, for instance, makes a powerful, fact based argument, that such tactics simply shut down the possibility of reaching rational consensus. The previous blogwar I had initiated was against a self-avowed sexist who uses ACM-type feminists as self-evident flags, proof of how reason is all on his side. My worry was, and still is, that the type of shaming tactics she uses do far more to discredit feminism than to advance it. If you look at the numbers some of these blogs bring in, you realize quite quickly that this isn’t an idle worry.
Not only did I not get an answer, less than 1% of the thousands (!) who read that particular posting actually bothered to click on the link to Haidt’s interview!
The fact is, almost NO ONE was interested in ‘rational arguments,’ only in watching a food fight or confirming their view that I was this-that-another.
For me, this whole thing is an object-lesson in internet social psychology. There’s nothing unique about any of this. No one has anywhere near the information they need to conclude anything about anybody personally. But we have plenty of information regarding the way MORAL ACCUSATION tends to become an eerily self-sufficient, evolving thing when you plug a bunch of human brains into the web. We’re judging machines, not thinking ones.
Plus, of course, human beings evolved to function in a small inimate society where they knew everyone they were likely to meet, where everyone was related, where strangers were a rare event, where everyone agreed on all the basics of custom and belief, and where all relations were face-to-face. You knew who everyone was, you knew pretty well everything about them, and you knew at any given moment exactly where you stood in relation to everyone else you were likely to meet.
More complex societies (ours most of all) have many advantages and free us from many of the limits of that setting (not least the terror of public opinion), but it also imposes a high degree of stress.
Living in a world of strangers and constant status-anxiety and cognitive dissonance is profoundly unnatural. We’re a behaviorally flexible species, so we can do it, but it takes a toll.
@Matt (1:41). (International nature of the misogynistic comments)
Going by the comments in local Dutch websites, and the language used in international game-related fora and news-sites, I would be highly surprised if the comments were a US problem only or even mainly. The same kind of posts tend to appear there as well, for politicians, celebrities and in a recent example a Bioware employee.
And in discussion of this last event again there are many people from all nationalities dismissing the serious nature of the stuff thrown around. Claiming men get the same, and being surprised and unbelieving when they are told that it is worse for women.
So no, I don’t think the US is special or that the rest of the nationalities on the net are any better to a significant degree. But I would like to be happily surprised.
rsbaker: yeah, I followed that a little, and it smelled like a classic ‘mobbing attack’ to me.
No no, Mr. Bakker, let me assure you that you really really aren’t the sole Rational Genius in a world full of tribalist morons. If you feel put out that people aren’t debating on the terms you set, it’s because of a recognition that the terms you set are bad faith terms.
For example: “Peter called ACM a ‘rabid animal’ simply because she had called me every name in the book (and the list keeps growing!) – and I find myself continually amazed to see how this debate has morphed, taking his one instance of name-calling as year ZERO, the original sin.”
You posted this after I posted my first comment on this thread, which obviously discusses the “rabid animal” insult as an escalation, not as some initiatory incident. So clearly what either a) what you’re reading and what I’m writing are two different things because you continue to be very upset and thus can’t focus on what’s actually being said or b) what you’re reading and what I’m writing are two different things because you seek some tactical rhetorical advantage through the creation of strawmen.
Now, that’s one example of what I see as bad faith on your part. When you visited my LJ, I pointed out another. Now, given this, why should I start from your premise that we’re all just hardwired to be irrational and upset you in order to actually engage with you at all?
And while this is barbarically simplistic it’s worth noting that when men receive death threats for unpopular opinions they have not been previously been murdered.
When women are threatened with rape for voicing unpopular opinions there is a not insignificant chance that woman has experienced rape. 1 out of every 6 American women will be the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime (http://www.rainn.org/get-information/statistics/sexual-assault-victims) – and that’s because the numbers have reduced. All threats can be scary, but some are more vividly real.
SM Stirling, I value your thoughts, there’s a touch of boys will be boys to what you say. As someone who is not shocked in the least by the violence men can show men, the threat of rape is different (and yes men get raped and different men experience it to different degrees, but for that I refer you to http://whatever.scalzi.com/2011/08/31/the-sort-of-crap-i-dont-get/). Men often gender police men with brutality – there is no denying that and it fucking sucks and naturalizes violence in more general terms. Women are often treated with a different kind of venom (and with a sexualized violence). My teen years were populated by violent threats from men and women, I won fights, I lost fights, I was always ready to finish whatever was started, and when other girls wanted to be skinnier I just wished I was stronger. I have been blamed for being attacked. I know the physical humiliation of losing a fight and feeling helpless – it isn’t very nice to say the least. All that sucks and shouldn’t be minimized. But, for me at least, the physical humiliation of rape is worse and much harder to talk about.
I highly recommend that anyone who doubts that men and women have different experiences online spend some time posing as the opposite sex. I do this all the time when gaming, using a male name, and the difference in the way that I am treated when using a male name vs. a female one is profound. One of my favorite things to do is to join a voice chat group (while gaming) using a male name but remain silent through the whole game. Usually my teammates assume I don’t have a working microphone. Then at the end, I say, “Good game, bye guys!” and laugh at the hilarious reactions as they all realize they were playing with a woman. Unfortunately, I have little choice in the matter, since if I identify myself as female early on my teammates are likely to be nasty to me or not trust me to pull my weight.
Re: the Bakker/ACM/Watts thing:
I’m gonna just go over here to the Mallet of Loving Correction Warming Chamber and press the “pre-heat” button. This signifies two things:
1. Folks can continue talking about the Bakker/ACM thing for now, but I want it to be kept on reasonably civil terms;
2. I want it eventually to lead back to the actual topic at hand, rather than being a largely-unrelated side discussion.
I thank everyone in advance for their co-operation on both of these fronts.
Also, apologies for typos, missing words, unclear expression and sentence fragments. It’s hard to write this kind of thing, but damn that scalzi and his ability to make a space safe for conversation!
As a rape survivor, I just want to reiterate that there is a world of difference between “I hope you get the shit beat out of you” (the kind of threat men get) and “I hope you get raped” (the kind of threat women get). A veritable fucking universe of difference.
Aaaaand I just found this: http://www.dailydot.com/society/magic-the-gathering-sexism-misogyny-jackie-lee/ about the bad treatment of a female Magic: The Gathering player at the nationals. ‘“From ‘get back to the kitchen’ to comments about how fat or bangable I am, to openly stating one’s intention to masturbate, it was pretty much as bad as you could imagine,” Lee told the Daily Dot. ‘
“People say things on the Internet they wouldn’t in real life because they’re freed of the wholesome social or physical fear of retaliation.”
Unfortunately, when this is applied to political or social commentary, it’s effect is to intimidate the speaker into silence.
If anonymity was removed, people with dissenting and/or minority opinions would be silenced. How many stories are there of organizations like the KKK burning crosses to terrify and intimidate? What about spray paint on the vehicles of gays? Or Muslims? What about those that find themselves in a community that’s vehemently of one religion or political belief?
Anonymity can turn people into assholes with incredible ease, but it also allows the oppressed and silenced to voice their opinion without (as much) fear of retaliation. I think it’s important that we all remember that the internet isn’t just the US. It isn’t just the West, either. It’s the whole world, including places that “Freedom of Speech” is an alien concept.
“And whenever a woman says, “Hey, anyone else notice how trolls especially go after women and say some shockingly hateful shit, apparently just because we’re women?” tons of good men come out of the woodwork to say, “Hey, trolls do this to everyone, not just women!” and “Maybe they just don’t like what those particular women were saying!” and “The reason you’re not taken seriously is that you insist on playing the victim!” and “I’m not a dick, so this hurts my feelings!” Not nearly as many say, “Yeah, wow, good point.””
–Kate Harding, 2007
On occasion, I hear people whine about how inherently unfair hate crimes laws are, under the idea that assault is assault, and it’s no worse when it’s a person in a protected class.
1) Yes, it IS worse, because getting kicked when you’re already down makes it even harder to get back up.
2) The chances of getting kicked AT ALL go up significantly when you’re in a protected class. Hate crimes laws are designed to help equalize that risk.
It’s the same principle as increasing fire protection for a warehouse full of flammable chemicals v. a warehouse containing nothing but bottled water. Sure, there would be terrific loss if either one of those warehouses were to go up in flames, but the chances of that happening to the bottled-water warehouse are infinitely lower than the chances for the chemical warehouse. Increasing fire protection for the chemical place doesn’t mean the fire marshall thinks the chemcials are inherently more valuable or more worth protecting than the bottled water. It means the fire marshall understands that the chemicals have signficantly more risk of going boom.
People in privileged classes arguing that extra protections and vigilance for protected classes are somehow inherently unfair is like the bottled-water warehouse owner complaining that HE doesn’t get a direct line to the nearest fire station.
All this to say: Yes, women DO get signficantly more crap for speaking up online, and yes that IS worth paying more attention to and expending more effort to make it stop, or at least simmer the hell down.
(And here, I’ll note how frustrating it is that so much of this nonsense is spewed from men who consider themselves nerds. Dude, if you can’t even understand basic statistics and probability, you are not a nerd. GTFO.)
“it’s also that the men in question simply aren’t afraid of the women in the way they would be of a man, however unconsciously and/or theoretically. ”
This is ever so much bullshit.
The men that give me crap are always the ones that are clearly afraid of me. They even tell me so quite often – that I am “scary” because I showed anger (not even directed at them!) or refused to back down. They get antsy when it looks like I might be as smart (or, god forbid, smarter!) than them. They get downright nasty sometimes when I do nothing more try to teach them how to use the computer instead of just doing it for them.
(I work in a library; a significant portion of the patrons are computer illiterate and ashamed of that – which I feel for and do my best to alleviate – but it’s really only ever men that act as if my own knowledge is a personal affront to them. They, are, thankfully, in the minority, but it is clearly a special kind of shame and fear. My doing nothing more than answering their question by trying to talk them through it instead of being their personal secretary prompts some of the most abusive comments I have ever gotten while working in a library – and I have spent a lot of my career dealing with teens, parents, and people who owe the library huge chunks of money.)
It’s a different fear than women’s fear of men or men’s fear of men, but there is definite and overpowering fear there, nonetheless. Most certainly not the absence of it that your phrasing suggests.
“Women have less power; people fear power, fear breeds respect. Lack of the ability to instill fear breeds contempt and makes you a target for agrression. You’re swimming with sharks 24/7.”
To quote a friend: “I can beat up lots of boys.” (I sure as fuck can beat up the abusive library patrons, who tend to be older and elderly men.) “Lots of boys can beat up me. I do not fear the boys who can beat up me. I fear the ones who want to make me afraid.” The ones who _really_want to make sure I know what men are capable of (as if I do not know). The ones who push at the boundaries of polite behavior as if they are teens and I am their keeper. The ones who make excuses for other men, or who act surprised when they learn what I am not afraid to do, or make a point of telling me how weak I really am.
And most especially the ones that aren’t afraid to be snide or nasty or condescending in public – because who knows what they would be willing to do away from witnesses.
The nastiness does not come from the fact that I am, biologically, an easy target. It comes from skewed entitlement, the fear that comes from that entitlement being upended, and the fact that _culturally_ I am a more acceptable target _for certain kinds of abuse._
A lot of people worldwide got violently upset when Salman Rushdie published The Satanic Verses and got death threats. It seems notable that a woman’s critique got so much abuse and support for rape and death threats. Perhaps the fatwa is on calling things by their true names–which, as Le Guin has pointed out in her work, is to get power over them. Power is never given up easily, in my experience.
Cat’s post is so self-evidently “well DUH” that anyone who doesn’t see it is, IMO… not as informed as they should be, and possibly enbubblated. (a moderately cromulent word, I think)
@A Mediated Life
I’ve often thought, too, that hate speech/hate crimes are a different class of behavior because they aren’t just an attack on that individual; they’re an attack on the entire group. A man gets death threats for something he said? He’s scared. A woman gets death threats for something she said? Not only is she scared, but so are the women who hear about it. (Ditto gay kids being bullied, Trayvon Martin being shot, etc.) And they’re right to be afraid, because these aren’t isolated incidents. They’re patterns of behavior that often have very serious consequences.
Sometimes this broader implication is intentional on the part of the aggressor: “got to make an example of her.” Sometimes it’s just an unconsidered side effect. But either way, the context matters.
Marie: Totally agree.
Aside from being female and queer, there’s another class I belong to, which isn’t legally protected, that gets a lot of quite-literal violence regularly. I personally haven’t experienced it since childhood, but I’ve seen it happen to so many other people like me that I feel like I’m walking around with a portable Sword of Damocles hanging over my head like some sort of Sims plumbob. Every time I start sensing a situation around that class starting to wind up, I start getting tense and queasy and looking for my nearest escape route, because I never know if that animosity is going to suddenly flare up into something awful directed at me.
And the worst part is that because that class isn’t protected, and because some people seem to think the violence and discrimination we get is somehow justified, even people who aren’t directly participating in that kind of abuse aren’t likely to step in and save me if something like that did happen. In fact, threats around it HAVE happened to me online, and people I thought were supportive friends did absolutely nothing to try to make it stop, or at least keep it from escalating. I’ve even had some people hint at some victim blaming (“well, you know, if you weren’t x, they wouldn’t be doing that…”)
The whole thing makes it so unless I’m with people I know for certain would have my back in a situation like that, I’m constantly afraid. Even though I might no longer bear visible physical scars from those kinds of attacks, I still feel the pain of everyone else like me who keeps getting them. All it takes is an accident of fate, and I’m in their shoes. There’s nothing I can do to stop it.
This is what life is like when you’re in a class that regularly experiences violence and discrimination. And this is why an attack against one of us is an attack against all of us.
Liz Argall: “there’s a touch of boys will be boys to what you say.”
— more ‘human beings are like that’.
I’ve had people try to beat the crap out of me quite a few times (and succeed on occasion), for reasons ranging from my job at the time (bouncer) through my skin color to my opinions (in college) to personal rivalries. Though not lately.(*)
And try to kill or maim me… oh, depending on how accurate my reading of their intentions was, somewhere between three and ten times. Plus there were a couple of tiffs with would-be sexual predators in boarding school.
I’m not counting reasonably credible threats to mess me up, just actual physical confrontations.
It was all unpleasant but not, to my perceptions, very shocking. I just expect people to act that way occasionally and take reasonable precautions.
Judging by the results of forensic archaeology, they always have acted that way; it can be (hopefully) controlled and limited, but not eliminated. Our society has a lot less freelance violence than most others, historically speaking.
>I know the physical humiliation of losing a fight and feeling helpless – it isn’t very nice to say the least.
— true, but it always felt better than backing down, in my experience. I never found getting beaten humiliating per se, though it was painful and angering, and I generally found that even if I lost, the willingness and ability to do damage made repetitions less likely.
(*) I had a woman put me in hospital once by kicking in three of my ribs, but that was an accident sparring in a dojo, so it doesn’t count in the present context. My own damned fault, too — I underestimated her because she was so much smaller than me and ran right into a spinning heel kick. Ah, youth and stupidity.
Jennygadget:. “The men that give me crap are always the ones that are clearly afraid of me.”
— undoubtedly true, but note that I said “aren’t afraid of the women -in the way- they would be of a man.”
Not that they couldn’t be afraid, but that they weren’t afraid -in the same way-.
There are all sorts of ways that men fear women, often to the point of hysteria and profound personal dysfunction, but it’s rather different -type- of fear.
What I was speaking of was the subliminal fear of being punched out; perhaps I was unclear. Relatively few men have been beaten up by women, but most men have been beaten up by other males at some point, or humiliated by direct threats of violence. My point was that this experience has long-lasting effects, some of them subconscious. Many men feel less inhibited about threatening violence to women simply because they don’t think they’ll get the same thing back at them.
I might add that in my experience normal men regard the sort of guy we’re referencing (threats to women on the Internet) with a “what a pathetic weenie” reaction.
I don’t normally comment here, but I just had to after reading that article. As a past victim of workplace bullying, I’ve always found this kind of abuse deeply distressing and I’ve gotten really fed up with it. The last straw was when a male friend made some sexist and abusive comments about female writers working on Mass Effect 3.
In the past I would’ve let it slide – but this time I challenged him and asked him whether he had issues with females in the computer gaming industry? His reply was that “females can get anxious quickly”. It’s frustrating combating with this type of misogyny, especially when it’s with people you know. Reading Catherynne Valente’s article makes me feel like I’m not alone in facing this issue.
Yes, sometimes a soi-disant feminist will skim a few pages of a book and denounce the author as a sexist asshole in print and their real life about which the skimmer has no direct knowledge. And sometimes soi-disant Christians will pretend they are God. And sometimes successful authors will skim a page of a book by an actual feminist and deride it as just another quest novel. And sometimes a sociopathic coward of a man will threaten violence to women or attempt to rape a woman. What do all of these have in common? They are not universally or even widely representative of every feminist/Christian/author/man/insert-label in existence.
So just because RoH spews inconsiderate bile at any target of opportunity, that does not invalidate Catherynne Valente’s point one iota. And while RoH’s thoughtless invective may be wrong, that doesn’t make personal threats against her or anyone else right. Calling her a rabid animal is merely sinking to her level (which hardly lends credence to the person doing the sinking). Threatening her is criminal and profoundly cowardly.
@ S.M. Stirling
Aye, but is it a majority, or only a vocal minority? Moral defectors have a disproportionate effect on society because they, unlike their adversaries, don’t worry about collateral damage.
As long as there have been humans.
I do not share your confidence in the immutability of human nature. People are a product of a process, genetic, epigenetic and environmental. I see no reason to assume that process is inalterable simply because it had not yet been much altered. Never say never, Mr. Bond.
It’s true that the world’s overabundance of bigoted assholes is not in eminent danger of extinction. Yet you can still work to foster a culture where such base behavior is scorned. I agree that getting outraged does not itself do anything to stop the assholes. But for many it is cathartic – also, many if not most people (men and women) make decisions based first on emotion and second, if ever, on reason. If emotion is what compels them to denounce bigotry, that is better than good men and women staying silent.
Societies are not weather patterns. People are responsible for their choices; clouds are not. Yes, it is prudent to take steps to protect one’s self against human predators. But throwing up one’s hands in fatalism is what leads to the predation getting more out of hand.
On the other hand, I’ve been accused of victim blaming for suggesting that all women should take self-defense classes and, if it’s not against their principles, arm themselves and learn to correctly use their weapons of choice (an unpracticed weapon being a liability rather than insurance). All moral people should do whatever they can within the law and the bounds of personal safety to stamp out sexism and other forms of bigotry wherever they encounter it. But so long as bigotry and predation exists, it behooves each of us, man or woman, to do what we can to defend ourselves when society fails to. This is not blaming the victim; this is recognizing reality and helping (yes, I teach self-defense) predators’ targets avoid becoming victims. It isn’t right or just that anyone should have to protect themselves from injustice, but it is a fact that sometimes that is the only recourse left. If helping people learn to fight back effectively is blaming the victim, then I’m proud to blame the victim (#irony).
More of the same from R S Bakker, I see. And I am honestly sorry to have to say that, again.
But I’m not happy to see yet more whining about his criteria question and the article on Haidt. Both of which people *have* commented on, and dismissed. Frankly, because they don’t have all that much to do with the conversation we’ve been having about his books and Requires Only That You Hate. They might be meaningful with the interior one that Bakker is having with himself, but the rest of us are not party to this. And thank goodness for that.
There are good reasons to disagree with Haidt, Larry has commented on this for one. And Bakker’s endless questioning about what criteria are used by Requires Only That You Hate to say that she dislikes his writing and finds it depressingly misogynistic, has a very obvious answer: her direct experience with it, and I’d add, Bakker’s own response to the criticism she has voiced.
To have Bakker and others tell her that she’s wrong about this, to call her a “dude”, to suggest that she’s not really a female (especially when one knows her gender), or Thai, or whatever part of her claimed identity that can be made suspect, and for people to call her a rabid animal even after she flings incentive at Bakker – really seems an attempt to hijack the conversation and in the nastiest sort of way. Again, nothing uncommon.
But Bakker seems unable to drop either of these approaches, partly because no one gives them the same importance as he does and this seems to irritate him almost as much as suggesting he doesn’t understand Nietzsche. And partly because, I suspect that if he pretends they’ve not been dealt with, he can keep mudding the waters by going on about them (and on and on to a rather impressive if self harming degree) rather than addressing the complaints which have been made about his work. That is the issue at hand, not what his friends think about him, not what women who hang out with him at cons consider to be his position.
It’s always been about what he has written. I’ve read three of his books now, and I think there exists problems with how they handle issues such as rape and female characters. I understand that Bakker says he has intended to write (among other things) obvious misogyny into his series in order to make people “who like that sort of thing” feel uncomfortable reading it. I understand this is a paraphrasing of his intent, but regardless, I also can state that I feel it doesn’t work and that I’m not exactly surprised that it doesn’t. And reading not just his novels but the frequent comments from other readers and fans of his work, I think that if this is really his idea for helping feminism, then he’s taken a very wrong-headed approach and that his efforts haven’t done feminism any favours.
With this in mind, I can see why his response that he’s in truth a feminist ally, that this is all a conspiracy against him, that bread is being shamelessly stolen from the mouths of his children, etc., hasn’t gone over well in some quarters.
It is clear there exists no requirement or responsibility for Requires Only That You Hate to mitigate her ire or dislike simply because Bakker believes she’s wrong – or that he’s been hard done by. Or that she refuses to be sidelined.
That Bakker trots out “male-shaming tactics” isn’t going to overturn any ideas about his cluelessness about the situation or the wider attack on feminism that is constantly seen alive and well in the fantasy and sci-fi. It should be a red-flag in and of itself, especially in light of the original post here.
Rather than commenting directly on that, we’re back to his own personal grievences. Bakker seems set on having it confirm his ideas about herd mentality and slightly wonky psychology rather than using the episode to look at his methods, and move on. Much of the fuss would have long disappeared if he wasn’t so determined to prove everyone else WRONG. Yes, we know the feeling Mr. Bakker, it is the atomic reactor that powers the entire internet.
But it doesn’t change the fact that neither his books nor his blog have shown that what Requires Only That You Hate has accused his work of being, namely misogynistic and full of problematic violence and rape, is less than correct.
Now I hope this is keeping things civil. And I’ll return to comment on the original topic here as well, which will have nothing to do with Bakker at all, very soon.
Mike: It’s still an essentially bullshitty point to make; and a rather odd one to make on a pretty high-profile and popular blog whose (male) author is famous for being blunt as a knee to the crotch when he has a point to make. And oddly enough, can do so without being called an ugly c**t (and probably a man-hating lesbian, to boot) who is lust begging to have a sense of humour and some perspective raped into him.
Gulliver @ 5:06AM
There’s nothing wrong with suggesting or even assisting women (or anyone) in learning self-defense. But as the growing problem of male on female rape in the military illustrates, self-defense is not a cure and it’s not even a solution. The problem with insisting that self-defense is the answer is that it’s not — it’s a reaction that doesn’t address the actual problem — in that the perpetrators of bad behavior, be it verbal or physical, are not called to account for that bad behavior in any meaningful way by our current society. In far too many situations, men (and yes some women) are allowed, and even encouraged, to practice their misogyny with impunity – and not just anonymously.
Self defense may change the outcome of an attack — it does not stop the attack from happening. And as Cat was pointing out, silence from women who fear being verbally attacked might mitigate some of the verbal assaults that happen to women on the internet, but it doesn’t change the fact that by an large our current society thinks it’s okay for those kind of attacks to happen in the first place…because well, we speak. We were asking for it.
Until people at large, including other men, (since the vast majority of this behavior is perpetrated by men) are willing to call each other out on it, rather than make excuses for it, there is no reason for the bad actors to behave any differently.
Women are Not Allowed to say things that white, western men take for granted. At the very least, they are neither encouraged nor allowed to do so unpunished.
This parallels issues of race, nationality, and privilege, of course. For now, for here, being a white first world straight male is akin to sitting on the papal throne of the internets. Our whims, our interests, the latter in both senses of the word, our fears and our place in the world are catered to like no other. We get to wear funny hats. We control the frequency, we dominate the conversation and the forums. We have minions and they are legion.
Our hold is slipping, our empire crumbling. This is true. Splintering wide open in some quarters as other voices make inroads into what has been our near exclusive dominion. This causes much gnashing of teeth and rage and indeed, threats of rape, violence, and censorship directed at these interlopers.
Not surprisingly, a lot of these ‘newcomers’ are perceived to be women. Never mind that they’ve been involved since the start but they are seen in the past half-decade to have reached a critical mass. Now we must man the walls and repulse! the invaders.
I’ve seen this unfold frequently with reviewers. Stepping back from male and female writers, to the sphere of book reviews where there is perhaps more parity on the two sides of the gender divide and the field is less weighted on the side of any sub set of ‘famous’ reviewers – for the art form of criticism is one of the victims of our online effloresce – there are things that male reviewers and male critics of art, including writing, tv, and film, can get away with, and then there are the women.
Putting aside the issue of literary reviewers vs. genre reviewers, partly because the former are still predominantly male, reviewers like Abigail Nussbaum and Liz Bourke have prompted more vitriolic responses to their criticism that I’ve seen, than male critics such as Jonathan McCalmont and Martin Lewis even though they if anything, frequently less polite about it.
In politics as well as book reviews, this seems to be the order of the day as well. I’ve never seen rape threats or cyber stalkers focusing on male journalists but I have certainly seen both directed a female correspondents and writers such as the case of Penny Red who writes frequently for the Guardian.
Now knowing this, and knowing how exhausting and difficult this sort of campaign is to fight against, day in and day out, is it any wonder if a number of potentially useful voices have been shut out, disinterested in getting involved in this ugliness? And yes, it’s sad, but likely it’s a more intelligent response than endlessly trying to prove the collective male f*ckwittery which still dominates the internet, wrong.
In breaking news:
-White men are still dicks on the internet
-Bakker is still more interested in discussing the neuro-scientific underpinnings of the feminist debate (if it can even be called that any more) than analysing his own privilege and how it has shaped his perception and consequent narratives (interesting but useless)
-Requires Only Hate’s main focus is still “outing” men she perceives as misogynists and thumping her chest in victory while her loving acolytes regurgitates bullet points from Derailing for Dummies wherever and whenever they get the chance (annoying but useful)
-Everybody sees themselves as a victim (except me, though thanks for caring)
-No one really listens to anyone else and only sees their blogposts, etc, as opportunities for furthering their own rhetoric (occasionally loltastic)
-E.M. Edwards is still a condescending prick (though mooostly right)
Saying that “Requires only that you Hate” (ROTYH) is a “victim” with regard to the sexist misogyny it gets, implies that it was innocently minding its business when some misogynist dropped some misogyny in its comments. I was not familiar with ROTYH until today, but just a few minutes perusal indicates that it isn’t a victim of misogyny so much as it decided to don the righteous cape of vigilante and fight misogyny with misandry.
We could debate the moral righteousness of Batman donning a cape to fight criminals and thugs. But we can’t portray Batman as a “victim” if Batman intercepts some bank robbers, and starts with the the “pow”, “Boom”, “bam!”, and some bad guy punches him in the face and cracks Batman’s jawbone. Vigilantism is essentially nothing more than lowering yourself to your enemy’s level. Once you do that, you are no longer a “victim”.
For example, “Requires only that you Hate” uses, among others, the following blog tags:
fauxgressive testerical men
hello racist maggot
irredeemable verbal diarrhea upon which illiterate maggots feast
silver phoenix still fucking sucks subliterate hack
An interestingly belligerent list of tags to choose from. A few of them really stand out.
1: “testerical”: “Behaving crazed or unreasonably because of excessive levels of testosterone.” This was a new word I learned today. It’s “testical”+”hysterical”=”testerical”. Or, put another way, it’s sexist against men as much as saying a woman is “hysterical” because she’s going through some hormone thing is sexist against women.
If you read the byline for ROTYH, it says:
“CLUEBAT KNEECAP: Specific, sf/f book reviews. Game reviews. Iron-toed boots to neckbeard cocks. Your daily dose of hatred and geekrage.”
2: “Neckbeards”, another new term I learned today, according to urban dictionary: “Derogatory term for slovenly nerdy people who have no sense of hygiene or grooming. Often related to hobbies such as card gaming, video gaming, anime, et. al.” So a derogatory term specifically aimed at certain men that takes an aspect of their physical appearance (a kind of beard) and associates it with specific bad behavior. Which seems to qualify as misandry, I think. The misogynist equivalent might be to call a woman “fat”. Both attempt to point out that the person being insulted fails to meet the physical ideal of their gender, and therefore it reflects a failure of their character.
3: “Cocks” is at least one insulting term I was familiar with before seeing ROTYH. It takes a male part of anatomy and uses it as an insult. Based on its spelling and the level of emotional energy that is conveyed when calling someone a “cock”, I would assume it was ROTYH’s attempt to invoke the masculine insult that would be equivalent to calling a woman a “cunt”.
So, tes-terical, neckbeards, cocks.
I got the above with just a couple minutes of browsing Requires Only That You Hate’s blog. I’m sure I could find more. Whether it is is right, or moral, or even effective to deal with mysogyny by using misandry is a question to itself. Whatever the answer is to the morality of their approach, it disqualifies them from the label of “victim”.
ROTYH is fighting fire with fire. It is impossible to portray them as a “victim” for getting burned when they have torches in their hands themselves.
Vigilantism lowers yourself to the level of whatever you’re fighting. In this case, ROTYH has lowered themselves to the point of invoking sexist language against men to fight sexism against women. They are fighting misogyny with misandry. They are fighting fire with fire. Whether it is the “right” way to do it is open to debate, but it certainly disqualifies them from the label of being a “victim of sexism” when they themselves use sexism as a weapon.
This in no way says anything about the state of misogyny in the world. Misogyny is rampant. It is far more prevalent than misandry. But that does not mean that any response to misogyny is an acceptable response. Nor does it mean that any response to misogyny is a justifiable response. Some responses disqualify the person from claiming they were a victim. Resorting to misandry to fight misogyny is one of them.
“It”?? Seriously? The woman is not a Betan Herm for Christssake she’s a human being. Way to dehumanize her.
I also feel that mysandry is not a useful response to mysogyny. But Mysoganists on the web aren’t threatened with rape to keep their mouths shut.
Not to imply that Betan Herms aren’t human beings.
‘Self defense may change the outcome of an attack — it does not stop the attack from happening.’
Well, up to a point, Lord Copper; the first things one learns in any decent martial art is how not to look like a victim, for the simple reason that, on the whole, unpleasantly inclined people go for what they perceive as easy targets. That is self-evidently the process at work on the web where people don’t run the risk of someone ripping them a new one before handing them over to the constabulary.
I am reminded of Terry Pratchett musing on the elderly Esme Weatherwax moving silently through the dark forest, secure in the knowledge that she’s the scariest thing in it…
Greg – tl:dr tone argument is still tone argument; victim-blaming still victim-blaming.
Misandry doesn’t actually exist because women as a group do not have power over men as a group, and none of those terms are equivalent to slurs against women for that same reason. It’s okay for women to be angry at our oppressors. I would also like to note that your point is largely irrelevant because even when women express their opinions about patriarchy oh so very nicely and politely, they still receive death and rape threats – which is why the tone argument is complete bullshit and anyone making it needs to sit down and stfu.
Still, we’re really so very, very sorry about hurting all of those poor male feefees by coming up with humorous yet accurate terms about widespread male behavior towards women. I cry so very many tears for their manly plight.
But please, by all means, continue attempting to police how women feel and react to sexism. We don’t get enough of that in our lives.
Hey, Greg, I found your comment pretty distasteful both in tone and content. That doesn’t mean I can express the hope you’ll be raped to death because you’re somehow “disqualified” by not meeting my standards of semantic hygiene.
verbranden: “Greg – tl:dr tone argument is still tone argument; victim-blaming still victim-blaming.”
So, if a woman responds to misogyny by calling a gay man a “faggot”, would pointing out the homophobia still be a “tone” argument? If a woman responds to misogyny by calling a black man a racial slur, would pointing out the racism still be a “tone” argument?
Because if a woman responds to misogyny by calling the man misandric terms, pointing out the misandry appears to always be the “tone” argument.
“Misandry doesn’t actually exist”
Ah, well, there you go. Women can’t be biased or prejudice against men. See? That clears things up completely.
Cranapia: “Hey, Greg, I found your comment pretty distasteful both in tone and content. That doesn’t mean I can express the hope you’ll be raped to death because you’re somehow “disqualified” by not meeting my standards of semantic hygiene.”
Yes/No question for you: If you HAD expressed your hope that I would be raped to death, and Scalzi blocked you from the rest of the thread, could you declare yourself the “victim” here? Could you say Scalzi’s blocking you was nothing more than the “tone argument”?
Aaaand this is where I declare that we’re done with the RoTYH/Bakker discussion, on the grounds that a) it really does seem that all it’s doing is letting people re-fight a fight that’s already been fought, b) it’s led sufficiently far away from the topic at hand that I feel comfortable officially labeling it a derail. Reel it in, folks.
Also: Greg, regarding your contributions on RoYTH, which I’m holding out as separate from the “re-fighting the fight” stuff, you’re both mansplaining and derailing, so I’m going to tell you to drop it. Let’s see if you can address the actual topic, please.
Likewise, I sense people getting testy with each other. Deep breaths, people.
“”No no, Mr. Bakker, let me assure you that you really really aren’t the sole Rational Genius in a world full of tribalist morons. If you feel put out that people aren’t debating on the terms you set, it’s because of a recognition that the terms you set are bad faith terms.
For example: “Peter called ACM a ‘rabid animal’ simply because she had called me every name in the book (and the list keeps growing!) – and I find myself continually amazed to see how this debate has morphed, taking his one instance of name-calling as year ZERO, the original sin.”
You posted this after I posted my first comment on this thread, which obviously discusses the “rabid animal” insult as an escalation, not as some initiatory incident. So clearly what either a) what you’re reading and what I’m writing are two different things because you continue to be very upset and thus can’t focus on what’s actually being said or b) what you’re reading and what I’m writing are two different things because you seek some tactical rhetorical advantage through the creation of strawmen.
Now, that’s one example of what I see as bad faith on your part. When you visited my LJ, I pointed out another. Now, given this, why should I start from your premise that we’re all just hardwired to be irrational and upset you in order to actually engage with you at all?””
I didn’t realize I was responding directly to you, Nick. The fact is, the situation is quite the opposite the one you depict. Any misinterpretation on my part is due to laziness more than anything else. I was simply riffing on the general impression I’ve been getting whenever I follow up on some incoming link that lights up on TPB. The fact is, I see far, far more people referencing ‘rabid animal’ than ‘shit-eater, etc.,’ and this strikes me as odd. I apologize for not responding directly to you the way you seemed to assume.
Otherwise, I do NOT think of myself as anything other than another tribalist moron who keeps pointing out how we are ALL tribalist morons. I am stupid and self-centred. I’m sure this comes across as glib and sacarstic – as another instance of ‘bad faith’ – but it’s truly what I believe. I can cherry pick with the best of them!
In the meantime, how about taking a crack at my two questions? – which were what got this whole ball rolling again in the first place.
I’m going to chalk up your post to cross-posting with my admonition that we’re now done re-fighting here the fight you were involved with.
That said: Everyone else, we’re done with that conversation thread here. Subsequent follow-up on this topic thread will get malleted.
Nick, if you want to take up Mr. Bakker’s challenge to address his two points, do it on your own LiveJournal please. If you do, you may post a link here to that and the conversation can carry on over there. I don’t it here further, however. Thank you.
Scalzi: “it really does seem that all it’s doing is letting people re-fight a fight that’s already been fought,”
Sorry. This was my first time reading the thread and first comment. Didn’t realize the topic was declared “fought”. Apologies.
[Deleted — see above about me declaring this particular line of discussion done here — JS]
Just got to your post now, John. I dinna blame you.
No worries, rsbakker. And thanks.
I don’t claim it’s the answer. I only claim it’s a good idea. And not merely as an outsider. I have firsthand experience that having some knowledge of how to protect yourself is a very good skill to posses. I can’t and don’t claim to understand the fear that a woman rationally feels in a society with a plenitude of sexual predators – though I am aware of it and believe those who are not simply haven’t thought about what it’s like to be vulnerable. But I understand what it means to be human prey, and I will do anything I can to help others from falling prey to evil. Because, although you are absolutely correct that it does not solve the systemic problem, changing the outcome of the attack can make a world of difference to the actual victim. It did for me.
Again, I’m not a woman so I can’t very well say what risks they should be willing to take. But I will say that, although speaking out may draw the attention of bullies and predators, I do believe that, in the long run, silence is worse for women and society as a whole. And that goes for women and all men who regard women as persons. To quote one Pastor Niemöller, “…Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me.”
Also, while I agree that by an large our current society thinks it’s okay for those kind of attacks to happen in the first place in the sense that most people turn a blind eye to injustice – and while I have no hard statistical data to back it up, I seriously doubt a majority of people believe it isn’t injustice, but rather are suffering from Kitty Genovese syndrome – I think it worth noting that society doesn’t think, individuals within society think. The constructive focus, IMHO, is on speaking out against the individuals who choose to either endorse or ignore injustice, and remembering that it’s an individual choice that each person makes whether they are going to aid evil or stand up for what is right. If the status quo is pernicious, then supporting it is just as wrong as supporting a pernicious radical idea.
I agree wholeheartedly and emphatically. And I still think people should learn self-defense.
You sincerely believe you’re the only person on the internet who doesn’t see themselves as the victim?
Does that include you? How did you manage to become the only rational, objective listener on the internet?
It is not a social intuition. And as such, it is vastly less destructive. But anyone one can hate a group for sharing an innate trait (gender, for instance). Bigotry is still bigotry regardless of whether the bigoted have power of the objects of their hate.
This much I agree with. Cock, for instance, while sexist and bigoted (and not consequently not very funny), does not have the same cachet as cunt.
Clearly. Equally clearly, not all men oppress women, so using gendered stereotypes to express anger is an essentialist generalization – as in, all men are X (for denigrating values of X).
If I go out and taunt someone into punching me, they’re still in the wrong even if I committed a wrong less egregious by harassing them. They may be the victim of my harassment, but I am still the victim of their assault. Or, two wrongs don’t make a right. And some wrongs, such as threats, are still more egregious than others, such as insults.
Obviously I replied to Greg’s post, though not directly to the argument in question (I deleted two paragraphs, one of which described why I think RoH provides a useful avoidance service to readers who are triggered by scenes depicting rape). If, however, you feel that I have gotten too close to the re-fight for your liking, please remove my reply to Greg at the end of my post (positioned for convenient Malleting). I apologize if I’m out of bounds.
Here you go:
I think Cat is great. And I’m sad that so many see a debate here.
I’m wholly aware that as a white straight man I have the unearned privilege to say “you know, i think i’m just going to cruise the net today and not fight any earth shaking rhetorical battles with the web urchins in defense of my rights as a human. La di da lazy saturday.”
And then, you know. I think what it will be like for my daughters as they navigate the web. You know, hanging out and trash talking this and that until some guy comes out of nowhere and follows them around the internet threatening to…well.
I can’t see why anyone thinks that the right response to this is debate about how nice they should be expected to be in response to that behavior. Or how they shouldn’t talk trash anything they want, like I do, because people might threaten to rape them to death. Or, even, how they shouldn’t do anything on the internet because people might threaten to rape them to death.
“Well, you know, you really shouldn’t have reviewed that product on Amazon at three stars if you didn’t want people to threaten to rape you to death. I don’t care how dangerous The Cornballer is.”
“Well, you know, you really shouldn’t have commented critically on that book/movie/game or place/food/product that some people like if you didn’t want to receive death threats.”
“Well, you know, you really shouldn’t have intruded on their discussion with your additional praises if you didn’t want to be treated like an inanimate sex object.”
“Well, you know. They had it coming.”
But, you put in a GoT (or any other sacred cow) reference into any of the above comments, even just two sentences in a hundred, and some asshole will come out and explain why those above comments are appropriate.
Gulliver: Or, two wrongs don’t make a right.
I couldn’t agree with you more on this. Attacking misogyny with misandry does not make either one right. That was my *point*.
No it doesn’t, and I think there’s a whole lot of false equivalence bingo being played by people who pretend there is. FFS, on occasion I’ve referred to myself as a bit of a dick (i.e. a somewhat obnoxious and belligerent chap who needs to lay off the espresso first thing in the morning) but dropping the c-bomb is a whole other level of rhetorical nastiness. I don’t think it’s a bad thing that gendered obscenities, like various ethnic and religious slurs, are no longer as acceptable in polite company as they once were.
Gulliver: “Cock, for instance, while sexist and bigoted”
That is another point Gulliver and I agree on.
Cranapia: “the c-bomb is a whole other level of rhetorical nastiness.”
Great! That means that you and I agree that “cock” and “cunt” are both sexist, bigoted, and nasty. The only disagreement is the “level” they reside on, which is fine for me cause it wasn’t my point. But at a minimum, we both agree that “cock” is at least a little bit sexist, bigoted, and nasty.
So, some common ground found.
Greg: The point is that it’s vulgar and distasteful (and I’m saying this as someone who is trying to be a little less swear-y on line. Work in progress, thanks for asking). But, I’m sorry, while taking another slash at this semantic split end is very amusing, here in the real world I contribute to a group blog with several women, as well as other men who happen to be straight white men. None of us are known for never calling a spade a fucking shovel and trying to plant in someone’s head when the occasion calls for it. :)
But oddly enough, my co-blogger who happens to be a bi-sexual women and a feminist is the only one who has been threatened with rape and physical violence, been called an “ugly cunt”, and told to come back when she’s off the rag and ready to stop being so angry (o, those bitches and their menstrual cray-cray!) and talk about real issues (which, oddly enough, are all about straight white middle-class menz).
As our host has eloquently said, that’s shit I’ve had NEVER had to deal with as a man.
I have, however, had a complete stranger express the fond desire that my partner die horribly of AIDS and been called a “house nigger”. (I happen to be gay and of mixed-race parentage as well as a devout Catholic with center-right political views.) But, again, I’ve NEVER had a rape threat land in my inbox and it’s hard to see the difference between my co-blogger and I except the blindingly obvious one.
Catherynne Valente is right — sorry if that makes some people feel so grubby they need to go wash in the River Denial but whatever.
For my part, I always ask myself if a descriptor is referring to the character of the person it’s addressing or some innate quality such as gender, sexual orientation or skin pigment. If it’s the latter, I search for a different word. I (strive to) do so even when referring to myself because if I’m deprecating my character, I’m only deprecating me, but if I’m deprecating some aspect of how I was born, I’m by extension deprecating everyone also thusly born. Obviously I don’t pontificate semantics every time I criticize myself or someone else. Once I’ve thought about a word’s meaning, however, I can remember what my conclusion was and know if it’s a word I want to use or not.
That said, I’m not claiming a perfect track record. I’ve been known to call myself a gringo on occasion.
Agreed. But I think part of why bigotry is such an undying medusa is that if someone avoids a word only to be polite or politically correct, they may spare someone’s feelings. But if they avoid it because they don’t want to classify people’s value on the basis of how they were born, that’s actual enlightenment. For example, if someone calls me a scumsucking atheist, that’s definitely impolite and, in a religiously diverse society, politically incorrect, but it’s not actually bigoted.
One interesting side note that example demonstrates is that, while it’s not bigoted (I wasn’t born atheist or theist), it is a slur delivered from a position of slightly greater privilege, or potentially much greater privilege in a more theocratic society. Privilege can derive not only from unequal opportunity due to birth, but from unequal liberty.
I hear ya’. Even though I’ve pretty well ingrained my habit of using impolite words that refer to character or the beliefs of which I have a low opinion (bigotry, for instance), I still try not to resort to the flamethrower. I find flaming usually accomplishes zilch (beyond a juvenile moment of catharsis), makes me look intemperate, and shuts down actual constructive debate. And what’s the point of debating if not to explain why one thinks this or that and discover why the other interlocutors think that or this? If I think another interlocutor is debating in bad faith, I’ll simply ignore them, solving the problem without lowering the bar.
Yup. And that’s why cracker, for instance, doesn’t carry the same level of insult as the n-word; it’s not backed up by an institutional history of unequal protection under the law. It’s still bigoted; it’s just not equivalent.
I’ll also add that while I think bigoted slurs are wrong and should be condemned regardless of who they’re directed at, I do not and never will support censorship either of bigots or their critics. Threats are a whole other ball of wax and, as in real life, are not and should not be protected speech.
cranapia: “been called an “ugly cunt” and told to come back when she’s off the rag
compare “ugly cunt” with “neckbeard cocks”. compare “off the rag” with “tes-terical”. They are both sexist, bigotted, and nasty.
Catherynne Valente is right
Catherynne says that no woman could write what Priest wrote without getting misogynistic shit for it. She cites as an example of this injustice that Peter Watts called a woman a “A rabid animal! Because she thought a book was sexist!”
Watts says he used the animal insult in response to the woman calling someone else a “little roach”. But Catherynne conveniently forgets to mention the “little roach” insult that came first, I assume, because it would be a lot harder for her to get people to believe her interpretation that the woman was merely critiquing a book like Priest did, and a misogynistic Watts calls her a rabid animal out of the blue.
And even the slightest review of the woman’s site shows it to chock full of sexist and bigotted language. I read Priest’s rant. Two or three times. He is bitingly critical. He is insulting. But he never lowered himself to the point of using sexist or bigotted language.
Catherynne may be “right” that no woman could write what Priest wrote without getting misogynistic shit for it. But her example was a complete red herring that she misrepresents to make it fit her point.
go wash in the River Denial
you mean like “Misandry doesn’t actually exist”.
You’re not taking a second bite at the apple that I asked you to leave alone in this thread, are you?
It is not a social intuition. And as such, it is vastly less destructive. But anyone one can hate a group for sharing an innate trait (gender, for instance). Bigotry is still bigotry regardless of whether the bigoted have power of the objects of their hate.
Yes and? I’m discussing societal power structures and oppression, not mean people being mean. Misandry doesn’t exist as equal but opposite to misogyny, but that hasn’t stopped some people in this very discussion trying to claim that it does. I dislike using misandry even as a word for a specific woman’s bigotry towards men, because even that is a nod in the direction of the legitimacy of the claim that it is in fact an equal institution.
This much I agree with. Cock, for instance, while sexist and bigoted (and not consequently not very funny), does not have the same cachet as cunt.
Yes, so I’m sure you can imagine how frustrating it is to see men claiming that yes, it is just as bad to call that creepy dude asking for naked pics a neckbeard as it is to call a woman gendered slurs for expressing her opinion while female.
It would be like if I went into a discussion about racism and was like, “But guys! This one person called me a cracker once, so I totally understand how you feel about racism!” It’s not near the same thing and saying that it is is dismissive and yes, racist. The conversation isn’t about that people shouldn’t be mean to each other, or that the use potentially bigoted language towards any group is bad, but rather specifically about the additional struggles people of color face in a society of white privilege. Someone coming in and still making it all about a white person is reinforcing that privilege. Likewise, men coming in here and making discussions about oppression women face all about a woman who sometimes calls men mean names is essentially the same thing.
Clearly. Equally clearly, not all men oppress women, so using gendered stereotypes to express anger is an essentialist generalization – as in, all men are X (for denigrating values of X).
I’m sure all the men unfairly targeted by women’s hyperbolic and potentially imprecise expressions of frustration will be just fine.
Indeed. And that’s entirely irrelevant to the point Valente was making. I understand that you genuinely, truly mean well, and I don’t doubt that most (if not all) folks here would agree that it is better for women to be able to protect themselves from physical harm than not. Certainly I do.
But, as you said, you’re not a woman and you don’t have a visceral understanding of the phenomenon Valente is talking about, so I will try to explain it thus: When you talk about self-defense in the context of this kind of discussion, at best you come across as strongly missing the point. (From someone who had done less to establish that they Got There Is a Problem, it comes across as derailing.)
For all the hatebags know, the woman they are threatening is Krav Maga instructor who used to teach sharpshooting classes at her local police department and can do one-handed pullups. Or could be married to a man who does those things. Or all of her children and her dog, who they also threatened, are crack combat experts. So what? The entire point is that, being sexist douchecanoes of the lowest water, they are angry at the idea of a woman acting like a human being; they react in ways they would not display if the exact same post were made by a man; and they respond in ways which they believe will frighten and/or actually cause harm to the uppity broad in question. (Posting someone’s address is a suggestion that somebody else go risk getting their ass kicked.)
I have a username that scans male to most people, apparently, so I also have the experience of contrasting posts where I am clearly perceived to be female vs. those where I am being responded to with “he”. It’s interesting that there are adjectives and comments I don’t get when someone clearly thinks I’m male: uptight, hysterical, too angry, feminist, bitchy. (“Feminist” is particularly amusing; are there no male feminists?)
I’ve been trying to decide whether or not to post on this topic. It’s not the first time I’ve read blogs/articles re: men getting cut more slack for controversial opinions based on the fact that they’re men, or about women who dare to express any kind of opinion getting abuse and threats of a type men don’t get (or get infrequently enough not to be statistically significant). But S.M. Stirling’s comments in this thread have been bothering me for two days, so here goes.
I’m really sorry you’ve had all those bad experiences, Mr. Stirling. I’m also sorry you’ve decided that the abuse you’ve endured, like the abuse endured by women on the Internet–and in real life, and also by numerous other minorities both online and in real life–has made you conclude that it’s just people being people and some if not most people are shits, so what can you do but grin and bear it?
Rather a lot, actually, starting with standing up and saying that just because it happens doesn’t make it right.
I refuse to accept that people can’t get better. We already have gotten better: as an example, human sacrifice, once prominent in numerous human societies, is now frowned upon by most polite people. The mechanisms that accomplished this are no doubt wide and varied, and I’m not saying that said mechanisms might not have created a new set of behaviors that a later mechanism said were now unacceptable.
Does that mean there no longer exist people who’d be perfectly happy to take Joe and/or Jane up the mountain and rip out a heart or two? Of course not–but now they’re the barbarians. What it does mean is that society has progressed to the point where that is no longer acceptable behavior, whatever justification is offered.
If we can make it unacceptable to offer human sacrifices, why can’t we make it equally unacceptable to threaten women with rape, torture and death just for registering an opinion?
I tend not to frequent sites where women and other minorities get this kind of response, so I tend to hear about such situations well after the fact. But I hope that if I do wind up in a comment thread where that kind of abuse is happening, that I will have the guts to chime in and say it’s wrong.
Because it is. The fact that it happens in no way makes it right.
There’s this old abbreviation I learned in the APA days: RAEBNC. Pronounced (and sometimes spelled) “ray bink.” I stopped a while ago posting comments that just generally agree with the OP without having anything further to say, because they’re generally boring.
This, however, is a special case. It’s become important for men to stand up and be counted. I was persuaded to this viewpoint by this blog post.
1. It is never acceptable to call a woman a c*nt or threaten her with rape, or say she deserves to be raped. No matter what she says about your favorite movie or book.
2. There is NO equivalent of these attacks for males. (“Cock”? Give me a fucking break.)
3. Males are not attacked as viciously for the same level of criticism as females.
4. It’s time to stop tolerating such behavior. Call it out when you see it, and stop paying attention to people who engage in it and people who defend it.
5. It’s particularly important for men to do this, because as pointed out in the linked post, the men who do this don’t listen to women (in fact not wanting to listen to women is pretty much their point).
There was no and.
Misandry does exists and it is not socially equal to misogyny. The door of bigotry swings both ways, but it opens on an incline. I agree, as I said in both of my last two posts, that they are culturally unequal. I do not agree that is does not exist, which was precisely what you said. That was the sum total of my point.
I disagree, obviously. But neither I nor anyone else said you need to use the term.
I can indeed imagine. Fortunately, I explicitly stated multiple times that I do not consider it just as bad. I still find essentialist slurs distasteful. All essentialist slurs express denigration of their target’s innate nature and ignore the content of their character. A creepy dude asking for naked pictures has plenty of character faults to denigrate, making terms like neckbeard superfluous and off the mark.
I think that is very much part and parcel of any discussion of racism or other forms of bigotry, including this one.
Minus the rather part, I agree. My point, however, is that people of color face that incline precisely because of the prevalent mindset that a person’s value as a human being derives from their innate characteristics. Addressing only the particular struggle of one group addresses only the symptom. Addressing the root cause addresses the disease that perpetuates those inequities throughout history and the world. I happen to think that is important enough to bring up in a discussion about bigotry, which is very much one of the topics in this thread, so I brought it up.
I’m sorry if you believe that was my meaning or intent. If so, I failed to convey my point. I meant no offense, but I stand by what I believe. Which is, quote simply, that it’s not social injustice to call someone a cock; it is sexist.
Absolutely, which is exactly what makes it less egregious. That still doesn’t make it right.
Point taken. I advocated the value of knowing self-defense as a last resort in reply to S.M. Stirling’s notion that society’s rotten bad apples were simply like weather patterns to be dealt with through preparation. Specifically I was saying that yes, preparation is prudent, but people are not clouds and addressing the social problems that give rise to the dangers is equally if not more important. In other words, I was saying that self-defense is a good idea, but not at all sufficient response to the cultural context that makes Valente’s point so very true. I can see how that may have gotten somewhat off topic. Hopefully I’ve explained my position well. Either way, I’ll drop the self-defense discussion as of now. Also, thank you for your considerate insight. You are always a voice of lucidity.
Your avatar’s image certainly indicates you’re a woman, but I surmise you don’t use your gravatar everywhere. You avatar’s name alone doesn’t convey any particular gender to my ear. But I suspect that, for people for whom male is “default” (as completely irrational as that idea is), their preconceptions simply fill in male whenever they lack compelling information about the person’s gender. That, of course, says far more about them than those they so label.
Very, very well said!
@ Xopher Halftongue
I also think your point can be generalized to all forms of social injustice predicated on bigotry. When racist bullshit is spouted, the right thing for those privileged not to be its target is to sound off against it. Failing to stand up for what you believe in to spare yourself from scorn is pretty much the definition of moral cowardice.
While we’re on the subject, (and if it’s OT, John, feel free to delete-mallet) geek men have need to stop passively enabling what I like to call Lucas’ Law of Fraking Stupid Rape Analogies:
“As an online discussion infused with nerd-rage grows longer, the probability of some geek boy making a comparison involving rape or anal sex approaches 1.”
Just stop it, guys. Really.
Kevin Church speaks much truth at http://www.agreeablecomics.com/therack/?p=1251 (WARNING: Contains some language that may offend and/or be triggering to abuse survivors.)
It’s bad enough that the possibility of such an analogy even attains the status of possible consideration, but it amazes me is when guys who know and understand that rape is at the pinnacle of transgressions against another human being don’t get alarm bells in their brain-to-mouth/keyboard filter whenever they’re considering using rape in an analogy. WTF?
OK, someone on ML led me to this post On Being A No-Name Blogger Using Her Real Name (also linked upthread by iiii). After discussing how men casually talk shit about women, she says this:
Know what? I think every man in this conversation should go read that whole post. It’s not unfriendly to us, guys. It’s clear and cogent.
@ Xopher Halftongue
When we live in a world where that is common sense, I’ll have fewer moments when I want off this planet. Selfish, I know, but gods I’m ashamed of “civilization” sometimes.
The only thing I disagree with is the idea that men who don’t really mean that shit and are just talking out your ass are being good guys. You don’t have to be a predator to be a bad person. Someone who doesn’t mean what they say, particularly when saying what they mean carries with it no physical risk, forswears their own honor.
Good find, Xopher.
@Gulliver: No, but I think Kate is drawing a useful distinction there. One of the many reasons I like our host a lot is that doesn’t just talk a good game about being aware of his privilege (and how it’s a life-long process with plenty of peaks and valleys along the way) he does the work. Three years back, Mary Anne Mohanraj’s “racefail” guest posts were incredibly valuable to me, and it’s just even more awesome they came out of John having the maturity to unconditionally and honestly own his own crap. That’s harder to do than it looks.
“What I was speaking of was the subliminal fear of being punched out; perhaps I was unclear.”
No, Stirling you were being perfectly clear, and yet still completely insulting! (imagine that)
Valente writes a post about the shit that women get on the internet that men do not. You decide that this is all about the fact that women/girls don’t go around beating up men/boys. (Or, possibly, that this is the only part of this discussion worth commenting on, I don’t really care, honestly.) I called bullshit because (listen carefully!) that argument is a complete derail from the point Valente was making which was about pointing out that this happens so that people can recognize it and call it out for what it is.
Because, dear Stirling, it’s all very sweet that you call such scum “pathetic weenie[s]” but sometimes we silly women are required to call them boss/editor/reader/patron/etc. So how about you spend less time gifting us women with explanations of why men treat women they way they do (as if discerning such patterns isn’t something we already do better than many men because our survival depends on it) and more time listening to women talk about how common these so-called pathetic weenies are?
Xopher: There is NO equivalent of these attacks for males. (“Cock”? Give me a fucking break.)
Xopher, stop strawmanning. I never said “cock” was equivalent to saying someone deserves to be raped, and you damn well know it. I’ve known you too long. You’re better than that.
I said “cock” is at least a little bit sexist, bigotted, and nasty. That doesn’t mean I’m saying it’s exactly like saying someone deserves to be raped. And you’re smart enough to know that.
Like Xopher, I got here by way of Making Light, though I’ve been reading Cat Valente’s blog and cheering her on. I’m here to add my voice to those who agree that there’s a very poisonous attitude towards women in many parts of the online world (and in meatspace too, for that matter), and that I personally, find this attitude loathsome, disgusting, offensive, and not at all cool. And I want to point out to the people who feel entitled to speak to and about women in that way that they are using exactly the same strategies of oppression through fear that were used by white supremacists and racist communities in the South in the era of lynch mobs. Is that the kind of company you want to keep?
Time and Space knows I’ve planted my foot firmly in mouth more than once online and in real life. I’ve learned that skepticism is as important to shine inward as outward.
I wasn’t reading Whatever that long ago. Started lurking about two years and commenting less than a year ago. Back in the late internet antiquity of 2005 a friend handed me Old Man’s War and said I had to read it, and she was right, I did! Then I was vaguely aware writers were homesteading on the blogosphere and I dropped in on Whatever. But I was busy with my business at the time and knew right away this was an addiction I could not afford, so I put it in my back pocket. Then everyone I love reading on the internet started mentioning John and Whatever. After I sold my company and went back to school I was out of excuses. Thanks for the link to a snapshot of John’s personal growth. I shall enjoy reading it and I’ll look up Mary Anne Mohanraj’s posts too.
May I offer an all around suggestion as much for myself as you or anyone else? I think this part of the discussion has started going in circles.
1) Essentialist slurs are bigoted regardless of their target.
2) Bigoted slurs are more egregious when used by those in a privileged position.
3) Bigotry and social injustice are not contiguous.
4) Merely being mean and being bigoted are not the same thing.
4) Bigotry is wrong even when it’s not as bad.
5) Some individuals will still use bigoted slurs when it’s not as bad.
The points have been made. Re-arguing them would accomplish nothing. I humbly recommend we get back to our regularly scheduled program.
“I humbly recommend we get back to our regularly scheduled program.”
Gulliver: “The points have been made. Re-arguing them would accomplish nothing.”
I’ve known Xopher for better part of a decade now. I have a lot of respect for him. And regardless of what he might think of me, he knows I would never equate using the word cock to be on par with threatening rape. I wasn’t arguing any “point”. I was letting him know that in his effort to fight sexism, his aim was a bit wide and hit me.
As for the rest, after John said to drop the subthread, the only posts I made on this thread were to point out common ground between myself and some folks on the thread I have familiarity with, i.e. you and Cranapia. Again, not trying to argue or reargue any “point”, but to maintain the existing relationships.
Greg, not to reopen that part of the conversation, but I didn’t mean to imply that you had done that. I was picking out one false equivalency: calling a man a cock vs. calling a woman a c*nt. No, you didn’t say those were equivalent either. My statement was intended to be general.
Valente was not criticizing Priest for writing about the other authors nor was she calling him sexist. Instead she was voicing the opinion that a female author writing what Priest wrote would have faced a very different response for it. I would have to agree with that view. I can imagine, for instance, what the reaction would have been to a woman author saying what Priest did about China Mieville from some of his fans.
When I criticized Priest, it was mainly about how his argument was inconsistent. I did mention that as he was part of the New Wave movement, I thought that effected some of his views and that this was ironic to me. I didn’t, however, call him an old man shaking his cane because that for me is an ageist argument, an attempt to discount and disqualify Priest from talking about (mostly) younger writers on the basis of his age. Women also face attempts to discount and disqualify what they express, especially when it comes to gender issues, on the basis of their gender. But for women, a certain percentage of those attempts are accompanied by sexual and dominance based, often violent, threats to remind the woman that there are consequences for her daring to speak. Every time a woman ventures to speak, she knows she’s taking a very large risk and making herself a target. The Internet has offered women many more opportunities to speak to others, but this has also greatly increased the risks to women for speaking. Even if she doesn’t speak, she may be attacked for her presence on the Internet, out of a belief that she might speak in future if not intimidated. Every time I come on this blog and comment, especially on a gender issue, I am aware of the risk I am taking – not necessarily from the men I’m speaking with, who are more likely to just try to argue me down, but possibly from the men who are listening.
What Valente is discussing is that these risks are increasing and that this is effectively silencing women and driving them out of areas of discussion. The judgments of the relevancy, justifiedness or politeness of a woman’s arguments are not just judgments but are also used as ways to discount and disqualify her from being able to voice an opinion, along with a refusal to acknowledge that she’s being forced to jump over a higher bar than men on all of these points in the social sphere. Female SFF authors have made great strides in the field, but it has become harder for them to speak in the field and about the field, at a time when their publishers are demanding that they do so more and more as part of publicity efforts. The amount of violent, sexual and angry censure of women authors and reviewers has increased. Consequently, women are quieter or silent in criticizing and the fans grow used to the critical voices in the field that are considered important being male, making it even more of an intrusion when women authors do speak up. So it’s an issue, and one that has nothing to do with Priest himself, but the discussion over what he said highlights the barriers to women authors in participating without at best, getting flak for being a woman speaking up, and at worst, threats of rape and even cyber-hacking and real life stalking. Over the voting slate of an award.
If you really think that a woman author could have said exactly what Priest said in the tone that he said it and not have faced a very different sort of response and discussion over it, make the argument. But bear in mind that just for pointing out the issue, Valente has already come under a barrage of how dare you say such a thing rhetoric.
Yup – and there’s a recent example that comes to mind that doesn’t reach the level of threatened rape/violence but is still obnoxious. To say I disagree with the thesis and much of the argument of Margaret Atwood’s In Other Worlds: SF and The Human Imagination would be a considerable understatement, and there were plenty of thoughtful critiques out there. But there was also plenty of “Stupid ugly bitch – must be on the rag” nonsense on-line which I could have done without and (yes) don’t believe for a moment would have been thrown at, say, male slipstream-ish writer-critics like Michael Chabon or Salman Rushdie. (“Poor dear, his prostate must have driven the old coot INSANE!”)
Whatever I think of Atwood’s criticism, ‘stupid’ is close to the last word to come to mind. And, yes boys, period cracks say a lot more about your psychosexual issues than the quality (or otherwise) of Atwood’s argument. (And being totes gay I don’t have an opinion on MA’s appearance either way, but it’s not relevant to her prose and the argument therein.)
I’d like to see a unified field theory, actually, that addresses people like Kirk Cameron and Cat Valente and Margaret Atwood and Requires Only Hate. I want to agree with Scalzi’s earlier statement that people who say things as hurtful as Cameron deserve to be hideously mocked and derided –hopefully right out of making their kind of public comment. I certainly think that there is no excuse ever for threats of violence, especially gendered threats. Still, if it’s okay to verbally humiliate the people who disagree with us, calling them rabid animal and shit-eater and such, there are a lot of people, and not all of them are women but many are, who may drop out of the conversation because they just aren’t interested in dealing with the abuse. I think I’d like to see a level of civility supported that kept those voices, even the ones I disagree with.
But see the problem with the unified field theory, Hope, is that it operates on the idea that all the groups involved have equal power in the society and in the conversation, have always had equal power in the society, and face equal opportunities, barriers and requirements and risks to speaking. And they don’t. Kirk Cameron has almost no risk or barriers to speaking and Valente and Atwood have enormous ones. Pretending that they don’t again discounts their speech. Demanding that everybody stay on a level of civility is basically telling women to be good little girls and not say anything mean or difficult, etc. — to shut up unless those with more power find the tone acceptable and allow them to speak. It’s a “you can speak if I decide I like what you say” barrier. Certainly, it’s a good idea for talking if everyone is civil. I try to be. But insisting it of women is an act of power politics and pretending it’s not does not help women to be able to speak more freely. Women cannot make men or even other women be more civil by just being civil. They cannot decrease the risks they face by modulating their tone, especially as getting them to back off and modulate their tone is the goal of the violent threats in the first place.
I hope John and Catherynne will forgive my presumption, but I don’t think they’d disagree with you at all. I think John was very careful to draw a bright line between mercilessly mocking Cameron’s public statements of his cretinous views on homosexuality (which is fair game) and personal abuse.
Ditto for his take on Christopher Priest’s rant, which he found ultimately unpersuasive. :) Don’t recall John making any derogatory statements about Priest’s age, appearance, supposed mental health or speculating that his attitude might be improved by sexual and physical assault. Having been poked with the Scalzi stiletto of snark, it stung like buggery but it was squarely aimed at a bad argment not designed to intimidate me into going away and STFU.
And IIRC he swiftly squelched some people who suggested some…uncalled-for things…might be done to Cameron.
Yup, because our host is cool like that. :)
Yup – and I think Catherynne made the valid and useful point about how women get tone policed in ways men don’t with reference to Sady Doyle’s take on George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Fire and Ice series.
QFT. I’d not George Martin has said some pretty harsh things about the endings of Lost and Battlestar Galactica and I don’t recall anyone calling him an ugly old bastard, obviously hormonally imbalanced, who needs to shut the fuck up and learn some manners because nobody’s going to take someone who’s so ANGRY seriously. Why not?
I went back and found two things: 1) a comment which professed lust for Kirk Cameron, and said what he wanted to do, but specified that it would have to be consensual. Our Host gently requested that no such comments be made going forward. 2) A remark from Our Host that he had outright deleted some generic anti-Cameron nonsense.
So it appears that no one even said KC should be raped, which makes me feel pretty good about the Whatever commentariat.
I know you meant well. I have gained significant respect for you and John’s other regulars in my short time here. And from what I know of Xopher and the others here, I suspect they know you mean well too. I just think we need to let things get back to the central theme. For what it’s worth, I appreciate that you value my opinion.
@ Xopher Halftongue
Ditto. Though realizing that makes me realize how low the Wild Wild Web has lowered the bar :-/
@ Kat Goodwin
Which is pretty ironic considering what China would think of such “fans”. But then, cognitive dissonance doesn’t seem to bother sociopaths.
As a less important addition to the sheer injustice to the target, the individuals who make those kinds of threats are working to deprive everyone else of the contributions of half the human race, demonstrating an arrogance beyond even male chauvinism.
Kat: “But see the problem with the unified field theory, Hope, is that it operates on the idea that all the groups involved have equal power in the society and in the conversation”
The power of the audience has nothing to do with the measure of discourse of the speaker.
Ghandhi spoke to violence without resorting to violence himself. The fact that the violence Ghandi was immensely unfair doesn’t change that.
There is at least three levels of discourse: civil, uncivil-but-not-bigotted, and uncivil-and-bigotted.
Sandra Fluke kept her discourse that was civil. Rush Limbaugh responded with uncivil and bigotted language.
Priest was uncivil, but he didn’t express bigotry in his words. For the most part, responses to Priest were generally on par with Priest’s level of uncivility, calling him various names.
Kirk Cameron forwarded uncivil/bigotted language and for the most part folks responded with uncivil-but-not-bigotted language.
Many people measured the “civility” of the speaker based solely on whether they agreed with what the speaker was saying, rather than the level of discourse the speaker was employing. We can view uncivil language from people we agree with as acceptable and can find civil language from people we diagree with to be uncivil. When someone points out uncivility from people we agree with, we might accuse them of making the tone argument.
Any level of uncivility from people we agree with might be acceptable. And someone we disagree with could be as polite as peaches and still be accused of saying “nasty” things.
Bigotted men might respond ot someone like Fluke by saying it was “improper” of her to speak about sexual issues in public. But likewise, someone might call Cameron a “raging asshole” and defend it as acceptable because they disagree with Cameron’s bigotry.
What Hope said was: “I think I’d like to see a level of civility supported that kept those voices, even the ones I disagree with.”
And that says to me finding a measure of civility that has nothing to do with whether we agree with the speaker, but the level of discourse the speaker is using.
It doesn’t mean that if one side is polite, the other side will become polite too. It doesn’t mean that if Ghandi is non-violent that his opponents will be nonviolent.
@Hope: You’re changing the subject and sidestepping Valente’s point. Why?
Valente was not complaining about incivility or snark making people less interested in discussion. She was (correctly) pointing out that there is a type and level of venom directed specifically at women, and directed at them because they are women, not because they were snarky or said gays shouldn’t marry or had a blog with an inflammatory title. It’s not about the content of the speech, but about who is saying it.
Your “unified field theory” ignores that point completely. A general exhortation to be nicer to one another and follow the Golden Rule is great, but it utterly fails to address why this problem exists.
Mythago: “You’re changing the subject and sidestepping Valente’s point. … Your “unified field theory” ignores that point completely.”
If Valente were saying “The British Empire’s rule of India is unjust”, then that does not address whether to respond to that injustice with more injustice, more violence, suicide bombers, and so on. Hope is agreeing with Valente’s point, but saying Valente’s point is not sufficient. It leaves the quesiton of how to respond unanswered.
Clearly, some people want the question of “how” left unanswered because they’re lowering themselves to the level of that which they’re fighting against. Since 9/11, the whole “rule of law” and international rules of war have been described as an encumbrance, and some have said we need to be able to fight them any way we can. Any comment about the justice or injustice of our tactics becomes “siding with the enemy”. Oppose assassination without due process? You must love terrorists. Oppose indefinite detention? You must be one of “them”. Doubt that Iraq had anything to do with 9/11? You must be a sympathizer.
Just because bigotry exists doesn’t mean there are no rules to fighting bigots, that anything goes, that any response is an acceptable response to bigotry. Hope was asking that the bar be raised a bit. A lot of people demand that the bar be removed, and those same poeple suggest that any mention of the bar is siding with the enemy.
For someone to suggest the level of discourse be raised a bit, only to be told they’re changing the subject and sidestepping the point, is not entirely unlike someone suggesting that the rule of law ought to be observed even during wartime, only to have someone shout “You’re ignoring 9/11 !!!!”
@mythago: I thought I was furthering the point, not sidestepping it, but I’ve been wrong before.
I brought up Kirk Cameron because Scalzi’s response has been nagging at the back of my mind since it happened. I think the Watch What You Say Or Else Get the Clue Bat Policy is more likely to silence women than men. I think they are less likely to speak up if they risk getting piled on, and that’s even before you get to the levels of abuse that Cat Valente is talking about. So they can be driven out of the conversation two ways, by receiving more abuse and by being more averse to it.
If being thick skinned only correlated directly with having something worthwhile to say, we’d be in the clover, but I haven’t noticed that was true. I am a shrinking violet myself and probably won’t comment again. I’ve never felt anyone missed out on some pearl of wisdom I would have laid out, but I’ve seen other people drop out of the discussion on other sites and I’ve really missed their voices.
I think we know why the problem exists. I’m still not sure how to respond, though. I like the way our host handles his deletions, probably even better than disemvoweling. I’d like to see more people giving their misogynistic commenters failing grades.
As a little Twitter experiment, I started a hashtag #shitnobodysaysaboutmen. The reaction has been, shall we say… interesting.
Catherynne Valente pointed out that a woman leveling criticism in the vein that Christopher Priest did would receive a sort of rebuttal Priest or another man is vastly less likely to, i.e. one aimed at her gender, and that this is indicative of a growing trend on the internet that what has become cause for reproach in real life, namely misogyny (and by extension bigotry), routinely goes without reproach online. What is therefore an acceptable rebuttal to a woman leveling such criticism as did Priest? And, in the context of Valente’s larger point, what is it acceptable to criticize a woman for saying on the internet?
I expect it’s uncontroversial to say that everyone involved in this thread would agree that rebuttals referring to her gender are misogynistic, and therefore wrong. And, as pointed out, we the netizens must speak out against them if we expect other’s to refrain from them as a condition of participation on our communities.
A more controversial question is whether it’s wrong to criticize her word choice, and what sorts of words are valid critical terms. Hope’s desire to see all critics uphold a standard of civility is therefore very much to Valente’s point, IMHO. Asking that everyone raise their game isn’t requiring them to do anything, but it does imply that certain tactics will not go uncriticized.
As has been a running theme on this blog, criticism isn’t censorship. It’s not that woman receive criticism that is the problem; it’s what that criticism is all too often aimed at that is the problem.
I disagree, however, with Greg’s assessment that those who oppose criticism of tactics mirroring the opposition are necessarily motivated by a desire to reserve those tactics for use. mythago, for example, is not someone I suspect would embrace incivility. Rather I take her at her word that she thought it beside Valente’s point.
But where we draw the line in the sand between acceptable and unacceptable tactics is very much at the heart of the matter. I, for one, will have far more respect for anyone that criticizes their opponent’s character and what they say than how they were born. I will have outright contempt for anyone that tries to silence others with threats. Because the target of bigotry and threats is by far those who are marginalized within a given sphere (whether by sexism, racism, ageism, xenophobia, et alia…) my disrespect and contempt will be most often directed at those who marginalize them, but it is not exclusive to those with any specific social privilege. Because, at the end of the day, the reason for my disrespect and contempt is both the injustice and the essentialism that keeps it alive.
Greg: “The power of the audience has nothing to do with the measure of discourse of the speaker.”
The power of the audience has an enormous amount to do with how the speaker’s discourse is measured. The power of the audience determines whether the speaker first of all can speak and then how that speech will be measured and labeled/defined. And that power is regularly and frequently used to censure and/or control women’s speech, or black people’s speech, etc. The problem with the call for equal civility – although a perfectly valid hope — is that it works from a false equivalency of equal power and equal risk that does not actually exist. Women are forced to be civil and there are extreme penalties for anything that does not seem civil to a powerful audience on their terms, as Hope herself has agreed. The same with Ghandi, whose nonviolent speech was not considered civil by the British. I agree with you about the subjectivity of the defining, but the power of groups in society greatly effects speech. No one can actually stop Kirk Cameron from speaking, but quite a lot can be done to stop women criticizing him, whatever terms they put it in.
Also, Hope is perfectly able to say what it is she meant. She does not need you to interpret it for her if she thinks I mistook her meaning.
Hope: “I am a shrinking violet myself and probably won’t comment again.”
That would be a shame. It’s exactly what I’m talking about and what Valente was talking about, as you note.
Gulliver: “Asking that everyone raise their game isn’t requiring them to do anything, but it does imply that certain tactics will not go uncriticized.”
The problem there again is that requesting women to “raise their game” is not a request because they are a dominated group. It’s a demand, however politely put, and in society terms, an implication that the woman needs to be taught proper behavior allowed to her and should listen to such instruction. It’s a demand often used to try and keep women being good girls, like children, and having to curtail their speech, even in arenas where that’s not the guideline for everyone. It pretends the power imbalance in the conversation is not there while making full use of it. As a woman, I am expected by society to watch my tone and watch my words every single day in every single conversation. The added emphasis of the call for civility is a reminder of that demand and the possible censure and consequences that come with it. (I.e., it’s a threat, just a nicely put one.) It also means no one’s going to actually listen to the content of what I say, as they’re busy trying to get me back in line.
“As has been a running theme on this blog, criticism isn’t censorship. It’s not that woman receive criticism that is the problem; it’s what that criticism is all too often aimed at that is the problem.”
And I respectfully :) partially disagree. Criticism can be used to censor women and drive them out of the conversation, whether it’s overt misogyny deliberately aimed or systemic sexism kindly and paternalistically meant. It’s not that women can’t be criticized or argued with, agreed. It’s that criticism which pretends there’s no societal power imbalance, and therefore no power effect on behavior, on what women are and are not allowed to say, can be just as damaging as calling a woman a cunt. When we speak up at all, we risk attacks from those who will be overt, including violent attacks. When we speak in less than dulcet tones, however, it doesn’t matter to the overt, but perfectly sympathetic males and even other females will jump on our heads and declare that we’re not behaving properly in conversation. Because there is a long, ingrained social tradition of forcing women to act nice and be submissive through threats but also through social disapproval and shaming.
“Which is pretty ironic considering what China would think of such “fans”. But then, cognitive dissonance doesn’t seem to bother sociopaths.”
Again, I wasn’t actually referring to “sociopaths” who would overtly threaten. I was just referring to regular fans who would immediately discount the criticism as coming from a woman and declare her unqualified and bad and overreacting, etc., at greater volume than was done for Priest. And yes, I agree that Mieville would probably have little truck with either group’s views.
Gulliver: I disagree, however, with Greg’s assessment that those who oppose criticism of tactics mirroring the opposition are necessarily motivated by a desire to reserve those tactics for use.
Who cares *why* some people justify indefinite detention, assassinations of american citizens without due process, and a complete disregard for the laws of war? What is important is that’s what they’re *doing*.
Gulliver – I’m not sure I see a controversy about how to engage where you happen to have a differing opinion. From my reading of Cat’s piece, I didn’t get that criticism is not allowed. What I read was that bigoted invectives, and bigoted actions, are out of bounds. Bigotry is the problem. Full stop.
To me, productive disagreement is just a conversation where people talk without backslapping each other for thinking so rightly. I didn’t see anything against conversation. Particularly nothing against joining a conversation on a public blog with open comments.
At least, this is what I think. But I try to keep my personal opinions on this type of subject in pencil. Because, I’ve got zero experience, as a straight white male, dealing with the receiving end of this. And, given that I WILL NEVER GET IT, I try to be as open as possible to correction, in whatever tone it comes.
My mental guide is something like…In a situation where I might have a contra argument I would think, do I agree with the main point? In this subject, that -x- example is sexist?
Yes: does my concern essentially boil down to catching more flies with honey? Well, that isn’t appropriate. Leave it be, and possibly do some soul searching on why exactly invective not directed at me is bothering me.
No: is -x- example a specific incident? Yes: Why do I think it isn’t sexist? Can I ask for a deeper understanding of her opinion? Can I ask the question in a way that does not demand she justify her beliefs? Can I accept her answer? Yes: ask away. No, leave it be. And possibly do some soul searching on why exactly I can’t ask a positive non-confrontational question about this subject.
Is -x- example a general observation? Like, Cat’s piece for example. Is it correct? In Cat’s case, absolutely correct. Is my issue with it an example? Effectively missing the forest for a tree? Maybe this thread isn’t for that argument. I think we’ve seen that a thousand times here in Scalzi’s domain. “People, you’re missing the point…stay on point.” Time and a place. And it isn’t my place to go to someone else’s house and pick a fight over a trivial example of the larger point up for discussion. Unless they’re cool with that. In which case, start the decision tree over.
What I took away from it is that women are naturally entitled to their points of view and it is not my place to police their interests or rhetorical methods. And that men of the internet have a REALLY difficult time knowing/understanding/remembering that. And that has some awful awful consequences that need to be actively pushed back.
But, can I disagree with a woman? Sure, why not? I can read a man’s piece filled with invective and think “Yeah. Okay. But I don’t care for this conversation” and move on without having to beat my chest and demand he conform to my world view.
I read Cat’s piece to mean that in a very real way women aren’t afforded the same right on the internet. Any opinion offered is met with hateful demands that they alter their world view to suit one male. And another comes along with a different view but the same demand. And another. And another. And it’s awful. And soul crushing. And exhausting. And that just because I view something as a separate instance, they’re dealing with a larger puzzle. And if I can’t demonstrate that I at least am aware that people outside of me exist and experience the fullness of life, I should probably spend my time instant messaging myself if I really have to say anything, since I’m the only one I’m interested in at that point.
Kat: The problem with the call for equal civility – although a perfectly valid hope — is that it works from a false equivalency of equal power and equal risk that does not actually exist.
Fallacy of mediocrity. Certainly, bigots like Limbaugh *use* their power and disguise it under the label of wanting “civility”, but just because bigotted humpty-dumpty’s of the world redefine words to mean whatever they want it to mean, doesn’t mean those words stop meaning anything, and certainly doesn’t mean you get to redefine them to mean something they don’t.
If you call someone a shit eating, piss drinking, necro-pyro-beast-iphiliac, then that exceeds a certain level of civility, and it doesn’t matter what power you do or do not have, cause civility has nothing to do with power.
Now, what is nice about your definition is that by saying “civility” is a function only of power, then whoever has the least power has license to say whatever they want and meet that definition of “civil”. They can say stuff like “misandry doesnt actually exist” because, hey, women don’t have as much power as men, so not even one woman could be misandric because to be misandric would require that she have more power than men, and she doesn’t. Ergo, only misogyny exists.
You’re playing word games, not unlike Bush calling those people at Gitmo “detainees” rather than “prisoners of war”, because “prisoners of war” have to be treated a certain way under the rules of war. Rearrange the meaning of words, and “poof”, all wrong doing vanishes.
The other fallacy is a strawman that we must have “equal civility”, “equal power”, “equal risk”, that there must be “equivalency” to have civility. We don’t. We treat murderers and other law breakers with due process and the rule of law. Just because they break the law doesn’t mean we decide taht the law no longer applies to them and we can do anythign we want with them. Terrorists don’t follow the laws of international war. That doesn’t mean we don’t. Being a signatory of the Geneva Convention means we will follow the rules of war even if the group we are fighting does not follow those rules.
Rush Limbaugh will always be a bigotted, uncivil, blowhard. That doesn’t mean we have no measure of civility for ourselves. It doesn’t mean people criticizing Limbaugh can’t cross a line into “dirty pool” in attacking him. It doesn’t mean that someone can never make misandric comments directed at him because misandry doesn’t exist.
“But where we draw the line in the sand between acceptable and unacceptable tactics is very much at the heart of the matter.”
I disagree. I think the whole problem with any kind of unifying theory is that it buries the nuance – and nuance is what this is all about. Sure, sometimes the insult is as blatant or violent as someone threatening rape. Most of the time though, it’s simply the fact that male = default – and how that poisons everything with few people realizing it.
Focusing on lines in the sand just draws attention away from context – and it’s context that is key to understanding how this all works and why it is so damaging.
“I think [women] are less likely to speak up if they risk getting piled on, and that’s even before you get to the levels of abuse that Cat Valente is talking about.”
This is true and I think that this is something that we need to remember and respond to and work on. I also I think it’s important to remember more women are going to do so anyway. I don’t know that there is a one size fits all approach to comment policies that will help this; I think the key, in fact, is in allowing women to be human and diverse and (to quote Abi Sutherland) “to be ordinarily wrong.” Which means also recognizing that we will all need different venues and prefer different styles of communication.
I also think that, no matter the comment policy, it is important to remember that – for contextual reasons – it is rarely women’s anger that lowers the level of discourse. Escalation is not always as clear cut as it looks.
Or, you know, what Kat said:
“Women cannot make men or even other women be more civil by just being civil. They cannot decrease the risks they face by modulating their tone, especially as getting them to back off and modulate their tone is the goal of the violent threats in the first place.”
What worries me most about focusing on unacceptable tactics is that it assumes that everyone has the same goal in mind, and so treats the discussion about women being respected and listened to as if it were about at what point a red or yellow card is justified. But this isn’t a game where both teams want to put a ball in identical goals, it’s often a case where the goals of one group are fundamentally dangerous to the others existence.
When that’s the case, you can’t make clear and solid lines about what is ok to say or do and what is not – that’s like outlawing all murder, full stop. If you don’t also also allow for self-defense (among other things) it’s just another win for World Suck – and we. do. not. have. a working definition of what self defense means in this context.
So, before you go around debating what should or should not be beyond the pale, let’s first focus on identifying what the threat really is. Because I don’t actually think everyone is in agreement on that. Speaking of…
“It’s not that woman receive criticism that is the problem; it’s what that criticism is all too often aimed at that is the problem.”
That’s…not…true. An inequality of criticism can be damaging as well. Women may receive more of the “bad” kind of criticism, but it’s also true that we receive more of the “right” kind of criticism. I took both ideas to be essential to Valente’s post. She didn’t just talk about who got rape threats, she also talked about who gets ignored and who gets praised.
Kat Goodwin said:
I’d like to add my voice to this. You’re voice is important, your opinion is valued and your comments have been, as long as I’ve been participating here, well considered. You respectfully believe that you are wrong that your voice would not be missed.
Let me put it this way: in order to adhere to the principles I stand for, I cannot respect the conduct of anyone, dominant or otherwise, when that conduct is to criticize a person for belonging to a group based on how they were born, whether or not that criticism is delivered in polite tones. Likewise, I can respect the conduct of anyone when that conduct is to criticize a person for their character, speech or other non-innate qualities, no matter how impolite the tone in which the criticism is delivered. To do otherwise would be to contradict the very principles on which my contempt for bigotry is founded. When you say something against a person’s character or conduct, you’re speaking against them, and that is entirely justifiable. When you say something against a person’s innate qualities, you’re speaking against everyone else with those same qualities, regardless of their character or conduct, even if what motivated you to do so was something in their character or conduct – and that, to me, is wrong.
And that is wrong and I condemn tone policing on the basis of gender and other innate qualities (as opposed to the very egalitarian tone policing out host dispenses, as is his prerogative as proprietor).
On The Blog That Must Not Be Named, there is much essentialism I do not and cannot respect. But there are also some excellent and insightful book reviews that I do respect. My disrespect for a person’s bigoted conduct does not preclude my respect for their good conduct.
Bigotry is wrong whether it’s done meanly out of hate or kindly out of paternalism. It’s more egregious when it’s committed down the incline of a power imbalance, but it is nevertheless wrong in either direction and therefore criticizing it is right.
I agree with you. But I also believe it is wrong to choose whether to criticize bigotry based on the power or privilege of who is expressing it.
I don’t suggest that we should ask women to be dulcet. I do suggest that we should ask women and men to refrain from bigotry. That’s what I mean by raise their game. As far as how polite or civilized people should be, that is up to a community’s propitiator(s), but it should be uniformly enforced and we, as community members, have a responsibility to make uniform enforcement a condition of our participation. Good people come to Whatever in part because Scalzi doesn’t police tone on the basis of gender. There is no good reason to ask women specifically to say or not say anything in particular, but there is every good reason not to tolerate certain sorts of conduct from anyone at all.
Why matters a great deal if you want to have a constructive conversation with them.
Here is an example. On BoingBoing there was a discussion some months ago about the long-overdue repeal of DADT. One commenter, known from past comments to be an advocate of LGBT rights, expressed concern that openly serving LGBT service members were now in greater jeopardy because they could no longer legally stay in the closet. Many LGBT commenters took exception to the commenter voicing this concern because, quite frankly, LGBT people are quite used to hearing “get back in the closet” and take exception to anything that could be so construed. One LGBT commenter, rather than assuming that was the intent, explained that LGBT people were well aware of the risks inherent in fighting for their rights and that it came off a little patronizing since LGBT people are on the front lines, whether they like it or not, of that fight as soon as they become teenagers. The concerned commenter thanked the replier and promised to rethink that concern.
That isn’t what Kat said. She said the speaker’s power effects whether they will be held accountable. Which is true, and something we must fight.
@ Other Bill
I mostly agree. Somewhere along the lines someone brought up a particular blog, Greg commented on its use of bigoted terms, someone else defended the blog’s use thereof, Greg drew a parallel between misogyny and misandry, someone else else correctly pointed out that “cock” and “cunt” were not equally bad, and eventually we wound up here. I say I mostly agree because misogyny, although certainly a form of bigotry, is the specific problem Cat Valente correct astutely highlighted.
I have no objection to invective. Priest’s rant was full of invective with which I disagreed. Scalzi’s critique of Cameron was full of invective with which I agreed. Neither was bigoted, though Cameron’s very polite statements were quite bigoted. I agree one catches more flies with honey, and that’s fine advice if that is the goal, but it is not what my point boils down to and it has nothing to do with whether or not one is in the wrong.
That is an excellent take away from Cat’s piece, and one I agree with.
If he uses sexist or otherwise bigoted terms, then I think it’s only responsible to call him on it. You could beat your chest, but that seems superfluous and less likely to change his mind, so I would recommend polite reproach, but that’s only a suggestion.
I read the same meaning. And no one should be met with demands that they alter their world view to suit any man. But if the specific question is, are any tactics worthy of denouncement from anyone, then the answer is yes. And that is the question that arose in discussing Cat’s piece.
True. But I’m pretty sure self-defense doesn’t include killing everyone that has the same nose, or the same skin, or the same genetalia as the aggressor. Likewise, retaliating in argument against everyone sharing X is not self-defense. Some things are wrong no matter what, irrespective of context.
Good point. How do we fix that?
That was supposed to read, You respectfully believe that you are wrong that your voice would not be missed. Sorry.
That correction was supposed to read, I respectfully believe that you are wrong that your voice would not be missed., but I have the editing skills of a paramecium.
John, sorry about the triple post, but getting that right was important. I’ll be more diligent (and better rested) in the future.
John, I realize this is my fourth post in a row (second not counting corrections for Edit Fail). I won’t make a habit of it, but please bear with me this time.
I would like to continuing replying point-by-point. But this has gotten out of hand thanks in large part to my inability to leave things be. I still think bigotry is always wrong and that its universal denouncement is a key part of defeating the sexism that makes Cat Valente’s point true and relevant. But if someone doesn’t agree with me, I’m not likely to convince them by going back and forth over the same terrain. And if they do, no convincing is required. So about that, I’m gonna shut the fuck up now like I should have after round one.
In case anyone has forgotten because of my pedantic arguing, or understandably thinks I have forgotten, Cat’s point is that a woman would get the fifth degree for sounding off like Priest whether she was impolite but unbigoted like him, polite but bigoted like Cameron, or polite and unbigoted, simply for the horrible offense of Writing While Woman. The reasons why society tolerates bigotry period, while important, are peripheral, and I’d like it to be known that I get that and never planned for the peripheral issue to take over the thread. Sorry, most especially to Catherynne Valente.
Mea máxima culpa.
Kat: “Also, Hope is perfectly able to say what it is she meant. She does not need you to interpret it for her if she thinks I mistook her meaning.”
This is a standard divide-and-conquer tactic. Hope said something you disagreed with. I agreed with Hope and expounded on it, so you disagree with me as well. And rather than allow that two people on the internet could agree about something you disagree with, you attempt to portray my agreement with Hope as if I were speaking for Hope. Because no one can ever agree with someone without ever telling them what they really meant.
I can expect to see this in just about any conversation about discrimination whenever someone in the minority group says something that someoen else in the minority group disagrees with and then someoen in the non-minority group agrees with the first person. I don’t think I’ve ever been able to agree with someone in a minority group about some non-popular opinion without being told by someone ELSE in the minority group that I’m tryin to speak for the other person.
My post at April 10, 2012 at 10:19 am was almost entirely in direct response to YOU. In one of the last paragraphs, I quoted Hope, and then I clearly stated “That means to me blah blah blah”. Note, I didn’t say “What Hope really meant was blah”. I can only speak for myself, and I made a POINT to only speak for myself and not put words into Hopes mouth.
Are we arguing just to argue at this point? It looks like it from here.
I know I reference the Requires/Watts thing here, but hopefully only in a way that furthers the general discussion.
It occurred to me exactly why the Watts/ACM example was not appropriate for Valente’s post. ACM wants this kind of dialog; Valente should not be shielding ACM from having the kind of savage, violent discourse that ACM actively encourages. Speaking up for women who just want to speak in normal discourse without getting hateful replies is 100% cool and awesome. Speaking up for women who want to watch the world burn (metaphorically) is kind of missing the point and maybe a bit patronizing. If women want to be “mean” and to say things uncivily, then that’s their right, but then we need to adjust the boundaries of what is acceptable in the “mean” areas of discourse and let the poo fly. The problem Valente points out is when women simply want to speak (or breath) and have to put up with this mountain of venemous blowback. ACM, in general and in this specific case, is not part of this particular problem.
Also, I think Priest should have gotten worse (but not threatening) responses. Saying anyone is a puppy who reeks of their own urine is just not acceptable. I probably would not say it to someone who actually did habitually reek in such a way.
Hm, thinking about the “misandry doesn’t exist because men have power”, there’s sort of an implied assertion in some comments that boils down to something like this:
“Those with power can do no right. Those without power can do no wrong.”
It sort of reminds me of the logical fallacy “Argumentum ad lazarum” that asserts that rich people aren’t as virtuous as poor people, except applied to power.
Is there a logical fallacy that specifically captures the “powerful=bad,weak=virtuous” idea?
There’s the more general Argumentum ad misericordiam (appeal to pity), but that’s not exactly the same thing.
Greg, I urge you to stop thinking about that statement. You’ve made your point; no one here is unclear of your position. But you’re on the verge of saying something unfortunate, something that has the potential to enrage a lot of people. I don’t think you want that. Best to just move on past this particular issue.
@Kat Goodwin @ Gulliver
I doubt I’ll get more comfortable commenting on line until I get more confident that I can articulate exactly what it is I want to say, but thank you for the encouragement.
Greg, Doc is right. One more stroke of that shovel will drop you into a cavern you cannot climb out of.
I’m going to add the general comment that people should know when they are arguing to make an actual point relevant to the original discussion, and when they are arguing because they just can’t stop.
Up until one hundred years ago or so, women were property. After that, they were legally minors, so essentially still property. After that they were legally adults in some parts of the world, but some laws and the society still constricted them to be treated as minors. Over the last few decades, women being treated as adults has substantially improved in some parts of the world, but women are still second class citizens whose behavior — whose character and conduct — is judged on the basis of being women and limited thereby. (And the same for blacks, etc.) And only in some parts of the world; in others, women are still property. And over the last ten years, there’s been a concerted campaign at state and now federal levels in the U.S. to enact laws, as well as social disapprovals, to render women as legally minors again – forced ultrasounds, forced birth, employers control over women’s morality and medical care, etc.
Women are supposed to be polite because they are women. (This is where your attempt to separate character and innate biology runs into a problem, Gulliver.) The society demands this in life and conversation. When women are not polite, they are treated as children who are not behaving, whether that treatment is threatening or coaxing. Pretending that asking a woman to be polite is the same as asking a man to be polite in the society doesn’t change the situation that women are in — the fact that you are reminding her that she is a child, a not equal, who should behave, because her status is not equal to men’s. We don’t need to regulate women’s tone to deal with their arguments, and yet we insist that women regulate their tone far more than we do with men before we’ll even hear their arguments and that their failing to do so is regarded as a character flaw that makes them unacceptable women, not simply a mistake. If I call Kirk Cameron a douche-bag and get scolded for it, it’s a different situation than when Scalzi does it and gets scolded for it. He’s getting scolded for what he’s said and being asked to reconsider it. I’m getting scolded for daring to say it and being told to behave. It’s baggage that is brought into every conversation like this and pretending it isn’t there just reinforces it. This is what Valente was talking about when she brought up the example that Scalzi doesn’t want us to talk about any more. It’s a reality that women cannot escape; it’s a reality that women are not taken as seriously by even sympathetic listeners if they don’t behave as they are expected to as women.
Greg: “it doesn’t matter what power you do or do not have, cause civility has nothing to do with power.”
I disagree. Civility is used as a weapon, both softly and outright, to control those in dominated groups. Civility is paired with docility and the insistence on civility from dominated groups is a demand that they act in a docile, respectful, safe manner when speaking, do not display anger, watch their tone, don’t do anything that can be remotely seen as threatening, etc., etc. Civility is directly connected to attempts to control woman, by insisting that they first “act like a lady” and that they speak quietly or possibly not at all. Anne Coulter, for instance, has to talk in a way different than Rush Limbaugh and gets far more flak and more of it gender based for her apparent incivility than Rush ever has.
“This is a standard divide-and-conquer tactic. Hope said something you disagreed with.”
Well no. I didn’t disagree with Hope. I pointed out that part of what Hope was talking about wasn’t really workable for the society and would actually contribute to women being silenced. Which Hope then agreed with. I also pointed out that you were being paternalistic toward Hope not in expounding on Hope’s point but attempting to explain its meaning to me regarding the quote. You said: “And that says to me…” and proceeded to explain what you thought the quote meant, as if you thought I’d simply misunderstood what she said, not that I just had a comment about it.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been able to agree with someone in a minority group about some non-popular opinion without being told by someone ELSE in the minority group that I’m trying to speak for the other person.”
Maybe that’s because you have a tendency to insert yourself into the discussion and insist on explaining what the first person meant instead of letting the two people in the minority group talk to each other. And furthermore, Hope’s opinion wasn’t non-popular. I think just about everybody here is in agreement that more civility is better. The problem is that civility is required of women and enforced and this often prevents them being able to speak. And this is directly relevant to what Valente was saying. If you think that civility is not required of women in their public speech and conduct, and that this has not been used to control them and keep them dominated and intimidated in the society, make the case.
Other Bill: And this is why I like talking with you. :)
Sorry to double post, but I cross posted with Scalzi’s warning. If I did not sufficiently refer things back to Valente’s piece, I apologize.
This is pretty good. Speaks to many of the issues under discussion here.
@ Kat Goodwin
Would you agree that there is a difference between tone/civility/politeness and tactics? For instance, if I say Clarence Thomas is a sexist twit, is that only different in tone from calling him the n-word? If it’s different not only in tone but also tactics, is it not also different if a woman says one or the other about Thomas?
Here’s the thing. I agree with you that calls for civility are used to shut down marginalized groups and women especially. And in fact, I think calling for civility misses the whole point. As the Bob in Xopher’s link lays out, it’s bigotry, racism, homophobia, sexism and so forth that are unacceptable. Incivlity isn’t the problem. I merely suggest that all those things that are unacceptable should be universally unacceptable, full stop. That is, I think we put sexism on the run and get to a world where the problem Cat illustrates is history by flat out not tolerating bigotry from anyone, anywhere, anytime in our communities.
Maybe I’m wrong. But when I read Cat’s piece, I wanted most to find a way to solve it and the other –isms that make me sick to see spreading like a plague through the internet. That’s one way I think we the netizens can start turning the tide. It’s certainly not the only way, and there’s no reason not to call out specific –isms when they rear their head. Frankly, the more people do to let others know those things aren’t gonna fly, the more hope I have for the future.
As with you, I hope I’m addressing Valente’s piece and not taking the train off the rails again or, as John said, arguing only to argue.
@ Xopher Halftongue
I don’t know much about gaming, but I know I like Bob :)
Kat: You said: “And that says to me…” and proceeded to explain what you thought the quote meant, as if you thought I’d simply misunderstood … Maybe that’s because you have a tendency to insert yourself into the discussion and insist on explaining what the first person meant
I had already said: “I can only speak for myself, and I made a POINT to only speak for myself and not put words into Hopes mouth”. And you’ve since twice turned that into something completely different. Since you’ve no interest in dealing with even the most basic things I’ve said, I don’t see how addressing any of the more complex points will go anywhere at all.
instead of letting the two people in the minority group talk to each other.
I’m not sure how agreeing with something Hope said prevents the two of you from having a conversation.
“Would you agree that there is a difference between tone/civility/politeness and tactics? For instance, if I say Clarence Thomas is a sexist twit, is that only different in tone from calling him the n-word? If it’s different not only in tone but also tactics, is it not also different if a woman says one or the other about Thomas?”
If you’re a white male and you say that Clarence Thomas is a sexist twit, there’s no risk in the society. If a white male calls Clarence Thomas by the N word – and they have – you may get flak, but there’s virtually no risk to you. If I call Clarence Thomas a sexist twit, as a woman, I am taking a risk. If I call Clarence Thomas by the N word, as a white person I have no risk but since I am a white woman leveling the word at a man, I am taking a risk.
“That is, I think we put sexism on the run and get to a world where the problem Cat illustrates is history by flat out not tolerating bigotry from anyone, anywhere, anytime in our communities.”
Well again, that’s a proposition that assumes all are equal in the society and in speech. I do not have free speech. There are limitations on my speech and me talking to you like this about this subject is me risking challenge to those limitations. And those limitations are there in part to keep those in dominated groups from being able to express anger, hostility, negativity. Not violence and violation, simple speech. I am already not allowed to speak in the ways that you are saying I should not speak. And men get to define what sexism is in the society still. When you say something to a woman, it’s going to mean something different than if you say it to a man, because all the baggage of history and society comes with it. When a woman says something, whether she’s politely reasoning or unjustifiedly raving, it’s judged differently then when a man speaks. And in the conversation, the woman’s hand is tied behind her back. Sometimes men remember that, sometimes they unthinkingly forget and sometimes they just don’t care. It’s hard for guys who see women as equal, who don’t like that women are upset with them, who would like society to advance further toward equality, to then accept that the woman is working with one hand tied behind her back and that this is a part of the conversation. That she does not actually have the power in the conversation he feels like she has. And the same racially, etc.
So Valente was looking at that in regards to Priest and general Internet conversation – that a woman would have one hand tied behind her back in attempting to do what Priest did, that the risks for women speaking – challenging the limitations or even just speaking within them – have increased. That’s largely because the Internet enlargens the public sphere and women are then more visible in it. We’ve also made progress untying the hand in society in general which means attempts to tie it back up intensify. The conversation is not going to be perfect. But as long as both women and men are willing to keep trying to have it and as long as women can survive the risks, there can be progress.
@ Kat Goodwin
I understand that there is an unfair risk inherent in speaking against someone with greater privilege. And I agree that that is the problem, but clearly there is something I am missing. Let me ask you this: If a Latino-American woman (so neither white nor black but still a member of a marginalized class in the U.S.) calls Clarence Thomas the n-word, what would be your response?
“If a Latino-American woman (so neither white nor black but still a member of a marginalized class in the U.S.) calls Clarence Thomas the n-word, what would be your response?”
My response would be that you really don’t understand racial and gender power dynamics in the society. If you want to police the speech of Latin-American women, no one is going to stop you. You don’t need the permission of a woman to do it because you already have that power. Nor am I capable, in the society, as a woman of actually giving you that permission, so pretending that I am doesn’t really help us much.
@ Kat Goodwin
I do not. If that happened, I’d keep my silence because, frankly, I think it would sound asinine coming from a white man.
I didn’t ask you what my response should be. I asked you what your response would be. I want to know what you think is the right thing to do in that situation. I do not want your permission for saying something I don’t think it’s my place to say in the first place. I’m not sure why you think my question was some sort of veiled request for permission to police women’s speech. When Ann Coulter says women should be disenfranchised so Republicans can win more elections, I say I think that’s a horrible idea. If Rush Limbaugh said it, I’d say he’s being sexist. But not everyone is in the same social position I’m in precisely because we live in an inegalitarian society.
Kat: If I call Clarence Thomas by the N word, as a white person I have no risk
Quite a lot of absolute certainty for something demonstrably wrong. Call Thomas the N word on this blog and you’re post will get deleted and you’ll probably get banned. Do it on a talk show and see if you don’t get a boycott going after you. Do it on the campaign trail and see if you don’t lose the election.
Gulliver: I’m not sure why you think my question was some sort of veiled request for permission to police women’s speech.
Because you’re looking for people to say “the line for sexism is here, and that line applies to misogyny and misandry alike”, but you’re asking that of people who will tell you that misandry doesn’t exist because the only line they want you to pay attention to is the line that divides the powerful from the powerless.
If you draw a line that demarcates sexism, racism, or any other kind of ism, and that line is defined by individual behavior rather than simply following the powerful/powerless lines, then you would have created a line that would cut both ways. If the line simply follows the division between powerful/powerless, then the powerless can never cross the “line”, cause they are always powerless.
You asked Kat a question that would have required her to acknowledge the existing of some line that was based on behavior (what if someone in a minority called Thomas the N word). But that would require drawing a line that could cut against someone in a minority. and her response was packed with references to how much power you have and how little power she has, re-framing the entire question to ignore the individual behavior and only focus on who has power (i.e. any minority) and who does not.
i.e. Kat: If you want to police the speech of Latin-American women, no one is going to stop you. You don’t need the permission of a woman to do it because you already have that power. Nor am I capable, in the society, as a woman of actually giving you that permission, so pretending that I am doesn’t really help us much.
It’s a very simple question with a very simple answer, if anyone calls a black person the N word, it’s racism, even if its someone in another racial minority group. If anyone launches into a tirade of sexist bigotted language, its sexism, even if its a woman directing sexist bigotted language towards a man.
Power doesn’t matter in where the line is drawn. Judging someone based solely on their race, gender, religion, or sexual orientation, is bigotry. And it doesn’t matter if the person being judged is black or white, male or female, your religion or mine, gay or straight.
But drawing the line that way means a woman might be rightly accused of misandry, just as much as a man might be accused of misogyny. If the line is defined by who has power and who does not, then a member of the minority group doesn’t have power and can never cross that line. Misandry cannot exist because a woman will never have more power than a man.
I’ve been asking questions similar to yours for years. Questions that draw a line based on behavior. And it wasnt’ until I saw you ask your question and Kat answer a different question that I finally understood what was going on. People who draw the line based on power will never criticize the behavior of a member of a powerless group, no matter how extreme their behavior is. Rather than criticize the behavior, they will reframe the issue back to a question of power, and reframe that individual to be a member of the powerless group.
Greg: I think you’ve seriously misunderstood the “misandry doesn’t exist” cries.
No-one is saying that women are never prejudiced against men, nor are they saying that such behaviour is right or should not be called out if it is encountered. However, such behaviour does not constitute misandry because whether you like it or not that term does imply a power dynamic.
Except that, in any inegalitarian society, if a person with less power does criticize someone with more (rightly or wrongly), they are taking a greater risk than a person with more power would be in making the same criticism. On that I agree with Kat. A male talk-show host may get boycotted for saying something bigoted. But a female talk-show host may get threats (or worse) of rape or murder for saying anything at all. You’re right that there is not no risk for the former, but it’s not the same risk at all.
What I want to know from Kat is who should hold who to account. I don’t share your assumption that her answer would be the less powerful can do no wrong.
I suspect that where she and I may fundamentally disagree is that I believe that bigotry is wrong even when it’s up the incline of social power structures of an inegalitarian society such as ours and every other in human history. She seems as far as I can tell to have assumed that this means I believe it’s the job of everyone in every social position to hold all to account. If I’m correct about that, then she has assumed incorrectly. That I think something is wrong does not mean that I think it is my place to call out everyone who does it.
I’m not playing Marco Polo for the Soul here. I really want to know what Kat thinks is the right response when someone with less power says something bigoted, and whose responsibility she thinks it is to voice the response. She apparently took my question as a request for permission to play moral arbiter, and I believe that is why she did not answer it. I have tried to dispel that construal in the hopes that she will answer. I do not believe that she was being evasive as she has been quite patient and engaging throughout this discussion, made a number of excellent points, and given me several new things to think about from her perspective. In short, I believe she’s debated in good faith and I don’t find your conjecture to the contrary very convincing.
@ Greg & David Crisp
It’s been evident since well back in this thread that misandry means two different things to various people. That’s fine, and now we all know what each other mean. The rest is semantics.
Gulliver: What I want to know from Kat is who should hold who to account. I don’t share your assumption that her answer would be the less powerful can do no wrong.
We already have an example of a person in a minority group saying things which you, I, and at least one other person thought was at least a little bit sexist and bigotted towards men.
What did Kat say about that person’s *behavior*?
Kat – I enjoy hearing what you have to say as well.
“When you say something to a woman, it’s going to mean something different than if you say it to a man, because all the baggage of history and society comes with it.”
Talking about what the response should be to either gender issuing a sexist remark in an egalitarian society isn’t really necessary. We don’t live there. And Kat’s line is a fundamental truth of the way we relate to one another here. As a white straight man, I can toss off a joke or a dig that I might think is a humorous poke in the ribs, but because of that baggage I’ve actually just let off a nuclear bomb.
In the scheme of who is regularly dealing with sexism, it really does matter a whole lot less when someone makes a sexist remark to me. My fight against sexism is at best analgous to a weekend warrior hobby that I forgo and watch television instead. Because even when I’m being treated in a sexist manner, I can choose to ignore it and go to any other room in my giant mansion of priviledge.
My wife’s fight against sexism will quite possibly drastically alter the world in which my daughters grow up. So, if I have to pick up and support one with full voice, I’ve got a pretty good idea where I’m going to lend that hand.
“Babe, I *know* you’ve got a war on. BUT SOMEONE SAID SOMETHING SEXIST TO A MAN ON THE INTERNET. It’s unprecedented. I’ll be busy for the next six weeks hammering out the Articles of Confederation for the Net on how women can talk about men. Also, we’re out of Mountain Dew.”
I know this thread is over a week old, but I wanted to share a link to Ashley Judd’s response to media speculation about her ‘puffy’ appearance. I thought it was a great response and that others might find it relevant to the parent topic.
Other Bill: So, if I have to pick up and support one with full voice, I’ve got a pretty good idea where I’m going to lend that hand.
Bifurcation. or Plurium interrogationum, depending on how one looks at that. And pretty blatant at that.
You might as well say “You’re either with us or against us”.
There’s a problem, sexism, racism, terrorism, whatever. And someone proposes a solution. Maybe they think we should invade Iraq for 9/11. And any attempt to correct the assumptions packed into that decision is turned into supporting the original evil. Oppose the invasion of Iraq? You must hate America?
We must either support the fight for women’s rights as presented by any particular woman (even if a particular woman is forwarding her own sexist bigotted language) or else we are no different than the Archie Bunkers of the world telling women to stay in the kitchen, barefoot and pregnant, and bring me a beer while you’re in there honey.
BUT SOMEONE SAID SOMETHING SEXIST TO A MAN ON THE INTERNET.
If folks who insist on reframing everything in terms of power would simply acknowlege when a member of the minority says/does something discriminatory, there wouldn’t be a problem. The problem is Bush simply would not give up on the idea of invading Iraq, and to hell with the reality and the consequences.
I don’t care that a woman said something misandric. I care that people are redefining sexism to that it is no longer a function of behavior but is instead a function of power. And magically, a minority can use the N word, and we can’t answer a simple question as to whether that would be racist or not because the desire to frame the problem in terms of power is so important.
I despise bigottry. Bigottry is function of what someone *does*. Power is a function of who you *are*. A woman can be bigotted towards men based on what she does, whether or not she has *power*. A person of color is absolutely a racist when they use the N word against blacks. But when folks INSIST that the behavior doesn’t matter, that all that matters is who has power, then we stop judging people right and wrong because of what they DO and start judging them right and wrong because of who they ARE.
Gulliver: “I didn’t ask you what my response should be.”
Yeah, you did, if you think about it. I didn’t answer it because it was a sexist question about power structures and I understood that you didn’t understand that it was a sexist question. (Greg I’m ignoring altogether.)
Valente’s post was looking at the fact that the response to women voicing critical opinions – from both men and women – tends to be more virulent, angry than to the same sort of opinions from men like Priest, or paternalistic and lecturing, that the reaction is not that the woman is audacious or wrong or right, but that she’s stepped out of line, is not behaving properly for a female, is not qualified to talk because she’s female and the response is largely based on that she is a female, not the content of her views, and on getting her back into her place, including both reminding her of her lack of power and pretending that she has more power in the society than she does, both overtly and systematically and by using loaded language. And that this is increasingly making it higher risk for women to speak and stiffling their voices in these public spheres, leading to a further view in society that men’s voices are the ones to be heard.
Instead of talking about that response to women’s speech and its effect, the bulk of the discussion has gone, as these things tend to do, to things like: 1) what women should and shouldn’t do; 2) women can be sexist and bigots too; it’s not just men!; 3) women must be saying they can’t be criticized for any view and how dare they; and 4) when can I jump on a woman’s speech so that other women aren’t offended. Which all pretty much highlights Valente’s point.
Words have different meanings for women than they do for men, as a dominated group, as Other Bill is trying to point out, and that meaning hits at other women, not just the one aimed at. The word bitch is the one used most often to define us, to say that we’re out of line, irrational and out of control, and not doing what is wanted and better get back in our place, so much so that it’s become kind of like the N-word for women. And there are many ways to say bitch, including things like a feminist, liberal male SF writer unthinkingly calling a woman a rabid animal to asking a woman if she doesn’t think it would be better if she were more polite to complaining that one can’t win with the woman as if it was a test and the woman held the power and responsibility of a teacher over the speaker. And Valente was asking people to think about this. No one, including Valente, is saying women can’t be criticized or that women never say mean things. But we’re more likely to get criticized in terms where the fact that we’re a woman is the most important thing, not our actual speech. And that’s why the response to a woman saying what Priest said would be considerably different, sometimes violently so.
I’m not as pessimistic about what’s going to happen on this on the Internet as Valente, but then again, I’m not dealing with the stuff in the SFF community that she’s dealing with. I think that time and effort has brought good changes over the decades, and more talking, and that in turn has intensified response. For some, both men and women, this means calling women bitches in very threatening terms that may at any time be acted upon. For others, it can just mean confusion – why are women speaking angrily, why are women being rude, oversensitive, uncooperative, unwilling to hear my very important opinion of their behavior or answer my questions, etc., and how can we get them to stop. Or how can we turn the conversation back to the very important topic: how men are treated. But people are trying and people are talking. For the sake of my daughter, who doesn’t have to face many of my old obstacles but is having to deal with some new ones, I hope that does continue. It’s worth a bit of risk, and Valente took a big one.
“But when folks INSIST that the behavior doesn’t matter, that all that matters is who has power, then we stop judging people right and wrong because of what they DO and start judging them right and wrong because of who they ARE.”
Well, I’m not insisting that. I indicated it matters less, which implies that it does still matter. It is a Truth that Bigotry is Wrong. And 1 Truth equals any other 1 Truth. But, like in physics, that truth is only a dot on a grid. It isn’t until we apply Power to that Truth that we start to get something analagous to a vector. So, functionally, when you combine Truth and Power in the instance of sexism directed at a man, you get something like a pebble thrown by a kid. When you combine Truth and Power in the instance of sexism directed at a woman you get a rail gun. In both instances, it is just as True that bigotry is wrong. But, functionally, the consequences are dramatically different.
“We must either support the fight for women’s rights as presented by any particular woman (even if a particular woman is forwarding her own sexist bigotted language) or else we are no different than the Archie Bunkers of the world”
I didn’t really get that from Cat’s piece. Or, really, from much of the other commentary. When I speak out against sexism on the internet I’m doing it to add my voice to the much needed cacophony of other voices trying to turn back an immense force. I am not the champion of a specific woman; I’m adding my voice to the group of people that are aware that all women are affected by those specific comments. I don’t need to do that to protect myself from gross generalizations against my gender/sexuality/ethnicity because the comments against other men just don’t translate to me. For the person making the bigoted comments against the other straight white man, they may very well think that they can generalize my specific behavior based on that other guy. And it is True that this Wrong.
But, I’m pointing out that I can forfeit that fight and still win. I don’t have to fight against the impact against me in that instance. Because nobody with any Power agrees with that perspective. As evidenced by the fact that straight white men have pretty much been doing whatever they want for generations.
It *shouldn’t* matter what sexist men say about women. It shouldn’t affect their lives. It already *doesn’t* matter what sexist women say about men.
Kat: For others, it can just mean confusion – why are women speaking angrily, why are women being rude, oversensitive, uncooperative, unwilling to hear my very important opinion of their behavior or answer my questions, etc., and how can we get them to stop. Or how can we turn the conversation back to the very important topic: how men are treated.
Right. Because we can’t have a definition of sexism that is gender neutral, can we? We have to have a definition of sexism that only women can be a target of and women can’t commit. i.e. POWER.
And we most certainly can’t point out a woman who is using sexist and bigotted language. And even ASKING what you would do in response to such a hypothetical situation as a woman being sexist is itself a sexist question.
Why? BECAUSE WOMEN CAN”T BE SEXIST.
Based solely on measures of behavior, if a hispanic man calls a black man the N word, it’s racism. If a woman calls a man misandric terms, its’ sexism. But redefine the measure to be power and no person of color can ever be racist and no woman can ever be sexist, and your would have to be a racist or sexist to disagree.
Its a hermetically sealed tautological response. Totally unassailable, and yet completely wrong.
And for *years*, I thought there was something wrong in the way I was talking about discrimination based on behavior, like I wasn’t explaining it right or I wasn’t understanding the answers. But seeing Gulliver get a total run-around, I realize there isn’t any issue defining discrimination based on behavior.
We should judge people not by the color of their skin or dangly bits on their body, but by the content of their character, by what they DO.
The confusion is that some people absolutely do not want people judged based on their behavior, based on what they do, because that kind of measure would put the spotlight on their behavior, make their behavior subject to criticism as much as anyone else. And so the whole reframing into power is nothing more than to ignore behavior and focus on which category a person belongs to. If you are a woman, you have no power. If you have no power, you can’t be sexist.
And judging people by the category they belong to rather than what they do is exactly what bigotry is.
Bill: “It already *doesn’t* matter what sexist women say about men.”
First of all, does it matter if Valerie Solanas wrote SCUM Manifesto and then tried to murder Andy Warhol? Would it matter if a woman did something similar to that today? Because I get the impression this is fundamentally a “Men are more sexist than women, so it doesn’t “matter” if women are sexist as long as they are LESS sexist than men” kind of argument.
Second of all, even if we accept this notion that it “doesn’t matter”, why does it matter to the point that we can’t point it out? If a woman is using blatantly sexist language, why does that become the crazy uncle no one is allowed to talk about? Why must it become she-who-must-not-be-named sort of thing?
You’re acknowledging the existence of some women being sexist, but you’re arguing we shouldn’t point it out. Pointing it out would be pointing out something you agree is true. Why does it *matter* so much that we cannot speak about something that is true?
@ Greg, et al.
Let’s imagine you’re a serf in feudal Europe. And let’s imagine you punch the next noble you see in the face because you’re mad at the unequal protection the two of you are afforded under the law. Now, what you did was obviously wrong. For all you know, that noble was a court reformer trying to weaken the power of the aristocracy, or maybe he even resents being highborn and is secretly funding a revolutionary underground. But if that noble tells the shire reeve what you did, you’ll face disproportionate punishment for being lowborn in the likely form of a long prison sentence or possibly execution if the noble was a member of a royal family, whether or not that’s what the noble himself wants. If, on the other hand, the noble punches you, he’ll probably get fined.
The situation for women versus men is not quite as bad as that in our society, but it’s has the same kind of power disparity. What you do matters, but how you are held to account is partially a function of the power you have. This is what Other Bill and Kat Goodwin are saying.
Now, I don’t know what the immediate solution is, though the long-term fix is to iron out the disparity. But I do know they have a good point.
One other complication to the issue I see is that we don’t really have just one incline of privilege. If it were simply a question of someone saying something sexist to a man on the internet, it would be relatively easy, as I’d say we should do exactly what I do with The Blog That Must Not Be Named – ignore it and don’t feed the hate trolling. I don’t need to denounce her use of terms like cock or neckbeard because, wrong as they are, they do not have the leverage of social iniquity. But sometimes people are higher on one incline and lower on another, and may still say something bigoted to someone in another marginalized group. I don’t think it’s my job to call them out on it, but I don’t think universal silence is the right answer either.
Of course you can. It just doesn’t tell the whole story about society. For that you need more elements to the equation.
Gee, thanks :-/
I know you sincerely believe otherwise, but no one is claiming that is not so. They are saying how folks deal with correcting injustice is inextricably tied to power, and ignoring that means they will not get the results they’re aiming for, no matter how pure their motives.
@ Kat Goodwin
Well, she is a rather visible target for internet asshats. Her book Palimpsest was good, and blended elements of sex-romance and social commentary which has earned her a lot of fans in the romance genre. But I absolutely love her reworkings of Japanese myths as I spent much of my childhood in that country. Okay, fanbot moment over :-P
Well, in case that’s how I came off, I am sorry. I don’t think my opinion is especially important, and rather less important than the opinions of marginalized groups when it’s an opinion about their plight. It probably says a lot about the prevailing tone of the internet that the default tone to hear is either hostile or pompous. I’m not the first to say it, but we need a way to convey tone better on the internet like we can in real life.
Indeed, and it’s given me a new respect for her courage beyond my respect for her storytelling ability.
@ Other Bill
This would make a great seed for a surrealist story.
Greg – Sexism equals sexism. I think everyone but you is talking about the impact the power to project that sexism has on the matter. More men are sexist than women does not equal men are more sexist than women. Sexist women cannot impact men in the same way that sexist men can impact women does not equal sexism is okay because women are less sexist.
I think you can point out anything you want to. But I also think that you need to be aware of the weight you’re swinging around whilst trying to neatly thread the needle of Speak Truth To Female Sexists. I also think you should be aware that you are taking that risk secure in the knowledge that you, as a man, will always come out ahead in that match up and that blundering the Speaking Of Truth to Female Sexists can only possibly hurt someone else. And you should also be aware that, as Cat’s piece points out, fighting sexism on the Internet is like working at a post office. It never ever stops. And people don’t have the emotional reserves to strap up and Speak Truth To Power when all they want to do is find out whether or not some product is worth while. Also, in all probability, the majority of people jumping on your band wagon of Speaking Truth To Female Sexists will actually just be bigots.
So, I read the situation like that and conclude, you know. Any victory here is small and any failure gives up a lot of ground. So, I’ll pass. But, you can point out whatever you want. I’m not saying you can, can’t, should or shouldn’t do anything. I’m pointing out that best case scenario, you’ve got yourself a pyrrhic victory.
Greg: you’re a fan of tortured analogies, so here’s one for you:
It’s like hiding in a tornado shelter, wondering if you rolled up the windows on your car.
No, wait, it’s worse than that. It’s like holding the keys to the tornado shelter, and insisting that everyone else go check the windows of their cars before you’ll unlock the door.
You’re focusing on the wrong bloody problem, and using your advantage to try and get everyone else to focus on the wrong problem.
And so that we’re clear, the tornado is not misogyny. The tornado is the power imbalance that makes misogyny actively, consistently destructive to half the population.
OtherBill: I understand pretty much everything you’re saying, the only thing I disagree with is this: neatly thread the needle of Speak Truth To Female Sexists
I am not Speaking Truth to Female Sexists, but rather speaking truth to sexists. I agree with Valente’s basic point that were a woman to write something similar to Priest then that woman would get a bunch of sexist crap that Priest did not get. The bit I disagreed with was her quote “example” unquote of a woman doing that and getting sexist crap. It doesn’t invalidate Valente’s point to say one of the women provided as an example was a bit sexist herself and wasn’t a shining example of Valente’s point.
I agree a woman writing a rant like Priest would get sexist crap that Priest did not get. And one of Valente’s examples was actually a bit sexist herself and probably out be removed from the evidence of her point. That isn’t speaking truth to Female Sexists, that’s just speaking truth to sexists of either gender. Main point, a woman doing Priest’s rant would have gotten lots of sexist crap. Minor point, one bit of anecdotal evidence provided by Valente was a bit sexist itself and didn’t support her argument.
It only becomes a major point, it only gets turned into Speaking Truth to Female Sexists, when it runs into people who hold that actually there is no such thing as misandry, and they have to turn what I said into something else entirely. Kat could not even once paraphrase anything I said even remotely accurately, despite me being fairly clear about what I was saying up front.
I’m pointing out that best case scenario, you’ve got yourself a pyrrhic victory.
Only because some people are unable to allow even the slightest criticism to stand and have to demonize it into something else and then burn the whole thing down. Valente’s main point is still valid even if one anecdotal piece of evidence is invalid. It’s like “Star Wars was good, but Lucas should have chucked the Ewoks”. A little criticism about a valid point, and then move on. But if you say that to a True Believer, it’s a mortal sin and you’re the devil incarnate.
I guess that still results in a pyrrhic victory. But before this thread, I always thought the problem was a misunderstanding somewhere, and I see now that’s not the case. When that happens in the future, I can see that trying to explain myself to someone who is intentionally misrepresenting what I say, isn’t going to work.
Gulliver, appreciate the words. I like your and Other Bill’s analogies, and Doc’s was entertaining.
Greg: “When that happens in the future, I can see that trying to explain myself to someone who is intentionally misrepresenting what I say, isn’t going to work.”
Since that’s what you’re doing to me, I understand exactly how you feel. According to you, I apparently believe all sorts of things I’ve never actually said.
Kat According to you, I apparently believe all sorts of things I’ve never actually said.
speaking of things you never actually said, you never said any woman’s comments were sexist. I think a few people found some misandry and were willing to call it that.
Gulliver asked you if a racial minority woman used the N word towards a black person if that would be bigotry, another thing you never said.
Simply looking at the things you never actually said, I think, says it all.
Greg – I concur that we largely agree. As for Cat’s examples, I felt like all her examples fit a place in her argument.
It is true that even when women and men are trading sexist barbs, the barbs negatively impact the woman more than they do the man. And I think that one of her examples supports exactly that. Even as it might also demonstrate some questionable rhetoric.
Silence isn’t necessarily the course of action I’d always recommend. If you’re a straight white man, the case for an argument that bigotry from a group with generally less privilege than you is being directed at you had better be pretty sturdy. And you had better be careful and aware as you approach the situation. Because if any one of those parts fail or resulted from a flawed analysis you will shoot your way right down to dropping some rhetorical nuclear bombs that you should have known better than to say in the first place. And then any point you might or might not have had will be gone or invalidated.
But more to Cat’s point, and John’s addendum, this is about shit that women have to put up with that men don’t. I think everyone agrees women can be sexist. Or, at least everyone who knows the definition of the word. And, it is debatable what examples of that actually look like. But, that isn’t the debate/conversation we’re having here. I think you’re misinterpreting push back on that basic premise as something else.
As for talking with True Believers…sometimes people who live in the shit hole world you’re insisting they acknowledge you sometimes have to visit can be easily confused for True Believers. In the sense that they are and you’re kind of being a dick because they got there honestly (just a friendly poke).
Doesn’t mean I don’t know the type of True Believers you’re referring to. People who make up their own facts suck. And, if that’s truly what you’re pissed off about, express it and I’m pretty sure it will get a lot of “This” comments.
I just think you might have misidentified what’s going on here.
“I know you are, but what am I”? Really?
Greg: “Because we can’t have a definition of sexism that is gender neutral, can we? We have to have a definition of sexism that only women can be a target of and women can’t commit. i.e. POWER.”
I never said this. It’s a false claim.
“And we most certainly can’t point out a woman who is using sexist and bigotted language.”
Didn’t say this either. Another false claim.
“BECAUSE WOMEN CAN”T BE SEXIST.”
I definitely didn’t say that. Another false claim if applied to me.
“I thought there was something wrong in the way I was talking about discrimination based on behavior, like I wasn’t explaining it right or I wasn’t understanding the answers.”
Oh you’re definitely not understanding the answers. Most particularly, we’re talking about types of criticism and you assume that means no criticism allowed, no matter how many times various people try to explain it to you that this is not what’s being said.
“We should judge people not by the color of their skin or dangly bits on their body, but by the content of their character, by what they DO.”
We should, but that’s not the actual real world that we live in yet. That real world is a patriarchy first off, which is not the same thing as male. It’s a system made up of both men and women. It’s geared to favor men, but we’re all in it. And that system effects what we do and say, the consequences of what we do and say on others and how what we do and say is interpreted.
“And so the whole reframing into power is nothing more than to ignore behavior and focus on which category a person belongs to.”
That’s not what people have been saying to you.
“If you have no power, you can’t be sexist.”
If this is referring to me, I didn’t say this either.
“when it runs into people who hold that actually there is no such thing as misandry”
If this refers to me, I didn’t say this either.
“Only because some people are unable to allow even the slightest criticism to stand and have to demonize it into something else and then burn the whole thing down.”
If you’re talking about the example that Scalzi doesn’t want people to talk about, I came into the conversation after he laid down that law. So if this is referring to me, I didn’t say this either.
“speaking of things you never actually said, you never said any woman’s comments were sexist. I think a few people found some misandry and were willing to call it that. Gulliver asked you if a racial minority woman used the N word towards a black person if that would be bigotry, another thing you never said. Simply looking at the things you never actually said, I think, says it all.”
So if I don’t go into my views on an issue that is completely off the topic of Scalzi’s post and Valente’s as well, and involves material that Scalzi forbid us to talk about in the conversation, and I choose not to answer a question because I don’t see any point in raking Gulliver over the coals about something that I know he asked about innocently and because it’s also not my job to answer it just because I’m female, and I refuse to argue with you because in my view you’re ranting and won’t hear a word I say anyway, I then believe things that you make up for me? If I’m silent, you just decide what I believe and argue with that. Therefore I might as well stay silent and let you go off and have fun with yourself until Scalzi brings out his mallet or closes the thread.
Bill: I think everyone agrees women can be sexist. Or, at least everyone who knows the definition of the word. And, it is debatable what examples of that actually look like. But, that isn’t the debate/conversation we’re having here.
Again, I haven’t approached it as “women can be sexist” or “men can be sexist”, but as “sexism exists”. i.e. Valente was right about sexism towards women, and one of her examples would have been better left unmentioned because it contained sexism towards men. Even acknowledging that one example contained misandry would not have taken away from her main point. And her article IS in fact the conversation we’re having, so, there’s that.
I know its more fun to take a weighted view like that and turn it into “I’ll be busy for the next six weeks hammering out the Articles of Confederation for the Net on how women can talk about men.” but that was never in fact what I was saying.
sometimes people who live in the shit hole world you’re insisting they acknowledge you sometimes have to visit
That misandric site didn’t affect me. I wasn’t looking for anyone to feel sorry for me for having to “visit” it. But it’s a misandric site. Pretending it isn’t is just nonsense. Refusing to acknowlege a simple fact like that is just continuing the lie of how beautiful the emporer’s new clothes looks, because they’ve already invested in the clothes looking beautiful. I get it would be fun to turn a “that site was misandric” comment into a “Woe is me! Pity poor me! I had to read misandric terms! Where is my fainting couch!”, but again, that wasn’t what I was doing.
I think everyone agrees women can be sexist.
Ok, sure, everyone except for one person who directly stated misandry doesn’t exist, and some number of other people who have clearly made an effort to avoid saying exactly that sort of statement. Everyone else, yes.
Greg: “Because we can’t have a definition of sexism that is gender neutral, can we? We have to have a definition of sexism that only women can be a target of and women can’t commit. i.e. POWER.”
Kat: “I never said this. It’s a false claim.”
Bah. Kat April 12, 2012 at 1:06 pm: “Or how can we turn the conversation back to the very important topic: how men are treated.”
I keep pointing towards a behavior based definition of sexism that is gender neutral. Men can be sexist. Women can be sexist. How do you manage to turn that into a concern for a “very important topic” of “how men are treated” without ignoring the fact that it was *gender neutral*? Obviously, you refuse to allow a gender-neutral definition of sexism. When confronted by it, you turn it into “ZOMG! Think of the MENZ!”
Greg “And we most certainly can’t point out a woman who is using sexist and bigotted language.”
Kat: “Didn’t say this either. Another false claim.”
Bah again. Gulliver brings up a hypothetical: a minority race woman calls a black man the N word. Simple, straightforward racism. How do you respond to a simple case of racism?
Kat April 12, 2012 at 1:06 pm: “I didn’t answer it because it was a sexist question ”
How can we point out a woman being bigotted if it automatically turns into a sexist question?
Greg “BECAUSE WOMEN CAN”T BE SEXIST.”
Kat: “I definitely didn’t say that. Another false claim if applied to me.”
List one instance in this thread where you acknowlege a woman demonstrating bigotted behavior. A woman using the N-word is racist. But you won’t even answer that.
Greg: “We should judge people not by the color of their skin or dangly bits on their body, but by the content of their character, by what they DO.”
Kat: “We should, but that’s not the actual real world that we live in yet. That real world is a patriarchy first off, which is not the same thing as male. It’s a system made up of both men and women. It’s geared to favor men, but we’re all in it. And that system effects what we do and say, the consequences of what we do and say on others and how what we do and say is interpreted.”
What does that have to do with a gender-neutral measure of sexism? Seriously? I’m talking about judgeing people by their actions, and you say we can’t judge people by their actions because the world doesn’t judge people by their actions????
Greg: “And so the whole reframing into power is nothing more than to ignore behavior and focus on which category a person belongs to.”
Kat: That’s not what people have been saying to you.
Holy christ. Have you been listening to yourself? Just a couple sentences above, I’m talking about judging people by their ACTIONS, and you start telling me about how its a world of PATRIARCHY, that its geared to FAVOR men. What is that but taking a behavior based definition of bigotry and trying to reframe it into POWER. What is PATRIARCHY but a reference to POWER?
Gulliver asked you a simple behavior based question about a woman doing something racist. You wouldn’t come out and simply say she woudl be racist. Rather you started talking about how Gulliver wants to POLICE a woman’s speech, that he doesn’t need PERMISSION, that he already HAS THAT POWER. That you do not have the power to give him PERMISSION.
POLICE, PERMISSION, POWER, PERMISSION are all power-related terms. This reframing into POWER is in your body at the cellular level. It comes through in every post you’ve made.
Greg: “If you have no power, you can’t be sexist.”
Kat: If this is referring to me, I didn’t say this either.
verbranden: April 7, 2012 at 9:47 am: “Misandry doesn’t actually exist because women as a group do not have power over men as a group”
Greg: “when it runs into people who hold that actually there is no such thing as misandry”
Kat: “If this refers to me, I didn’t say this either.”
Again, a reference to verbranden.
Greg – Well, agree to largely agree but disagree on a specific point: power and bigotry are too intrinsically related in their real world – as opposed to moral discussion – application to separate them meaningfully. As Kat points out, an explicit instruction was given by our glorious benefactor to not talk about a certain point specifically. Since that appears to be at the crux of our disagreement, we can table it for another day. I don’t think I can really dig into that without getting into the forbidden example.
And, Greg. Dammit. You are not the Fun Police. But, if you’re angling for a co-author spot on the founding documents for my Bat Cave, From Which To Fight Sexism and Misplaced Prepositions – No Girls Allowed, I mean. Just say so, man. It wouldn’t be much of a Confederation by myself. I’ve got a server rigged up in my mom’s basement that we can host it on. It’ll be like Miami Vice, only we’ll be like rhetorical ninjas. You know I’ve got Don Johnson’s sport coat from that? But you can’t borrow it. Okay. You can borrow it. And, I bet we could get some peanut butter sandwiches and chocolate milk. As long as you don’t be a jerk and get a sticky mess all over everything. Especially the jacket. My mom was so pissed at my last friend for that. Fifteen years later, I still hear about it. It’s like, Mom. I get it. It wasn’t me. No, mom. I told him. Well, he hasn’t been here, has he? Well. This is my basement now, I pay rent. I know there are still rules. Moms.
Sorry, I couldn’t help it. I like fun too much.
I keep pointing towards a behavior based definition of sexism that is gender neutral. Men can be sexist. Women can be sexist. How do you manage to turn that into a concern for a “very important topic” of “how men are treated” without ignoring the fact that it was *gender neutral*?
Greg, the reason no one seems willing to accept your gender neutral definition of sexism is because everyone else sees it as an attempt at equivocation. Furthermore, everyone else views it as a false equivalence. No one else is obliged to accept your equivalences. Obviously, nor are you obliged to accept that the two are not equivalent, but understand this: in doing so, you are excluding yourself from the conversation that everyone else is having.
List one instance in this thread where you acknowlege a woman demonstrating bigotted behavior. A woman using the N-word is racist. But you won’t even answer that.
At the risk of using sexist terminology, she’s not your bitch.
@ Kat Goodwin
Likewise, both about Other Bill’s and Doc’s analogies and that I appreciate the vigorous discussion.
and you replied
Back upthread verbranden said Misandry doesn’t actually eixst…. Subsequent discussion revealed that verbranden meant it wasn’t a social institution like misogyny and didn’t care for the use of the word misandry because to verbranden it implied such an institution. I replied that that’s not what it meant to everyone, that for some it just meant hatred toward men, and the discussion moved on. Or so I thought.
I did not. I asked her what her response would be. I didn’t ask if that was bigotry because, duh, of course it’s bigotry. In other news, 2+2=4. As for her decision not to answer, that’s her prerogative and she was even thoughtful enough to let me know why she choose not to answer that question. It doesn’t mean Kat can’t do the math. And just as my respect for you, which survives, is based on the fact that I know you’re being sincere and mean well, I have confidence Kat isn’t the embubbled True Believer you apparently believe her to be.
@ Other Bill
I agree with this.
Ditto. Greg, I do believe you mean well. But I also believe you are imputing your assumptions onto the people here with whom you’re arguing.
Absolutely. This! :)
But jumping to the conclusion that that’s the sort of people one is arguing with tends to frustrate them, especially when there are hordes of less well-intentioned folks that use that same conclusion to discount what they say.
Yay! Shinny 80’s nostaligia…
Jan Hammer was a genius.
This is my last contribution to this thread. I’m going camping at Big Bend National Park for the weekend. Thanks to Cat Valente, John and everyone for a top-flight discussion.
Bill: power and bigotry are too intrinsically related in their real world – as opposed to moral discussion – application to separate them meaningfully.
Using the N word is racist.
Doesn’t matter if you’re straight white male bajillionaire living off the inherited weath of what originally started as a cotton farm in the south. Doesn’t matter if you’re a gay, asian american woman living on the street.
The only exception to “using the n word is racist” would be one black person using it towards another black person in some very strange attempt to try and rob the word of its sting. That wouldn’t be racism. It would be an attempt to rob a bigotted word of its sting.
Barring that one exception, using the N word is always racist. Note that this statement says nothing about power. It does not say “if you use the N word AND you have more power than the person you’re using the N word toward, then its racism.”.
See how easy it was to separate power and bigotry in a meaningful way? It’s a simple straightforward rule, using the N word is bigotry. If you can show me how this simple function of one variable must be expanded to a function of two variables “the N word” and “power”, then we might get somewhere.
Instead, what everyone arguing for a two-variable funciton keep saying is “its complicated, you just don’t understand”.
No. It’s not that complicated. Using the N word is bigotry. The end.
Give me an example where using the N word is not bigotry, where the measure of its bigotry must also weigh the POWER of the people involved somehow. Because I don’t see it. Using the N word is judging someone because of the color of their skin rather than what that person has done.
Bigotry is a function of what you do.
Now, it is true that bigotry has created power imbalances, but that’s the POINT of bigotry. At a bare minimum, if you take two completely disenfranchised people, and they decide to call each other biggoted labels based on some difference between them, the point of that would be for each to attempt to exert some power over the other. Bigotry says “I am better than you because of who we are, not what we do.”.
Confusing the GOAL of bigotry (power) and turning it into an MEASURE of bigotry is a post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy. Just because power comes before some bigotry doesn’t mean power is the measure of bigotry.
You can be completely powerless and a raging bigot.
I’ve run into people like that in real life plenty of times. A dirt poor white person who is completely racist. A disenfranchised woman who was the victim of abuse who cant seem to stop herself from making disparging remarks against all men. An asian person struggling to get by who made racist comments about black people.
It’s all bigotry. It has nothign to do with whether they have POWER or not and EVERYTHING to do with that person judging someone else based solely on some external indicator (race, gender, orientation, whatever).
And saying “its complicated” doesn’t change the definition of bigotry to some other definition you want it to mean.
Using the N word against a black person is bigotry. A poor hispanic woman calling Clarence Thomas the N word is bigotry. A rich white man calling Clarence Thomas the N word is bigotry. The measure of the N word being bigotry has nothing to do with power and everything to do with PREJUDGING someone based on their skin color.
If you PREJUDGE someone based on their skin color, you’re prejudice, you’re a bigot, regardless of any power conditions between you and that person.
Hey, look at that, prejudice has the perfect etymology to show what bigotry and prejudice is. You pre-judge someone. Power has nothing to do with it. People keeping doing smoke and mirrors and saying “its comlicated”, but that doesn’t change it.
If ANYONE prejudges someone because they’re black and calls them the N word, that’s bigotry.
And ABSOLUTELY NO ONE on this thread trying to redefine prejudice/bigotry to be a function of power can provide a direct example that breaks the simpler rule: If you prejudge, you’re prejudice. Power has nothign to do with it.
We’re drifting again.
Greg, in your quest to win the argument, you appear to be missing the point that not all prejudice is created equal or has equal impact.
Greg, I don’t think this thread is doing you any good at this point, so what I want you to do now is wrap it up, make a closing statement if you like, and then excuse yourself from the rest of the thread.
Likewise, I think for most folks this far down the thread we’ve pretty much gone as far as we’re going to come on this particular topic.
Kat, Gulliver, Doc and Greg, thanks for the fun discussion. And thanks for the indulgence John.
Scalzi: “in your quest to win the argument”
Win? I’m just trying to understand something that makes absolutely no sense to me.
The “modified Guliver hypothetical”: Some people are reading some obscure, not written by Supreme Court Justices or their associates, blog thread and run into a post that looks like this:
April 13, 2012 at 9:03 am
“Clarence Thomas is acting like such a (N word)”
Hypothetical Question: Is this bigotry?
I say we can judge this to be bigotry without further information. And I say that even if we get more information, that doesn’t change the fact that this is bigotry.
Gulliver’s original hypothetical at 11:24 pm has Anon593 specified as “Latino-American woman”. This information apparently changes the answer to the question for some people.
Kat’s answer at 12:06 am says “If you want to police the speech of Latin-American women, no one is going to stop you.” It’s OK to judge bigotted speech from men (Valente was criticizing misogynists, policing their speech, right?), but judging a Latin-American woman is turned into “policing the speech”?
Kat’s answer at 1:06 pm says “it was a sexist question”. Merely asking “Is Anon593 racist?” is itself a sexist question if we find out that Anon593 is a woman? But not sexist if Anon593 is a man?
This mystifies me completely. Anon593 said something prejudiced. I don’t understand how it stops being prejudice just because Anon593 is a woman. I definitely don’t see how “Is this bigotry?” becomes a sexist question just because Anon593 turns out to be a woman.
“I don’t think this thread is doing you any good at this point,”
Well, Other Bill kind of got me to realize that part of the problem is I keep assuming that there is some kind of misunderstanding between me and some other person. But sometimes, it isn’t a misunderstanding. If all else fails, I like to find some common ground between myself and people so that even if we disagree on small points, we at least agree on the big points. But I realize now that sometimes even if someone appears to be on the same side as me, going in similar directions as me, we might not agree on anything, which is kind of weirding me out a little bit.
Gulliver has shown me some things. Some others as well.
“then excuse yourself”
Not trying to bounce after the flounce, but I forgot to acknowledge Other Bill’s “Miami Vice” bit, which was quite funny and actually helpful for me.
Gulliver: “I did not. I asked her what her response would be. I didn’t ask if that was bigotry because, duh, of course it’s bigotry. In other news, 2+2=4. As for her decision not to answer, that’s her prerogative and she was even thoughtful enough to let me know why she choose not to answer that question. It doesn’t mean Kat can’t do the math. And just as my respect for you, which survives, is based on the fact that I know you’re being sincere and mean well, I have confidence Kat isn’t the embubbled True Believer you apparently believe her to be.”
Thanks for that, Gulliver.
DocRocketScience: “At the risk of using sexist terminology, she’s not your bitch.”
Thanks, and lol.
Wrapping it up:
Greg, saying that my refusal to answer a question posed by you or someone else means I must believe X, is called making shit up. Your assertion that my poking you (and others) about derailing the conversation onto a topic that Scalzi told you was forbidden before I even entered the conversation: “how men are treated,” must mean that I’m saying women can’t be sexist, is called making shit up. Since you so desperately want to know, I do believe that misandry exists and that women can be sexist, both towards other women quite often and towards men. And I do believe that a non-black person calling a black person by the N-word is an expression of bigotry. (Using a Latin America woman as example, however, becomes a more complicated contextual issue because many Latin Americans regard themselves as falling under racial lines of black/brownness and are ethnically of mixed Latino-African race.) But as Gulliver tried to explain to you, several times, he and I weren’t actually talking about what is and isn’t bigotry. So again, you were making shit up.
Bigotry and discrimination are not the same thing. Bigotry is not a behavior. It’s a viewpoint/belief that can lead to behavior including discriminatory behavior, with repercussions that can be small or quite large throughout society. Bigotry – belief — is therefore effected and shaped by the environment in which people are living in – the social structure. Social structure and social behavior are interlocked and effect one another. Banning discriminatory behavior and violent behavior in society – while an excellent start – does not eliminate bigotry. If it did, at this point we would not have a wage gap or a corporate glass ceiling and black people would not have to give special instructions to their teenage sons to keep them alive. And so the issue of our relations to each other is a wide-ranging one about our social structure and our social behavior in how we talk to each other. One that actually requires nuance.
Your continual topic derailing efforts to accuse people in minority groups of malfeasance – that those in minority groups believe that they can do no wrong as minorities, do and say whatever they want to whoever they want, that they are being hypocritical and uppity, that they have no real risk and have the authority in society to throw their weight around and enforce their dogma and not let the majority people talk, is the sort of claim that’s been leveled at minority groups – whatever the minority – since the beginning of time. It’s what Russ Limbaugh is saying when he talks about FemiNazis and how liberal media represses his speech, what white people who think the “bad” blacks are going to start a race war and bash their heads in think, and what anti-gays mean about the gay agenda and powerful gay lobbyists and what they think the “bad” gays feel about straights. I am not saying you believe any of these views – I believe you find them all abhorrent. But you’re using the same tactic – the True Believer — which is why frequently you’ve had people in minority groups decide they’re not talking to you anymore. Which usually causes you to state that you’ve “suddenly” realized that it’s not you who are the problem, it’s them. Luckily, since I’m joining the growing group of people who aren’t talking to you anymore, I’m not a problem whom you will have to make shit up about in the future.
As for Valente’s point, I believe that what she is talking about is slowly changing for the better over time.
Kat, sometimes I get wrapped up in trying to understand something to the point that I get impatient. Sometimes I feel like I’m asking for straightforward information and people respond like… oh, I don’t know… like I’m trying to make them their bitch, and that level of disconnect is maddeningly frustrating for me. And sometimes my impatience and frustration and everything else comes across in a way such that someone thinks I’m the most evil person in the world. And I’m truly sorry that’s how this conversation went. It was not my intention.
Greg – I just saw your comment about Miami Vice. I’m glad it made you smile. VICTORY IS MINE!
Seriously, I do think it’s important to keep in mind that people are sometimes legitimately on different roads to the same destination. And that they aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive even if they do sometimes conflict.