Wednesday, June 6, 2012

A pair of past posts

I just wanted to say that I see no contradiction between these two posts, one very recent, and the other from almost a year ago:

Three reasons why gnus especially should temper their criticism of outspoken feminists
(In which I argue that, just as it's more important that irreligious voices be heard in the first place than it is for our voices to always be perfectly fair or polite, the same logic applies to feminism)

Distinguishing between friends, foes, and those in between
(In which I argue that some of the recent rhetoric from some-not-all feminist FtB bloggers has failed to draw a distinction between friend and foe, and is less effective than it could be as a result)

It might seem like there's a contradiction between those two posts, but there's really not. And I think the reason it might seem so is because there are some points that I did not make forcefully enough in the latter post. Namely: I totally get why people are fed up and are not bothering to be nice to allies when those allies are being clueless; I don't think anybody owes anybody anything in that regard, i.e. there is no ethical imperative to be nice to friends when they are being idiots; and even if these bloggers continue to lob the same type of bombs at friend and foe alike, they will still be effective in the long-term, though I suspect it may take somewhat longer.

It's total bullshit that dealing with sexism in our movement is so tedious. The level of pushback, the sheer bile of the vitriol from some quarters, it's disgusting, and it's disappointing -- no, not even disappointing, devastating. It should not be like this, and I can't really fault those who have completely lost all patience with it.

I wrote the latter post not to condemn, but rather because I think there are some missed opportunities. To be clear, it is not about the hurt feelings of the clueless. See the first post I alluded to for why I'm not shedding a tear over that. It's also not about tolerating wrongness in our allies. I'm not going to falsely reassure a believer in theistic evolution that I think their position is philosophically sound just because I'm glad they aren't a Creationist; and neither am I going to shy away from calling out a fellow skeptic when their privilege is showing.

What it is about is this: To the extent that any given individual is able to do so, if you can tell the difference between somebody who just needs a nudge in the right direction vs. somebody who's really begging for a brutal cockpunch, you can be more effective doling out the nudges and the cockpunches accordingly. If you're not someone who has a talent for that, well okay then, carry on, do your best. If you have been able to discriminate friend from foe in the past, but now you have simply lost patience, well, okay, I get that. I don't think it's a good thing, but -- what can I say? You've got every reason to have lost your patience.

I don't think the bloggers I called out are bad or are overly shrill or anything. I think they'd be more effective by tailoring their rhetoric more to each individual situation, but at the same time they are under no moral obligation to be maximally effective 100% of the time. The pushback against even such a modest suggestion of having an anti-harassment policy at conferences, it's shocking, and if some people are too fed up to be at their most effective, I don't blame them one iota.

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