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Friday, April 1, 2011

Please don't molest the feminist bloggers

From the wonderful xkcd.com
Poor Jen McCreight. Seriously. If all she did was post about things that offend her, I could understand people thinking that she's too sensitive and probably a miserable person generally-- even though, of course, there are more than enough offensive things happening every second of every day that documenting them could be a full-time job for many people. But she seems to be a pretty upbeat, curious, enthusiastic person who blogs on a variety of topics, and when she does post about something that bothers her, people pop in and pronounce such comments a sign of everything that's wrong with feminism. Or, if they're even less charitable, women. On what planet does that make sense?

To return to a comparison I made before, nobody would disavow the cause of racial equality if someone involved in that effort accused someone unfairly of racism. They wouldn't throw up their hands and say "Can't anyone make a joke anymore? I just don't understand these anti-racists!" Yet for some reason it's perfectly okay to say such things if the topic at hand is sexism instead. That's not to say that Jen's complaint is justified or unjustified (though my opinion on that will be clear if you read the comments on that post), but that its legitimacy is entirely beside the point. Even if she made the stupidest accusation ever (and I'm willing to grant that accusations of bias can be terribly stupid), that wouldn't come close to legitimizing bashing the entire enterprise of feminism.

Being specific about why you disagree with the offense someone has taken says "I share your concerns. I just don't think that this is a case in which something harmful has been said or done for a reason that I can articulate." Taking the opportunity to say "I don't understand you ______ people," on the other hand, says "I don't give a damn about your concerns, and I'm using this particular event of your offense as an excuse to dismiss them." Big difference. If you honestly don't care, what are you doing on the blog of a person who does care, aside from trolling? What actual contribution are you making?

Yes, yes, it's important to have a thick skin. Everybody with a blog knows that, especially the ones which allow comments. But honestly, intellectual laziness can be exhausting. And it's the height of intellectual laziness to seize on a single comment, let alone a single blog, single person, or single group, and use that as basis for dismissing an entire movement.

I'm tempted to get into a discussion about whether sex-based forms of bigotry are the most permissible these days, but a) that's a huge topic and b) it's really hard to approach objectivity on that sort of thing.  Regardless, it isn't necessary to make the basic point that replying to complaints of prejudice, justified or otherwise, with prejudice makes a person a jerk.

2 comments:

  1. I think a very strong case can be made for sexism being the most permissible form of bigotry these days, particularly on the progressive side of the aisle. Growing up in the Ozzie & Harriet years between two sisters made me acutely aware of sexism; although some things have improved a great deal, e.g. a woman's salary is no longer so closely tied to her typing speed, a lot haven't.

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  2. Hard to decide between sexism and overweight-bashing as to which is the most permissible.

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