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October 26, 2012 1:17 PM   Subscribe

After a few wonderful years on MetaFilter, I think I've picked up on a frequent thing that we tend to do when discussing power inequalities, i.e. sexism, racism, class and wealth, etc. I'd like to propose a 2x2 model for describing the possible perspectives that the analysis of the problem can take. Based on this model, I believe I have discovered something that MeFi "doesn't do well" - all possible conclusions are shot down as talking about the wrong thing. Hopefully, as a community we can recognize this and either "solve" the problem presented by the model, find alternative conclusions when using it, or at the very least stop using the model in the future.

I'm going to use this thread about men bothering women in a coffee shop as an example, because it's what helped this idea coalesce in my head. I know my examples may not be perfect, but I think the rubric I will propose does exist.

We start with a simple conversation about how women are, in this case, frequently molested by men. Everyone agrees that this is a problem (or at least let's assume this is the case), including me.

This model is used when we try to investigate the cause of the situation, so that, by finding the cause, we can put a stop to it happening in the future. The examples I will use are not exact examples, but more reflections of common responses I have seen.

The model I propose is this: there are two actors - women and man - and two stances - active and passive - giving four possible combinations.

Active women
The idea that women cause the problem. Commonly described as "if she didn't want to be bothered, she shouldn't be in public."
Common response: "women should be able to do whatever they want. Saying that it's the women's faults is bullshit and victim-blamey. Men are responsible for controlling themselves, so stop going around talking about what women should and should not do."

Summary: "active women" is not the source of the problem, so stop talking about it.
Passive women
The idea that, while women are the victims, they need to stop playing into patriarchal systems. This is two-fold: it's both "women shouldn't go into a snakepit and expect not to be bit" and "well, maybe if women don't like snakes, they should stop breeding them." A good example I saw in the Coffee thread (but can't find now) was a story about how a woman's friend told her "You have to be nicer to guys when they harass you. It's not their fault, that's just who they are."
Common response: "This perspective is victim blamey. Women should not go outside feeling afraid. They should not have to wear armor just to walk down the street. While some women may uphold the patriarchy, that doesn't mean the patriarchy is beneficial and desirous to women."

Summary: "passive women" takes away agency and power from women. They are not powerless or weaker than men, so stop talking about it.
Active men
The idea that men cause the problem. Commonly described as "Men harass women because they are predators, because they have no respect for women, because they think women are playthings."
Common response: "some men are like that because there is something wrong with them, but it's not all men who are like that. You should not be turning this into a discussion about men and men's problems and men's unfulfilled needs."

Summary: "Active men" paints all men as evil, and takes the discussion away from women's problems. This is a conversation about women's problems, not men's problems, so stop talking about it.
Passive men
The idea that men are merely products of the environment that encourages this. Commonly described as "Men harass women because they are raised like THIS, and they see the world like THIS, and their biology is like THIS."
Common response: "Men's upbringing does not excuse them for harassing women. Once again, we see a topic about women's problems turning into a discussion about men."

Summary: "Passive Men" takes the discussion away from women and focuses it on men. This is something they are doing that is bad, regardless of the cause, so stop mansplaining excuses for men and stop talking about it.
As you can see, all four possible topics end with "Stop talking about it." I can draw a few different conclusions from this:
  1. We should not be attempting to investigate some mythical "root cause" of the problem. The problem is broader than a single element, and, as such, an investigation will reveal a solution that synthesizes all four elements, i.e. men and women are both active and passive causes of this situation.
  2. All four of them can't be wrong, so one of them must be the cause. The most likely intersection, in my opinion, is the "Active Men." It is those who are privileged with power who have the responsibility of not abusing that privilege.
  3. Ceasing a line of discussion just because it is "Wrong" is the wrong thing to do on metafilter. Ideas have a home here, and although some may be less valid, none are invalid, because even the least-supported ideas still reveal insight into the mind of the poster, and speculation can be made about why a portion of the world incorrectly holds that position.
Finally, I'd like to remind you that I believe this conversational focus matrix appears in many, many discussions on metafilter, any time we investigate the problems that arise when there is a bifurcation of power; that is, this is not just about men harassing women, but rather is about how metafilter talks about it.
posted by rebent to MetaFilter-Related at 1:17 PM (362 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

Rebent, what is your goal here? Where do you intend for the community discussion to go?
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 1:28 PM on October 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


my hope is that, if my model is a correct description of how discussions on mefi tend to play out, in the future we will be able to say "Let's approach this discussion from a different angle because taking it down this path has no good ending." I've proposed a few different options at the end of the op.

Alternatively, if I'm incorrect, that people ignore this.
posted by rebent at 1:32 PM on October 26, 2012


Isn't conclusion #2 falling into the exact same matrix that you're saying we should avoid?
posted by asnider at 1:34 PM on October 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


As a technical writer, I condense long-winded, technical information for a living.

Are you saying: "Let's stop having arguments about things that we're never all going to agree on"?
posted by Melismata at 1:34 PM on October 26, 2012 [21 favorites]


I agree that discussions would go better if everyone could focus on:

-Finding common ground; making clear that pretty much everyone in the discussion agrees on certain things,

-Not oversimplifying (for example, not focusing on the most extremist/divisive versions of) views stated in thread, whether our own or others',

-Not attributing horrible motives or views to other posters just because they are a bit sloppy with their phrasing.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 1:35 PM on October 26, 2012 [27 favorites]


melismata: perhaps "let's stop having arguments about things that are technically impossible to agree on"
posted by rebent at 1:37 PM on October 26, 2012


Let's not!
posted by box at 1:38 PM on October 26, 2012 [7 favorites]


what
posted by nathancaswell at 1:39 PM on October 26, 2012 [7 favorites]


Not all discussions can lead to agreement, but a larger number can lead to understanding. This is, I feel, harder to do online.
posted by boo_radley at 1:40 PM on October 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


We start with a simple conversation about how women are, in this case, frequently molested by men. Everyone agrees that this is a problem (or at least let's assume this is the case), including me.

I can't really get past this sentence. We can't assume that everyone agrees that women frequently getting harassed/molested (to continue your example) is a problem. Some people don't think that it occurs in the first place. Others know it occurs, but don't see it as a problem. We have to factor that in to any model of why these conversations don't go well.
posted by muddgirl at 1:47 PM on October 26, 2012 [31 favorites]


what the what
posted by nathancaswell at 1:51 PM on October 26, 2012


We start with a simple conversation about how women are, in this case, frequently molested by men. Everyone agrees that this is a problem (or at least let's assume this is the case), including me.

But this is precisely the problem, isn't it? That is, not everyone agrees that women getting harrassed is a problem, for exactly the reasons that muddgirl describes. That's why those "simple conversations" go off the rails.
posted by scody at 1:54 PM on October 26, 2012 [18 favorites]


Well, what you want out of your conversation? What should the product be? On Metafilter, frequently everyone states their opinions and then shouts at each other. What would a more successful conversation look like?
posted by selfnoise at 1:56 PM on October 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


I just kinda like reading other people's perspective on stuff.
posted by Packed Lunch at 1:59 PM on October 26, 2012 [25 favorites]


I wish I had more to add to this, but I think part of the problem with "solving" this perceived issue stems from the fact that we (at the very least, I) don't have great vocabulary to discuss how an online community "should" discuss things. It makes my feel all twitchy when I read things online like "MetaFilter doesn't do X well" (or it's cousin "I know the hivemind won't like it, but...") - I don't expect MetaFilter to do everything well. When I hear that line, to me, it's code for "nothing productive will come of this, so the mods are going to nip it in the bud", and that's perfectly fine with me.

I mean, MeFi is a collection of folks who are alike only in the fact that they used to have five bucks; I really don't see any way to implement your conversational matrix on the site, as well-intentioned as it is.
posted by antonymous at 2:07 PM on October 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


melismata: perhaps "let's stop having arguments about things that are technically impossible to agree on"

This is silly, everyone loves cilantro.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:12 PM on October 26, 2012 [12 favorites]


This manifesto is sort of the time cube of MetaTalk posts.

Are your conclusions that 1) these are complex problems, and there's no one party at fault; 2) but that can't really be true, and it's probably the fault of the "active men"; and 3) no idea is invalid, because even the "least-supported ideas" give an insight into why people's ideas are "incorrect"?

Am I reading this right? Don't 1) and 2) contradict each other, and doesn't 3) contradict itself? I'm not sure how this is helpful.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 2:13 PM on October 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


This gives me an uncomfortable feeling that I'm about to have a two-hour mandatory training called "Adding Value with the Metafilter Sexism Conversation Matrix Framework" dropped onto my Outlook calendar.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 2:15 PM on October 26, 2012 [59 favorites]


haddock: they are possible alternative conclusions, not all necessarily true.
posted by rebent at 2:17 PM on October 26, 2012


This model is used when we try to investigate the cause of the situation, so that, by finding the cause, we can put a stop to it happening in the future.

The pronouns are a bit ambiguous here. The ultimate goal is to reduce and eventually eliminate the molestation of women (given the stated situation), but I think what you're talking about is the elimination of discussions/arguments about that. The problem there, for me, is that the discussions of difficult issues such as the one given can descend into chaos and seem like they're getting nowhere, when in fact they're constantly spinning off little epiphanies for participants.

The fact that the conversational tone seems to consistently veer towards nasty and hurtful is countered (in part?) by the fact that a person comes around to another way of thinking. Whether or not that's recorded as a part of the conversation, I can tell you that it does happen and that those little one-off changes are a good enough result to warrant having the discussions at all. A rubric to dismiss the topics doesn't help resolve the topics. Talking to one another does.
posted by carsonb at 2:17 PM on October 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


I can't really find a way to describe this theoretical model as anything other than not even wrong
posted by Blasdelb at 2:29 PM on October 26, 2012 [8 favorites]


I can't really find a way to describe this theoretical model as anything other than not even wrong

"Bad and you should feel bad?"
posted by carsonb at 2:30 PM on October 26, 2012


Yeah, I think we're going to have to agree to disagree that "everyone" thinks women being bothered in public is a problem.
posted by rtha at 2:30 PM on October 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


it's probably the fault of the "active men"

Good thing I'm mostly sedentary.
posted by arcticseal at 2:32 PM on October 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


This model is binary on two dimensions.
posted by iamkimiam at 2:32 PM on October 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


'binary' sounds awfully close to 'binders'.
posted by iamkimiam at 2:33 PM on October 26, 2012 [5 favorites]


I'm sure you mean well, rebent, but this is very much an engineer's sort of analysis of what is primarily a social phenomenon; I'd hesitate to even call it a problem. You're assuming here that discussions like your example are here to solve problems, when it's far from clear that is the case. They're also there to vent, chew the fat, check opinions and so on.

It's true that the dynamics you've highlighted are sort of present in each discussion of privilege and harassement, but a) that's not unique to MeFi b) it does not cover the entirity of these discussions and c) it's too simplistic a model to base future behaviour on, especially behaviour you'd like the entire site to adopt.

For the moment your model is only a caricature of what really happens in these discussion.
posted by MartinWisse at 2:37 PM on October 26, 2012 [24 favorites]


haddock: they are possible alternative conclusions, not all necessarily true.

As long as they're not all necessarily true, wouldn't 2) then also put the blame on the heads of each of the other matrix participants? And, if that's the case, the question still seems to me, what are you telling us that we haven't endlessly grar'ed at before--most recently, two days ago?

I certainly agree that the he said/she said threads never go particularly well, but I really don't understand what you're proposing. Should people not be categorizing men and women into active and passive roles? Is your post about the framing or about the discussion itself? Is the model meant for use in Republican vs Democrat threads? Athiest vs. Believers? Mac vs PC?
posted by Admiral Haddock at 2:40 PM on October 26, 2012


I think, if I'm following along correctly, that we will get a unique solution to this problem as long as (active men)*(passive women)-(passive men)*(active women) is nonzero.
posted by Wolfdog at 2:47 PM on October 26, 2012 [13 favorites]


LobsterMitten: "I agree that discussions would go better if everyone could focus on:

-Finding common ground; making clear that pretty much everyone in the discussion agrees on certain things,

-Not oversimplifying (for example, not focusing on the most extremist/divisive versions of) views stated in thread, whether our own or others',

-Not attributing horrible motives or views to other posters just because they are a bit sloppy with their phrasing.


Favoriting your comment so hard my finger hurts.

Sorry, rebent, but I agree with MartinWisse here. You are trying to solve a social problem with a (in my view, reductionist) model of how things should go. I admire your good intentions, but that's not going to work; there are too many variables in a real discussion.

For instance, you missed the almost certainty that there will be a semantics derail. In a real discussion someone would inevitably come in and argue that technically we aren't talking about molestation of women, but harassment. Then someone else would have to chime in that they understand that harassment implies a pattern of behavior, and then another person will come in to differentiate the legal definition of harassment from the layman's, blab blah blah.

You have also ignored the people who take gender completely out of the equation. These people will sum up the situation as "douchebags bothering people who are trying to do something else (read, work, whatever)", and they will see it as a societal problem. I think we got into a derail on privacy in that very thread stemming from that perspective.

Lastly, your solutions also don't take into account that sometimes people are just going to disagree. Do not deny us our unique snowflakiness, rebent!
posted by misha at 2:57 PM on October 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Excluded middle fallacies are the problem in my view. There are no places to grow with only two options.
posted by bonehead at 3:01 PM on October 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


OK, I finally really made it through the whole OP, and I guess my response would be "Don't tilt at windmills." No one with any power is saying that we should try to solve the Worlds Biggest Problems just with our text, right here in the comment section of a mid-tier community website. When people express one of the four opinions you listed, they're generally not advocating for any particular course of action that others should take.

TL;DR, if someone tells you to shut up, and they're not a moderator, you can ignore them. I do!
posted by muddgirl at 3:19 PM on October 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


scody, muddgirl, there was just one person in that thread who did not seem to feel men harrassing women in coffee shops was a problem, and she was not at all combative about it.

KoKuRyu asked if it was a problem AT STARBUCKS, but he is in no way denying the problem; I know him from around the site as being very sensitive to women's concerns.

It's been my experience that we actually have really few people in total denial about these issues; I think there is a perception sometimes that people are denying women are harassed or that sexism even exists, when in fact they are questioning the specifics of a particular instance.

Still, either way, there's more that just isn't fitting into the model, rebent, sorry.
posted by misha at 3:36 PM on October 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'd like to propose a 2x2 model

Troll romance sure is complicated!
posted by emmtee at 3:54 PM on October 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


This is an utterly implausible -- if well-intended -- attempt at solving a social issue in an active community of thousands, many of whom have strongly-held beliefs.
posted by modernnomad at 4:02 PM on October 26, 2012


Is this Surrealism Day on MeTa? This is the second in a row that is leaving me scratching my head. I can understand every single word, and yet I'm left scratching my head.
posted by Forktine at 4:04 PM on October 26, 2012 [8 favorites]


scody, muddgirl, there was just one person in that thread who did not seem to feel men harrassing women in coffee shops was a problem, and she was not at all combative about it. ...It's been my experience that we actually have really few people in total denial about these issues; I think there is a perception sometimes that people are denying women are harassed or that sexism even exists, when in fact they are questioning the specifics of a particular instance.

My point was not that most participants here deny the existence of sexism or harrassment; of course I think most Mefites (or at least most active Mefites) are on board with that. My point was that rebent's argument was explicitly predicated on the assumption that "everyone agrees" on this point, when in fact A) it's patently false that literally everyone agrees on this point at all, and B) it only takes a few remarks to derail the discussion, whether those remarks deny the existence of sexism/harrassment entirely, or whether they are "questioning the specifics of a particular instance." There have been plenty of combative threads (on both the blue and the grey) that have come out of such remarks, notwithstanding the fact that the specific Starbucks thread itself wasn't that combative.
posted by scody at 4:04 PM on October 26, 2012 [4 favorites]


tl;dr: y'all motherfuckers in a troll thread
posted by subbes at 4:28 PM on October 26, 2012


I'd like to propose a 2x2 model

I'd like to propose a 1:87 model.
posted by octobersurprise at 5:06 PM on October 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


rebent, I admire the attempt. Take the feedback people have given here and iterate on it to help better your personal understanding.

I totally empathize with trying to fit the conversational problem into a framework that makes sense to you. This process is vulnerable to a couple of pitfalls:

1. Other people don't think like you; the particular associations present in your mind re the table of possibilities are not present in others' minds, so they'll take it in unanticipated directions and find that it doesn't fit with their mental model.
2. Anyone's personal model of the situation is based on incomplete information. Some models are robust to this; others are not. I think that the 2x2 model appears to be an attempt to exhaustively enumerate the possibilities, which is an approach that's particularly brittle in the face of incomplete information.

Because of these difficulties, I think a better way to pull off a MeTa like this is to simply ask people, "I don't think threads about X go well, but I'm not sure why. Do people agree with me about the general problem? If so, can we figure out why things don't go well, and how we can do better in the future?" This helps mitigate the problem of incomplete information, because it's explicitly aimed at gathering more information.

Then you can bust out the 2x2 dealie in the comments after the thread's had some time. The advantage of this is that even if people don't take your specific model seriously, they'll still be thinking about the general problem. But with the current post, it's easier for a reader to just lose interest in contributing seriously to the thread if your model doesn't resonate with them, and you end up losing their potential contributions to the collective understanding of the general problem that motivated you.
posted by Jpfed at 5:42 PM on October 26, 2012 [9 favorites]


metafilter: Sort of the time cube of MetaTalk posts.
posted by secretseasons at 5:56 PM on October 26, 2012


I'm impressed by this attempt, but honestly, I think both the premises and conclusions are so off base that this detracts from, rather than adds to, our ability to get better at having these conversations. Not only is the set up here reductionistic and mechanistic in ways that make it unsuited as a description of actual conversations as they occur, many of the assumptions are incorrect. scody and muddgirl have covered the problem with the founding "we all agree..." assumption, which, is a real problem on Metafilter, where the response from poorly adjusted and sexist men is often: "It isn't harassment because that's not how I meant it and besides if I don't get to talk to a woman in a coffeeshop/elevator/whenever I can get up the courage I may never actually get a date, and it's the responsibility of women to date me." But, further, I don't think that the end assumption to each of the four scenarios ("So stop talking about it") is actually deployed that frequently. There's a difference between saying "you're wrong," and saying, "stop talking about that." There are far more than four ways to be wrong.

But, ultimately, the problem here is that there are people on Metafilter, mostly men, who are sexist and do not think that women's experiences and voices should be allowed to set the tone of conversations, should not inform how those conversations unfold, and should not be taken as "true" for the purposes of understanding the situations that they are describing. These people are sexist pigs, and the issue is not that conversation does not go well with them, it is that they do not recognize that their perverted worldview is, in fact, a perverted worldview. The conversation is further degraded when they claim the mantle of victim because they are too poorly adjusted to be both not sexist and not oppressed. Hence the offensive, idiotic, and perverted "misandry" Metatalk threads that we get whenever women get too uppity around here. None of these issues are addressed in the model presented here.
posted by OmieWise at 6:04 PM on October 26, 2012 [5 favorites]


I agree that there have been some people who fit that model, OmieWise, but I also think there is a trap here. I don't think we have all that many people who literally argue that they personally need to be able to approach women at coffeeshops or whatever - we do have some of that, but not a ton.

I think more commonly we have arguers-in-principle: people who want to sort of be devil's advocates or push a "let's examine this issue from all sides" or "from a purely logical perspective, ignoring all real-world differences among groups", "aren't there some cases where this is okay" (or similar) point about this stuff. And maybe they put it sort of aggressively or carelessly, and they don't realize that they are jumping in in a way that happens every single time this is brought up. That "let's examine this in principle" thing requires really careful and respectful framing at the best of times, and the people bringing it up often don't realize they're bringing up something for the millionth time.

A bunch of people respond angrily to them, sometimes accusing them of commenting from bad motives - being sexist, or misogynist, or advancing their position purely because they personally want to be able to approach women in coffeeshops or whatever.

The arguer-in-principle doesn't see why they have provoked anger -- they don't realize it's the millionth time, and they don't realize how aggressively their words read. So they get angry and defensive -- after all, they're just trying to raise a logical point, and it honestly isn't about their own dating desires, it's about logic and ideas and general principles. And now there's a whole group of people mad at them and misrepresenting them.

And the stage is set for a rotten time for everyone.

That is what I see happening a lot. A very few people who are (acting) genuinely sexist, but a larger number of arguers-in-principle who are doing it ham-handedly and not picking their moment very well. These groups are worth distinguishing.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 7:16 PM on October 26, 2012 [20 favorites]


So how do we fix that dynamic?

First of all, arguers-in-principle: Do better. Try to read the room, pick your moment - there are times when it's not the time for a dispassionate discussion of principles. Phrase things carefully, be clear what you're not saying, etc. Recognize people are deeply emotionally involved in these matters and they don't know you, they don't know you're a nice person. Be open to believing that the people you're talking to may actually have good reasons to reject your logic or your premises. Be aware you may be making an argument that's been made often. If you think a particular essay on the subject was badly argued although you can see the general point (I think that was true of the most recent coffeeshop article) -- tailor your criticism just to the particular things you're talking about in the essay, and be clear about what you agree with. Don't overstate your case, don't use pithy one-line jabs. Most importantly, if a thread turns into you-vs-everybody, bow out gracefully rather than trying to get the last word.

Second of all, everybody who responds: Rein in your annoyance at seeing these kinds of argument for the millionth time. If too annoyed, don't respond. When you respond, don't characterize an ill-advised-and-ill-executed-arguer-in-principle as sexist or misogynist, or as trying to defend his right to hit on women everywhere. Even if somebody sexist might make the argument too, it doesn't mean this commenter is doing it from sexist motivations etc. It's hyperbole, it poisons the well, it makes all sides angrier. We need to engage with the individuals who are actually in the conversation, not with the shadows of other people we've known who've said similar things. It is very possible to explain why arguments-in-priniciple of this type don't work, have limitations due to real-world factors, etc - I've been seeing people give nice reasoned explanations of this in threads, and it is great.

I totally get that it's exhausting to give the same patient reasoned explanations again and again as new generations of the arguer-in-principle appear and make what they think is a novel point. Once someone gives the reasoned explanation, the conversation can move on, re-routing around the arguer-in-principle if there is better stuff to talk about. Don't let a thread turn into all vs one; choose to move the conversation in some more interesting productive direction.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 7:19 PM on October 26, 2012 [4 favorites]


I totally get that it's exhausting to give the same patient reasoned explanations again and again

See, this is why somebody's got to make my website idea.
posted by Jpfed at 7:30 PM on October 26, 2012


Fuck.

Please don't blindly link to Reddit.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 7:36 PM on October 26, 2012


I'd like to propose a 1:87 model.

HO, HO!
posted by carter at 7:58 PM on October 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


I agree with these two comments:

Isn't conclusion #2 falling into the exact same matrix that you're saying we should avoid?

Conclusion #2 starts out: "All four of them can't be wrong, so one of them must be the cause." Look closely at the use of the word "the" in that sentence, and think about how problematic it is. Notice how it doesn't follow logically. There's no basis to assume that there must be exactly one underlying cause, let alone that the cause must be "active men" because (to use the glib refrain that oversimplifies so many gender discussions) they're "privileged with power."

In a real discussion someone would inevitably come in and argue that technically we aren't talking about molestation of women, but harassment.

Now, you might say that's picky and semantic. However, that doesn't change the fact that by using the wrong word (and "molestation" is indeed the wrong word), you've distracted from the real issue. In a discussion forum that's purely text-based, it's unrealistic to expect people to not focus on how words are used.

I completely agree with the blog post linked in the FPP about coffeeshops. It's makes a good point — a point that's well worth making — and it makes the point well. In contrast, I could find several points in rebent's elaborate analysis that I either disagree with or at least find unclear. This post is phrased as if it were taking something very thorny and controversial, and turning into something simple that will make it relatively easy for us to all come together and agree. I'd say it's more like the opposite.
posted by John Cohen at 9:01 PM on October 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


My model of Metafilter interaction is based on a Möbius strip. If I argue long enough from one side, eventually I get so tired that I start arguing the other side.

That's why I hit the Klein bottle.
posted by twoleftfeet at 9:02 PM on October 26, 2012 [6 favorites]


a larger number of arguers-in-principle who are doing it ham-handedly and not picking their moment very well. These groups are worth distinguishing.

Are these really different groups?

Why would you want to argue for a principle that defends sexism if you're not sexist? I tend to see these as less innocent. In other words, if your principle is "There are other things that could cause this, it might not be sexism, it could be the weather," you're already sort of starting from a point of looking for ways this can't be sexism. I could go on but the point is, the person may not feel like they're sexist, just an investigator, but there are things about coming from that particular investigator stance that are actually part of sexism.

As for the model, I can see how much thought went into it, but it's far too simplistic. To begin with, there are more than four points of view on the interactions of men and women, and more ways to conduct oneself than 'active' and 'passive,' and even if we were to decide how everyone should act, everyone doesn't follow our instructions. And people don't all polarize to opposite ends of the magnet; points of view are distributed across a continuum.

Some hard things are just hard, complex and slow and miserable, and so you just keep at it. Social things can't always be "solved."
posted by Miko at 9:08 PM on October 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


there are more than four points of view on the interactions of men and women

Actually, the well-renowned scientific research agency eHarmony studied this, and concluded that there are actually 29 dimensions.
posted by twoleftfeet at 9:13 PM on October 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


I could go on but the point is, the person may not feel like they're sexist, just an investigator, but there are things about coming from that particular investigator stance that are actually part of sexism.

I think there are people particularly on the internet, particularly in the subset of tech-y people, whose way of relating to the world involves attempting to define rulesets, and they approach interpersonal situations the same way they'd approach cooking or programming or whatever - it's just how their heads work. (I am definitely one of them, in some respects.) They're not any more or less sexist by approaching the world that way - it's a reasonably functional way to attempt to predict human behavior.

But there are a lot of ways to take that mindset and turn it into a bunch of really, really unsuccessful rhetorical approaches, especially on a topic where the rule-definer doesn't know the underlying assumptions and principles of the subject. And since I feel confident in saying that everyone on Metafilter grew up in a sexist culture (if you didn't, do share!) there are some commonalities in the failure mode where those unexamined cultural assumptions turn into what sound like either prescriptions or natural laws when the rule-defining type is trying to do their thing.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 9:24 PM on October 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


Why would you want to argue for a principle that defends sexism if you're not sexist?

First of all, the arguer-in-principle may not see that the principle they're defending is sexist, or it may be a principle that isn't sexist in itself but yields sexist results when applied to unequal starting conditions, etc. (in some circumstances, "women should be treated just like men" yields a sexist result for example, if it ends up with "no maternity leave") Maybe once they work it through more fully, they come to understand it is problematic or conflicts with other things they believe, etc.

Second, intellectual curiosity. Some people like to argue, in the sense of exploring hypothetical defenses of different claims, and ways intertwined ideas can be teased apart into different strands, some of which can be defended in non-sexist ways. This may be a personality type that is annoying to some, I admit. I'm a bit like this, and I can fully understand coming to a discussion about that coffeeshop article ready to pick apart logical things about it, even though I agree with the author's intent in writing it.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 9:25 PM on October 26, 2012 [7 favorites]


Reasonable explanations for some of this behavior.
posted by Miko at 9:29 PM on October 26, 2012


Now, that said, I agree that there's a time and a place for hypothetical defenses of claims... and certain extremely emotional threads rule out that kind of discussion. And if an arguer-in-principle gets it wrong, either in room-reading or in their own presentation, they'll come off as a big jerk or as defending something only a sexist jerk would defend. The activity of defense-in-principle requires some trust between the parties; you have to trust that I'm not sexist before I can expect to talk in certain ways without raising hackles. That trust can be hard to cultivate in this medium and without it, the "principles" thing can look like "saying a bunch of bad stuff for no discernible reason."

People on both sides need to be mindful of this.

But yes, I think it's useful to distinguish full-on sexists - who consciously, after some examination, endorse sexist views - from let's say "ambient" sexists - who unconsciously have absorbed various biases or beliefs that are "part of sexism", but who consciously endorse equality. The latter are pretty common and often are the people having surprising realizations in these discussions.

I also do think it's useful to distinguish someone who is trying to defend sexism, or trying to talk about what they personally should be allowed to do in flirting with women (etc), from someone who's trying to do some general exploratory in-principle thinking about this stuff. It doesn't help anything to accuse the latter of being sexist or of being a creep or harasser or whatever.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 9:39 PM on October 26, 2012 [4 favorites]


I think it's useful to distinguish full-on sexists - who consciously, after some examination, endorse sexist views - from let's say "ambient" sexists

Is that sexism in your pants or are you just happy to be in this environment?
posted by twoleftfeet at 9:54 PM on October 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


"environ-mants", surely?
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 9:55 PM on October 26, 2012


I worry about Ambien sexists. These are people who can take a sleep-inducing drug, but before they nod off, have offensive opinions about the opposite sex.

It's only worrisome if they become Viagranauts, who are up at all hours.
posted by twoleftfeet at 10:09 PM on October 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


'binary' sounds awfully close to 'binders'.

If women came in binders we'd be a lot easier to file.


Personally, the moment when I became less of an asshat on topics where I was the privileged person was the moment I learned that we learn prejudices via osmosis - by observing how people speak and behave and who exists in public and what they do and how that is received, and assuming that is correct without it ever reaching the level of consciousness - and so I needed to take an active role in examining my own head for the inevitable flaws in my own beliefs based on faulty premises.

Then I spent a while saying, "Fuck, what did I miss?" a lot, and feeling very stupid, and spending a lot of time figuring out what I did wrong. And then I got more comfortable with being wrong, though I still don't like it very much.

I'm not sure how prone any of that is to transference via discussion, though.

I started wearing a binder clip a few days ago, but I think that was more absentmindedness than any assumption of incipient filing. Plus it's fun to play with.
posted by Deoridhe at 11:20 PM on October 26, 2012 [5 favorites]


I propose a master list of arguments and refutations that we are all tired of hearing and/or repeating about certain subjects. Then when someone says something like "But men get hit on too and we don't take offense" you just have to say "Argument 32" and be done with it. You could even make a set of keyboard macros and save time.
posted by Podkayne of Pasadena at 11:53 PM on October 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


For me, threads like the one under discussion are more about me focusing my thoughts (or attempting to focus them), at which point I sometimes realize that I am sort of full of shit. When I am lucky I end up abandoning a post without replying. But now and then a post strikes a chord, and a personal anecdote emerges. That resonance is often informative (to me) in one way or another, not about solving problems, but about exploring how it all gets put together. All these people, all these different takes, some make sense, others don't. Hardly anyone's opinion chimes in pure tones with my own. Some clash, and some are frankly scary.

I don't look with favor on the creation of a FAQ page with a list of ten thousand arguments that have been settled. If they were settled, then you wouldn't continue to have threads with 200 entries posted by contentious readers, or people suspending their membership in a passionate huff over a sensitive topic. I say if you've been there and done that so much that you are weary of the topic, don't follow the thread.

It's enough--for me--that the mods try to keep the gas throwers and flamers down to a minimum. Some things need to be discussed until everyone gets it. Or maybe there is no "it" to get, and that is a good thing to know. Too many times a person works out subtle notions when trying to compose a clear statement about something. Thing is, sometimes it doesn't sink in until the next day, when you fall into post-riposte regret at having not taken advantage of the chance to keep your mouth shut. That's a good experience to have.

Anyhow, I'm not so sure I believe in a world where all situations can be resolved, or that a consensus is possible on every issue. Compromise is not always an option. Reality is pretty much an agreement, and facts are not facts until people agree that they are. Conversations--written exchanges here can be seen as conversations--are not always about coming to an agreement.
posted by mule98J at 12:33 AM on October 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


Why would you want to argue for a principle that defends sexism if you're not sexist?

Because you see anecdotes of sexism and sexual harassement and the perhaps (slightly) hyperbolic discussion of them as an attack on you personally, because you're a bloke and you don't do that, but people are talking as if any bloke would and does? Because you can't believe that people like that would do things like this and it's easier for you to nitpick what they did and why than it is for you to alter your worldview? Or because you're a woman, haven't experienced that sort of harassement, don't want to believe that means you were lucky or unusual and it's again easier to disbelief than to have to live with the fear that one day your luck might end?

Or you're jsut a shit stirrer of course and you think it would be fun.

Or you genuinely don't believe the incidents talked about are sexual harassement.
posted by MartinWisse at 1:49 AM on October 27, 2012 [7 favorites]


I propose a master list of arguments and refutations that we are all tired of hearing and/or repeating about certain subjects.

It'll be like TV Tropes, except for instantly making you hate all of humanity.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 1:58 AM on October 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


The best ruleset-based approach that I've seen for understanding social interactions is Transactional Analysis popularized by the book I'm Ok, You're Ok.
posted by euphorb at 2:24 AM on October 27, 2012


I just want to go on record... I'm risking my political future here... but I just want to say, and I don't care what kind of political blowback might come of it, that I truly, and quite honestly and decently, have no hesitation whatsoever in proclaiming the following thing. I think Abraham Lincoln said it best. All that notwithstanding, I couldn't agree more with the idea that our country needs, nay... demands! I don't think any of us would disagree with that. This is what makes our nation strong! We can all agree on points such as this one. This is why it is not an Untied States or an Untasted Site or Estate Nudist or some other bizarre rearrangement of letters; we are strong as a nation, and we keep our word!

There are times such as these which try men's souls. These are the best of times. These are the worst of times.

I hope and believe we can achieve bipartisan consensus that this is True. Otherwise, I am willing to negotiate a half-truth. Working with my colleagues across the aisle, I believe we can all come together as one big party. Or not. And on this I will make my claim again, that America is a big country, which no evil will smallify.
posted by twoleftfeet at 3:52 AM on October 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


LosterMitten, thanks for the responses. I think we basically disagree about this. In the first place, I think your characterization takes most of the burden off the "arguer-in-principle." What's the sin in not reading the room right? Especially among socially awkward tech types? Note that in your characterization the emotion and the escalation are on the part of those objecting to the "principled" discussion. I think that's not an adequate way to consider the problem. In the second place, I think that there are many more people who pose as "arguers-in-principle" than there are those people in fact. Even the sexists of Metafilter have a pretty good sense that they need to be circumspect in their expressions. What you see as arguing in principle I see as basically indistinguishable from concern trolling. And concern trolling at the expense of women and their experiences, time after time, is sexist. Third, I'm less concerned about what a bunch of socially awkward male geeks are doing in the coffeeshops of the world, and more concerned about what they are doing here on the site. Here, the role of Junior Human Interactions Investigator is sexist because it repeatedly and persistently dismisses the voices of women in these threads who provide example after example of how the interactions under discussion make them feel uncomfortable and unsafe. It's the dynamic of discounting those lived experiences, and doing it ad nauseum, that I find most troubling from that group, and that I don't think can be explained away by obliviousness.

Ultimately though, and I think that here we both agree and disagree, the number of maliciously sexist men on Metafilter is small (we agree), but they wield outsize power because they are creepy concern trolls. They cry "misandry!" and "sexism!" in MetaFilter threads and start MetaTalk threads for the same reason, and they derail conversations or purposely prolong them in order to undercut the participation and experiences of women. It happens consistently, it's the same group of assholes, and just because they're smart enough to mostly stay civil about it doesn't mean they don't have an outsized impact on the culture of the site.
posted by OmieWise at 4:39 AM on October 27, 2012 [18 favorites]


I propose a master list of arguments and refutations that we are all tired of hearing and/or repeating about certain subjects.

It'll be like TV Tropes, except for instantly making you hate all of humanity.


Not to keep tooting my horn, but that's pretty much exactly what the website idea I linked above was. I didn't spell it out here as well, because it would be hypocritical of me to repeat myself online.
posted by Jpfed at 5:05 AM on October 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think the reason that I react strongly to this dynamic is because it's so informed by privilege. Even if the arguers-in-principle are acting entirely in good faith, their ability to do that over and over is precisely because of their privilege.
posted by OmieWise at 5:21 AM on October 27, 2012 [16 favorites]


That's kind of what I meant too about "starting from a point of looking for ways this can't be sexism."

If you try to take that on and break it down, sometimes you're perceived as attacking a perfectly innocent nice guy who didn't mean any harm and blundered into a bunch of statements they barely understand the implications of, and you must be an angry extremist or you wouldn't be giving him such a hard time.

Even if we start talking directly about how privilege often underlies those points of view and contributes to the decision to state them right here right now, there's sometimes resistance to the very idea of privilege and then we get on that train and go for a ride. It's a bit of a conundrum, and though we can see it happening, sometimes it ends up being unproductive to try to deal with it and it ends in general bad feeling.

I am starting to think this is just part of the MetaFilter merry-go-round, because there are always going to be people who are new to these ideas. At the same time...some of the folks who engage aren't new to them at all. They are just not interested in accepting or understanding them. That part's wilful and it's nastier. If it seems like someone should get the benefit of the doubt of never having chewed on this before, it's much easier to be patient and forgiving. If they're a usual suspect who is using a veneer of innocence to play at taking arms against "uppity" women (love that, heh) , then less so. It can be hard to tell the difference, but the latter animal does exist in the wild.
posted by Miko at 5:40 AM on October 27, 2012 [8 favorites]


It'll be like TV Tropes, except for instantly making you hate all of humanity.

I've got a bumper sticker that says "I Support our Tropes", and already people hate me for it.
posted by twoleftfeet at 6:29 AM on October 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


Well, look, it's simple: If we're ever unclear about how we should feel about an issue, we just contact rebent for clarification. What's the MetaFilter stance on X? Rebent knows! I'm not sure you're all really seeing the immense contribution rebent is -- and ever so humbly! -- offering our community at large.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 6:43 AM on October 27, 2012


In the second place, I think that there are many more people who pose as "arguers-in-principle" than there are those people in fact. Even the sexists of Metafilter have a pretty good sense that they need to be circumspect in their expressions. What you see as arguing in principle I see as basically indistinguishable from concern trolling.

This, x 1000.

It's a pattern that has become more and more apparent to me in recent threads, where you can watch a few people iteratively find the exact tone and content that provokes the maximum reaction without causing a moderator reaction. I don't like it because the outcome is invariably derailments, frustration, and all the other goodies that come with what is functionally a kind of trolling, but I also have the option of simply not reading and not commenting in those discussions so it's not like I'm being directly harmed.

Perhaps at some point the site structure will adapt and stop that kind of trolling (either by moderation or a different kind of response by users) but for now at least it's working so good for them I guess.
posted by Forktine at 6:58 AM on October 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


What would a more successful conversation look like?

A rousing chorus of Kumbaya?
posted by ericb at 7:08 AM on October 27, 2012


Why can't we all just fight one another with powerful CGI blasts emanating from our heads, à la the climactic fight from the 1998 film Dark City?
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:03 AM on October 27, 2012


I think I see how my original argument was reductionist. (I'll ignore the "active/passive" thing as, well, overwrought.) While it's true that I have seen many comments along the lines of "don't talk like it's the victim's fault, you victim-blaming person" and "Don't talk about the perpetrators, that's co-opting the story away from the people who are important here," I admit that it is probably not the same people saying both things.

So, for me to act as if "metafilter" as a whole held both "incompatible" opinions is quite a stretch.

So, thanks for clearing that up for me.

I think there's a lot to be said on the topic of "concern troll vs. arguer in principle." I would classify myself as the latter - I like to juggle ideas and play with them, see what fits together and what falls apart. However, based on the reactions my OP garnered in the thread, I wonder if the perception of a post as trolling is all it takes to make it so, regardless of the authorial intent.

and, I guess that's a message that people have been trying to pound into my head: before you release a post into the world, think about what people will think you are thinking when you post it. So, thanks :)
posted by rebent at 9:19 AM on October 27, 2012


before you release a post into the world, think about what people will think you are thinking when you post it.

Yeah, that is exactly what distinguishes an experienced poster (or commenter) from a naive one. Not everyone thinks to play with that sort of theory-of-mind stuff, and not everyone who thinks about it can do it with any sort of accuracy, but the people who can do better in online conversation than the people who can't.

What's the sin in not reading the room right?

It's not a sin. It can be, however, a chronic problem, and people who consistently can't do that tend to get filed under our "you need to try harder to appear as though you are not trolling" category. There is definitely a distinction on the moderator side between a new person who doesn't get it and a chronic concern-troll type, and while sexism threads are hard as hell to moderate - they move way too fast, most of the time, for us to be able to use our more effective tools - we can and do distinguish on the back end and can usually, over time, separate out the people who are not participating in good faith from those who are.

It's hard, though. There is an Endless Supply of slightly clueless, noticeably defensive, raised-in-a-sexist-culture dudes on the internet, and they will never stop showing up here and appearing identical to the last hundred. The fact that a lot of them actually do get a clue and turn into ordinary, well-liked members here is easy to overlook. And the clue-imparting process is tedious and infuriating for all the people who would rather be having a different conversation. But Metafilter is a general-topics site, and we talk with the members we have, so we sort of have to muddle along.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 9:43 AM on October 27, 2012 [6 favorites]


I've been doing a lot of thinking about this topic - the issue of trying to have honest discussion and/or multiple, tolerated lines of thought and inquiry in a single, contencious topic - and one thing which occurs to me both here and in my personal life (where these things are also an issue) is that often the problem is the distance some people have from an issue and how having no emotional involvement is seen as inherently laudible because it is redefined as "objective" and having an emotional response is redefined as "subjective".

The problem is that "emotionally uninvolved" and "objective" are not the same thing, no matter how many times people describe Spock as perfectly objective (which he isn't - he has an individual perspective and puts forth his opinion which includes logic but also often has some knee-jerk assumptions in play as well). I spent a long while hating the term objective to mean, "I'm right because my voice is remaining level; you're wrong because you're passionate, so shut up" and then I looked into the history of it and found something really interesting that got lost almost immediately when it was co-opted into an easy "I'm right/you're wrong" configuration.

Objectivity - as originally conceived - was meant to be collaborative between multiple people.

In other words, a single person couldn't - by definition - be "objective" in the original sense because people have perspectives and so your view is necessarily limited. Therefore, the effort is to broaded your scope through the perspectives of other people.

I think the idea of it being collaborative was lost so quickly because the US in particular (where this gets trotted out a LOT) has this rarification of the individual and a real distain for people who work in groups and collaborate.

I also think it was lost quickly because it gave the people who either were emotionally uninvolved or believed they were leverage to counter the passion and first person perspective of people they disagree with. It's like how "emotional" is almost never used to describe people who are violently angry; that way "emotional" can remain an insult while being violently angry can remain a threat.

And to own ones own subjectivity, however rational and honest that is, is almost always seen as a rhetorical loss in discussions in a way I have difficulty verbalizing. I do it anyway, but I get ignored a LOT.



I'm also struck by how similar the discussion in the coffee shop went down the "men are just awkward so women should be nice to them" path of Elevatorgate - where the narrative quickly becomes about the anxiety of men and how these men are harmless and should be emotionally tended to by strangers if those strangers are female.

This public rarification of women as the emotional servants of men they don't know is really, really weird, and is really a distraction from the other narrative that we aren't supposed to acknowledge even though it exists - the narrative that there are men who hold women so in contempt-lust that they view manipulation and coersion as the only paths into relationship (see: PUA, see: The Game, see: Half the romantic comedies in existence). Like the narrative of, "No, really, there's a whole class of rapists who target women they correctly percieve as vulnerable; it is not miscommunication" and the narrative of "No, really, there's a whole class of pedophile who make themselves into central and respected comunity leaders so they have unrestricted access to vulnerable children" there's a way in which the agency - the ability to act - is removed from the people being offensive/abusive and is placed on their targets.

I read a couple of forums which have to do with how men approach women unsolicited in a "facebook like" kink environment, and it's amazing how quickly the men approaching go from, "I think you're hot, will you have sex with me?" to "You're an ugly, used up slut who no one will ever fuck". I've seen it happen in two posts, after a relatively polite, "No, thank you. I'm in a relationship." If you want to read pages and pages and pages of it, I can hook you up; it's eye opening how "ugly" a woman becomes after she indicates "no," no matter how subtly.

"You are so hot, let me buy you a coffee. Hey, bitch, why aren't you looking at me. Ugly slut, who the fuck do you think you are?"

I know hitting on someone in a coffee shop and rape are two very different levels of offence, but the means by which the victim becomes the cause/problem (and the offender becomes morally and socially pure) is very much the same.
posted by Deoridhe at 11:25 AM on October 27, 2012 [22 favorites]


Not attributing horrible motives or views to other posters just because they are a bit sloppy with their phrasing.

I get this over and over and over, even though I *have* been precise -- obnoxiously precise -- and unsloppy with my phrasing. It's as though some people are so hell-bent on fighting their demons that they'll turn any Other into an opportunity to do so. So then you have to defend yourself against something you never said, never intended, not only to the one who made the misstatement but to the throngs of followers and their responses who are, apparently, fighting the same demons. And if you don't, if you just let the falsely-attributed motives ride, you're tacitly admitting that, yeah, I have horrible motives that are indefensible so I'll just slink away. Throw in personal attacks by the mob because, hey GRAR, and it's just maddening.

It's intellectually dishonest, extremely offensive, personally hurtful, and derails entire threads. Turning off favorites helps, as it mitigates the "pile-on" bullying effect, but I really wish it would stop.

I don't like getting mods involved -- occasionally they step in on their own when it's really over the top -- as that seems like it's own sort of bullying, but I'm really at a loss what to do here. Maybe that's the answer. Flags don't help a lot, as the mob is already in la-la land, oblivious to the *actual* misrepresented opinion. Maybe more Metas, but sheesh...

Is it just me or has this been getting worse in the past two months?
posted by LordSludge at 12:31 PM on October 27, 2012 [5 favorites]


Try a year, at least. I haven't seen a good interesting thread on gender in at least that time, that I can recall.
posted by Snyder at 12:37 PM on October 27, 2012


That's kind of what I meant too about "starting from a point of looking for ways this can't be sexism."

If you try to take that on and break it down, sometimes you're perceived as attacking a perfectly innocent nice guy who didn't mean any harm and blundered into a bunch of statements they barely understand the implications of, and you must be an angry extremist or you wouldn't be giving him such a hard time.


Exactly. Sure, you could say that threads would go better if everyone assumed good faith and offered charitable interpretations of others motives. For me the frustrating part of this particular horse on that particular merry-go-round is the often palpable implication that women and feminists are, generally speaking, asked to be deliberate and circumspect in our language in a way that the blundering, innocent and harmless poster is not. At best it is sometimes tiresome and tedious to engage patiently with the same cluelessness over and over and over again. The effort it requires to address problematic arguments in ways that do not come across as angry by necessity must sidestep or dilute the legitimacy, force and source of that anger. Sometimes this feels like precisely the point.

At the same time...some of the folks who engage aren't new to them at all. They are just not interested in accepting or understanding them. That part's wilful and it's nastier.

In these cases the issue isn't reading the room wrong. It's reading the room just right. Something along the lines of certain skilled concern trolls understanding opportune moments to discharge their aggression onto feminists via this scrim of plausible 'arguer in principle' deniability.

For me the bitter irony is this: I would love to see and have more discussion about how the male-privilege system does real violence to men. I would love to hear more from men about how this violence plays out in their lived experience. I'd like to hear from more men about what it's like for them to live a time of flux when gendered roles and ideals and definitions are being re-negotiated. The louder the assholes scream Misandry! and deny or downplay the pervasiveness of this system, the more oxygen they burn for exactly the kind of discussion that might be worthwhile and productive. In short, they are squandering the very good will they appear to ask for and need in order to have this discussion.

It sucks. It sucks especially that my tiredness with the clueless and anger at the deliberately antagonistic elicits in me my default response to disengage - to not step into a thread that I find relevant and important to me as a woman. I do the woman thing and retreat. And it sucks.
posted by space_cookie at 12:42 PM on October 27, 2012 [12 favorites]


OmieWise: "They cry "misandry!" and "sexism!" in MetaFilter threads and start MetaTalk threads for the same reason, and they derail conversations or purposely prolong them in order to undercut the participation and experiences of women. It happens consistently, it's the same group of assholes, and just because they're smart enough to mostly stay civil about it doesn't mean they don't have an outsized impact on the culture of the site."

I think this is reductionist as well, OmieWise. It seems like "male, sexist concern trolls" are just an easy scapegoat to fall back on.

If the problem is the "same group of assholes" doing this consistently, who are they? We should just call them out and get them to stop that shit. And if you know this is a problem with them, why interact with them at all? A person doesn't argue all by him or herself. If there are concern trolls, someone has to be feeding those trolls.

I just don't think it is that easy.

I've seen some openly sexist remarks from men and from women on the site. I feel like this is something we can all work harder on.
posted by misha at 1:05 PM on October 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Troll" has become an almost meaningless term, used as an all-purpose pejorative in much the same way some folks use "socialist". Trolls aren't people who say wrong things, even aggressively and stupidly wrong things. Nor are they people who say things which stir up shit. They aren't even people who say radically stupid things which stir up shit. They are people who say things for the sole purpose of stirring up trouble, often things they don't even believe.

Calling someone a troll is a lazy way to try to shut down conversation.

But as misha says, it takes multiple people to successfully troll. The troll and all the fish he or she hooks.
posted by Justinian at 1:24 PM on October 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


But since none of us can read minds, how can one distinguish between a troll and someone who just made an agressively, even offensively, stupid comment? Not all people who say such things have much or any posting history to look at and judge from that context which category they might fall in.

It's like the guy who won't stop trying to talk to you when you're just trying to read your book: is he just clueless, or is he going to escalate? Without knowing him at all, how can you tell?
posted by rtha at 1:33 PM on October 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


sometimes I wish I could have my comments reviewed by someone before I posted them. "Does this look like trolling to you? Will this make people more or less inclined to see things my way? Does this comment exemplify perspectives that are obviously incorrect to informed people?"

But, barring actually striking up relationships with other users, or forming a separate community devoted to discussing discussion discussions, it probably won't happen.
posted by rebent at 2:30 PM on October 27, 2012


LordSludge, it's not always possible to be perfectly precise in these kinds of discussions. I think most feminists here feel the same frustrations with misstatements, intellectual dishonesty, pointless derailing, &c. I don't really think it helps anyone to depict the other side of the argument as being deliberately bullying. Even when members here are saying things that I find virulently bigoted, I rarely think they're doing it just to get a few hits on someone. I mean, if you think involving the mods is also a form of bullying, then maybe your idea of bullying is very different from mine.
posted by stoneandstar at 2:33 PM on October 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think this is reductionist as well, OmieWise. It seems like "male, sexist concern trolls" are just an easy scapegoat to fall back on.

If the problem is the "same group of assholes" doing this consistently, who are they? We should just call them out


Well, we disagree. But more to the point, this is kind of a disingenuous request. I think you know as well as I do that it would not be kosher to make such a list here, although I'd be prepared to if the mods gave the ok. But they won't, for reasons I understand.
posted by OmieWise at 2:36 PM on October 27, 2012


I enjoy reading personal experiences from people and I think it is a fundamental way humans disseminate knowledge.

For some reason some of these recent gender threads (and I wish the mods would be a little more aggressive in removing the more shoddily put together FPPs) tend to bring out these gross, unsupported (sometimes unsupportable) generalizations.

Again, anecdotes etc are great, but attempting to generalize such is problematic. I don't think people need to cite a study every time they make a claim, but there are other methods of discussing gender.

relying on history is one way, bringing in theory is another (I, personally, would greatly appreciate if people who have studied gender theory etc would chime in with the major insights from the field). Too often these gender generalizations are really just stereotypes masquerading as bits of folk wisdom and some of them are really gross and offensive, and sometimes they are very vocally defended and pushback gets shouted down or worse.

I also find people can have a very condescending attitude if you don't exactly agree with them, metafilter is (I thought) a community discussion group of various pop-sites and not a reeducation camp.

I rather not get too much into "concern trolling" because I think it is a derail, but I'll echo what some have already touched upon, that identifying someone as a concern troll means you are judging their intentions instead of their actions and puts such judgment on an ethically dubious slope, smacks of similar excuses which have been used, historically, to silence various individuals and groups, and certainly demeans the person it targets. The best way to deal with a troll is to disengage, and the troll continues to be disruptive because they are being ignored they will eventually either leave or cross a line where they behavior is manifestly inappropriate, but trying to preempt someone and tell them they are "concern trolling" is heavy handed and also (if you're wrong), victimizes the innocent.
posted by Shit Parade at 2:38 PM on October 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Shit Parade, you are a sexist concern troll.
posted by OmieWise at 2:41 PM on October 27, 2012 [13 favorites]


I think the problem with "concern trolling" is that it's actually something that the culture does at large when women's issues are raised. Thus, it's very easy for individuals to do it "innocently," if they haven't familiarized themselves with the issues at hand. I think as a term that identifies a certain behavior-- making the wages of equality seem too dangerous or uncouth in order to restore the status quo-- it's very useful, but calling an individual a concern troll usually does nothing helpful, because they can definitely be operating in good faith, they just don't see what feminists would likely think of as cultural inertia, or the greater cultural machinery skewing the discussion.
posted by stoneandstar at 2:43 PM on October 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


So then you have to defend yourself against something you never said, never intended, not only to the one who made the misstatement but to the throngs of followers and their responses who are, apparently, fighting the same demons. And if you don't, if you just let the falsely-attributed motives ride, you're tacitly admitting that, yeah, I have horrible motives that are indefensible so I'll just slink away. Throw in personal attacks by the mob because, hey GRAR, and it's just maddening.

I'll be honest. What I read in your statement, which I guess I am supposed to be sympathetic to and which is meant to persuade me that there are Real PeopleTM behind the sexist comments, is that you have spent a long time on this site being either so oblivious or so un-self-reflexive that people routinely read your comments as sexist, and yet you still feel that the problem is with some "mob" that simply doesn't give you the benefit of the doubt. Maybe you should spend some time thinking about the implications of that. I'm sorry this isn't a transparently easy place for you to keep making sexist comments.
posted by OmieWise at 2:46 PM on October 27, 2012 [11 favorites]


but calling an individual a concern troll usually does nothing helpful, because they can definitely be operating in good faith, they just don't see what feminists would likely think of as cultural inertia, or the greater cultural machinery skewing the discussion.
posted by stoneandstar at 2:43 PM on October 27 [+] [!]


This construction is problematic because once a person is labeled as a concern troll they are, by this logic, incorrect because they don't see what feminists see, it removes agency of thought -- I certainly believe a freethinking individual could understand what is labeled feminist thought and not necessary agree with all of its tenets (this could be for a reason as simple as feminism not being a monolithic entity but a system, like most systems, which has internal tensions and sub-groups).

@omiewise -- have you been tracking the "Simple Question" thread?
posted by Shit Parade at 3:06 PM on October 27, 2012


Omiewise, please provides examples of my "sexist comments". If you're going to make such accusations, be prepared to back em up, as I take such things pretty seriously. I'll thank you, in advance, to include context.

Fwiw, I consider myself a feminist -- not because of people like you, but in spite of them. You, and several others, actively bullying people away by falsely accusing people and, through carelessness or will, by misreading comments and presuming the worst in others.

Perhaps I should provide my own examples, but I'm going for a run to clear my head. It might be a long one.
posted by LordSludge at 3:09 PM on October 27, 2012


Concern trolling is a phrase that arises out of political debate, as far as I know, and it doesn't always really translate to other arenas. I think some aspects of it do, but the inherent bad-faith accusation isn't usually helpful or even accurate.

The general idea of "I am on your side except that your side is doing it wrong" is what I read as concern trolling. Specifically in sexism discussions, things like discussions of tone, or how women should be nicer to make men treat them better, or how talking about men's bad behavior alienates otherwise friendly men are angles that come up often and that I associate with concern trolling. The problem is, of course, that people can make those arguments and mean them very sincerely, and then they react really badly to accusations of bad faith because, in their head, they are being helpful and aren't aware of how their arguments are actually undermining the side they're professing to support.

I will occasionally use it because I haven't found a phrase that encapsulates that particular "don't be on my side" vibe quite as well, but as moderators there's a good reason we talk way more about the appearance of trolling than actually accusing someone of trolling. We can't truly know people's motivations, and we can't prove them one way or another, so we talk about the behavior instead.

(A fun thought exercise, if you have sufficient booze on hand, is figuring out whether it is more depressing if all the people you disagree with are deliberately trolling or sincere in their beliefs. Happy drinking.)
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 3:30 PM on October 27, 2012 [6 favorites]


"Freethinking" people can come up with all sorts of shit, but I've yet to find the "I'm on your side, but think of the children" argument very compelling. My argument was that the charge of "concern troll" usually implies bad faith, when that's not at all necessarily the case. But yes, I do usually find that arguments under the "concern troll" umbrella are inherited rather than carefully researched or well thought out. Obviously I read them on a case-by-case basis.

(A fun thought exercise, if you have sufficient booze on hand, is figuring out whether it is more depressing if all the people you disagree with are deliberately trolling, or sincere in their beliefs. Happy drinking.)

Word. (I tend to believe the latter and find it much more depressing.)
posted by stoneandstar at 3:39 PM on October 27, 2012


One can even have that sort of disagreement, while drinking, about what you're drinking. As far as that goes, liking Ardbeg can be a hard row to hoe sometimes.
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:43 PM on October 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


Ooh, totally. I had A dram of Ardbeg in NYC and then the nice bartender tried to let me taste their signature applejack-based cocktail. I was like "...it smells nice? Sorry, my tongue is completely numb."
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 3:44 PM on October 27, 2012


I drank a pint of applejack the other day and I'll tell you something I was not impressed.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 3:51 PM on October 27, 2012


I think the other side of concern trolling is that in healthy communities there are disagreements(i.e. they don't suffer from group think), and internally labeling dissent as concern trolling disengages from the issues. A more math-y person could think of it as type I and type II errors.

Calling someone sexist isn't very helpful, labeling sexist behavior or speech is more effective (this a good tactic in general when encountering a range of behavior), but by identifying the particular instance it deepens the conversation, draws out nuances, and, when done well, identifies the more fundamental disagreement. This is, more or less, the Socratic method, a very old but relevant mode of investigation. There other shades to this method, Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy comes to mind.

Fernet has been my recent solace.
posted by Shit Parade at 4:00 PM on October 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Omiewise, please provides examples of my "sexist comments".

I don't know who the fuck you are. I was responding to how you characterized your comments in this thread. If you haven't been making comments that other people consider sexist, what the fuck are you talking about?
posted by OmieWise at 4:36 PM on October 27, 2012


Well, for example, if "dissent" is in the form of telling women to soften their tone (when they have repeatedly tried to ask for consideration "gently" in the conversation and no one has listened to them), then continuing to tell women to be less abrasive is telling them to quit advocating for themselves in a direct fashion. That is less a substantive argument than other issues where there might be reasonable disagreement. That's a common form of concern trolling. I'm not sure what you think concern trolling is.

And what you say is true, but the problem is that sexist behavior is pernicious and widespread and has real-world, often very terrible consequences for women. If you believe sexism is an issue, you most likely believe it has been used throughout history to put women in a disempowered social position. So if there is a person I know is prone to continually invalidating women and approving of sexist attitudes or behavior, then yes, I will call him (or her) a sexist, just as I would call a racist person a racist. Racists are people too-- some are even freethinkers!-- but most people who consider themselves anti-racist don't have the energy to repeatedly deal with that.

In a healthy argument, I would agree with you. The problem is that you are asking people who deal with sexism on a daily basis to patiently explain their point-of-view to people who do not understand, which ends up just alienating many women and leading them to go elsewhere, leaving a sexist and/or male-dominated space. Not everyone notices this kind of bias. This issue is not entirely about orderly, Socratic argument. There's a lot of behavior which people find patently bigoted and unacceptable today which in the past was much more "up for debate," and which many sane, intelligent, freethinking people would have advocated. It's not always possibly to patiently argue bigotry away when attitudes lead to real inequalities like widely unpunished sexual assault, unfair pay, or even everyday harassment or exclusion. That has to come into account for people who are trying to change things, too.
posted by stoneandstar at 4:47 PM on October 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


I don't know who the fuck you are. I was responding to how you characterized your comments in this thread. If you haven't been making comments that other people consider sexist, what the fuck are you talking about?
posted by OmieWise at 4:36 PM on October 27 [+] [!]


You are part of the cancer that is killing Metafilter.
posted by Snyder at 4:47 PM on October 27, 2012


I'd like to pretend to find it highly suspicious that in the right light "LordSludge" and "Shit Parade" are practically synonymous. ("Metonymous"?) What other sort of parade would his majesty's subjects throw him? So a verdict of sock-puppetry on top the trolling, please.
posted by nobody at 4:50 PM on October 27, 2012


Well, for example, if "dissent" is in the form of telling women to soften their tone (when they have repeatedly tried to ask for consideration "gently" in the conversation and no one has listened to them), then continuing to tell women to be less abrasive is telling them to quit advocating for themselves in a direct fashion. That is less a substantive argument than other issues where there might be reasonable disagreement. That's a common form of concern trolling. I'm not sure what you think concern trolling is.

I'd have more, (that is to say, any,) respect for the concepts of concern trolling and tone arguments if I didn't see the very behavior they categorize as such come from the people who use those terms quite often too. Not accusing you, in particular, of anything just saying.
posted by Snyder at 4:52 PM on October 27, 2012


You are part of the cancer that is killing Metafilter.

Yeah, right. Me and all the women who think they're opinions matter?

You're part of the cancer the leads to rape and sexual assault.
posted by OmieWise at 4:52 PM on October 27, 2012


Folks, this needs to not become a series of personal attacks.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 4:53 PM on October 27, 2012


And "Snyder"/"Snider" -- it's like the clues were right there all along! (sorry.)
posted by nobody at 4:55 PM on October 27, 2012


Yeah, right. Me and all the women who think they're opinions matter?

You're part of the cancer the leads to rape and sexual assault.


Really? Care to back that up?
posted by Snyder at 4:55 PM on October 27, 2012


I'm not sure what you are referring to, Snyder, but I do think that telling disempowered populations to be a little quieter or nicer has more devastating effects, in light of stereotypes like the hysterical woman or the angry black man/woman.

I try not to do it in conversations either and I understand that it's an easy trap to fall into, but that really doesn't mean it makes sense for anyone to do it.
posted by stoneandstar at 4:56 PM on October 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm not sure what you are referring to, Snyder, but I do think that telling disempowered populations to be a little quieter or nicer has more devastating effects, in light of stereotypes like the hysterical woman or the angry black man/woman.

I try not to do it in conversations either and I understand that it's an easy trap to fall into, but that really doesn't mean it makes sense for anyone to do it.


What I mean is, I've seen people who have hauled out the trope engage in it, if I were to interpret that behavior the way they do. What you say is true, as far is it goes, but on Metafilter the riposte of "concern troll" or "tone argument" is a way of dismissing something without engaging it. It's like accusations of privilege. For me, privilege is a useful concept for self-examination, but a great deal of time it's used as accusation towards others, which misses the point.
posted by Snyder at 5:01 PM on October 27, 2012


Or, Omiewise, is that just a personal attack because I disagree with you about an undefined thing? Wouldn't be the first time on Metafilter accusations of character were aimed at someone because of unrelated disagreements, sure won't be the last.
posted by Snyder at 5:05 PM on October 27, 2012


Or, Omiewise, is that just a personal attack because I disagree with you about an undefined thing? Wouldn't be the first time on Metafilter accusations of character were aimed at someone because of unrelated disagreements, sure won't be the last.

Snyder, I've read your comments, I see what you favorite. Your position on Metafilter is essentially that the feminists are too strident, and not understanding enough of the men. That's a sexist position, and sexists positions like that bolster rape culture. I know, I know, you think you're just misunderstood, but I don't think that's really an excuse. And let's not pretend that between you and I you are the victim here. You started being an asshole.
posted by OmieWise at 5:09 PM on October 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Except that, you know, you ARE the victim, since you're a misunderstood man. Quelle domage.
posted by OmieWise at 5:09 PM on October 27, 2012


Wow, you really got into my head. You are amazing. Tell me more!
In reality, I think you're strident, not feminists in general, and I never said, or implied, anything about being a victim. You must have intuited with your amazing brain. But I am glad you're hear to tell me what I think. Maybe you can make my posts for me!

It might be fun for you to assume that because I think some posts of yours were crappy, or that you disagree with my favoriting pattern or somesuch, I despise all feminists or some other such straw position, because it allows you to act boost your ego, or something. Whatever other motivation you or anyone else has for posting the way you post is really irrelevant to me.

Some people would try to prove their feminist bona fides, or something. I have less than zero interest in doing that. What I actually say is of no interest to you. You, and others of like mind, have no interest in what is said, but only in disagreement, because then you can use that disagreement for demonization for whatever reasons that you have. Why? I don't know. But you have a lot of company here. It's part amnd parcel of you and others making Metafilter a shittier place. I do dislike the way gender (not to mention other topics,) threads go here, but it's not because of feminists. It is because of bullshit like reading your interlocutor's mind and making up their motivations. You don't need discussion here, because you already know what everyone really means, regardless of what they say.

I may be an asshole, sure, we're even. Accusing you of making a website shitty is more or less the same as accusing me of perpetuating rape and sexual assault.
posted by Snyder at 5:31 PM on October 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


the riposte of "concern troll" or "tone argument" is a way of dismissing something without engaging it.

I've only ever heard the term "concern trolling" here, but as a general approach refraining from engaging with people who are being deliberately derail-ish, troll-ish, or otherwise not conversing in good faith is far better than getting into the same stupid derailed argument for the millionth time. Flagging what's going on (eg "tone argument") alerts others to what's going on, and hopefully lets them avoid the stupid derail argument as well.
posted by Forktine at 5:33 PM on October 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


...feminists are too strident, and not understanding enough of the men. That's a sexist position, and sexists positions like that bolster rape culture.

I think this is the crux for some of the nasty back and forth exchanges. I'm not familiar with all forms of feminism, but someone like Valerie Solanas can be censured without being rebuked as sexist? This is an extreme example and not meant to be taken broadly, just that there are limits to all things (free speech has limitiations etc).

By analogy, someone could be all for MLK and even think Malcolm X had his good points, but begin to get somewhat leery of the black panther movement without being roundly decried as a racist. I even believe there is an argument to make that violence (to defend yourself) can have a moral justification, but it seems rather straw man to accuse someone who disavows such violent action as racist and equally straw-personish to cite violent extremists as a reason not to listen or accept an ideology as valid (like islam).
posted by Shit Parade at 5:38 PM on October 27, 2012


I don't know who the fuck you are

You don't know who the fuck I am, yet you label me a sexist. (Do you have any idea how offensive that is?)

That's a pretty good synopsis of the problem here.
posted by LordSludge at 5:47 PM on October 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


Getting drunk now. Thanks asshole(s).
posted by LordSludge at 5:48 PM on October 27, 2012


Upon reflection, to try to be succinct, it's that using the language of social justice as mere rhetoric is stupid and boring, and that's what OmieWise here, and others elsewhere on Metafilter are more and more commonly appear to be doing.
posted by Snyder at 5:48 PM on October 27, 2012


(I, personally, would greatly appreciate if people who have studied gender theory etc would chime in with the major insights from the field)

You are already engaging here with people who have studied gender theory and they are consistently sharing with you some of the major insights from the field.

Sorry you don't like them.

the language of social justice as mere rhetoric

Why do you see as "mere rhetoric" what I see as essential realities about life?
posted by Miko at 5:59 PM on October 27, 2012 [9 favorites]


I think this is the crux for some of the nasty back and forth exchanges. I'm not familiar with all forms of feminism, but someone like Valerie Solanas can be censured without being rebuked as sexist? This is an extreme example and not meant to be taken broadly, just that there are limits to all things (free speech has limitiations etc).

If it is an extreme example and not meant to be taken broadly, why use it at all?
posted by space_cookie at 6:01 PM on October 27, 2012


Seriously, dial it back. I know we can have this conversation without resorting to "go fuck yourself".
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 6:03 PM on October 27, 2012


holy hell what just happened
posted by rebent at 6:06 PM on October 27, 2012 [5 favorites]


Yeah. My thoughts exactly.
posted by space_cookie at 6:07 PM on October 27, 2012


Really. You ever been accused of sexism and sockpuppetry with ZERO, NO evidence. Why is that okay? Please have a chat with these folks who think it's okay to lob vile accusations at other members with zero support.

Revised: nobody: Please provide evidence for your accusation. Also, know that I love you and would like to give you a hug.
posted by LordSludge at 6:07 PM on October 27, 2012


You don't know who the fuck I am, yet you label me a sexist. (Do you have any idea how offensive that is?)

I didn't label you as a sexist. I responded to your description of how others have responded to your comments. I'm not sure why you don't understand that, and why you're blaming me for responding to your comment. Look, if you haven't run into problems with your comments on Metafilter re sexism, then I don't have any idea what you're talking about here. Your comment suggested that you had, and I simply pointed out that your comment made it seem like you had had persistent experiences with people taking your comments as sexist. I then suggested that your problem, identified by you as those who considered you sexist, might be better located in yourself. That is not me calling you a sexist. Your insistence that it is may be part of your problem.
posted by OmieWise at 6:08 PM on October 27, 2012


@miko (links are appreciated, or references to the theory or thinker's name -- in these recent threads I've brought in my knowledge of psychology and I try to reference the idea or the theory -- I've read through these threads and I don't see these sorts of references, maybe I missed them, entirely possible)

@space_cookie, I'm trying, really hard, to be very, very polite and considerate, so instead of saying something like "feminism can be too strident" which, again taking the common sense definition of feminism I believe is not true and I also believe that statement isn't helpful, instead I gave an extreme example of someone who self-identified as feminist who was also an extremist to make several points, but to highlight the salient issue that disagreeing with a particular movement etc isn't necessarily discriminatory especially if you're disagreeing with a particularly fringe portion of that movement (I even made sure to point out the fallacy of dismissing the bunch for one bad apple etc).
posted by Shit Parade at 6:14 PM on October 27, 2012


Getting drunk now. Thanks asshole(s).

And, you know, if you insist on blaming others for things you have control over, life is likely to be very long or tragically short.
posted by OmieWise at 6:14 PM on October 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah, dude, you did.

I'm sorry this isn't a transparently easy place for you to keep making sexist comments.

And that is part of the problem. Somebody labels somebody sexist/racist/assholeist, and the Good People of Metafilter pile on, without bothering to vet the accusation, because sexists/racists/assholes suck and need to be told how much they suck.

FOR THE RECORD I fucking hate sexists and racists. I feel pity for assholes because I'm pretty sure they've had shitty lives and hate themselves.

I mean, how would you feel if I (or somebody else) labeled you a pedophile and everybody else started piling on about what a horrible, horrible person you are??

This is what you're doing.
posted by LordSludge at 6:23 PM on October 27, 2012


And, you know, if you insist on blaming others for things you have control over, life is likely to be very long or tragically short.

Way too old for the tragically short thing. Thanks for the concern. I'll assume it's genuine and not just a rhetorical ploy to score some points among our online peers.
posted by LordSludge at 6:29 PM on October 27, 2012


Leave questions of sockpuppetry to the mods, please. If you have a legit concern, explain it to us via the contact and we can look into it. Don't make it a point of rhetoric or public accusation. Thank you.

Beyond which, everybody, yeah, just please cool it a whole bunch. Take a walk, do something else with your evening, whatever if you're having trouble keeping it even-keeled in here.
posted by cortex (staff) at 6:30 PM on October 27, 2012


Yeah, dude, you did.

No, dude, I didn't. In context, clearly, my comment is directly related to yours. As I said, I have no idea who you are, so I have no real opinion about whether you're sexist or not. I was responding to what you wrote. I get that you want to blame me for making you feel shitty, but, again, you need to look at your own situation here. What I did is in no wise comparable to calling you a pedophile. I literally did not know your username until you wrote a comment here lamenting how the "mob" keeps coming after you for making sexist comments. I'm really kind of flummoxed that your own comment leads to you accusing me of somehow persecuting you and making the site worse?!?
posted by OmieWise at 6:30 PM on October 27, 2012


I think the thread blew up because Shit Parade was using the @ symbol.
posted by Justinian at 6:32 PM on October 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


Omiewise, I think I understand what you thought you were doing, but it is not reading the way you intended, at all, and you're coming off as seriously aggressive and hostile here. Please reconsider this tactic, because it isn't working.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 6:36 PM on October 27, 2012


What? In this thread we've got one guy whose name basically identifies his approach to his engagement here, one guy who wrote in to complain about how much other people find him sexist, one guy who claimed I make Metafilter a shitty place, and me, and you've asked me to dial it back? Is it Metafilter policy that talking about sexism is forbidden? Because, yeah, my comments have not been welcoming and gentle, but they've been in response to ridiculous assertions. Could you maybe give me some examples of what I should be saying in this situation?
posted by OmieWise at 6:44 PM on October 27, 2012


This is the exact comment to which I'm referring:

I'm sorry this isn't a transparently easy place for you to keep making sexist comments.

...in which you implicitly accuse me of making sexist comments, even though you've no idea who I am. So I guess we're both flummoxed.

But okay, if you're not accusing me of sexism, then I'll take you at your word. We're good. Just please please please think twice before your do this to other members, because it really sucks. Just be careful. Thanks.
posted by LordSludge at 6:46 PM on October 27, 2012


I'm specifically talking about the "I am going to assume that if you're complaining about being called sexist then you have been saying sexist things" line which is pointlessly unproductive. If you want to engage with actual people, that's fine, but you've basically created a strawman and unleashed your most fiery rhetoric on it, and that has turned a perfectly civil thread into a shockingly hostile one in a big damned hurry.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 6:49 PM on October 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


That's not true. It just isn't. Lord Sludge wrote about how he keeps being accused of sexism. I wrote that if that is true, if that is true, he needs to look to himself. Please note that his comment was not value neutral. It was a comment in support of the idea that feminists on the site are too ready to find sexism where there is only exploration. I neither went looking for Lord Sludge, nor accused him of something that was not present in his own comment. Focusing on my comment while accepting his as, basically, without political position, is not being true to what happened in this thread, and it tilts the argument in favor of those who are arguing that feminists are the problem on Metafilter.
posted by OmieWise at 6:59 PM on October 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm not familiar with all forms of feminism, but someone like Valerie Solanas can be censured without being rebuked as sexist?

Heh. She never fails to make an appearance at times like these. Just fyi, Valerie Solanas has as little to do with the everyday issues of feminism as Marc Lépine has to do with the difficulties faced by shy men who can't get dates.
posted by octobersurprise at 6:59 PM on October 27, 2012 [10 favorites]


@miko (links are appreciated, or references to the theory or thinker's name -- in these recent threads I've brought in my knowledge of psychology and I try to reference the idea or the theory -- I've read through these threads and I don't see these sorts of references, maybe I missed them, entirely possible)

I haven't cited anybody, but I - and I know for a fact others in the thread - are building on an understanding of gender theory built through education, scholarship, and reading. I didn't realize you were asking for actual citations, I just thought you might not realize that many people are already conversant with gender theory and are using it when they consider the situations described in these threads. I think for the most part that a degree of focus on individual thinkers that might be cited is not necessary, in the same way that it's not necessary for you to cite basic descriptions of your own experience or show the historiography of a theory of consciousness in the writings of thinkers from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries to say something about people being aware of their activities. There's been so much writing and so much thought over the past couple of centuries that I, personally, find it hard (as well as impractical without something like JSTOR handy) to go into the literature to determine where a specific idea was first aired and by whom, and at some point some of it becomes the common frame of reference of the field and no longer requires citation even in scholarly sources.

Also, I'm not sure how deeply your "knowledge of psychology" extends, but your having to ask about theories of gender construction and interaction makes me think maybe not that deep. There is a lot of gender/feminist theory active in the field of psychology, so it seems that you must have encountered some of the major concepts and historical periods in the development of feminist thought if you have studied psychology. So maybe you know more about the background than you're letting on, but if so, and you want to pick up on the theories of Scholar A or Scholar B and ask how someone you're talking to sees that as relevant to the current discussion or to the overlooked idea from Scholar C or the new idea from Scholar D, then you could probably do that.

Basically, feminism is the radical idea that women are full human beings. Feminist theory asserts and then discusses the evolution of that idea, and then further applies that idea to many separate disciplines, like politics, literature, sociology, child development, etc. Gender theory, as an umbrella concept, arose more recently at the intersection of fields also concerned with questions of the development of gender identity, sexual behavior, sociologies of oppression and control, etc. Feminist theory can be viewed as a subset of gender theory, though it developed first, and was one of the important antecedents to mounting enough of a critique of gender to problematize it in the first place.

I started typing out a long long list of what I think are the key concerns of gender theory that many of the people you encounter on MeFi are drawing on as part of some shared repertoire,, but actually, I don't think I can really give you a more succinct list, with some names to look up and links to follow, than this, which is basically an outline.For a bunch of thinkers in feminist theory, the Wikipedia is a good enough place to start. There's also a Feminism 101 blog that's pretty good, and easily-Googled-up short pieces directing the curious to feminist theorists and ideas.

Many people you are already engaging with are well-read in this area and coming from this framework. We also continue to learn from each other. And the theoretical work continues to develop and be challenged and delve into new questions. Trends and topics of interst change, new waves form. It's an ongoing conversation both personal and scholarly. If citations don't appear, that's because there has been so much water under the bridge on this topic that there is a degree of common field knowledge. No one thinks they are introducing some radical fringe theory (Frick and Frack, 2012) that is going to be so specific and controversial as to create the need to read a full study or a monograph.

I do understand that the fact that some people are playing with a pretty comfortable and familiar deck, while others are relatively new to some of the assumptions shared and references made now and then, is part of what creates tension. That's certainly part of the reason for a disconnect when we get the "WTF" comments from people who have not engaged with this body of material much at all, but it's as simple as asking and/or doing a little research. Also, I still think it's quite possible to engage with what's being said in pretty plain language on MetaFilter without the historiography, as certainly a lot of people do, just by contributing personal experience, making observations, asking questions, raising points or making rebuttals respectfully, listening and operating in good faith. As stoneandstar pointed out in the Questions thread, there really are relatively few new kinds of rebuttals, and there's often something in the theory that has already dealt with those rebuttals because they are common, so if you just want to know "What would you say to the idea that X, does feminist theory talk about this?" that's a pretty easy one to answer, and sometimes it might be good to ask that question before assuming that nobody ever thought of this rebuttal before.
posted by Miko at 7:08 PM on October 27, 2012 [28 favorites]


Some more: a women's studies bibliography, a queer studies site that seems to have good content despite the interface, Introduction to Feminism from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (and that entry's bibliography).
posted by Miko at 7:23 PM on October 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


As regards the Valerie Solanas thing. She gets brought up enough by anti-feminists that any mention of her sets alarm bells ringing. I'm not saying you did so consciously, Shit Parade, but just so you know, bringing her up is an easy way to make people who've spent a lot of time tightening bolts on the feminism debate assembly line dismiss your line of thinking. It's not your fault, but a million ninnyhammers have banged the table waving a picture of Valerie Solanas about, so it's a touchy subject.

Oh, and as for the Socratic method, that's also a banner that trolls flock under, and again, I'm not saying it's your fault, Shit Parade, but any mention of it is a flashing red light to people who've been arguing on the internet since Tim Berners-Lee was in short pants. And one other thing, it's an underappreciated aspect of Socratic dialogues that most everyone present kept their mouth shut and listened to what Socrates had to say and didn't contribute unless asked to by the man himself. It wasn't a free for all where everyone got their say. Socrates was a band leader, not a member of a free jazz assemble.
posted by Kattullus at 9:09 PM on October 27, 2012 [10 favorites]


I appreciate Miko's comment (and generally wish gender discussions were more grounded in the available literature), and, being ignorant of feminist academia had no clue on the general perception of Valerie Solanas -- but the example as such was just to help illustrate a simple thought experiment.

I'm fairly well read but feminist thought (as an organized and well disseminated method of knowing) is fairly new in the grand scheme of things and while I am familiar with some of the basic points (in the way that any one living today is familiar with a whole host of thoughts and theories like gravity etc), it is a large gap in my studies -- High school didn't provide me with any required reading, nor did college, and my own self-study tended towards other subjects. Sure it is on me to teach myself, and I'm working on it, but as an example of a structural patriarchal discrimination yes feminist theory hasn't bleed through enough for me to conversant in the same way as I am in other subjects. As an side to that thought, it is generally good behavior to not sneer, assume mal-intent, nor otherwise condescend when someone is ignorant of your field of study. I'm sorry I'm ignorant, and I'm sorry if there is a lot of ignorance enough to make you feel exasperated, but civility still has its place.

I've been on the internet plenty long and I do not agree with you on the Socratic method being a red flag, nor are you correct about the dialogues Plato wrote -- they don't all center around Socrates nor are the individuals identified at a given conversation ever excluded (to my knowledge), every individual listed does speak up at one point or another but the whole thing is an artifice written by Plato, but "Socratic method" as it is generally known and practiced is in fact a free for all dialectic (and actually free jazz assemble isn't a bad metaphor).
posted by Shit Parade at 9:40 PM on October 27, 2012


To miko's excellent list, I would add Barry Deutsch's Male Privilege Checklist. It's an ongoing list, and there are legitimate arguments around certain points, but on the whole it's quite valuable for men who are actually interested in approaching these issues in good faith (regardless of their background in the finer points of feminist theory):
Pointing out that men are privileged in no way denies that bad things happen to men. Being privileged does not mean men are given everything in life for free; being privileged does not mean that men do not work hard, do not suffer. In many cases – from a boy being bullied in school, to a soldier dying in war – the sexist society that maintains male privilege also does great harm to boys and men.

In the end, however, it is men and not women who make the most money; men and not women who dominate the government and the corporate boards; men and not women who dominate virtually all of the most powerful positions of society. And it is women and not men who suffer the most from intimate violence and rape; who are the most likely to be poor. [...]

An internet acquaintance of mine once wrote, "The first big privilege which whites, males, people in upper economic classes, the able bodied, the straight (I think one or two of those will cover most of us) can work to alleviate is the privilege to be oblivious to privilege." This checklist is, I hope, a step towards helping men to give up the "first big privilege."
posted by scody at 10:46 PM on October 27, 2012 [8 favorites]


Two more links: a bit more about male privilege from miko's Feminism 101 site, and from a different angle, a discussion of the origins of women's oppression/liberation from a classic Marxist/socialist approach.
posted by scody at 11:11 PM on October 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Shit Parade, over the past five years I met a wonderful person who opened my eyes to gender dynamics. I'd like to think that, while I don't understand them as such (see my OP for example), I do acknowledge them by default. It's not been what I would call an enjoyable process. It's more one of those - the truth was out there, and I couldn't continue to ignore it or make excuses.

I'm not trying to be condescending and saying "ah yes young one you must work hard to become enlightened like me." Rather, I interpret your statements as showing strong feelings, conflict, resentment, or maybe embarrassment because maybe you feel like people who are more knowledgeable about feminism act like they have the inherent upper hand in arguments without having to prove it. That's how I feel sometimes. And I think that's expected as part of how we deal with difficult perspectives.

On the other hand, with regards to using the Socratic Method on the internet, "dialectic" is one of my favorite words because to me it represents a sort of nirvana that if I am a good boy on the internet one day my computer will die and go to heaven and I will be able to actually engage in dialectic discussions with someone on a topic. Because so far I have never seen an entire group of people do it without some and then most of the people getting personal.
posted by rebent at 11:12 PM on October 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


I don't know how relevant this is and I feel like the thread is winding down at least for me it is, but I attended St. John's College(SF) so I spent 4 years engaged in a dialectic process and yeah it got personal sometimes, but it is psychologically daunting to have many of your core beliefs challenged / ground to dust / and rebuilt multiple times, but it is also wonderful and at its best there is nothing else quite like it.

I'm still in a pretty good mood so I want to be charitable to you rebent, so I don't really want to dig into your interpretation of my emotional state.

In general, if I take the effort to engage in honest debate I expect similar from those who join in, and I also have the expectation of both rigor and a certain ability to handle basic thoughts (I am still somewhat at a loss at how I've had to labor over some really basic statements but I've been through worse for sure, and metafilter is still worth it for me to try and bridge some basic gaps).

I'm a big believer in systemic discrimination and discussions of various privileges inform the topic, but privilege is a large, messy subject that... well watching people bludgeon each with it... its unappealing since it rarely results in understanding it any better. Also, people are, on average, notoriously bad at statistics (which to be fair is often counter intuitive and a newer field of study). I find it caustic to treat or reduce people to a number or data point in a larger data set, sure there is plenty of expediency depending on the context, but when meeting an actual individual the only genuinely moral choice is to assign full agency to that person and allow the interaction to inform the opinion, yeah its exhausting but I don't see any other choice if you're actually attempting to talk with someone.

And beans, it is important to ensure that you and the other person can enjoy a plate of beans together.
posted by Shit Parade at 12:06 AM on October 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


As a nerd, I greatly enjoyed reading The Second Sex when I started engaging with academic feminism. I was much younger then and knew much less but it was a really refreshing read for me at the time, and maybe you'd enjoy it too.
posted by stoneandstar at 3:36 AM on October 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Too many semicolons.
posted by flabdablet at 4:18 AM on October 28, 2012


LordSludge wrote: Revised: nobody: Please provide evidence for your accusation. Also, know that I love you and would like to give you a hug.

Cortex wrote: Leave questions of sockpuppetry to the mods, please. If you have a legit concern, explain it to us via the contact and we can look into it. Don't make it a point of rhetoric or public accusation. Thank you.

Sorry folks! I thought it was clear I was 100% joking, but should have known better than to let that supposed-clarity rely on a single word ("I'd like to pretend to find it highly suspicious...") in a quickly-updating and already contentious thread.

To be honest, it turns out I was literally getting LordSludge and Shit Parade confused in this tangle of MeTa and MeFi threads, and thought it was funny that the cause might have been your names more than any actual similarity of your positions. And so, in a discussion in which the consensus was nearly being reached that "troll" wasn't a good label to throw around (at least, potentially, apart from the murkier "concern troll"), it seemed like it would be fun to add the hyperbolic idea of sock puppetry to the mix with the play on names.

It probably doesn't help that I do disagree strongly with what I see as LS's and/or SP's positions in these threads. Something I've been meaning to add, which maybe hasn't been emphasized enough, is how one or both of you seem to make a habit of using small bits of rhetoric from feminism, but in the service of asserting that you are, in fact, the victim here (whether in a coffee shop or in these threads). I think that sort of language may be much more highly charged than you realize? If you don't mean to align yourself thusly, it may be the main reason why a bunch of your comments get mistaken for a sort of anti-feminist "the problems feminism identifies are being overblown far out of proportion; the true victims here are the men, who are targeted and stifled by feminism's grip on modern culture." I think it's clear that you and the others in these threads wouldn't ascribe to that sort of statement?
posted by nobody at 6:03 AM on October 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


I haven't read all of the later posts, rebent, but I did peruse the linked discussion and thought stuff over and my primary criticism of your matrix is that it should be more like 12x12 than 2x2, and that one should also analyze some auguries to predict the odds of what kind of blindness oneself and one's fellow meta-ers will be influenced by on a given day.

But I do think your model is interesting and not without merit.
posted by mr. digits at 6:18 AM on October 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


All's well that ends well, I suppose, but I am sitting here drinking my morning coffee and checking out OmieWise's whole deal and wow, dude, just wow. I don't know whether a man's claims of feminism lend themselves to being read as good-faith claims and let me quickly clarify what I mean by that what I mean is, you can try not to be a sexist, and you can even immerse yourself in feminist writing, you can even rework a lot of things about the way you live your life in accordance to the stuff you find there that's valuable to you, but as soon as you start loudly declaring yourself a feminist and saying things like "I and all the women here agree that you are a sexist, my friend!" it starts to look a little...you know, trying too hard? If you're a male feminist, right, one thing you should maybe feel okay with is not trying to impress upon everyone around you just how much of a male feminist you really are, because it makes people -- okay, it makes me question your motives. I'm not really sure I need to take that line of thought any further than that. I think you know where I'm going with this. If you're still all about protecting the womenfolk from the bad man, real or imagined, you ain't there yet. And that being the case, maybe you don't need to be lecturing the bad man on how he can be a good man like you.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 6:32 AM on October 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


It probably doesn't help that I do disagree strongly with what I see as LS's and/or SP's positions in these threads.

I would like to edit that "and/or" to an "or", because I don't agree with more than about 2% of SP's mensright-ish positions. Unfortunately, the edit window doesn't let me edit your comment. Must be a bug. ;-)

I do, however, agree with SP's sentiments that we ought to all try to be nice to each other, not assume the worst motives in each other, etc. Let's not throw out the baby with the dirty bathwater.

So no worries, looks like most (all?) of us missed your joke. Please do consider, however, whether jokey accusations are appropriate in emotionally charged threads such as this. I humbly suggest that your comic timing could use some work.

Something I've been meaning to add, which maybe hasn't been emphasized enough, is how one or both of you seem to make a habit of using small bits of rhetoric from feminism, but in the service of asserting that you are, in fact, the victim here (whether in a coffee shop or in these threads). I think that sort of language may be much more highly charged than you realize?

I don't mean to imply that I'm a victim in the Real World, or that men are somehow victims of feminism. Never meant that. Any inference to that effect is incorrect. I can't state that more emphatically.

Rather, my problem is that some folks have either deliberately or carelessly (more likely) misread my posts, or read them threw a lens of pre-prejudiced grar, unfairly tarred me as some sort of mysogynist, and go off on me based on that assumption.

And even if the mistake is realized, nobody ever publicly apologizes for the false accusation(s). (Okay, yours here is as close to an apology as I've seen, which makes that last sentence kinda eponysterical; at least it's an explanation, so thanks for that.) Ne-ver. It's too hard on the ego. They just, at best, quietly slink away, so they accusations are never retracted. Then others come along, assume them to be valid, and continue from there. Anger grows, judgement is clouded, and the pile-on builds, based on... a misunderstanding. If I hadn't disabled favorites, I'd probably be on a self-righteous kill-spree right now.

So in closing this thought, I humbly beg the offended reader to re-examine my (and, indeed, every user's) comments through a more charitable, less adversarial lens before unleashing the grar. Or at least ask for clarification first, either in-thread or via MeMail. I don't think that's an unreasonable request. If I do indeed confirm vile intent, then by all means, release the hounds of grar upon me.

Sexism is a big deal. Accusations of sexism are a big deal. Please, everybody, be sure you're correct before lobbing such accusations at other people. It's terribly upsetting.

If you don't mean to align yourself thusly, it may be the main reason why a bunch of your comments get mistaken for a sort of anti-feminist "the problems feminism identifies are being overblown far out of proportion; the true victims here are the men, who are targeted and stifled by feminism's grip on modern culture." I think it's clear that you and the others in these threads wouldn't ascribe to that sort of statement?

For the record, yes, I strongly disagree with this statement: "the problems feminism identifies are being overblown far out of proportion; the true victims here are the men, who are targeted and stifled by feminism's grip on modern culture." Thank you, I'm going to paste it into my user profile. Really glad that you think that's clear (I mean, duh??), but it would appear that a lot of folks have already made up their minds and/or are not adult enough to admit their mistake. I would name names and cite examples, but I'm not trying to start a war here.

People are funny.
posted by LordSludge at 8:03 AM on October 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't know how relevant this is and I feel like the thread is winding down at least for me it is, but I attended St. John's College(SF) so I spent 4 years engaged in a dialectic proces

It's a little interesting to me, since I hadn't been familiar with St. John's at all before learning about it on Metafilter from Mefites mostly specifically in the context of conversations about communication difficulties on the site. There've been a couple other folks who mentioned being (or were correctly pegged as being) Johnnies in adjunct to a conversation or argument about rhetoric and expectations on the site.

So, maybe there is something there? The recurring theme seems like it's mostly been a mismatch of realistic expectations and habits with the mefi userbase at large; it sounds like St. John's has a pretty idiosyncratic discursive mode as a school, which is probably completely great for their curricular approach to education but maybe leaves a person vulnerable to mistakenly expecting some sort of automatic buy-in from other folks to a style of conversation or acceptance of aggressive argumentation style that's not actually super reasonable in a more general conversational context. Speculation but it is interesting that it's something that keeps coming up.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:41 AM on October 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


Why do you see as "mere rhetoric" what I see as essential realities about life?

I'm not entirely sure what you're trying to say here, but to clarify an important part of my statement that you may have missed, I said it was being used as mere rhetoric, not that it inherently was.
posted by Snyder at 8:59 AM on October 28, 2012


What mistake?

If I'm on your list, I really didn't misread your posts and I don't believe I misunderstood them in any way. I really did appreciate most of your contributions in the Simple Question thread. There was a point toward the end where the talk turned to how much focus we were putting on what's going on inside men's heads that results in unwanted attention for women. I made an honest effort to address that point and to illustrate the idea that when people take on the project of trying to explain the reasons for a given behavior on behalf of an entire gender, they are stepping into a logical and rhetorical area that's littered with pitfalls and assumptions. This clearly upset you, but it wasn't written with the intent to upset. I stand by the comment and that it wasn't an attack. If you're allowed to explain something you think you understand, I'm allowed to explain something I think I understand. Even if it's something about your explanation and the assumptions it reflects.

I appreciate Miko's comment (and generally wish gender discussions were more grounded in the available literature)

My point was that for a lot of people, they are grounded in the available literature. The fact that you're not familiar with the available literature that's in the background here only means the discussions aren't grounded there for you. What would be your solution, though? We already do this in that people link to essays and articles that are part of a contemporary discussion of feminism, and then this the sort of thread that often results. How do you further "ground" the discussion? We're not in an academic setting, much of what is offered is personal experience, much other stuff is built on a complex of ideas rather than a single author, so I'm having a hard time picturing what assertions, exactly, you'd want citations for. Maybe you can give an example.

and, being ignorant of feminist academia had no clue on the general perception of Valerie Solanas -- but the example as such was just to help illustrate a simple thought experiment.

It gets brought up a lot but indeed, she is a historical sidebar to the entire field of thought. The fact that you might know about someone so relatively insignificant as her, but without knowing the larger framework, makes me think that the sources you've read where you've encountered her as someone important to be concerned with are biased toward undermining feminism. Literally the only place I have come across her name in the past ten years is on MetaFilter. The only place I came across her name in the previous 10 years was from anti-feminists at college and on Usenet, and in the classroom, where she was taught as a historical sidebar, or maybe in Ms. Magazine as kind of a rflection of a cultural moment or a discussion of problems in radical feminism.

I'm fairly well read but feminist thought (as an organized and well disseminated method of knowing) is fairly new in the grand scheme of things and while I am familiar with some of the basic points (in the way that any one living today is familiar with a whole host of thoughts and theories like gravity etc), it is a large gap in my studies

Well, first, it's not really new at all. It's a thoughtstream with early threads introduced in ancient and medieval texts, but a very organized conversation beginning in the Englightement, growing really robust and gaining its first powerful female advocates in the early to mid 1800s, achieving immense structural gains throughout the early 20th century, and developing a concern with social/cultural issues by 1960. Two hundred years of thought

The biggest wake-up call for me, and maybe an a-ha moment for you, is the idea that these thinkers and their works are not included in the vaunted Great Books curriculum of St. John's. I'm at a loss to understand how curriculum designers could feel that they are producing critical thinkers who understand the foundational issues in Western culture without addressing this body of thought. I can understand how someone could make it through a big liberal arts program with a weak core curriculum or a professional/vocational program without encountering this stuff, but I am bit wowed about having that problem an institution with such an assertive organizing philosophy.

This is pretty amazing: here's the current reading list. So you'll get Plato's advocacy for equal education (even in fields of endeavor where to see them try to succeed would be "ridiculous," like music and gymnastics) when he addresses the "use and possession" of women in The Republic, but you also get the reinforcement of the idea of his times that women are by nature inferior in his other works. but other than that and maybe an argument for Antigone, pretty silent on women, as far as the ancients. You get some of overtly antifeminist perspective, like the rest of the Greeks and Spinoza. You get Locke, whose position is debated, but whose thinking, along with others like Rousseau who is also a two-edged sword in this regard, has been enlisted in foundations of feminist philosophy.Hegel and Marx have a few things to say and much like Locke and Rousseau, are challenged by many contemporary thinkers on their assumptions but also generated important new frameworks which were relied upon in further advancing feminist theory. Female authors include Eliot, Austen, O'Connor, and Woolf - but notably, apart from poets they seem to be the only female authors, and their contributions are relegated to fiction, a classic curricular pink ghetto. And there's Freud. So you get a bunch of serious philosophers who every now and then turn a few pages' worth of attention to the question "...and what is to be done about women?" or "what do we make of women?" but who never once center questions of and by women and feminism in their work.

Seriously, a "Great Books" curriculum with no Wollstonecraft; no Simone de Beauvior?Not even an anthology for some of the most influential thinkers of any persuasion in the 19th century like Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Emmeline Pankhurst, Margaret Fuller, Lucy Stone, Susan B. Anthony, Lucretia Mott, Jane Addams? Let alone the 20th century, Betty Friedan, bell hooks, Margaret Sanger, Germaine Greer, etc. It boggles the mind to figure out how one is supposed to understand the history of the West and the concerns of the contemporary world based on a Swiss-cheese curriculum like that. This curriculum does have "gaps," big ones!

Not that that's your fault, Shit Parade - you certainly understand that those gaps exist, and seem to be interested in filling them. The reason I'm elaborating on this is that the very structures which allow a group of people to sit down and collect a reading list of that they expect to "convey to students an understanding of the fundamental problems that human beings have to face today and at all times...reflect[ing] both on their continuities and their discontinuities" based on "the most important books of the Western tradition" without including these points of view is itself sexist. It's not an accident that you never encountered these thinkers and ideas in that formal education. It's both symptomatic of, and reinforcing for, the idea that the concerns of women are just not< central to the concerns of humanity and aren't important enough to be foregrounded as subjects of serious study; and yet, without them it really is impossible to understand the fundamental problems of people today and at all times.

Back to the general. Men's alliance is certainly appreciated. I am very grateful and appreciative of the alliance of many (really most) of the men on MetaFilter who comment in threads about women's experience. It is a subject for everyone to discuss and I have no interest in silencing men for being men. I just have an interest in dissecting and discussing the sexist views that sometimes arise despite our best intentions. I do it too; I did it in that thread, got called on it, recognized it, conceded. It's hard not to unconsciously deploy a sexist assumption, but when someone says "hey that's a sexist assumption," it's fair to consider it instead of assume you're being attacked for who you are. We live in a patriarchy, we have all imbibed sexist ideas, every now and then our assumptions are going to show. It's part of the whole process. Hopefully that doesn't prevent people commenting, but it's important not to assume it's a personal attack or an attack on the basis of gender when someone points out a discrepancy or asks to have an assumption examined.
posted by Miko at 9:57 AM on October 28, 2012 [23 favorites]


'm not entirely sure what you're trying to say here, but to clarify an important part of my statement that you may have missed, I said it was being used as mere rhetoric, not that it inherently was.

I dont' see that I misunderstand your statement at all.

Upon reflection, to try to be succinct, it's that using the language of social justice as mere rhetoric is stupid and boring, and that's what OmieWise here, and others elsewhere on Metafilter are more and more commonly appear to be doing.

You accused OmieWise of using the language of social justice as "mere rhetoric." His rhetoric is one that describes the realities of my life and I perceive him to be engaged in an honest effort to promote an egalitarian ethic on this site. I accept and support his use of the rhetoric of social justice. I see no basis for challenging him on the authenticity of his commitment to the ideas underlying this rhetoric.

His is one of the many alliances that I really appreciate.
posted by Miko at 10:01 AM on October 28, 2012 [7 favorites]


This is pretty amazing: here's the current reading list.

Holy crap, I had no idea that St Johns was so retrograde. I'm rabidly in support of reading the great books (in undergrad I covered a significant portion of that list), but I'm also rabidly in favor of expanding the canon to include the range of thinking that is necessary to be actually culturally informed. I mean, just at the most simplistic level, all those Greek texts and no Sapho?
posted by Forktine at 10:13 AM on October 28, 2012


This and this is mere rhetoric. If this describes the reality of your life then obviously we're not going to be having any kind of productive discourse, and to be blunt, if this is indeed what you're saying, I don't think you're interested in having any.

I see no basis for challenging him on the authenticity of his commitment to the ideas underlying this rhetoric.

I'm also not challenging his authenticity of commitment, I couldn't care less about that. Good intentions mean precisely jack and shit. He can be authentic all the live long day, but it doesn't change the fact that he has used as mere rhetoric, an attempt to persuade the righteousness of himself/his cause and the villainy of his interlocutors. He's sure as shit not the only on on Metafilter who does this, not by a long shot, and I've probably done it myself. (I need not belabor the obvious how the norms of a subculture or culture will change the behavior and opinions of those within it.)

Its effect is take social justice matters and make them into shibboleths, it makes possibly interesting threads into amen corners, pissing matches and struggle sessions. People are forced to prove their bona fides constantly, and if you don't pass the litmus test, there is almost nothing you can say plainly that will not be discounted. (I made the tried that once, not that long ago, and I'm glad I had the sense to realize my mistake.)

In the long run, the discussions becomes incredibly narrowed and largely uninteresting.
posted by Snyder at 10:58 AM on October 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


Seriously, a "Great Books" curriculum with no Wollstonecraft; no Simone de Beauvior? Not even an anthology for some of the most influential thinkers of any persuasion in the 19th century like Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Emmeline Pankhurst, Margaret Fuller, Lucy Stone, Susan B. Anthony, Lucretia Mott, Jane Addams? Let alone the 20th century, Betty Friedan, bell hooks, Margaret Sanger, Germaine Greer, etc. It boggles the mind to figure out how one is supposed to understand the history of the West and the concerns of the contemporary world based on a Swiss-cheese curriculum like that.

Wow. This was one of the main reasons I didn't apply to St. John's when I was in high school; I was really intrigued by the Great Books model, but when I saw what was and wasn't on the curriculum, I was furious (in that way that only a 17-year-old who has just read the Seneca Falls Declaration in Western Civ class can be furious). I had long assumed that St. John's would have meaningfully addressed this at some point in the past 20+ years. The fact that they haven't is absolutely appalling.
posted by scody at 11:00 AM on October 28, 2012 [6 favorites]


Miko, you'll understand if I don't have the energy right now. Maybe tomorrow -- I suspect my travel plans (SC to BC) will be interrupted, leaving me lots of time to chat. In the meantime, Snyder has it exactly right.
posted by LordSludge at 11:45 AM on October 28, 2012


This and this is mere rhetoric. If this describes the reality of your life then obviously we're not going to be having any kind of productive discourse, and to be blunt, if this is indeed what you're saying, I don't think you're interested in having any.

Hmm. Which part is the rhetoric?

-women's opinions matter
-angry pushback against being asked to consider women's opinons is part of the "cancer" that leads to rape and sexual assault
-the perception of a mob seeking to harass nonsexist men simply for speaking is not a reality

These things seem true to me. I can understand objecting to the tone, which is angry and personal, but not really the content.

People are forced to prove their bona fides constantly

Oh, nonsense. There are just dozens of men in that thread and others who have not once been asked to "prove their bona fides." The thing is, if someone says something with sexist overtones or overt sexist content, they are probably going to be called on it. That's not "proving your bona fides" as a way to achieve entry to a discussion. It's getting called on sexist statements. Those are different things.

In the long run, the discussions becomes incredibly narrowed and largely uninteresting.

Maybe to you. I find them really interesting and apparently so do hundreds of other people. If they don't interest you there are tons of other threads to read.

Snyder has it exactly right.

I'll be interested to hear about what.
posted by Miko at 12:46 PM on October 28, 2012 [5 favorites]


Snyder, "rhetoric" does not mean "things with which I disagree." But I think you (probably?) know that.
posted by OmieWise at 2:07 PM on October 28, 2012


I appreciate Miko's comment (and generally wish gender discussions were more grounded in the available literature)

So yes, Snyder. I absolutely agree with you that people are often asked to "prove their bona fides" in discussions about privilege. That said, I think you have it rather backwards as to who is being asked to prove what.

Shit Parade. I think what Miko is gently pointing to (correct me if I'm wrong) is if you - or anyone - want discussions that are more grounded in available literature, read the available literature. In general I think that the best way to improve discussions about gender issues is if the less informed make efforts on their own to become more informed.

A consistent source of frustration in discussions about privilege is the (usually unconscious) stance that it is the responsibility of those with less privilege to educate those with more privilege and not the other way around. This posture is itself a product of.....privilege. Sometimes it's hard not to get all bratty and stomp my feet and say "Goddammit, if you're soooo well intentioned, do your homework. Don't make us do it for you." This doesn't make anyone a bad person or an ist or anything like that, it's just a product of the system, part of how power self-perpetuating and self-reinforcing, invisible to those who have it and unchangeable until people insist it change.

I'll put it this way. I am not nearly as up to speed on LGBTQ issues as I'd like to be and need to be for the kind of work I do. Because I have a pretty big knowledge gap, the onus is on me to hang back in discussions about these issues and listen, pay attention, monitor my own fighty and defensive emotional reactions to the experiences being described (Hey! I'm not one of those clueless straight people, I'm on your side!) explore bibliographies etc. If I want a seat at the table of a LGBTQ discussion, I don't really see the problem with being asked to prove my bona fides. I think it should happen more.
posted by space_cookie at 2:07 PM on October 28, 2012 [8 favorites]


That you consider my example "angry pushback against being asked to consider women's opinions" exemplifies what I'm writing about. You assume facts not in evidence about my motivation and intentions, at best it could be a possible reason for my post, but no more likely then several others. He (and possibly you) seems comfortable, if not eager to assume the worst of his interlocutor's motives and the best of his friends.

The actual reason, if it interests you at all, was simply a hyperbolic response to the overheated villainization and
apparant self-agrandization that Omiewise decided to induge in.


As to my second example, I refer chiefly to the last paragraph, wherein Omiewise levels an accusation of a desire for a safe space to make sexist comments to someone he admits he doesn't know based soley upon one comment in a thread. It's a fine thing to bring up the sexist connotations of a comment, it's quite another to accuse a poster of overt sexism based on their disagreement with you and the darkest assumptions of their motives.

As to the whole bona fides thing, I'm not just referring to men, althought it might be easier to think so. But it's a lazy assumption.

I hesitate to bring up examples from outside the thread, although I could find a few fairly easily. But it's not like I catalouge them. That kind of obsession with one website would not be conducive to my mental health.

The point is there is a heavy dose of interrogation in the MeFi culture, and I'm slightly surprised you don't see it anywhere.
posted by Snyder at 2:20 PM on October 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


-women's opinions matter

Of course they do. I agree. I have always agreed. I agreed before the thread in question, I agreed during the thread in question, and I agree now.

Miko, we are in agreement. I don't think anybody, even SP, disagrees with this statement. Have you been operating under the assumption that I think women's opinions don't matter?? If so, where on Earth do you get this?? (And I want specifics, with context, so we can correct any misstatements on my part or misunderstanding on yours. Enough with the generalities.)

We're on the same team, Miko. Stop swinging your fists. Just. Stop. You're beating somebody up (namely me) who already agrees with you. And your associates are joining in the beating, without bothering to check the veracity of your claims. This is what I object to.

Please consider the implications. If you're wrong about this -- and you are -- it's a really lousy thing to do to somebody. Please also consider what it does for feminism and what it does for Metafilter. We can talk about that if you like.

Please, I'm begging you, Miko, please consider altering your behavior.
posted by LordSludge at 3:14 PM on October 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


Have you been operating under the assumption that I think women's opinions don't matter?

No - that comment has nothing to do with you. I was trying to understand which proposition from OmieWise's comment was being called "rhetoric" rather than something substantive. That was one of the propositions in OmieWise's comment.

We're on the same team, Miko. Stop swinging your fists. Just. Stop.

Ahem. I'm not swinging any fists. I am not beating you up. I'm responding to your comments. In a measured way. I am at a loss to understand this comment. You really are confusing me and I'm not sure how you got to this place.

consider what it does for feminism

See...that's exactly what 'concern trolling' is. I know you don't think you're the kind of person that does that, and it may well be that you really, really don't mean to do that. But that's what it looks like. By me not being nice enough, I'm hurting feminism. Think of the feminists! Feminism would succeed if Miko weren't so pushy!

I'm begging you, Miko, please consider altering your behavior.

Which behavior?! Honestly, what am I doing wrong? Is the problem really just that I am still talking?
posted by Miko at 3:21 PM on October 28, 2012 [27 favorites]


there is a heavy dose of interrogation in the MeFi culture

Indeed, I guess that's why you're doing it to me.
posted by Miko at 3:22 PM on October 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sexism is a big deal. Accusations of sexism are a big deal. Please, everybody, be sure you're correct before lobbing such accusations at other people. It's terribly upsetting.

This kind of sentiment is an earmark of privilege. I should know, because I've been accused of isms in the past (as has probably nearly everyone who's engaged in one of these discussions). Not a single time did I find that the person lobbing the accusation was simply being hysterical and unfair; every single time it's been a good, if not necesssary opportunity to think about what I was saying that was getting on their nerves, think about why I was saying it, and apologize in good faith. I can imagine an exception, but I doubt most of the time that getting the unprivileged party to apologize does anything besides reassure the privileged that by doing a minimum of critical thought, they're part of the club. (Being unprivileged doesn't mean always being right, but if you are arguing with someone and trying to convince them that you're on their side when they clearly have no trust for you, an apology will solve nothing. Most people are reasonable and will begin to trust you when they see your POV and actions bear out your claims.)

When I was in junior high I told a friend (a person of color) that I thought Nikki Giovanni was kind of a bad poet but her descriptions of family really rang true to me, even though I wasn't black. He got pretty annoyed and told me it was the most racist thing he'd heard that day. I, naturally, got pissed off and we quit talking. Obviously I felt deeply that he'd misunderstood me, that I'd had only the best intentions, that I was allowed to have aesthetic opinions about any poet and he was being unfair, blah blah, but ultimately it was true that 1) I had no idea about Nikki Giovanni's work in a broader, social sense, 2) I was awkwardly pigeonholing her work as only for black people, and 3) I was criticizing her completely out of context, without considering why her work was considered significant. I'm super crotchety about art, especially poetry, and you can pry my aesthetics out of my cold dead hands, but honestly, getting him to apologize would have just made me feel better about being ignorant.

I appreciate that you consider yourself a feminist and hope that you got the kinds of citations and reading recommendations that you were looking for. But when people make the conversation into one of shibboleths and bona fides, they're assuming that privilege is merely an academic concept that doesn't color everyday lives. I've had the privilege all my life to ignore artists of color because they're not in the canon and go about my life without feeling that I'm underrepresented in art as a white person, without bothering to understand the contributions artists of color have made to the world (even though I have to do the equally acrobatic task of putting myself in a man's POV when I experience the majority of media). These influences are quiet and subtle and often quite invisible, and as a white person, I have the freedom to call dissenting influences only "token" opinions or shibboleths when they actually make up the very substance of other people's lives. It's not about bona fides, it's about the extreme bias toward the straight, white, male perspective that overwhelms our movies and politics and great literature and on and on and on, and the consistent background noise of invalidation for anyone who doesn't fall into that category.
posted by stoneandstar at 3:25 PM on October 28, 2012 [8 favorites]


Sorry, my point in the last paragraph being that the same bias colors discussions of gender and privilege, and if you're the privileged party, it's quite easy to dismiss centuries of (feminist, anti-racist, &c.) thought with a blink of an eye and have the greater culture remain on your side.
posted by stoneandstar at 3:29 PM on October 28, 2012


stoneandstar: I agree that culture makes it easy to dismiss charges of racism and sexism. However, baseless claims are baseless. Did you lift even a finger to verify Miko's claims? If so, what did you come up with? These are not rhetorical questions.

Miko: Please back up your original claims of misogyny. With specific examples, in context. Your accusations are false -- not because you're a woman**, but because you're wrong.

** I guess? I find stalking people's profiles kinda creepy...
posted by LordSludge at 3:39 PM on October 28, 2012


Did you lift even a finger to verify Miko's claims

What claims?

Miko: Please back up your original claims of misogyny.

Where are my claims of misogyny?
posted by Miko at 3:40 PM on October 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't know what you're talking about either.
posted by stoneandstar at 3:44 PM on October 28, 2012


Oh, wait. This?:

Have you been operating under the assumption that I think women's opinions don't matter??

Because if you honestly think that that was Miko swinging her fists and lobbing accusations of misogyny, you've missed out on a great deal of subtlety in her point.
posted by stoneandstar at 3:46 PM on October 28, 2012


Stop swinging your fists. Just. Stop.

LordSludge. This thread is back on track for being a civil discussion. Rhetoric like this just ratchets up the heat. Could you dial it back a bit, please?
posted by space_cookie at 3:46 PM on October 28, 2012


I just went back and reread a bunch of this thread, and I can't figure out what the supposed accusations or attacks are, either. Unless there have been a set of deleted comments within the last couple of hours, there's something else going on that I'm simply missing.
posted by Forktine at 3:48 PM on October 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


No, I didn't say anything that was deleted at all.
posted by Miko at 3:53 PM on October 28, 2012


There are known deletions, and there are unknown deletions. And every year we find more of the unknown deletions.

-- Donald Rumsfilter
posted by Forktine at 3:57 PM on October 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


Hey, that's a 2x2 matrix too.
posted by Miko at 4:00 PM on October 28, 2012


Indeed, I guess that's why you're doing it to me.

I'm interrogating you? I even haven't asked you any questions for Christ's sake! I've been explaining myself in response to your you! If that's interrogation to you I'm at a loss for words.

Whatever. You're going to keep on totally ignoring anything I'm saying to do whatever it is you're doing. Have fun.

But when people make the conversation into one of shibboleths and bona fides, they're assuming that privilege is merely an academic concept that doesn't color everyday lives.

Quite the opposite. I have no idea where you got there, but whatevs. I meant what I say. A great many people on Metafilter use social justice language as a shibboleth. If you sprach the lingo, and come have similar conclusions as whatever group is dominating a given thread, you can do ok, if you don't you're gonna get burned. I hate having to repeat myself, but here I am, I guess. Yay. This is way beyond gender threads too, but please, everyone, feel free to ignore that.

This is why I no longer really trust Metafilter users. It seems like the same impulse that has people leaping in to post their disbelieve any given thread topic or post leads people to become constitutionally unable to give any benefot of assumption of good faith to their interlocutors. If anyone tries to explain their or elucidate an intial post, fuck 'em. Go in guns blazing or the "calmer than you are" condescending horseshit. Unless you post the most ponderous, over-explained crap imaginable, people will find any possible opening and rip into you. Probably even then. Don't tell me it doesn't happen, I've fucking seen it myself. I'll be damned if I'm going to share something about myself, some feeling or opinion, just to see it used as ammunition in some fight that I'm not even a part of.

Honestly, I'm not super interested in repeating myself, and I post this against my better judgement. If our disagreement is going to be about terms and motives you make up for me, then there is really no point in discussing anything at all. I could say more, but really, what's the point? It's all pissing in the wind.
posted by Snyder at 4:17 PM on October 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


Stop swinging your fists. Just. Stop. ....I'm begging you, Miko, please consider altering your behavior.

This is an absolutely outrageous mischaracterization of Miko's comments. It's also not even original, given that those of us (women and men alike) who have spent years speaking out for women's liberation have heard some variation on the "yes, yes, I'm on your side, now for god's sake settle down and be nice and stop making me feel so darn uncomfortable, otherwise you'll damage feminism and you'll have no one but yourself to blame" theme a hundred times.
posted by scody at 4:24 PM on October 28, 2012 [21 favorites]


Started with Owiewise in this thread:

I'll be honest. What I read in your statement, which I guess I am supposed to be sympathetic to and which is meant to persuade me that there are Real PeopleTM behind the sexist comments, is that you have spent a long time on this site being either so oblivious or so un-self-reflexive that people routinely read your comments as sexist, and yet you still feel that the problem is with some "mob" that simply doesn't give you the benefit of the doubt. Maybe you should spend some time thinking about the implications of that. I'm sorry this isn't a transparently easy place for you to keep making sexist comments.

This, in response to my concerns about the coffee thread. What really set me off was that last sentence:

I'm sorry this isn't a transparently easy place for you to keep making sexist comments.

(typing this on an iPhone really sucks...)

Very offensive, then Miko picked up the ball and ran with it. Hope that's clear.
posted by LordSludge at 4:29 PM on October 28, 2012


Er...I'm not OmieWise. You need to be talking to him, not me.
posted by Miko at 4:29 PM on October 28, 2012


Very offensive, then Miko picked up the ball and ran with it. Hope that's clear.
posted by LordSludge at 4:31 PM on October 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm interrogating you? I even haven't asked you any questions for Christ's sake! I've been explaining myself in response to your you!

You're right. You didn't ask a single direct question. I don't think you really responded to my points, either, but it seems like you have already made up your mind about how you feel about these kinds of conversations. I don't agree about the shibboleths or about the idea that "social justice rhetoric" used here is empty. So you're also right that it probably is entirely unproductive for us to keep engaging with one another if that's a point of view you're simply not open to changing.
posted by Miko at 4:35 PM on October 28, 2012


Very offensive, then Miko picked up the ball and ran with it. Hope that's clear.

Considering you have still failed to quote anything by Miko that backs up your claim that she's been rhetorically "swinging her fist" and "beating [you] up" and therefore should "change [her] behavior"? No, it's not clear at all.
posted by scody at 4:40 PM on October 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yeah, Lord Sludge played this last night, mischaractirzed my comment, pretty successfully, and is now trying to suggest that Miko has accused him of something. She hasn't, nor did I yesterday, as if clear from the context of my comment, which is a direct response to Lord Sludge's. But here we have a little encapsulation of the problem here on Metafilter. We are all expected to take care of the guy who says that his comments are routinely seen as sexist by others on the sight. It's a great derail, that guy accusing others of really hurting him. It is, as Miko points out, indistinguishable from the actions of a concern troll.
posted by OmieWise at 4:41 PM on October 28, 2012 [5 favorites]


Quite the opposite. I have no idea where you got there, but whatevs. I meant what I say. A great many people on Metafilter use social justice language as a shibboleth. If you sprach the lingo, and come have similar conclusions as whatever group is dominating a given thread, you can do ok, if you don't you're gonna get burned.

You can keep saying that I'm deliberately misinterpreting you but this is not my experience on this site at all. I find that people who use social justice language are usually pretty familiar with social justice in general (thus the language) and often have a better understanding of subtle or advanced issues than those who don't. The language also carries a lot of nuance which is useful in these discussions, and the reason that the language exists. No one has to use the language, but there's a robust field of study behind these issues, and understanding the language & having spent time with difficult concepts often go hand-in-hand.

Unless you post the most ponderous, over-explained crap imaginable, people will find any possible opening and rip into you. Probably even then. Don't tell me it doesn't happen, I've fucking seen it myself. I'll be damned if I'm going to share something about myself, some feeling or opinion, just to see it used as ammunition in some fight that I'm not even a part of.

This happens constantly on both sides and I usually spent a great deal of time and energy writing long, personal comments to try to substantiate my perspectives. You can refuse to participate, but it's not something that only happens to people who don't use social justice language.
posted by stoneandstar at 4:47 PM on October 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


We are all expected to take care of the guy who says that his comments are routinely seen as sexist by others on the sight.

I'm not generally characterized as a sexist on MeFi, and I also thought you were full of shit, and said so. You were making big, catastrophic statements that didn't really apply directly to anything anyone had said, and that's not really that cool. I was surprised Miko endorsed your POV, because your MO and hers are not the same at all. She's a reasonable thinker who actually speaks in specifics. You're just all like, "Ohhhhh, you're cancer. You're cancer." That's not really an argument. I too am not super excited about sexist behavior, but you don't get to be right just because yay you're not a sexist. It's terrific that you're not a sexist, I really commend you for this trait that should basically be a default setting for all people on earth, but so what? In essence, you concluded this guy embodied some trait you don't like and went straight to personally insulting a strawman. It's gross behavior and if you were endorsing a POV that was unpopular on the site you'd have been savaged mercilessly for it.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 4:58 PM on October 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


Ding! That's it exactly, thanks kfb
posted by LordSludge at 5:05 PM on October 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


A great many people on Metafilter use social justice language as a shibboleth. If you sprach the lingo, and come have similar conclusions as whatever group is dominating a given thread, you can do ok, if you don't you're gonna get burned.

This is exactly what I meant when I said "when people make the conversation into one of shibboleths and bona fides, they're assuming that privilege is merely an academic concept." You're assuming we're playing some kind of bratty academic in-group game where you have to toe the line with your language and conclusions when it is no more complicated than that some feminist users on this site agree. You're doing the same work of demonization that you're so angry about. I can only think of rare instances where people here have used social justice language just to get a pass or fit in; it's blindingly obvious when people use the language without understanding or caring about it. And as for using privilege as a bludgeon-- I fail to see the problem in pointing out privilege. Yes, it is a useful tool for introspection, and I've been led to introspection by other people pointing out my privilege many times.

And I realize you didn't say that only feminists are the ones demanding "ponderous, over-explained crap," but you seem to really be targeting "social justice language" as empty and vapid when it actually does a great job of making crap less ponderous and over-explained. We're trying to communicate in a more succinct way, not exclude people for superficial reasons, though you are continually attributing extremely uncharitable motives to us.
posted by stoneandstar at 5:07 PM on October 28, 2012


So once again, LordSludge, you have a problem with OmieWise, not Miko?
posted by stoneandstar at 5:11 PM on October 28, 2012


In essence, you concluded this guy embodied some trait you don't like and went straight to personally insulting a strawman.

Yeah, it's clear to me that I made some sort of misstatement in my comment, because still, to me, in context, my comment reads as what I meant it to say. To whit: Lord Sludge's comment indicates that he is routinely seen to be making sexist statements. In that case, I have very little sympathy for him, and I think he should look to himself in this instance. I literally do not know who Lord Sludge is. I did not drag his name into this thread, I did not accuse him of being a sexist. I simply responded to his comment here. I'm really at a bit of a loss to understand why this was a mistake, and when I reread my comment, I still am at a loss. I mostly think that the response to my comment reads it in the worst possible way, which is kind of ironic given the nature of the objections to the way the feminists on this site operate.

But I also understand that I pushed it too far in this thread, and that suggesting that you have no sympathy for sexists is a bridge too far on Metafilter.
posted by OmieWise at 5:13 PM on October 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


But I also understand that I pushed it too far in this thread, and that suggesting that you have no sympathy for sexists is a bridge too far on Metafilter.

The problem is suggesting you have no sympathy for a particular person on whom you have pasted a label they clearly reject. That they reject it doesn't mean they don't deserve it, but when it's something charged and nasty you might want to tread a little more carefully.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 5:19 PM on October 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Which behavior?! Honestly, what am I doing wrong? Is the problem really just that I am still talking?

apparently a woman's spoken too long
posted by flabdablet at 5:21 PM on October 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


shit parade: I, personally, would greatly appreciate if people who have studied gender theory etc would chime in with the major insights from the field

Speaking as one of the labelled feminist bullies, I'm not sure an attempt to appeal to authority would help anything. Yes, I have well over a decade's experience in psychology, a Masters in clinical psych, a solid undergrad with sociology and anthropology, I stay relatively current in a number of social justice communities including ones based around gender, and I practice psychology. I stay current with research, especially in gender studies, because it is an area of particular interest. I am very good at reading studies and analyzing how they are put together, I can distinguish between experiments and quasi-experiments, etc... etc... the standard skills in my field.

The chances that the people who disregard my "anecdotes" and my "studies" alike will be swayed by a recitation of my education, and continuing interest and reading, is really unlikely.



The Socratic method, while fun in one-on-one interactions, really falls apart when the person on the other side refuses to engage. It works well when there is a disparity of power (i.e. Socrates and his students) and less well when there is no disparity, or the disparity goes the other way (i.e. feminists and people who disagree with feminists). I use it sometimes with my clients, but the Socratic method can also come off as very hostile; Socrates himself in his treatise on friends (blanking on the Latin name, but it's a fun read once you realize what he's doing) used it to essentially make fun of the people he was using it against. Good reading, but if I'd been there I would have verbally torn him a new one (which was part of his point).

Did I mention I read ancient philosophers as a hobby? I argue with them aloud, too.



shit parade: By analogy, someone could be all for MLK and even think Malcolm X had his good points, but begin to get somewhat leery of the black panther movement without being roundly decried as a racist.

Interestingly, in the LA branch of the Black Panthers, not only did they run a very successful and racially blind school breakfast program (racially blind meaning all poor children had access t it, regardless of race, and many white children benefited from the Black Panthers' generosity) but a lot of what they did was a slightly more jacked-up version of the current trend of photographing the police. They watched the police, armed appropriately to the local laws. The fact that Black Panthers get a lot of media coverage as being violent and angry, and very little to no media coverage for feeding children, is a situation I've found eye opening.



I am really, really disturbed at someone telling Miko to "stop swinging" though, and characterizing her as beating people up when she is being very measured in her language. This tendency to redefine women's words as somehow overly violent, and women's perceptions as muddled because instead of making up our own minds we're simply following along with someone else (often presumed male - as the dynamic between Omniwise (misleading male) and Miko (mislead and violent female) seems to have been.

This is a pattern which exists well outside of MetaFilter and it is also reproduced within MetaFilter, and it is a problem.

I would quote, but the last time this issue came up I was informed that quoting and responding to a specific person was bullying, and so now I am operating via generalities with regards to that person.
posted by Deoridhe at 5:33 PM on October 28, 2012 [16 favorites]


LordSludge, you seem to be having some trouble understanding how you're coming across. Let me walk you through this comment of yours to explain to you why people are reacting to you like they are. Honestly, it's so off-putting that at first I thought you were being parodic.

But I don't think you're trying to be a dick, if I thought so I'd have no compunction about telling you so. Anyway, let me do a bit of amateur rhetorical analysis of that comment.

-women's opinions matter

Of course they do. I agree. I have always agreed. I agreed before the thread in question, I agreed during the thread in question, and I agree now.


The kind of repetition you use here, using the verb "to agree" five times (which then reappears in different forms in each of the first two sentence of the next paragraph) and repeating the phrase "the thread in question," is the sort of speech pattern that people use when they're hectoring someone. As an opening statement it's explosive. It makes you seem like you're angrily denouncing Miko.

Miko, we are in agreement. I don't think anybody, even SP, disagrees with this statement. Have you been operating under the assumption that I think women's opinions don't matter?? If so, where on Earth do you get this?? (And I want specifics, with context, so we can correct any misstatements on my part or misunderstanding on yours. Enough with the generalities.)

You're misinterpreting Miko's comment. She wasn't saying that you thought women's opinions don't matter, she was saying that she agreed with OmieWise's stance, that women's opinions matter.

We're on the same team, Miko. Stop swinging your fists. Just. Stop. You're beating somebody up (namely me) who already agrees with you. And your associates are joining in the beating, without bothering to check the veracity of your claims. This is what I object to.

Here you move into metaphor. Now, there is a great variety in types of metaphor. The one you're using here asks the person you're speaking to, in this case Miko, to imagine herself performing an action. This is a very direct, extremely effective rhetorical tactic. Human beings can't help but see in their mind's eye what they are told. In this particular case, you're asking her to picture herself doing something very upsetting, namely beating another human being up, another human being that that is begging her to stop beating him up. Then you further make the image distasteful to contemplate by making it a mass beat-down, a horde of people assaulting you.

Everyone else who reads this will either picture themselves or Miko beating you up, while you beg her to stop. It's an image that makes me uncomfortable to envision. It evokes strong emotions and unsettles those of us who read your comment.

This type of metaphor is very manipulative, and nakedly so. It's hard to read without thinking that you're trying to rile people up. Again, I don't think you are, but that's how your comment reads.

Please consider the implications. If you're wrong about this -- and you are -- it's a really lousy thing to do to somebody. Please also consider what it does for feminism and what it does for Metafilter. We can talk about that if you like.

People, as a rule, prefer to please people around them. Begging someone to do something plugs straight into part of people's brains that want to please. You add further emotional weight to your already emotionally loaded rhetoric by putting it into a context that your interlocutors value highly, namely feminism and MetaFilter. This is raises even higher the already quite high emotional stakes.

You use repetition here again, repeating "please consider," which makes it seem like you're on the verge of tears. It's actually quite interesting how you've moved very quickly and efficiently from the rhetoric of outrage to the rhetoric of pleading. A side effect of that whiplash change makes it seem like you're just about breaking down from the weight of unfair accusation against you. Which, as I hope I demonstrated above, is merely a misunderstanding.

Please, I'm begging you, Miko, please consider altering your behavior.

The repetition of "please" again. Three out of your final five sentences begin with the word please. As I've mentioned above, that sort of repetition is itself quite emotionally loaded. In general people don't repeat themselves that much unless they're in very acute emotional turmoil.

The total rhetorical effect of your comment is this: 'You feel you have been grievously wounded. The person you've identified as the person who's wounded you must alleviate your pain by acknowledging her sin.'

You use a lot of very sophisticated rhetorical devices, and your comment is thus quite interesting in its rhetoric, but the problem is that you've misinterpreted one claim, 'it is reasonable to think that the opinions of women matter,' to mean something completely different, 'you, LordSludge, think women's opinions don't matter.'

That you turn up the rhetorical volume, so to speak, to get others to accept your erroneous interpretation, is what makes people react so strongly to your comment. You are forcing Miko to apologize for something that she didn't do, namely accuse you of thinking that women's opinions don't matter.

One last thing. Though your rhetorical tactics are quite sophisticated, I think your rhetorical strategy is off base. A forced apology never has the same weight as a genuine apology. It is humiliating to be forced to apologize. Forcing someone to apologize is what you do to a child. Being treated like a child is very humiliating for a grown adult. Treating women like children is a defining feature of sexism.

As I said way at the beginning of this comment, if I thought you were a dick I would tell you. And I certainly wouldn't bother to write all this. However, you are off base here in your rhetoric, and you are, for reasons I hope to have made clear, riling people up in this thread.
posted by Kattullus at 5:38 PM on October 28, 2012 [20 favorites]


stoneandstar: So once again, LordSludge, you have a problem with OmieWise, not Miko?

Incorrect. I have a problem with both -- and a few folks from the Simple Question thread, which is related. It went off the rails, for me, when I offered a possible explanation of what's going on in a guy's head when he inappropriately hits on women -- the problematic behavior in question -- making very, very, VERY clear that this was in no way excusing the behavior. My idea was that if there is a bad behavior, its important to understand the psychology behind the behavior, so that it can more readily be modified. Went over like a brick balloon -- the response was, essentially "I can't believe you're excusing this behavior!!" (Paraphrasing, but I'll pull quotes if you like.) Jessamyn tried to quell things, but it kinda snowballed and got ugly in there. I was starting to feel bullied, so I left.

So then we have this thread, in which a user tries to address the issue. And in which I relay my concerns about the Simple Question thread. OmieWise busts out his thinly veiled accusation, which I'll get to in a bit, and Miko piles on, operating on the assumption that I am indeed a sexist based on.... nothing, and attributing all sorts of vile motivations. I'm upset with him for calling me a sexist. I'm even more upset with her for just assuming that to be the case and piling on more and more vitriol, hence the "stop swinging" plea.

At this point, I have a problem with both of them. Clear?
posted by LordSludge at 5:42 PM on October 28, 2012


Thanks, Kat', I appreciate the detailed analysis. At that point I truly did feel like she was beating the fuck out of me for something I didn't do, and yeah that pissed me off. I'll re-read your comment and respond if I have questions or whatnot.
posted by LordSludge at 5:46 PM on October 28, 2012


And thanks (I think?) for the sophisticated rhetoric, um, compliment (?). (No training here, I promise.) But if you ask me, I'm doing a shit job of it!
posted by LordSludge at 5:50 PM on October 28, 2012


It's as though some people are so hell-bent on fighting their demons that they'll turn any Other into an opportunity to do so. So then you have to defend yourself against something you never said, never intended,

LordSludge - i will admit that i find your arguments difficult to follow and i feel like i misread you, so i don't respond because i don't want to pile on or misread or mischaracterize. but, i feel like you are doing what you complained about here to Miko. i think you misunderstood/misread/mischaracterized what she was saying and then got very upset about that and argued what you thought she said. no matter how many people pointed out that's not what she said (including Miko herself) you kept insisting she had accused you of something.
posted by nadawi at 5:59 PM on October 28, 2012 [4 favorites]


The problem is suggesting you have no sympathy for a particular person on whom you have pasted a label they clearly reject.

Oh, for Christ's sake. Go back and read the comments that started this whole mess. Lord Sludge made a comment at 3:31 that suggested that others on Metafilter consistently misunderstand his comments as sexist. He lamented that he was repeatedly misunderstood in this. At 5:46 I responded, saying that I took his comment to be a plea for sympathy, and that I was not sympathetic. Clearly this was in the context of his comment. At 6:09 Lord Sludge called for me to back up my accusations that he's a sexist with example, and at 7:36 I stated that I had not idea who he was, and that I was responding to his own characterization of his comments. It should be clear that I'm only responding to his own characterization. I say as much. The subsequent narrative in this thread, that I was accusing Lord Sludge of being a sexist, makes no sense if my second comment responding to him admits that I have no idea who he is. Seriously, I never accused him of being a sexist, and I have no idea who he is prior to this thread. It's true that I have no sympathy for him given his characterization of the reactions to his comments, but that's not really the kind of sin that's it's being painted as.
posted by OmieWise at 5:59 PM on October 28, 2012


OmieWise busts out his thinly veiled accusation

Seriously, there is no thinly veiled accusation. There is no accusation at all. You're acting like a baby. I was responding to your comment, you chucklehead. If you don't want to seem like a sexist concern troll, you should strive to not make conversations about sexism all about your feelings.
posted by OmieWise at 6:03 PM on October 28, 2012


I was surprised Miko endorsed your POV

I''ll try to clarify.

I do endorse the idea, expressed by OmieWise in this comment, that the assertion that there's a "mob" on MeFi who eagerly attack people for sexism when they've done nothing at all sexist is not supported. I agree with OmieWise that there are sometimes people on the site who use a stated concern about "misandry" or "false accusations of sexism" to try to maintain a space for subtly (or not) sexist comments to be excused as beyond challenge. And I agree with him that that's lousy.

Now, there are some complexities, which is why we're still here. Those people exist, but also existing are people who really do intend to align with feminists, and have at times or all the time or sometimes been allies, but are acting from unchecked privilege and don't recognize it (or perhaps accept it) when they've voiced an idea that is sexist, or has sexist implications, and are challenged on it or asked to reconsider it.

Sometimes those people feel unduly attacked as a sexist person who is always outwardly or secretly a sexist, when in fact it's not the person, but the implications of that view that are being called sexist. That distinction is sometimes ignored.

I did point out that all of us sometimes blurt out sexist views even when we don't intend to ascribe to them, that it's hard not to when you've been raised in a society that teaches them. It is so possible to be a dedicated and wholehearted feminist and still occasionally espouse untested and unchallenged sexist views that many people, myself quite included, do that on occasion. To say that a view someone expressed is one that is or could be considered sexist is not to say that that person isn't a committed feminist or hasn't been a staunch ally on women's issues or doesn't consider themselves a person with a generally egalitarian mindset. The one doesn't follow the other incontrovertibly. But I (at least) believe that an important part of consistently fighting sexism is to call out sexist views when they're aired, by whomever they're aired. As I noted before, it happened to me in the coffee thread, so I know what it's like.

But when someone has their sexist idea/implication called out, and chooses to dig in and mount accusations against people who addressed that idea that they are wrong, overly hostile, have gone too far, are bullies (just for noting it), or make the site climate too narrow and boring, it really does begin to seem as though we're no longer talking about the implications of a sexist idea, but about how the feminists need to be quieter and stop calling out sexism at all, because their views and critiques aren't genuine, they're "fighting demons" that aren't present, and they're using those present as scapegoat.

And that can really only read as an attempt to control the dialogue, using shame or indictment to suggest that it's never fair to call these ideas out, or to even question the presumed passionate and obvious nonsexism of the person airing the view.

When you've had a sexist idea critiqued, it might seem like there's no other response possible than to make those accusations that people are reading sexism into something where it isn't present, and going beyond that as some (not all) do, make a habit of it and form "mobs" to bully people who did nothing wrong. For instance, LordSludge described the responses he could see available to him as:
you have to defend yourself against something you never said, never intended... if you don't, if you just let the falsely-attributed motives ride, you're tacitly admitting that, yeah, I have horrible motives that are indefensible so I'll just slink away
If you imagine that these are the only two possible responses - you've been "attacked," so counterattack/go on the defensive, or admit your horrible motives - you probably would feel cornered and in a bind, and decide that the attack is the way to go.

But these aren't the only possible responses to someone saying "hey, you may not realize it, but the view you just aired has some sexist implications and here they are." Stoneandstar and space cookie wrote two great comments about the possible responses that are also available.
stoneandstar: Not a single time did I find that the person lobbing the accusation was simply being hysterical and unfair; every single time it's been a good, if not necessary opportunity to think about what I was saying that was getting on their nerves, think about why I was saying it, and apologize in good faith.

space cookie: Because I have a pretty big knowledge gap, the onus is on me to hang back in discussions about these issues and listen, pay attention, monitor my own fighty and defensive emotional reactions to the experiences being described (Hey! I'm not one of those clueless straight people, I'm on your side!) explore bibliographies etc.
So nobody's really in a bind there. Even if you don't think one of these kinds of responses is exactly the one you'd choose, there are lots of possible response choices to make.

The comment I made that I think must have occasioned some of this, though it hasn't been linked, talked about why a view that was proffered is a tactic sometimes used by sexists but isn't entirely a valid argument. That doesn't mean it's immediately time to draw swords and call that an accusation of being a sexist, especially because I took care to handle that comment as if it were extremely fragile, and made sure I didn't call anybody sexist or even imply that they were. Instead, it's possible to not respond, or to respond "hm, well I don't see it that way," or "I'll think about it some more," or "I see your point sometimes but not these other times, what do you say to that" or "can you explain more" or "really, you surprise me, do other people see this the same way?" or "But I think you're overlooking a very real dynamic" or any of an enormous range of other responses, some of which include maybe reviewing your idea and its validity.

But if your choice instead is to go "people keep calling me sexist! Look at these terrible people calling me sexist when I air a view that leans toward or contributes to or apologizes for or covers up for or is often used to defend sexism!" it's hard to continue viewing the participation as good faith. When people choose not to use any of the other responses, but begin continually asserting that they're coming from "good faith" and are horrified and wronged by what they see as accusations of sexism, it's reasonable to wonder about that. Because when you're coming from good faith, responses like those above are the ones you more often try to choose. That's what good faith looks like. They're great demonstrations of good faith.

Digging in and holding a self-defensive position and taking negative interpretations of fair comments as further slights to prove those accusations of ill treatment are not really strong evidence of good faith -- though they are certainly very human reactions, especially when getting privilege called out is a relatively new experience.

The only other comment of OmieWise's which I took up directly were the two Snyder challenged. He seemed to be calling OmieWise's arguments empty rhetoric, and I didn't agree that OmieWise's comments were empty - I thought them substantive, in the way Deoridhe describes. Stripping the comments of the tone that may have angered Snyder, I listed three of the propositions OmieWise was actually making, to illustrate that they do in fact have substance that means something in my life. Women's opinions matter, apologizing for sexism contributes to its continuance and all the ill effects that result, and there is no "mob" tilting at windmills.

I try not to get vociferous in my comments. One, because it's generally not my style, but two, because I know well that if I ever did indulge in direct attacks, I'd be called out for that tone issue, and then the seriousness of my points would not be heard. In other words, especially as a feminist woman, I can't afford the luxury of losing it most of the time, even when the situation warrants; once painted as a 'hothead' it would make it much more difficult not to be dismissed later, even when not acting angry. So I don't want my approach conflated with anyone else's, even when I agree with them in spirit, as I generally do with OmieWise. I think you can talk with me about the points of OmieWise's I chose to pick up and isolate for discussion, because I do espouse those views, but if anyone is upset about his tone or the extent to which he was speaking to someone personally as an individual, that's something to take up with him, because I wasn't "carrying the ball" for that. I wanted to recognize the truth in what he was saying and talk about that, so that we didn't get stuck talking only about the appropriateness of the tone, and not about the issues named.
posted by Miko at 6:06 PM on October 28, 2012 [21 favorites]


OmieWise/LordSludge, this needs to be a little more discussion and a little less personal name calling from this point forward.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:12 PM on October 28, 2012


operating on the assumption that I am indeed a sexist

Where do you see this?

At that point I truly did feel like she was beating the fuck out of me for something I didn't do

I'm not beating anybody. I'm just writing words. This is me being pretty chill, not me "beating."
posted by Miko at 6:20 PM on October 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


So OmieWise, here again is the comment of yours that set me off, that Miko took and ran with:

I'll be honest. What I read in your statement, which I guess I am supposed to be sympathetic to and which is meant to persuade me that there are Real PeopleTM behind the sexist comments, is that you have spent a long time on this site being either so oblivious or so un-self-reflexive that people routinely read your comments as sexist, and yet you still feel that the problem is with some "mob" that simply doesn't give you the benefit of the doubt. Maybe you should spend some time thinking about the implications of that. I'm sorry this isn't a transparently easy place for you to keep making sexist comments.

Again, this last line is what set me off:

I'm sorry this isn't a transparently easy place for you to keep making sexist comments. (emphasis mine)

This strongly implies that I make sexist comments, and I desire to keep making them -- without verifying that I have, indeed, make any sexist comments, ever. That's why I'm pissed. I'm not pulling any rhetorical chicanery, as you suggest. I. Was. Pissed.

But I also understand that I pushed it too far in this thread, and that suggesting that you have no sympathy for sexists is a bridge too far on Metafilter.

Aaaaand there you go again. I too have no sympathy for sexists. I do have some sympathy for folks falsely accused of such, however.

Look, if you didn't mean it, you didn't mean it. Really poorly worded, IMO, but we lose some communication on this web thingy. A vile accusation and a poorly worded phrase are two very different things, so... How about I just be a teeny bit miffed at you for poorly-wording things -- esp. around such a touchy subject -- and we call it a day?

This has been exhausting. And on preview I see Miko has another comment (only skimmed yet but it looks really cool) which I should probably address. THE END IS NEAR oh god I hope.
posted by LordSludge at 6:22 PM on October 28, 2012


LordSludge, I see your point of view more clearly now, but there were also several points where you said things I'd call sexist. For example:

Trouble is, for many, perhaps most, guys sex is kinda like air: If you're getting it regularly, it's no big deal. If you're not, it can become all-consuming

This is a sentiment which you later seemed to backtrack on, so I'm assuming you wouldn't state it the same way now (you went on to say later that maybe male and female sex drives were the same). But if someone is saying "people are calling me sexist, and I find it uncharitable, because I'm a feminist," I don't really know what we're supposed to do with the above statement. Not call it out, even though someone calling it out led you to reconsider, a positive outcome? Or only point out sexism without saying "sexism," while being super polite about it, and assuring you we know you're a feminist? That doesn't seem practical, especially since you called me out in that thread by telling me not to speak for all women and that my opinion was "easily-refuted bullshit" (which it's not, and you didn't refute it). In other words, it really seems like you're asking for special treatment because you're a feminist.

And for the record, I think Miko raised very interesting points throughout both threads which you seem to be taking very personally, and that you are putting way too much weight on potentially being called a sexist, and way too little on actually engaging in conversation about sexism, which does not a good feminist make.
posted by stoneandstar at 6:32 PM on October 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


Aaaaand there you go again.

No I don't.
posted by OmieWise at 6:32 PM on October 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


I wonder if some of the disconnect might be between people who focus on the details and people who see the patterns in interactions.

I'm a pattern-seer. It makes me rubbish on notes, but I'm really good at observing, identifying, and verbalizing patterns. (even with psychotic people! Though arguably, it's easier with psychosis to notice the patterns.)

People who don't see the larger pattern and aren't used to seeing discrimination within the systematic framework that most of the literature now uses to explain the phenomena of continuing discrimination (including the creation and maintenance of subtle things, like dog-whistles) can get so focused on the individual detail (I can dispute each of these actions as being discriminatory! All of them have a REASON!) that they miss the patterns.

This is exacerbated by racially or gender "blind" people who do not perceive their own awareness of the genders of others, and so can legitimately claim to be unaware while simultaneously responding to people in gendered ways (insults for the men, shame and guilt for the women, all of you are ruining feminism!).

I was a colorblind racist for years, so I know how it can feel to think one is "beyond" race or gender. There really is significant evidence through the Project Implicit that while we may not consciously be aware of the extent to which we are aware of peoples' demographics, that we respond to them automatically and below the level of consciousness.
posted by Deoridhe at 6:34 PM on October 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm not pulling any rhetorical chicanery, as you suggest. I. Was. Pissed.

One helpful thing that people can do when they find themselves infuriated by something written in a discussion forum is simply to avoid responding until the lizard brain has stopped calling the shots and the prefrontal cortex is back online.

Also: lighten up, Francis.
posted by flabdablet at 6:35 PM on October 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


For the record, there's no shame in occasionally saying something sexist. Everyone does it. Women say sexist things about women without even noticing, because that's the kind of culture we live in. It is really a tremendous waste of time and energy for the entire conversation to become about one person's offense at being called sexist, and it's a pattern that happens again and again, which many feminists have noted and pointed out, again and again. That's why Gygesringtone's ending comment in the other thread was really worth more thought than you seemed to give it, and why I and others have given personal examples of how to productively deal with being told you're not as sensitive as you think you are.
posted by stoneandstar at 6:42 PM on October 28, 2012 [4 favorites]


>Trouble is, for many, perhaps most, guys sex is kinda like air: If you're getting it regularly, it's no big deal. If you're not, it can become all-consuming

This is a sentiment which you later seemed to backtrack on, so I'm assuming you wouldn't state it the same way now (you went on to say later that maybe male and female sex drives were the same). But if someone is saying "people are calling me sexist, and I find it uncharitable, because I'm a feminist," I don't really know what we're supposed to do with the above statement. Not call it out, even though someone calling it out led you to reconsider, a positive outcome? Or only point out sexism without saying "sexism," while being super polite about it, and assuring you we know you're a feminist? That doesn't seem practical, especially since you called me out in that thread by telling me not to speak for all women and that my opinion was "easily-refuted bullshit" (which it's not, and you didn't refute it). In other words, it really seems like you're asking for special treatment because you're a feminist.


So that statement is out of context, particularly missing the five COUNT EM FIVE times I explicitly said this did not excuse the behavior, but perhaps helped explain it.

And for the record, I think Miko raised very interesting points throughout both threads which you seem to be taking very personally, and that you are putting way too much weight on potentially being called a sexist, and way too little on actually engaging in conversation about sexism, which does not a good feminist make.

I agree she raises good points! And it's a shame I didn't feel I could engage with her more. But try being called a sexist -- or racist or pedophile or whatever you personally despise -- with folks piling on their favorites, implying "oh yep you're a pedophile alright", followup comments "why are pedophiles always like this?" and "I really hate how you defend yourself and other pedophiles".... and lets see how zen you can be about it.
posted by LordSludge at 6:44 PM on October 28, 2012


>operating on the assumption that I am indeed a sexist

Where do you see this?


It's pervasive, inherent in your admonishments for me to stop doing sexist things. May I?

I do endorse the idea, expressed by OmieWise in this comment, that the assertion that there's a "mob" on MeFi who eagerly attack people for sexism when they've done nothing at all sexist is not supported.

I think it is, and I can cite examples. This is probably the core of our disagreement.

There's more to address in your lengthy post, but I'm getting kicked out of this cafe. I'll try to get to it tomorrow, but Hurricane Sandy/coast-to-coast travel/questionable wifi service means I may not be able.

Gnight all.

(iPad autocorrects "gnight" to "gunfight"! Fuuuuck me.)
posted by LordSludge at 6:47 PM on October 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


please don't use the sexual assault of children as a metaphor. there is a giant difference between "i think the thing you said was sexist" and "you have a sexual desire for prepubescent children that you act upon."
posted by nadawi at 6:49 PM on October 28, 2012 [12 favorites]


But try being called a sexist -- or racist or pedophile or whatever you personally despise -- with folks piling on their favorites, implying "oh yep you're a pedophile alright", followup comments "why are pedophiles always like this?" and "I really hate how you defend yourself and other pedophiles".... and lets see how zen you can be about it.

You've made a couple of comments about favorites, and I wanted to address this - this is a really inaccurate way to look at them, and thinking about them that way will make you crazy. Miko's comment in that thread was a really useful, detailed explanation of how a particular conversational dynamic goes south, and it's totally possible to read and want to save and/or approve of it without having the least idea of who was the original inspiration for it. I get that you were feeling attacked and piled-on there, but please consider that at least a chunk of that was pure interpretation and not actually text.

It's pervasive, inherent in your admonishments for me to stop doing sexist things.

This is also a really unhealthy way to look at things (as several people above have tried to point out.) It is possible for people who do not consciously espouse a sexist ideology to do sexist things. In fact, it is likely. If you do a thing that people say is sexist, and you assume that they are saying something about your character rather than your behavior, and you focus on defending yourself from that perceived attack, you are way less likely to understand and change that behavior - which makes you more likely to do the same sexist thing in the future, despite the fact that you still aren't ideologically a sexist.

I assume you've seen the Jay Smooth video? If not, I recommend it. It's useful to think through the patterns of action and reaction in these conversations. (Substitute "sexist" for "racist," it works fine.)
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 6:56 PM on October 28, 2012 [11 favorites]


If you do a thing that people say is sexist, and you assume that they are saying something about your character rather than your behavior, and you focus on defending yourself from that perceived attack, you are way less likely to understand and change that behavior - which makes you more likely to do the same sexist thing in the future, despite the fact that you still aren't ideologically a sexist.

More than this, by keeping it focused on the behavior you can disagree and discuss without anyone needing to have a head-explosion. "That thing you did is siexist and shitty!" "I'm sorry you think so, but let me explain how it's not sexist and shitty, and in fact is egalitarian and awesome." etc.

Language like "mobs" in this context is, honestly, kind of sexist language. (As in, mobs are unreasoning creatures of emotions, and those kinds of characterizations have a long history of being used to dismiss feminist concerns.) That doesn't necessarily mean the people using that language are themselves sexists, but since this is a MeTa thread and we are talking about more effective and less effective communication options, using sexist language is demonstrably not an effective communication choice.

And taking two steps back (going meta-meta, as it were) the overall pattern remains the same in thread after thread after thread, where a small number of men make the discussion about their displeasure with the language and wording of feminists. That's a crappy pattern and its primary function is to derail these discussions. Again, the specific people involved may or may not have any intention of repeating this pattern and may well not even be aware of it -- I'm not criticizing bad intentions, but rather deploring bad outcomes and bad patterns.
posted by Forktine at 7:10 PM on October 28, 2012 [10 favorites]


the overall pattern remains the same in thread after thread after thread, where a small number of men make the discussion about their displeasure with the language and wording of feminists.

I have been finding comments along those lines much easier to ignore since some well-meaning and apparently sincere fool inadvertently taught me to think of them as "shrill".
posted by flabdablet at 7:17 PM on October 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


So that statement is out of context, particularly missing the five COUNT EM FIVE times I explicitly said this did not excuse the behavior, but perhaps helped explain it.

It's sexist because it implies that the male sex drive is different from the female sex drive to the extent that it motivates the behavior in question. Women understand what it's like not to have sex, too. I don't think you even understand why people think your statements have been sexist.
posted by stoneandstar at 7:49 PM on October 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


And dude, lots of people in these discussions get called out and dial it back and act really constructively (even if they're a minority). Your issues with being called out are not everybody's.
posted by stoneandstar at 7:51 PM on October 28, 2012


try being called a sexist

Except that no one has called you a sexist.

It's pervasive, inherent in your admonishments for me to stop doing sexist things. May I ?

Well, first, where are my admonishments to you?

I went back through the thread again and I still have to see where at any time, I said "LordSludge, you really need to cut this shit out." I've found a whole lot of times where you tried doing that to me, even though I have mostly avoided directly addressing you at all. But I don't see any "admonishments" directed at you.

Second, "May I?" What's that implication, that I'm your mother? That you need my permission to act? Yuck. I don't control you. You have responsibility for what you do. Rhetoric rejected.

And finally , I wrote a long and carefully thought-out comment just above in which I discussed that "saying sexist things" is not the same as "being a sexist." Why ignore that? There is a difference, and I have taken pains during the entire time I have engaged with you to make that distinction. I view that as respectful. I view that as giving an interlocutor the benefit of the doubt that they don't mean to be saying something sexist. What they said is differentiated from who they are (that's what restless_nomad's video recommends too - it's not something I'm making up, but something that is a very widespread and frequently recommended way to be able to have conversations like this) .

I hear you saying you aren't a sexist and don't want to be seen as a sexist or called a sexist. Fair enough. Just a suggestion then, if you don't want to be seen as a sexist, you might want to change the way you respond to people who say "that thing you just did seems sexist" or "that thing you just did is something that helps sexism" or "that thing you just said is something sexists say a lot, did you mean it like that?"

I mean, if you really want to have conversations about sexism, this is an important distinction to understand and an important set of skills to have.
posted by Miko at 8:02 PM on October 28, 2012 [4 favorites]


For what it's worth, I'd like to enlarge my earlier apology to LordSludge for confusing him and another user. Reading all his comments in the original thread now in isolation from that mistaken identity, I really do think they paint a picture of someone who is speaking in good faith, who isn't starting from a twistedly kneejerk defensive position, and who is trying to explore -- explicitly without defending -- why there's a certain kind of bad behavior among a good number of men in the world. Things go downhill a touch when the defensiveness kicks in -- mostly in isolated phrases, I think -- but even the potential flameout here has been way more mild than the usual, no? Am I now being too generous?
posted by nobody at 8:33 PM on October 28, 2012


(Oh, and so you're totally right that the "and/or" in my earlier comment shouldn't have been directed toward you in the first place. Even after realizing you and SP were two different people, I still hadn't gone through and untangled what you had written from what others had written.)
posted by nobody at 8:36 PM on October 28, 2012


I call myself racist, have been called out on saying sexist things, and have referred to lines of my own thinking as sexist. I regularly catch myself being ableist - and it's one of the areas I struggle with most. I'm also very classist - again, area I struggle with a lot. I was a transphobic douchebag once and hurt someone I really admired. I referred to myself as an ex-colorblind racist in this very thread (and only ex because I stopped thinking I was colorblind, which started me actually combating my internalized racism instead of pretending I couldn't see race and we're all human anyway).

I had a whole long thread discussion on MeFi over my own racism, with me pointing it out and underlying how unacceptable my actions were. Honestly, at this point, if someone I disliked was to call me sexist I'd ask why and want some details to see if I agreed with them. Same with racist. Same with all of the other -isms. I also expect myself to track how people react to me - particularly in areas of privilege - to watch for times they don't engage with what I'm saying, and then try to figure out if and how I messed up (which is how I discovered my lovely transphobia, so at least it works).

I'm good with people calling me any and all of those. In fact, I'm grateful if people do, because that means I can hopefully learn how I'm thinking about things in the wrong way and what I can do to fix that, since I'd rather not be any of those things! It's not like it's their job to educate me, after all, so gratitude is the chosen approach.
posted by Deoridhe at 8:37 PM on October 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


. Things go downhill a touch when the defensiveness kicks in -- mostly in isolated phrases, I think

I actually never thought anything really went downhill at all and was totally blindsided by the "Wow. Just wow" comment and all the bile I and unspecified others have come in for here in this thread. Right up until then it was about as good as a MeFi conversation on male/female interactions ever gets.
posted by Miko at 8:47 PM on October 28, 2012


Yet another option for how to respond when your privilege is showing: once I told a lesbian friend of mine that it was nice for me and my guy to go to a nearby city, 'cause "we can hold hands in public and NO ONE EVEN LOOKS TWICE." She paused and gave me a sly look and said, "Huh. That must be so nice." Totally called me out. It was brilliant. I burst out laughing and she burst out laughing and she was totally right. This interaction assumes good faith on the part of both of us, of course, and she relished the dozen times that day that I again cracked up at myself and said she was right.
posted by lauranesson at 10:06 PM on October 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Trouble is, for many, perhaps most, guys sex is kinda like air: If you're getting it regularly, it's no big deal. If you're not, it can become all-consuming."

So that statement is out of context, particularly missing the five COUNT EM FIVE times I explicitly said this did not excuse the behavior, but perhaps helped explain it.


Lord Sludge, I feel as though you've missed something here. People were not responding to your earlier statement because they thought you were "excusing" an overactive male sex drive. They were responding to it because the entire phrasing is extremely gendered. Personally, any observation that falls into the template of "men go like this, but women go like that" deserves critical scrutiny.

You've described yourself as a feminist, which is fine, but part of being a male feminist is listening when women point out privileged thinking.

Also, Miko is pretty much ceaseless in her ability to engage in polite feminist discourse on Metafilter and I am frequently amazed at how calm she is when I would be spitting nails if I allowed myself near the comment box.
posted by jess at 2:53 AM on October 29, 2012


well, well, well, we've been havin' a foine time of it now, so we have......(hint: rural West Cork)

there have been some amazingly patient and thoughtful interactions on the various Blue and Grey threads. And what we often overlook is the multiplicity of small, thoughtful problem-specific interactions on the Green all hopefully taking us in the direction of Deoridhe's comment above, about thoughtful self analysis (Deoridhe, in Gaelic your username reads like the state of Georgia, for some reason I smile when I read it)

Restless Nomad, that Joe Smooth clip was fantastic, I would urge LordSludge (everyone really) to check in with it because I hope it puts and end to the emotive 'You're calling me a Paedophile!' seriously ugly turn this thread took.

I read the thread with a little bit of confusion:
LS: I was explaining why someone might do that thing and people called ME sexist!:
OW: if people are calling you sexist you need to look at what you're doing + Miko & multiple others:
LS No I don't because I didn't intend it to be sexist and now you're all piling on and I feel bullied


haven't we been here before? Has it gotten better? Or do the minority feel like we are conflating their nature with actions?
posted by Wilder at 3:22 AM on October 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm trying, really hard, to be very, very polite and considerate

But you come over as incoherent and rambling at best. I've been reading your contributions in the coffeeshop thread, the Meta thread you started about it as well as your comments here and I have no idea whatsoever what you're talking about, other than that you're disgruntled about something.
posted by MartinWisse at 6:04 AM on October 29, 2012


It appears that Omie-"I didn't label you as a sexist"-Wise has updated his profile to include a listing of sexists on metafilter.
posted by 0 at 6:43 AM on October 29, 2012


Yeah, I put that there last night in a fit of pique. Thanks for reminding me about it so I could take it away. I, in fact, did not label Lord Sludge a sexist in this thread.
posted by OmieWise at 7:05 AM on October 29, 2012


LOL. And I did not label you an asshole.
posted by 0 at 7:09 AM on October 29, 2012


Are you kidding me right now
posted by kittens for breakfast at 7:11 AM on October 29, 2012


Yeah, if your sole contribution here is to jump in with snide little attempts at troublemaking, maybe you could sort of not do that.
posted by ominous_paws at 7:13 AM on October 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I'm not sure who you are, although your favorites suggest that this issue is one close to your heart. I actually made kind of an effort to not drag in people's other posting history, or the stupid jokes on their profile pages, but you can draw your own lines.
posted by OmieWise at 7:17 AM on October 29, 2012


You have wandered far away from the topic. Far, far away.
posted by h00py at 7:24 AM on October 29, 2012


This "kind of an effort" is putting it on your profile page rather in the thread? Yeah, that's not a line of distinction I find very compelling. You called LS a sexist outright and all the Jay Smooth's in the world are not going to change that.

You've implied dozens of community members are sexists on dozens of occasions , as have hundreds other "anti-sexists" on this site. And this "labelling-actions-not-people" excuse gets trotted out every time, so yeah you can bet it will pointed out in instances like this when it's so obviously bullshit.
posted by 0 at 7:29 AM on October 29, 2012


Seriously 0, do you have anything to do, anything to contribute here other than to gutlessly lurk and wait for your chance to pounce on another user?
posted by ominous_paws at 7:35 AM on October 29, 2012


You called LS a sexist outright and all the Jay Smooth's in the world are not going to change that.

Check your MeMail please.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:38 AM on October 29, 2012


I didn't find anything in my MeMail which changes the fact you quoted either. Was I supposed to?
posted by 0 at 9:00 AM on October 29, 2012


It addressed the behavior we are seeing from you and concerns that we felt were better addressed privately. If you have any questions, please hit us up on the contact form.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:02 AM on October 29, 2012


So we're agreed on the fact then? OW called LS a sexist outright in his profile.

This would seem to have implications regarding the notion of "I'm calling out your actions not your character". This is a notion that is very frequently used to justify aggression towards other community members, and here is a case where it is obviously disingenuous despite the numerous assertions otherwise. I would like to see "you are a sexist" taken seriously as the insult that it is, so I am interested in the mod take on this instance versus other times the action-not-character excuse has been invoked. Do you see this case as an aberration? It seems pretty typical to me, except for the brief honesty in the profile bit.
posted by 0 at 9:45 AM on October 29, 2012


Yes 0. We have binders. Binders full of hundreds of anti-sexists on this site.

Just give it up. You're not going to win this one. Not by a mile.
posted by space_cookie at 9:49 AM on October 29, 2012


I hope we'll get a proper sockpuppet flameout out this.
posted by octobersurprise at 9:52 AM on October 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


There are different rules of different parts of the site and while we appreciate people not making things personal in the course of ongoing discussions on MetaFilter and Ask MetaFilter, it sometimes happens and we tell people to knock it off when it does. We've emailed with OmieWise about this. We have no stated policy on what people do or say on their profile pages and aren't considering creating one for this outlier instance of a thing that was on a profile page for, as near as we can tell, less than a day.

We take "You are a sexist" seriously as an insult, but it it not one of those things you can never say here, similar to "You are an asshole" and "You are a racist." We expect people to engage in good faith discussions about this sort of thing and calling people names is rarely part of a good faith discussion and is usually shut down when it starts happening but not always eliminated from the site entirely after the fact. None of this is new information, it's how the site has pretty much always run.

That's how it goes. If this is not okay with you, you know what your options are.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:53 AM on October 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


We take "You are a sexist" seriously as an insult

Great. Thank you. Back to lurking I go.
posted by 0 at 10:00 AM on October 29, 2012


And just to be crystal clear, this in no way represents a change in policy. This is how it has always been. If you intend to use our on-record statement about this as some sort of future gotcha, I would strongly suggest against it since you don't appear to have a great understanding of how we do things here.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:41 AM on October 29, 2012


That's not very charitable. :(
posted by 0 at 10:45 AM on October 29, 2012


Wow that's a serious amount of effort to go to 0, we're honoured you delurked just for that, a landmark moment in the history of gender relations and their discussion of metafilter. We'd never have managed without you. (Woops, actually we'd been managing fine as Jees' comment makes crystal clear)

getting back to the question I posed earlier, and now strangly confirmed by 0's drive-by intervention, we never will get people to accept that when we can out actions, terms, words, ways of phrasing we are not insulting them personally, are we?

Is there a term for that kind of almost deliberate desire to act the victim from the privilaged? Or is it simply privilage?

this thread has made me want to read a lot more nuanced stuff about this reaction. Here in the UK outside the major cities and Universities I do not see this level of discussion. I've really valued it here.
posted by Wilder at 10:46 AM on October 29, 2012


That's not very charitable. :(

Your behavior hasn't really inspired a sense of charity. If you want this to stop being a thing, please re-read that mefimail and try and figure this out on your end because we are not going to keep doing some stupid dance with you like this.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:51 AM on October 29, 2012


I would strongly suggest against it since you don't appear to have a great understanding of how we do things here.

Weirdly, I was thinking the opposite - that for a new user, 0 engages here in a way that seems wicked BND-ish.
posted by rtha at 10:55 AM on October 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


So welcome back... to myself. Again, I'll be traveling today, so I apologize I'm advance if I drop out for hours on end. Usually these planes have in-flight wifi, but you never know. Also, I didn't sleep well last night, the second night in a row, specifically due to this thread. I think I've brought enough 5 Hour Energies to keep myself lucid, but if I go off on a tangent and start ranting about aliens... well, fuck me, but I hope you're at least entertained. I also apologize if this patricular comment gets too GYOB and TR;DR, but I do feel it's relevant to my reaction here.

I need to back up a little before I continue -- and I will continue.

Metafilter is my internet home. Not reddit, not fark, not 4chan, not slashdot... (Is digg even still around?) It's Metafilter. There are reasons for that. I value the quality posts. I value the great discussions of those posts -- most other sites are all "TL;DR!!lol" if a comment goes past 3 sentences. Seriously, it's rough out there. Intelligent conversation is often actively discouraged. But not here. This is my awesome, cool, intelligent, inclusive liberal home.

In Real Life, I live in the Deep South, an area rampant with racism, sexism, backwards values, and all manner of conservative stupidity. Oh, don't get me wrong -- the people are super nice. See, I'm a white guy, no tattoos or piercings or other obvious liberal markers, and (I'm guessing a bit here) they just think I'm one of them. And it's all good, everybody's friendly! until my best friend goes on a rant about "damn n*ggers" or I show up at a house party and the host thinks its a great idea to proudly hang a straight-up Nazi swastika flag. These sorts of things happen regularly. I can't change these people; I've tried. Even worse, I see a lot of these values (save the most vile) espoused by my own family -- brothers, sisters, parents. Did you know that gay men are very likely to be pedophiles?? See, I did not know that -- thank you, brother-in-law! I see Ann Coulter has taught you well.. in her book... on your shelf. Very often the stuff I hear is so... insane... that I can't even formulate a cogent response. But I ramble. Point is, I can hardly even influence my own family. What is left to do but leave. I'm very fortunate, intensely privileged to have that option, and I am availing myself of it.

My stalkers -- oh how I love you all (all two of you?) -- will notice that my profile lists my location as Vancouver, BC. Through luck, privilege, and hard work I got a job there a year ago. I got an apartment downtown and am happily adapting to metro life. I love it there, partly because it's a far more liberal, healthy culture, and I feel it's a big step forward in my own personal development. Yay me.

I mention this because personal development is a Big Deal to me. I look back at myself 10 years and cringe. I look back 20 years and feel nauseous. I look back 30 years and, well, memory fades, perhaps blissfully so. No doubt future self will look back at present me at simply shake his head. But that's good; that means I'm still learning. Of course I'm not a "special snowflake". (just threw up in my mouth) I presume, unless otherwise informed, that everybody tries to learn and grow as they age.

It would be trite to say that I get up every day and work on my remaining sexist, racist, stupid biases. I'd love to say it, but it's not strictly true. Sometimes there's not ready opportunity, sometimes I just lack the energy, conviction, or courage. But I do think I'm on a good trajectory. I believe those biases are becoming few and far between, or at least consistently fewer and farther.

So I bristle at the suggestion that I'm slinging sexist remarks, that I'm not self-reflective, that I'm so oblivious to my privilege that I dismiss women's opinions. That wrong. And it hurts. I ask for specifics and I get "What, did I say something?? :blink:" and the next person comes along and piles on another accusation, just assuming that yup yup he must be a sexist because the previous person said so, etc., etc., etc., etc. (I hasten to draw a large distinction between "a sexist" and "having some vestigal sexist biases", which I believe we all do.)

I'm not trying to be all "pity me" or "be nice to me". By all means, if I say something racist or sexist, call me on it and let's talk. I hope that I have the courage and conviction to do the same. Rather, I'm trying explain that this is my home, my reputation is important to me, and I will not be lightly labeled a sexist. I will defend myself. I'm very, very tired, physically and emotionally, but I feel that if I take a self-imposed timeout without clearing my (user)name, that's as good as admitting guilt. I can't stop til we get to the bottom of this. Fuck "lighten up Francis" -- this is very important to me. I do appreciate mod intervention, but I feel that this particular case would take a fair bit of research into recent history to really understand, and I'm not sure that's fair to ask of them.

That's my face on my profile. (I did do the horns, because yay Halloween.) This is my home as well as yours. And I'll be damned (literally!) if I'll be labeled as a sexist (or racist or anti-Semitic or pedo or whatnot), without good reason, and I just accept that.**

Just as I hope to have the courage to stand up to sexists in the future, I hope that I too have the courage to help others stand up to baseless accusations and pile-ons should this happen again to another user.

** Miko -- I see you asking, "Where have I done this??" I'll get to that, and very precisely, but there's only so fast I can type on this silly iPad, and there are a LOT of accusations that need to be addressed. And in fairness to my employer, I do have to work at least some today...

And, apropos of nothing, a dear friend that I had feared dead just friended me on Facebook. There's some goddamn perspective. Maybe I should just retreat into not giving a fuck what assholes think of me... and install a greasemonkey script or two.
posted by LordSludge at 11:04 AM on October 29, 2012


jessamyn: OmieWise/LordSludge, this needs to be a little more discussion and a little less personal name calling from this point forward.

I don't see where I've done any name calling. If so, please point it out and I will apologize. Frankly, though, OmieWise calling me "chucklehead" and "baby" is just not that big a deal.

Him labeling me a "sexist" on his profile? Huge deal.
posted by LordSludge at 11:11 AM on October 29, 2012


octobersurprise: I hope we'll get a proper sockpuppet flameout out this.

What are you implying? Who are you calling a sockpuppet? Is this, perhaps, another baseless accusation? I'm really losing track.

jessamyn has already addressed this, upthread. Please either clarify or apologize. Sorry, but "I was just joking" isn't gonna cut it anymore.
posted by LordSludge at 11:22 AM on October 29, 2012


octobersurprise was referring to me, I believe.
posted by 0 at 11:23 AM on October 29, 2012


By all means, if I say something racist or sexist, call me on it and let's talk.

Isn't that what happened? You said something sexist in the coffee thread, and you were called on it.

So I bristle at the suggestion that [...] that I'm so oblivious to my privilege that I dismiss women's opinions.

But.. but.. that is happening. Here. Right now. You are doing this. Remember when you asked Miko to please reconsider talking about sexism because it made you feel bad?

You have made this entire thread about you and your feelings about whether you're sexist or privileged, and totally tried to silence multiple women. I have a feeling you won't read this in good faith and will assume that this is just another lady calling you names, but I strongly recommend that you consider the role of male allies in feminism. Your actions do not seem to properly represent your beliefs.
posted by jess at 11:23 AM on October 29, 2012 [15 favorites]


Gotta catch another flight, sorry all. Sorry too, to the mods for having to deal with this.
posted by LordSludge at 11:23 AM on October 29, 2012


What are you implying? Who are you calling a sockpuppet? Is this, perhaps, another baseless accusation? I'm really losing track.

Calm down. octobersurprise was was referring to 0

LordSludge. At this point I really can't tell for the life of me what you want out of this exchange. An apology? A concession? You're going in circles and tiptoeing around Miko's (not OmieWise's) statement that she never called you a sexist, but pointed out some problematic statements you made and that there is a big difference between the two.

I find it really odd that you had the time and the typing capacity to write a whole lot about how seriously you take the "I'm not a sexist and here's my background about why I take umbrage at being called so" but chose not to engage meaningfully with Miko's extremely thoughtful, measure and respectful post. Twice now you've said you'll respond, but have not. I don't understand why and it makes me question what you want.
posted by space_cookie at 11:26 AM on October 29, 2012 [6 favorites]


Rather, I'm trying explain that this is my home, my reputation is important to me, and I will not be lightly labeled a sexist. I will defend myself.

I don't think it's possible to defend oneself against occasional episodes of aerial birdshit bombardment in Web discourse. Attempting to do so simply doesn't work; the "defence" generally comes over as no more than petulant, irritating, self-absorbed, discussion-derailing whinging.

Because, believe it or not, on the Web nobody can actually attack you. Closest that can possibly happen is an attack on your writings. Any attack that seems to be on you is actually on some always-inaccurate made-up version of you that exists only in the mind of the attacker, and why the hell is that worth getting upset over?

Seriously consider lightening up, Francis. It's not all about you.
posted by flabdablet at 11:30 AM on October 29, 2012


Is there a term for that kind of almost deliberate desire to act the victim from the privilaged? Or is it simply privilage?

It's funny you should mention that; I've been going over that exact same question this weekend, and it's something I've noticed in threads like this in the past. I've concluded (only half-jokingly) that it's some sort of Oppression Envy: it starts out by someone non-privileged disagreeing with a privileged person based on their first-hand experience of oppression that has given them a type of direct knowledge that a privileged person can never, ever have access to; certain members of the privileged class in question, being wholly unused to not having access to whatever knowledge/experience/etc. they want, are made so uncomfortable by this that they read it as a form of oppression/victimhood in its own right that's as bad as anyone else's oppression/victimhood. (Hence the wildly over-the-top comparisons of being called out on sexism to being falsely accused of raping children.)

So I bristle at the suggestion that [...] I'm so oblivious to my privilege that I'm so oblivious to my privilege that I dismiss women's opinions.

This is where you've entered ourobouros territory, I'm afraid. This is precisely what you've done in your repeated, hostile, condescending insistence that Miko is wrong and you are right.

To put it another way, as jess says here: "You've described yourself as a feminist, which is fine, but part of being a male feminist is listening when women point out privileged thinking."

You can't keep insisting that you're a feminist and then essentially demand that women back down and shut up when they have the temerity to point out the limits of your feminism.
posted by scody at 11:49 AM on October 29, 2012 [13 favorites]


can never, ever have access to

It's a dubious epistemological claim. More generally, it weakens the power of empathy which I would imagine is not in the interest of most, maybe all, people.
posted by Shit Parade at 12:03 PM on October 29, 2012


Shit Parade. What the fuck are you talking about?
posted by space_cookie at 12:15 PM on October 29, 2012


More generally, it weakens the power of empathy which I would imagine is not in the interest of most, maybe all, people.

Empathy is not dependent on having the same direct experience as others. The fact that the vast majority of straight men will never directly live their lives with the subtle, low-level, day-to-day awareness and fears for their physical safety that we women spend our entire lives with does not preclude feminist-allied men from A) acknowledging we have a much higher chance of being physically or sexually assaulted in our lifetimes than they do, and B) empathizing with us without having to claim the mantle of somehow being indicted, oppressed, victimized, or excluded.
posted by scody at 12:16 PM on October 29, 2012 [5 favorites]


This seems like a good place to remember that if the Grievously Wounded Males of Metafilter keep pontificating, and condescending, and picking away at pointlessly small things without addressing the substance of what people are saying, and accusing people of stalking them, and ETC ETC ETC until one or other mefite who didn't even start this shit in the first place gets exhausted and quits - if that happens yet again - it would really suck. Yes?
posted by ominous_paws at 12:17 PM on October 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Shit Parade, did you check out the Male Privilege Checklist that scody linked upthread? It's a pretty good rundown of the ways that the male and female experiences are consistently different in modern American society. It's not about empathy; it's about the pervasive patterns of gendered interaction.
posted by kagredon at 12:17 PM on October 29, 2012


I should think that empathy is the facility of trying to imagine experiences we've never had precisely because we can never truly have access to them.
posted by octobersurprise at 12:18 PM on October 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


It's a dubious epistemological claim.

I don't think saying "Men can not really know what it's like to be women" is dubious. I don't think saying "White people in the US can not really know what it's like to be black people in the US" is dubious. I don't think "Sighted people can not really know what it's like to be blind" is dubious. And this is especially true if the people you are talking about are right there telling you about their experiences and you are discrediting them in favor of your imagining of what their situations might be like.

But this is sort of the problem, right? People in positions of power and privilege often if not always think they could understand what it must be like to be in positions lacking privilege because they've felt that they've been in those positions in certain specific instances in their lives so they think they could generalize that to having their entire life be like that. So you get overcharged at a grocery store and you feel that this must be what it's like to have all of the food in your grocery store cost more than in the more well-off neighborhoods. Or a waiter ignores you at a restaurant and you imagine that the feeling you are having is the feeling of someone who gets refused service at a lunch counter because of their race or someone else's racist actions. Or a random woman on the street catcalls you once and it doesn't feel so bad and you don't really get why it's such a big deal for other people.

The counter-argument is that no, you can't really imagine that and it's presumptuous and possibly disrespectful to think that you could. I don't even think empathy is the way to go here. I don't need people to empathize with the sexual harassment I deal with from random asshole users (to cite a specific instance) in order to hope that they would grok why sexual harassment is wrong. And so we argue.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 12:19 PM on October 29, 2012 [14 favorites]


OmieWise: I'll be honest. What I read in your statement, which I guess I am supposed to be sympathetic to and which is meant to persuade me that there are Real PeopleTM behind the sexist comments, is that you have spent a long time on this site being either so oblivious or so un-self-reflexive that people routinely read your comments as sexist, and yet you still feel that the problem is with some "mob" that simply doesn't give you the benefit of the doubt. Maybe you should spend some time thinking about the implications of that. I'm sorry this isn't a transparently easy place for you to keep making sexist comments.

OmieWise: To whit: Lord Sludge's comment indicates that he is routinely seen to be making sexist statements. In that case, I have very little sympathy for him, and I think he should look to himself in this instance.

Nowhere in your comments do you show regard for the question of whether the accusations of sexism are actually accurate, but you're perfectly comfortable still telling the accused that it's he who has to change his behavior. That attitude doesn't actually assist anyone in fighting true offenses, but it is certainly convenient for anyone looking for risk-free self-gratification at other people's expense. I'm fully aware of this attitude in some people around certain subjects on Mefi, so I'm not surprised that it exists, but seeing you express it openly still raises my eyebrow.
posted by Anything at 12:22 PM on October 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


some sort of Oppression Envy

In left-leaning academia in the 90s (or at least in certain grad seminars), I believe ressentiment was the word for this? (Do people still use it these days?)
posted by nobody at 12:25 PM on October 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


(Oh, shoot. Googling that up a bit more makes it clear the word was also (primarily?) being used as an internal self-critique and has since been picked up as part of some explicitly anti-feminist blather. Nevermind. Not such a clean phrase to apply here, I guess.)
posted by nobody at 12:30 PM on October 29, 2012


LordSludge - i'm asking you again, please stop using pedophile as a metaphor. it makes it difficult to listen to you.
posted by nadawi at 12:34 PM on October 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


I read through the checklist.

I think it is dubious to deny categorical knowledge to entire subsets of people because they lack some defining characteristic. It certainly wasn't OK when the Greeks did it, don't know why it is OK to do it today.

Experience can be isomorphic. The act of creating literature or reading literature is an exercise in trading places and expanding your individual experience to be more universal. Also, Identifying someone based on the gender or color of their skin and therefore making presumptions about what they can and cannot know is troublesome.

I believe discussions of privilege are incredibly useful and powerful, I just believe people use it in casual conversation to say lazy things sometimes.
posted by Shit Parade at 12:35 PM on October 29, 2012


Calm down. octobersurprise was was referring to 0

Then surely 0 is owed an apology - or 0 owes us an explanation for sockpuppetry. Agreed? Mods? Little help?
posted by LordSludge at 12:36 PM on October 29, 2012


I think it is dubious to deny categorical knowledge to entire subsets of people because they lack some defining characteristic. It certainly wasn't OK when the Greeks did it, don't know why it is OK to do it today.

I don't think I really understand your statement here. This is not "Men cannot understand what it feels to love a child," or some nonsense. It's not even "Men cannot experience sexual harassment." It's "Men do not live in a world where they are routinely exposed to the same negative, gendered experiences that women are."
posted by kagredon at 12:44 PM on October 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Then surely 0 is owed an apology - or 0 owes us an explanation for sockpuppetry. Agreed? Mods? Little help?

Rooting for flameouts is lame and people shouldn't; conspicuous use of new accounts is problematic in a lot of ways and people need to be careful about that; we've suggested that 0 leave this thread alone at this point for reasons related to that previous note; and basically none of that has anything to do with the primary threads of conversation in here so it'd be better to leave it at that.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:53 PM on October 29, 2012


That attitude doesn't actually assist anyone in fighting true offenses, but it is certainly convenient for anyone looking for risk-free self-gratification at other people's expense.

Like I said, or maybe I only said it in my head so I'll say it here, I strongly suggest OmieWise take a step back and really think about what he's trying to do in this thread and why. This mix of bombastic aggro against the bad guy du jour -- like, whoever that guy is, I don't really know him but he's cancer so fuck that dude for real -- plus white knighthood is just not looking good to me. I'm not saying there are no good intentions in there anyplace, but I am saying it might pay off for him to be a little more honest with himself about what he's going for here. It mostly seems to be about point-scoring and projection, and that sucks if so.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 12:54 PM on October 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think it is dubious to deny categorical knowledge to entire subsets of people because they lack some defining characteristic. It certainly wasn't OK when the Greeks did it, don't know why it is OK to do it today.

Nonsense. I am categorically excluded from the experience of living as a non-sighted person, and thus excluded from certain types of knowledge that derive from that experience. This is not changed by the fact that I can try to imagine what it might be like to go blind, or that I felt sorrow and compassion for my grandfather in the last decade of his life while he went blind.
posted by scody at 12:56 PM on October 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


By all means, if I say something racist or sexist, call me on it and let's talk

Well, that's what happened. I called it out and here we are talking; it just seems like you're not really ready for the talking part.

It's great that you've made such a personal journey from bigotry to wanting to embrace anti-racist, anti-sexist, etc., principles. I would also ask you to consider that you're not that unique in that - a lot of us could tell a similar tale. It's safe to say that many of us have also made a journey that involved questioning some of our longest-held, earliest-taught assumptions and that they weren't really all that easy to let go of. Life is growth. I'm sorry that there's no prize for being ant-sexist (quite the opposite sometimes) and in fact, there's no finish line you can cross beyond which you can say "look! I'm no longer sexist!" and expect to never fall into a sexist pattern or make a sexist statement again, and be called on it.

I understand you've come a long way, but you still have a way to go, because consciously or unconciously, you're still doing some things that have a long history of being used as tactics to shut women up and dismiss their experience or their right to speak. For maybe the 3rd or 4th time, I'll say again that it happens to everyone, we all do it from time to time, because of our enculturation. The issue isn't that we do it - it's how we respond when someone points out that we did it. Try responding helpfully. Try listening and asking questions instead of grievances and imagined accusations
posted by Miko at 12:57 PM on October 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


But.. but.. that is happening. Here. Right now. You are doing this. Remember when you asked Miko to please reconsider talking about sexism because it made you feel bad?

No. I remember asking Miko to stop assuming I have made sexist comments, because it has not been established that I've made sexist comments in the first place.

You have made this entire thread about you and your feelings about whether you're sexist or privileged, and totally tried to silence multiple women. I have a feeling you won't read this in good faith and will assume that this is just another lady calling you names, but I strongly recommend that you consider the role of male allies in feminism. Your actions do not seem to properly represent your beliefs.

Yeah I didn't want it to be about me. It became about me when OmieWise accused me of making sexist comments. He insists that he never did, because "context", and "no I didnt" but come on:

I'll be honest. What I read in your statement, which I guess I am supposed to be sympathetic to and which is meant to persuade me that there are Real PeopleTM behind the sexist comments, is that you have spent a long time on this site being either so oblivious or so un-self-reflexive that people routinely read your comments as sexist, and yet you still feel that the problem is with some "mob" that simply doesn't give you the benefit of the doubt. Maybe you should spend some time thinking about the implications of that. I'm sorry this isn't a transparently easy place for you to keep making sexist comments.

How would you interpret this, if said about you, when it hadn't been established that you'd said anything sexist to begin with?? Then Miko goes on with, "Lets talk about why you're being so sexist" when, again, it had not yet been established.

Once again, I respect Miko's opinion. And once again, I bristle at the implication that I don't. You're piling on, yourself. Please stop; I'll address Miko shortly. It's frankly cramped as fuck here. You might have to wait. Please don't attribute negative motivations.

Hell I used to respect OmieWise's opinion! Then he made a careless statement which started this shitstorm, said he didn't even remotely suggest that -- a simple "Sorry, man, I can see you read it that way. I don't think you're sexist." would have helped A LOT -- posts on his profile that I am indeed a sexist, takes it down only when 0 calls him on it, says he did it because he was "piqued" (= feeling indignant - had to look it up heh), no wait he was only being funny... :sigh:

Yeah I want an apology.
posted by LordSludge at 1:00 PM on October 29, 2012


I give up! You are clearly more interested in being acknowledged as a cool dude who never says anything wrong than you are in honestly discussing sexist thought. Add my name to the list of women that you have silenced in this thread with your behavior.
posted by jess at 1:04 PM on October 29, 2012 [8 favorites]


Anything: Nowhere in your comments do you show regard for the question of whether the accusations of sexism are actually accurate, but you're perfectly comfortable still telling the accused that it's he who has to change his behavior. That attitude doesn't actually assist anyone in fighting true offenses, but it is certainly convenient for anyone looking for risk-free self-gratification at other people's expense. I'm fully aware of this attitude in some people around certain subjects on Mefi, so I'm not surprised that it exists, but seeing you express it openly still raises my eyebrow.

YESSSSS! OmieWise, this is exactly my problem with you. You both dismiss me as some dude you don't know, yet you somehow know I'm a sexist! How do you square these two?

Miko, I've a similar problem with you. I don't see where you (or anybody?) have established that I even said anything sexist, yet you deign to lecture me about my sexism. For all I can tell, it looks like you jumped off of OmieWise's comment -- a comment self-admittedly made from ignorance. Can you understand why this is upsetting?
posted by LordSludge at 1:07 PM on October 29, 2012


jess, please come back! I don't want to silence you or anybody. Don't give up on me.
posted by LordSludge at 1:08 PM on October 29, 2012


I can't give you the apology; I didn't do anything wrong.

it has not been established that I've made sexist comments in the first place

The comment you made in the Simple Question thread that you reacted so strongly to was the kind of thing that sexists sometimes use to justify predatory behavior to women. I described that dynamic to you in a carefully worded and non-insulting comment that stayed general and illustrated why people see it as problematic and asked you to think about it again, and here we are. It might have been awful to hear that, but it's true. It is the kind of thing sexists offer at that point in discussions like those. If you didn't mean it to be sexist, I don't understand why you didn't respond "oops, let me clarify then, here's what I am really saying" or "oops, I never realized that, let me rethink and come back again with my new thought on the topic" or any of the other responses I and others have suggested as ways to deal with unintentional moments where we've stepped in a pile of unconscious prejudice.

Here or there, hundreds of comments in, we still haven't had that moment. Is this really how you think an anti-sexist person behaves?

I was going to note this last night, but a few comments up from that one, soundguy79 makes a comment with almost the same content as yours, seeking to explain almost the same phenomenon as yours, but his comment was so well framed that there was no issue to take with it. Yours was definitely not as clear, was much more of a generalization, and when I said that essentially this was the kind of thing that someone would say to excuse bad behavior on the part of males, and this is why it's not a valid argument, you didn't respond very well. I've been hanging in in hopes you might to get to that point, but it may take you a lot more time.
posted by Miko at 1:09 PM on October 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


yet you deign to lecture me about my sexism.

Where? Can I have a quote or something please? Why do you keep lobbing totally unfounded accusations? I haven't done any of these things you've suggested I've done.

Don't give up on me

?!?
posted by Miko at 1:10 PM on October 29, 2012


> Yeah I want an apology.

Man, you sound for all the world like somebody who's about to threaten to cut off his right hand. I'm perfectly willing to believe that you're operating in good faith, but you seem to most of us to be living in your own private world, stubbornly repeating your grievances and refusing to listen to anything anyone else is saying.

You are making this thread all about you and your imagined grievances. Is that what you want?
posted by languagehat at 1:12 PM on October 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


Yeah I want an apology.

Is there anyone you don't want an apology from?
posted by octobersurprise at 1:12 PM on October 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Men do not live in a world where they are routinely exposed to the same negative, gendered experiences that women are."

I agree with this statement.

@scody You could live like a non-sighted person to try and inhabit their world. Searle uses colorblindness in thought experiment to talk to different types of knowing and, last I checked, there isn't unanimous agreement by cognitive philosophers on the subject.

Generally, telling someone they cannot understand something because of some characteristic like skin tone or sexual orientation is a very aggressive theory of knowledge that I believe to be to our detriment as a species.
posted by Shit Parade at 1:12 PM on October 29, 2012


Miko, I'm currently responding to your long comment, above, in another tab. Sorry it's taking so long.
posted by LordSludge at 1:13 PM on October 29, 2012


@scold

Whoa, that is totally lousy.
posted by Miko at 1:14 PM on October 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


sry @scody

it was a typo
posted by Shit Parade at 1:16 PM on October 29, 2012


And "don't give up on me" was addressed to Jess, not you, when she threw up hands and left with "I give up!"
posted by LordSludge at 1:16 PM on October 29, 2012


Hi, I'm Omnomnom and I sOmetimes catch myself saying sexist (and racist) things. Five years ago I never noticed how I had internalised patriarchal thinking, never noticed how I looked down on women, how I was rejecting my female identity because who wants to be part of the sex everyone seems to look down on? So now I often catch myself and think WTF?! and this is an improvement and it is mostly due to wise, patient people on the internet, like Miko.

So thank you, wise people, for your amazing effort. You are doing a frustrating, thankless job. I just wanted you to know that you have made and are making a difference in my life as this very thread unfolds.
posted by Omnomnom at 1:18 PM on October 29, 2012 [5 favorites]


You could live like a non-sighted person to try and inhabit their world.

That is never going to give you the actual experience of being non-sighted. For one thing, if you're born nonsighted, you have never had the experience of sight and so your brain processes information quite differently. Even if you had sight and lost it, you would have had an experience of losing sight and adapting. Neither of those are experiences you can "opt into" understanding by wearing a blindfold."

I agree that empathy is essential. But I've been swayed by my understanding of cognition and human development that we can't understand the direct experiences of others directly. That's why the quality of empathy is important. Empathy is the use of imagination and theory of mind to try to understand what someone else's experience is. One of the most helpful tools to use in pursuing that understanding is listening to, and accepting, the relation of another person's experience as it was true for them without necessarily assuming that you can fully understand what it feels like.
posted by Miko at 1:19 PM on October 29, 2012 [7 favorites]


Shit Parade, have they devised a way to convince someone they may be blind for the rest of their lives? Your privilege is oozing.
posted by lordaych at 1:19 PM on October 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


OS: Is there anyone you don't want an apology from?

I only asked for one from two people. Or is this rhetoric to make me seem more contentious?
posted by LordSludge at 1:20 PM on October 29, 2012


And "don't give up on me" was addressed to Jess, not you

I understood that. I just couldn't understand the need for a personal appeal. Is this really that much about us facilitating your personal progress and who is/isn't in support of you?
posted by Miko at 1:20 PM on October 29, 2012 [5 favorites]


(Which is not to say that making a difference to me personally makes your efforts worthwhile, just that there are probably more non-posting people who are having the same kind of aha! experience as me.)
posted by Omnomnom at 1:23 PM on October 29, 2012


This generally why I avoid discussions of privilege because if I do not accept it fully without question people become very aggressive.

People can become blind for the rest of their lives, people can suffer from long term temporary blindness, people can be born blind then later get sight. There is a lot of variation, talking with someone I generally wouldn't presume what their past (or future) experience will be.

There are plenty of things I may not understand, plenty of things I will necessarily never understand, but when you begin to create categories such that entire group x cannot understand experience y... it is extremely problematic.

Whether or not one person can understand anothers direct experience isn't an easy thing to ascertain, and it, in my opinion, belongs to the realm of philosophy.
posted by Shit Parade at 1:27 PM on October 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


People can become blind for the rest of their lives, people can suffer from long term temporary blindness, people can be born blind then later get sight. There is a lot of variation, talking with someone I generally wouldn't presume what their past (or future) experience will be.

Sure, but do you think you can actually understand any of those things without them happening to you? Fully and completely?

Would you say directly to a blind person that you can fully understand exactly what their life history and day-to-day experience have felt like for them?

if I do not accept it fully without question people become very aggressive

People aren't "being aggressive," they're actually cooperating with you in attempt to help you perceive a certain kind of blindness - that results from your privilege.
posted by Miko at 1:29 PM on October 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


I can see how you might feel like you've been placed in a double-bind here, but by getting hung up on whether it's possible for you to have sufficient knowledge of certain experiences you're pretty much confirming scody's ourobouros point, the very point you're responding to. In any case, it's probably worth noting that her comment referred to "direct knowledge" and "first-hand experience" and the main point being made was about the anxiety/resentment the idea of being denied access to such knowledge produces.

(Oh, these most recent comments were by Shit Parade again and not by LordSludge! These names are really, like, synonymous in my head!)
posted by nobody at 1:38 PM on October 29, 2012


Whether or not one person can understand anothers direct experience isn't an easy thing to ascertain, and it, in my opinion, belongs to the realm of philosophy.

I think at the level of trying to work out a theory of the limits and constraints of human understanding, sure.

But people mostly aren't talking about this at that level, they're speaking at a much more practical level where people's actual daily and life-long subjective experiences of the world do differ significantly in ways that do indeed create failures of understanding. And one of those practical failures is the recurring argument that well of course I understand what it's like, because I'm not the sort of person who wouldn't understand, so, hey, I understand.

I am constantly reminded when working with folks on and off this site that my life experience is not everyone's life experience and that people can be, while being good well-meaning people, pretty thoughtless about stuff they aren't on the same wavelength as me on. I'm frequently guilty of the same sort of thing. Whether, philosophically speaking, it is possible to bridge that gap for all levels of experience or not is a question that is dizzyingly academic in a pragmatic discussion about how people are actually relating to each other on a day to day basis.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:39 PM on October 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


Hello, my (user)name is gilrain. I consider myself a feminist. However, I sometimes exhibit sexist, privileged behavior. It's not okay, but it also doesn't mean I'm a despicable person. I realize that when people point out behaviors of mine which are sexist, they are not labeling me as a sexist; they are, almost always, trying to help me avoid sexism. This realization helps me consider and internalize criticism of my behavior without feeling like I have to defend my character.
posted by gilrain at 1:40 PM on October 29, 2012 [4 favorites]


The comment you made in the Simple Question thread that you reacted so strongly to was the kind of thing that sexists sometimes use to justify predatory behavior to women. I described that dynamic to you in a carefully worded and non-insulting comment that stayed general and illustrated why people see it as problematic and asked you to think about it again, and here we are. It might have been awful to hear that, but it's true. It is the kind of thing sexists offer at that point in discussions like those. If you didn't mean it to be sexist, I don't understand why you didn't respond "oops, let me clarify then, here's what I am really saying" or "oops, I never realized that, let me rethink and come back again with my new thought on the topic" or any of the other responses I and others have suggested as ways to deal with unintentional where we've stepped in a pile of unconscious prejudice.

But I did, Miko. I did. Over and over, I explicitly said I wasn't excusing or justifying the behavior:

>In other words; if the problem with finding dates is that the guy's not good at talking to
>women, talking with women is the solution. Hitting on more women is not.

That'd be best, sure. (But hitting on women is better for a guy's social skills than avoiding them completely. Whether that's an assholish thing or not, well I'll leave that to your judgement.) Trouble is, for many, perhaps most, guys sex is kinda like air: If you're getting it regularly, it's no big deal. If you're not, it can become all-consuming. So meeting a new, attractive woman is more valued for the potential for sex than the potential to make a new friend.

This doesn't make awkwardly or rudely approaching women okay -- this thread (and common sense) makes it pretty obvious that its not. And it's pretty clear that your interaction will be, um, unpleasant if you awkwardly approach most any woman in this thread, as per Real Life. I'm just trying to explain part of what's going on here, as I see it, why a lot of guys behave like this. Certainly not excusing the behavior.

Also, not having sex can be hard on a guy's self-esteem. And to be blunt, I've found that, in general, the lower a person's self-esteem, the more of an asshole they are. So now you have a horny asshole that's hell-bent on getting laid. Not really a great frame of mind for meeting women.

Again, not excusing the behavior, just trying to explain it. Who knows, maybe telling these types of guys to re-examine their behavior will work. I'm skeptical, as I feel like there's some pretty deep-level emotional stuff going on here, but hey worth a shot.

And sure, there are women out there that do the same thing, it's just not as common and the power dynamics are different. But damn some of you women are sketch-y! We're all just people, after all, not so terribly different when it comes down to it. It's sad that we tend to focus on what makes us different rather than what makes us the same.

Aw, now I has a sad. Wait, here's kittens. Okay all better! =)
posted by LordSludge at 3:19 AM on October 25 [+] [!]


Which part did you want to discuss? Guessing this:

>Of course there are cases where someone doesn't have as good control of themselves as they
>should - but their celibacy or sexual appetite should never, never be used as an excuse, or >accepted as an excuse, because it just demeans all of us to do so.

I was pretty clear that it's not an excuse, but perhaps at least a partial explanation,** just as recognizing certain circumstances that may lead somebody to be a bully or criminal does not excuse the behavior.

With that in mind, I think we're in agreement here that horniness and low self-esteem does not make it okay to harass people.

** I thought I was a little over the top in stating and restating this!
posted by LordSludge at 1:32 PM on October 25 [+] [!]


>About the whole physical need for sex thing, I have something to say. Even if it were
> true (is it?), saying it's OK to harass women because of it is like saying poor people are
>entitled to harass you for money

Is anybody saying this? If you're referring to my comments, I explicitly say, at least three times, that harassing women due to sex drive is NOT OK. (This is the fourth, by my count.)

Where are you getting this? I really want to know. Either I'm missing something (totally possible - the thread is long and this coffee sucks) or you're making things up. And if so... Why? Why would you make this up? To what end? Or if you're just speaking in hypotheticals, I'll be glad to help you kick that strawman around some more if you want. But the phrasing sounds like you're responding to somebody here. And you're not the first to do that.

As to this "is it?" (whether or not sex is a physical need for men), it sorta depends on what you mean by "need". Guys won't die from no sex, so it's not a life-sustaining "need". Is sex a psychological need, necessary for a person's emotional well-being? I think one could argue that it is. I'm guessing the emotional need is similar for men as for women -- so you can look to yourself as to whether this is a real need or not -- but "emotional need" is damn difficult to quantify. I do think there's more societal pressure for men to have sex than for women, so that affects the psychology too. As for the need to ejaculate, well, yeah that's a very real thing, but porn and a little privacy can solve that problem quite nicely.

Again, though, harassing women to fulfill one's own needs is NOT OK. (Fifth time.) Just trying to help explain what I think drives men to this sort of problematic behavior.
posted by LordSludge at 11:17 AM on October 26 [+] [!]


.
.
.
.
(emphasis added, otherwise untouched)

Okay. So this lead to my opening comment in this thread, OmieWise responded carelessly, you continued, I got upset, and the rest is history:

>Not attributing horrible motives or views to other posters just because they are a bit
>sloppy with their phrasing.

I get this over and over and over, even though I *have* been precise -- obnoxiously precise -- and unsloppy with my phrasing. It's as though some people are so hell-bent on fighting their demons that they'll turn any Other into an opportunity to do so. So then you have to defend yourself against something you never said, never intended, not only to the one who made the misstatement but to the throngs of followers and their responses who are, apparently, fighting the same demons. And if you don't, if you just let the falsely-attributed motives ride, you're tacitly admitting that, yeah, I have horrible motives that are indefensible so I'll just slink away. Throw in personal attacks by the mob because, hey GRAR, and it's just maddening.

It's intellectually dishonest, extremely offensive, personally hurtful, and derails entire threads. Turning off favorites helps, as it mitigates the "pile-on" bullying effect, but I really wish it would stop.

I don't like getting mods involved -- occasionally they step in on their own when it's really over the top -- as that seems like it's own sort of bullying, but I'm really at a loss what to do here. Maybe that's the answer. Flags don't help a lot, as the mob is already in la-la land, oblivious to the *actual* misrepresented opinion. Maybe more Metas, but sheesh...

Is it just me or has this been getting worse in the past two months?
posted by LordSludge at 3:31 PM on October 27 [+] [!]

posted by LordSludge at 1:48 PM on October 29, 2012


Nobody: (Oh, these most recent comments were by Shit Parade again and not by LordSludge! These names are really, like, synonymous in my head!)

Haha no worries -- You know, I wonder just how much of this is a big, dumb misunderstanding ...?

That would actually be a fucking fantastic way to end the thread.

FWIW I've been considering switching to a new username -- this one is based on a silly college radio in-joke, but it's only funny to me anymore and engenders comments like "huh huh u like p00p"...
posted by LordSludge at 1:52 PM on October 29, 2012


It is slightly ironic that you and Omiewise are doing the exact same thing - namely, reiterating what you said without actually acknowledging how it's being read. Text is far from a perfect medium, and sometimes your intention just flat doesn't come across. Engaging with people's reading rather than standing on your text is going to work much better.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 1:53 PM on October 29, 2012 [4 favorites]


I'm actually totally lost in all those italics. I still am not sure what it is you're looking for that would feel like a resolution to you.

Over and over, I explicitly said I wasn't excusing or justifying the behavior:

Right, I understand that you didn't aim to excuse the behavior; that wasn't my point. The comments you just quoted above were not the one I called out, actually.

I was talking about the way you decided to explain the behavior, as if you could do so on behalf of all men, and how that urge to explain (especially when the explanation doesn't hold up and is a generalization and ultimately has the same effect as justifying the behavior) can cause problems. I responded specifically to this comment, which you wrote Gygesringtone had already asked you to consider not trying to explain all men's behavior and not keep the focus of discussion on why men do this, but you objected to that request.

It sounds like you aren't quite sure exactly what I called out, so there it is.

You didn't come back to that thread and I was happy to let it ride. When you showed up here, though, evidently still angry about it, perceiving yourself as having been attacked, it seemed to me to be fair to discuss that.
posted by Miko at 1:59 PM on October 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


R_n: For sure, but that's why I kept saying "I didn't say that, I didnt mean that at all, rather I said this, and I meant this." Please re-read my long-ass multi-post. I don't know what more to do other than not participate, which would be a shame.

I know I have work to do. And i do feel I have some insight to offer. I want to continue to be involved in feminist threads.
posted by LordSludge at 2:02 PM on October 29, 2012


I'm actually totally lost in all those italics.

I'll reformat, using blockquotes for you. This is important.
posted by LordSludge at 2:03 PM on October 29, 2012


I agree with cortex (at least I think I do). People self-reporting on their personal experience is invaluable, I don't presume to already understand it and therefore ignore it or more easily dismiss it.

Individuals can have all sorts of direct experience and those experiences can be so similar that I do not find it a stretch for one individual to say to another that they "understand". To suggest that understanding is co-opting another's experience... I just don't agree that that is necessarily the case, and I find it somewhat disturbing that sometimes those judgments are made on the basis of superficial observations -- "you cannot understand my experience y because you are x"

People aren't "being aggressive," they're actually cooperating with you in attempt to help you perceive a certain kind of blindness - that results from your privilege.

I think this is a derail, but talk about "oozing" didn't seem friendly to me.
posted by Shit Parade at 2:08 PM on October 29, 2012


I'll reformat, using blockquotes for you. This is important.

It's not important if you don't read and digest my last comment, where I point to the comment of yours which I actually disagreed with, rather than the ones I didn't.
posted by Miko at 2:08 PM on October 29, 2012


I don't know what more to do other than not participate, which would be a shame.

OK, here's some concrete advice. Don't quote yourself. Ever. Really. It's unproductive - if there's confusion about which posts you're talking about, a link is sometimes helpful, but if you feel like someone is misunderstanding you, explain your point again, in entirely new words. Because if it didn't come across the first time, it's not likely to come across on the second read, even bolded and with italics.

Second, do the really trite Conversation 101 thing where you say "I hear you saying x, is that correct?" Establish communication, first. That's critical, and that's very much what's falling down here. I see you repeating your initial points without ever actually responding to anyone else's - you're responding to a non-specific accusation of sexism but not actually any of the specific reaction or discussion, and I think that's why neither you nor anyone else feels like this conversation is going anywhere.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 2:17 PM on October 29, 2012 [7 favorites]


Individuals can have all sorts of direct experience and those experiences can be so similar that I do not find it a stretch for one individual to say to another that they "understand". To suggest that understanding is co-opting another's experience... I just don't agree that that is necessarily the case, and I find it somewhat disturbing that sometimes those judgments are made on the basis of superficial observations -- "you cannot understand my experience y because you are x"

I think the disconnect here is that you're viewing experiences as single, fungible units, while scody and nobody and myself are talking about experiences as a body. Forest vs trees, as it were. Single experiences can be comparable, but it's very difficult, if not totally impossible, to understand the cumulative effect of another person's many experiences (hell, I don't know if it's even possible to be fully conscious of the cumulative effects of all of one's own experiences.)

So, while I can put on a blindfold for a day and have one day's worth of non-sighted experiences, that does not mean that I comprehend the full effect of what it's like to be blind everyday; in fact, approaching this kind of one-day experiment as an able-bodied person, I'd be lacking a lot of the context of what it's like to live as a blind person, and that even experiences that would seem pretty comparable would have differences that might not be immediately obvious to me.
posted by kagredon at 2:18 PM on October 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think this is a derail, but talk about "oozing" didn't seem friendly to me.

Could it be stated more nicely? Sure. But not cooperating is just walking away. Also, that was just one person. Others have been working with you on talking about this, not against you - and still are.
posted by Miko at 2:23 PM on October 29, 2012


> the recurring argument that well of course I understand what it's like, because I'm not the
> sort of person who wouldn't understand, so, hey, I understand.

I hope it's the case that we can live together and get on OK without understanding one another very well, because that's pretty clearly what we've got to work with and it's hard work to notice any improving trend. For all values of 'we'.
posted by jfuller at 2:35 PM on October 29, 2012


I think that the ideas suggested in this post are a really good idea, which of course means they're never going to happen, because why be reasonable when we can mock each other?
posted by wolfdreams01 at 3:08 PM on October 29, 2012


Cumulative experiences can also be comparable, it is less likely but not impossible and not even necessarily all that rare.

I understand and agree that groups of people are subjected to a variety of influences and oppressions which other groups do not experience which culminates in mass prejudices that are often imperceptible in any one instance.
posted by Shit Parade at 3:12 PM on October 29, 2012


I think that the ideas suggested in this post are a really good idea, which of course means they're never going to happen, because why be reasonable when we can mock each other?

Were they? It was pretty hard to decipher what was actually being suggested, even in the short window before the thread went off the rails. While I can understand how creating a Grand Unified Theory of Metafilter Sexism Threads would be a fun thought experiment, I don't really see how fitting everything into a 2x2 matrix and then saying everyone should be nicer to one another really has any utility, even if it may be true.
posted by kagredon at 3:13 PM on October 29, 2012


I don't know what more to do other than not participate, which would be a shame.

I know I have work to do. And i do feel I have some insight to offer. I want to continue to be involved in feminist threads.


Part of what I was getting at with the story analogy in the coffee thread was the idea that everybody views themselves as important as you view yourself. This seems pretty obvious, but stop and consider that for a moment. To you, you are important, and your views are worth hearing, but the same holds true to for me, for Miko, for everybody that has something to say.

Conversations can't be about everything, and some topics are more covered than others. Believe it or not, there have been multiple conversations about what motivates guys, and quite frankly, your insights aren't new. My comment wasn't saying you shouldn't participate, or that why some guys act like they do isn't important. I just wanted you to consider that every conversation shouldn't be about your insights, or mine, or the needs of socially inexperienced guys. After all, as important as what we have to say about what we want to talk about is to us, what other people have to say is as important to them.

I couldn't keep your from participating in any conversation, and probably wouldn't even if I could. To me, sometimes letting other people talk is worth limiting my participation to that of an audience member. Not only is listening to women one of the easiest ways to demonstrate that you actually DO respect them as fellow human beings, you're rewarded with being able to witness great conversations that wouldn't exist if you didn't give them room. I mean, have you read the coffee thread since we both stopped talking? I don't think that great conversation that's going on would have grown out the conversation you and I were engaged in.

That would've been a loss.
posted by Gygesringtone at 3:16 PM on October 29, 2012 [4 favorites]


Metafilter: Fitting everything into a 2x2 matrix and then saying everyone should be nicer to one another
posted by kagredon at 3:16 PM on October 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


You know, I wonder just how much of this is a big, dumb misunderstanding ...?

I want to clarify one aspect of my earlier misunderstanding that I may not have actually specified: when I was mixing the two of you up, and thus maybe misdirecting a bit of frustration toward you, it wasn't just that I was reacting to things you hadn't been the one to say. Rather, bits of your own comments, when I had assumed you had also said some of those other things, had read to me as patently jerky (and this despite their often containing disclaimers to head off any potential offense).

I think that points toward what Miko was getting at when she recently wrote:
The comment you made in the Simple Question thread that you reacted so strongly to was the kind of thing that sexists sometimes use to justify predatory behavior to women. [...] It might have been awful to hear that, but it's true. It is the kind of thing sexists offer at that point in discussions like those. [...] and when I said that essentially this was the kind of thing that someone would say to excuse bad behavior on the part of males, and this is why it's not a valid argument, you didn't respond very well.
It doesn't seem like there's ultimately much distance to cover here, at least between the two of you, right?

But this point, I think, also explains why some others may have been drawn in to make more forceful comments in your direction. Even though there may have been a misunderstanding about who you 'really' are and what your intentions are, some of your comments -- again, despite their careful disclaimers peppered throughout -- were bound to be read by at least some as though they were coming from someone who's more of a jerk than you probably really are.

That said, it's probably not useful to think of those reactions as mob-like behavior. They're reacting to language that is actually problematic if for no other reason precisely because of a tradition of those sorts of comments being used to mobilize a defense of shitty things.

And I can understand how that might seem unfair. But a "Whoa, I didn't mean it that way, but I see where you're coming from" probably could have headed this whole thing off at the pass.
posted by nobody at 3:18 PM on October 29, 2012 [5 favorites]


[It's been a crazy day here, which has prevented me from commenting before now.]

I deeply regret my participation in this thread. I think both restless_nomad and Lord Sludge made good points when they suggested that I was choosing to die on the hill of a comment that others were reading differently than I do. I should have simply said that my comment was not meant to call LS a sexist, and it was not. I did not, at the time I made the comment, know enough about him to do anything but respond to the comment I was reading.

I did make a list on my profile page titled "Sexists of Metafilter" or something. I was telling the truth when I said I put that up in a fit of pique, and it's something I've had on my profile page for ~12 hours at various times in the midst of conversations like this. It's not something I have left up there (and I didn't erase it because 0, whoever he is, found it) because it's not that I think I want to present on my profile page. But if you've got a prurient interest, you can check my profile page the next time one of these threads comes up and you may see a similar list. That there are sexists on MF should come as no surprise.

I'm frankly, very torn about how MF is handling conversations about sexism these days, mostly for the reasons I think I outlined in my first or second comment in this thread. But, as a wise friend texted me a couple of nights ago in the midst of this, responding as I did here is not something that I'm doing out of happiness, or that makes me happy. I wish I had handled myself differently so that the conversation could have been (potentially) more productive. I'm grateful to both r_n and jessamyn for being patient enough to answer my belligerent emails after their warranted interventions here.

Anyway, sorry for the shitstorm.
posted by OmieWise at 4:54 PM on October 29, 2012 [7 favorites]


I feel kinda like this whole thread is a downer episode of The Office.
posted by rebent at 5:36 PM on October 29, 2012


it's something I've had on my profile page for ~12 hours at various times in the midst of conversations like this. ... you can check my profile page the next time one of these threads comes up and you may see a similar list.

You've kept a list in the past and intend to do it again?
posted by 0 at 6:22 PM on October 29, 2012


That's part of what I said, yes.
posted by OmieWise at 6:45 PM on October 29, 2012


LordSludge:

It's funny, but as I was looking through the chain of comments trying to figure out how you became convinced that Miko was attacking you as a sexist/misogynist, I noticed this in one of your posts: "So in closing this thought, I humbly beg the offended reader to re-examine my (and, indeed, every user's) comments through a more charitable, less adversarial lens before unleashing the grar." You may want to keep this in mind in re-examining Miko's comments and considering whether you gave that kind of charitable reading to Miko in ending up with interpretations and descriptions like: "So then we have this thread, in which a user tries to address the issue. And in which I relay my concerns about the Simple Question thread. OmieWise busts out his thinly veiled accusation, which I'll get to in a bit, and Miko piles on, operating on the assumption that I am indeed a sexist based on.... nothing, and attributing all sorts of vile motivations. I'm upset with him for calling me a sexist. I'm even more upset with her for just assuming that to be the case and piling on more and more vitriol, hence the "stop swinging" plea."

Did you maybe misread Miko's comment? You seemed to respond intensely to her statement that "women's opinions matter"-- which in context seemed to me and I think most other readers, as well as being explained promptly by Miko herself, to be a clear reference to snyder's first link where OmieWise had responded to snyder by saying, "Yeah, right. Me and all the women who think they're opinions matter? You're part of the cancer the leads to rape and sexual assault." Her second statement also seemed clearly to refer to that, and then only the third, "the perception of a mob seeking to harass nonsexist men simply for speaking is not a reality", seemed to be referring to the second linked comment by OmieWise's comment, which was a response to yours. And on all of these, it seems clear that she's not saying "I agree 100% with OmieWise and would say the same things," she's trying to critique the examples provided by snyder to back up the statement that "using the language of social justice as mere rhetoric is stupid and boring, and that's what OmieWise here, and others elsewhere on Metafilter are more and more commonly appear to be doing." by asking "Hmm. Which part is the rhetoric?"... she's critiquing the argument that OmieWise is saying these things just to score rhetorical points without substance and that if what he said "describes the reality of your life then obviously we're not going to be having any kind of productive discourse, and... I don't think you're interested in having any."

If you did misread it, please think hard on what you yourself said above: "And even if the mistake is realized, nobody ever publicly apologizes for the false accusation(s). (Okay, yours here is as close to an apology as I've seen, which makes that last sentence kinda eponysterical; at least it's an explanation, so thanks for that.) Ne-ver. It's too hard on the ego."

If you still think you're correct-- can you please cite what on earth you think Miko said or did that was attacking you? She has asked many, many times for an explanation and you haven't quoted anything specific-- it seems unfair to her, as well as frankly totally confusing and bizarre to the rest of us.
posted by EmilyClimbs at 6:56 PM on October 29, 2012 [6 favorites]


That's part of what I said, yes.

That was a classy apology, Omie. I do not wish to downplay that. But to be clear we are talking about a list of:
poorly adjusted and sexist men ... sexist pigs ... they do not recognize that their perverted worldview is, in fact, a perverted worldview. ... too poorly adjusted to be both not sexist and not oppressed. ... offensive, idiotic, and perverted

... socially awkward tech types ... concern trolling ... sexist. ... a bunch of socially awkward male geeks ... sexist ... maliciously sexist men on Metafilter ... creepy concern trolls. ... the same group of assholes
Those are just from your first two comments in this thread. Does keeping such a list really seem like a healthy thing for the community? For anybody involved?

I mean, do you grok that while you were receiving mod patience in the face of belligerence, I was seriously threatened with banning for [not]* calling you asshole once? I really do not think you need to be concerned that the anti-sexists do not have enough privilege on this site.

* Which, by the way, you're totally not an asshole. That was entirely rhetorical.

posted by 0 at 7:14 PM on October 29, 2012


what the hell is going on
posted by kagredon at 7:19 PM on October 29, 2012


0 is still trying for a flameout.
posted by space_cookie at 7:20 PM on October 29, 2012


Why would you create a mostly-Metatalk sock just to flameout after a month? That just seems like a waste of $5.
posted by kagredon at 7:23 PM on October 29, 2012


Does keeping such a list really seem like a healthy thing for the community? For anybody involved?

No, not really, as my comment acknowledges. Hence the evanescent nature of the list. But I'm not the person I would wish to be, in the heat of the moment, and, hence the list.

I have no idea what your interactions with the mods is like, sorry, and it isn't much of a concern for me. I'm not worried, though, that you're part of a class oppressed by the mods, if that's what you're asking.
posted by OmieWise at 7:24 PM on October 29, 2012


I was seriously threatened with banning for [not]* calling you asshole once?

This needs to stop. If you're somehow not willing to tell people which accounts this is a sock puppet for, you are putting us in an untenable position. We have previously suggested strongly (and privately) that you leave this alone. People are allowed to have secondary accounts on this site as a courtesy, not so that they can go after other users who have no idea who they are. I'm giving this account the night off. You can come back tomorrow and either drop this vendetta or tell people the names of your other accounts. Those are your two options at this point.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:29 PM on October 29, 2012 [7 favorites]


Miko, I've a similar problem with you. I don't see where you (or anybody?) have established that I even said anything sexist ...

Confident prediction based on personal experience and empathy: one day you're actually going to understand what you've done here, and when that happens you're going to look back over this whole conversation and just cringe.

Second confident prediction: today is not that day.
posted by flabdablet at 8:56 PM on October 29, 2012


[Just got Canada-home, yay! Sorry for the long delay -- there was no wifi and a strong headwind from Minneapolis. But I wrote this using whatever I had cached just after my mondo-italics comment, so please keep that in mind as far as timing. I haven't read the rest of the updated thread yet. So what'd I miss??]

Miko, I promised you a response to your long comment. Here goes:
I do endorse the idea, expressed by OmieWise in this comment, that the assertion that there's a "mob" on MeFi who eagerly attack people for sexism when they've done nothing at all sexist is not supported. I agree with OmieWise that there are sometimes people on the site who use a stated concern about "misandry" or "false accusations of sexism" to try to maintain a space for subtly (or not) sexist comments to be excused as beyond challenge. And I agree with him that that's lousy.
I think it's generally not supported, but that's exactly what's happened in this case.
Now, there are some complexities, which is why we're still here. Those people exist, but also existing are people who really do intend to align with feminists, and have at times or all the time or sometimes been allies, but are acting from unchecked privilege and don't recognize it (or perhaps accept it) when they've voiced an idea that is sexist, or has sexist implications, and are challenged on it or asked to reconsider it.

Sometimes those people feel unduly attacked as a sexist person who is always outwardly or secretly a sexist, when in fact it's not the person, but the implications of that view that are being called sexist. That distinction is sometimes ignored.

I did point out that all of us sometimes blurt out sexist views even when we don't intend to ascribe to them, that it's hard not to when you've been raised in a society that teaches them. It is so possible to be a dedicated and wholehearted feminist and still occasionally espouse untested and unchallenged sexist views that many people, myself quite included, do that on occasion. To say that a view someone expressed is one that is or could be considered sexist is not to say that that person isn't a committed feminist or hasn't been a staunch ally on women's issues or doesn't consider themselves a person with a generally egalitarian mindset. The one doesn't follow the other incontrovertibly. But I (at least) believe that an important part of consistently fighting sexism is to call out sexist views when they're aired, by whomever they're aired. As I noted before, it happened to me in the coffee thread, so I know what it's like.

But when someone has their sexist idea/implication called out, and chooses to dig in and mount accusations against people who addressed that idea that they are wrong, overly hostile, have gone too far, are bullies (just for noting it), or make the site climate too narrow and boring, it really does begin to seem as though we're no longer talking about the implications of a sexist idea, but about how the feminists need to be quieter and stop calling out sexism at all, because their views and critiques aren't genuine, they're "fighting demons" that aren't present, and they're using those present as scapegoat.

And that can really only read as an attempt to control the dialogue, using shame or indictment to suggest that it's never fair to call these ideas out, or to even question the presumed passionate and obvious nonsexism of the person airing the view.
Okay, all of this is talking in generalities. In the context of this thread, it could be construed as talking about me, in which case I heartily object and I'll need to go back and rebut, point by point. But I'll give you the benefit of the doubt (also, I'm exhausted and don't want to do this if not necessary) and assume that you were talking about sexist men in general. (It is a little vague, though, who the grammatical object is -- I'd have appreciated a "and I'm not talking about you here" or a "I see you as doing this".) I value your experience -- surely you've been in way more of these discussions than me.
When you've had a sexist idea critiqued, it might seem like there's no other response possible than to make those accusations that people are reading sexism into something where it isn't present, and going beyond that as some (not all) do, make a habit of it and form "mobs" to bully people who did nothing wrong. For instance, LordSludge...
Let's stop right there. Now you are plainly talking about me. Now I've been presumed to have promoted a "sexist idea", without you presenting said "sexist idea". It is the presumption of guilt here, the implicit accusation that I've been objecting to for half this thread. Your response has consistently been... wait, let me pull a quote...
Where do you see this?
(In response to my assertion operating on the assumption that I am indeed a sexist)
:blink: :blink: I never implied anything! No, not li'l ole me!

Just like OmieWise. You didn't say anything. Except you did, Miko. It's pervasive. I'm beginning to think you have a real blind spot here. Either that, or you're using some truly vile rhetoric where you accuse somebody of something, then retract it when called on it. Maybe there's another alternative I'm missing; I'm certainly open to that possibility. Please enlighten me.

But let's continue....
For instance, LordSludge described the responses he could see available to him as:
you have to defend yourself against something you never said, never intended... if you don't, if you just let the falsely-attributed motives ride, you're tacitly admitting that, yeah, I have horrible motives that are indefensible so I'll just slink away
If you imagine that these are the only two possible responses - you've been "attacked," so counterattack/go on the defensive, or admit your horrible motives - you probably would feel cornered and in a bind, and decide that the attack is the way to go.
Ooor you could state, emphatically, that "I did not do that thing you said I did." This is what I've done. I've not attacked anyone. Show me where I have or retract the accusation, kthnx.
But these aren't the only possible responses to someone saying "hey, you may not realize it, but the view you just aired has some sexist implications and here they are."
And to this point you've not once mentioned WHAT view of mine has sexist implications. There's just a "view". A shibboleth. A strawman that does not exist.
Stoneandstar and space cookie wrote two great comments about the possible responses that are also available.

stoneandstar: Not a single time did I find that the person lobbing the accusation was simply being hysterical and unfair; every single time it's been a good, if not necessary opportunity to think about what I was saying that was getting on their nerves, think about why I was saying it, and apologize in good faith.

space cookie: Because I have a pretty big knowledge gap, the onus is on me to hang back in discussions about these issues and listen, pay attention, monitor my own fighty and defensive emotional reactions to the experiences being described (Hey! I'm not one of those clueless straight people, I'm on your side!) explore bibliographies etc.
Great comments indeed. Neither one relevant to my behavior, but great comments. See? It doesn't always have to be about me.
So nobody's really in a bind there. Even if you don't think one of these kinds of responses is exactly the one you'd choose, there are lots of possible response choices to make.
Nobody's in a bind except the person who did not make a sexist comment and is being accused of such. Worse, I don't even know what comment to defend, revise, or apologize for because YOU WON'T TELL ME. There's just a phantom "sexist comment", ethereal, immortal...
The comment I made that I think must have occasioned some of this, though it hasn't been linked, talked about why a view that was proffered is a tactic sometimes used by sexists but isn't entirely a valid argument. That doesn't mean it's immediately time to draw swords and call that an accusation of being a sexist, especially because I took care to handle that comment as if it were extremely fragile, and made sure I didn't call anybody sexist or even imply that they were. Instead, it's possible to not respond, or to respond "hm, well I don't see it that way," or "I'll think about it some more," or "I see your point sometimes but not these other times, what do you say to that" or "can you explain more" or "really, you surprise me, do other people see this the same way?" or "But I think you're overlooking a very real dynamic" or any of an enormous range of other responses, some of which include maybe reviewing your idea and its validity.
So, again, I'll assume you're talking about a hypothetical person, not myself. Correct me if I'm wrong. I'm truly not being deliberately obtuse -- you're being quite oblique.
But if your choice instead is to go "people keep calling me sexist! Look at these terrible people calling me sexist when I air a view that leans toward or contributes to or apologizes for or covers up for or is often used to defend sexism!" it's hard to continue viewing the participation as good faith. When people choose not to use any of the other responses, but begin continually asserting that they're coming from "good faith" and are horrified and wronged by what they see as accusations of sexism, it's reasonable to wonder about that. Because when you're coming from good faith, responses like those above are the ones you more often try to choose. That's what good faith looks like. They're great demonstrations of good faith.
How dare you lecture me on "good faith". How dare you, when you can't or won't even point out a single sexist comment of mine and just assume that it exists.
Digging in and holding a self-defensive position and taking negative interpretations of fair comments as further slights to prove those accusations of ill treatment are not really strong evidence of good faith -- though they are certainly very human reactions, especially when getting privilege called out is a relatively new experience.
Also, they are "very human reactions" when being accused of something you didn't do.
The only other comment of OmieWise's which I took up directly were the two Snyder challenged. He seemed to be calling OmieWise's arguments empty rhetoric, and I didn't agree that OmieWise's comments were empty - I thought them substantive, in the way Deoridhe describes. Stripping the comments of the tone that may have angered Snyder, I listed three of the propositions OmieWise was actually making, to illustrate that they do in fact have substance that means something in my life. Women's opinions matter, apologizing for sexism contributes to its continuance and all the ill effects that result, and there is no "mob" tilting at windmills.
Of course they do. And by rhetorically presenting these points as something that is challenged, when in fact nobody here disagrees with them, you are indeed constructing a strawman -- ironically, tilting at windmills yourself. I believe this completely fabricated implication is what angered Snyder, but it'd be better if they spoke for themselves. (Languagehat: Can we pppplease get a gender-neutral singular personal pronoun? You're the guy to see for that, right?)
I try not to get vociferous in my comments. One, because it's generally not my style, but two, because I know well that if I ever did indulge in direct attacks, I'd be called out for that tone issue, and then the seriousness of my points would not be heard. In other words, especially as a feminist woman, I can't afford the luxury of losing it most of the time, even when the situation warrants; once painted as a 'hothead' it would make it much more difficult not to be dismissed later, even when not acting angry. So I don't want my approach conflated with anyone else's, even when I agree with them in spirit, as I generally do with OmieWise.
I appreciate that. I do. I'm well aware of the stereotype of the "angry feminist", which is just fucking stupid. Lets not go down that road.
I think you can talk with me about the points of OmieWise's I chose to pick up and isolate for discussion, because I do espouse those views, but if anyone is upset about his tone or the extent to which he was speaking to someone personally as an individual, that's something to take up with him, because I wasn't "carrying the ball" for that. I wanted to recognize the truth in what he was saying and talk about that, so that we didn't get stuck talking only about the appropriateness of the tone, and not about the issues named.
For the last time, oh god a boy can dream, I object to the content of this statement:
I'm sorry this isn't a transparently easy place for you to keep making sexist comments.
And that you accept, without question, that I made "sexist comments" -- based on a comment from a self-admitted ignorant poster with a misdirected axe to grind.
posted by LordSludge at 9:28 PM on October 29, 2012


[reformatted mondo italics post]

Please read this, Miko, and respond when you are able. You dismissed the previous italics-standard one as illegible, and it took a bit of time to put this one together.

If you will recall, I was listing where I did issue retractions and clarifications. This, I think, is somewhat important to our disagreement. And honestly I'd love for everybody to read it, but I guess that's on them. On preview: I'll address the other comment as well.

So here was my first comment where I mention men's motivations:
>In other words; if the problem with finding dates is that the guy's not
>good at talking to women, talking with women is the solution. Hitting on
>more women is not.

That'd be best, sure. (But hitting on women is better for a guy's social skills than avoiding them completely. Whether that's an assholish thing or not, well I'll leave that to your judgement.) Trouble is, for many, perhaps most, guys sex is kinda like air: If you're getting it regularly, it's no big deal. If you're not, it can become all-consuming. So meeting a new, attractive woman is more valued for the potential for sex than the potential to make a new friend.

This doesn't make awkwardly or rudely approaching women okay -- this thread (and common sense) makes it pretty obvious that its not. And it's pretty clear that your interaction will be, um, unpleasant if you awkwardly approach most any woman in this thread, as per Real Life. I'm just trying to explain part of what's going on here, as I see it, why a lot of guys behave like this. Certainly not excusing the behavior.

Also, not having sex can be hard on a guy's self-esteem. And to be blunt, I've found that, in general, the lower a person's self-esteem, the more of an asshole they are. So now you have a horny asshole that's hell-bent on getting laid. Not really a great frame of mind for meeting women.

Again, not excusing the behavior, just trying to explain it. Who knows, maybe telling these types of guys to re-examine their behavior will work. I'm skeptical, as I feel like there's some pretty deep-level emotional stuff going on here, but hey worth a shot.

And sure, there are women out there that do the same thing, it's just not as common and the power dynamics are different. But damn some of you women are sketch-y! We're all just people, after all, not so terribly different when it comes down to it. It's sad that we tend to focus on what makes us different rather than what makes us the same.

Aw, now I has a sad. Wait, here's kittens. Okay all better! =)
posted by LordSludge at 3:19 AM on October 25 [+] [!]
Second comment:
Which part did you want to discuss? Guessing this:

>Of course there are cases where someone doesn't have as good control
>of themselves as they should - but their celibacy or sexual appetite
>should never, never be used as an excuse, or accepted as an excuse,
>because it just demeans all of us to do so.

I was pretty clear that it's not an excuse, but perhaps at least a partial explanation,** just as recognizing certain circumstances that may lead somebody to be a bully or criminal does not excuse the behavior.

With that in mind, I think we're in agreement here that horniness and low self-esteem does not make it okay to harass people.

** I thought I was a little over the top in stating and restating this!
posted by LordSludge at 1:32 PM on October 25 [+] [!]
And third:
>About the whole physical need for sex thing, I have something to say.
>Even if it were true (is it?), saying it's OK to harass women because
>of it is like saying poor people are entitled to harass you for money

Is anybody saying this? If you're referring to my comments, I explicitly say, at least three times, that harassing women due to sex drive is NOT OK. (This is the fourth, by my count.)

Where are you getting this? I really want to know. Either I'm missing something (totally possible - the thread is long and this coffee sucks) or you're making things up. And if so... Why? Why would you make this up? To what end? Or if you're just speaking in hypotheticals, I'll be glad to help you kick that strawman around some more if you want. But the phrasing sounds like you're responding to somebody here. And you're not the first to do that.

As to this "is it?" (whether or not sex is a physical need for men), it sorta depends on what you mean by "need". Guys won't die from no sex, so it's not a life-sustaining "need". Is sex a psychological need, necessary for a person's emotional well-being? I think one could argue that it is. I'm guessing the emotional need is similar for men as for women -- so you can look to yourself as to whether this is a real need or not -- but "emotional need" is damn difficult to quantify. I do think there's more societal pressure for men to have sex than for women, so that affects the psychology too. As for the need to ejaculate, well, yeah that's a very real thing, but porn and a little privacy can solve that problem quite nicely.

Again, though, harassing women to fulfill one's own needs is NOT OK. (Fifth time.) Just trying to help explain what I think drives men to this sort of problematic behavior.
posted by LordSludge at 11:17 AM on October 26 [+] [!]
So this all seems relevant to:
The comment you made in the Simple Question thread that you reacted so strongly to was the kind of thing that sexists sometimes use to justify predatory behavior to women. I described that dynamic to you in a carefully worded and non-insulting comment that stayed general and illustrated why people see it as problematic and asked you to think about it again, and here we are. It might have been awful to hear that, but it's true. It is the kind of thing sexists offer at that point in discussions like those. If you didn't mean it to be sexist, I don't understand why you didn't respond "oops, let me clarify then, here's what I am really saying" or "oops, I never realized that, let me rethink and come back again with my new thought on the topic" or any of the other responses I and others have suggested as ways to deal with unintentional moments where we've stepped in a pile of unconscious prejudice.
Again, emphasis mine.

I clarified. Repeatedly. Obnoxiously. To the point where I thought I was starting to be patronizing. I was utterly baffled as to why people misunderstood and continue to misunderstand my intent.

And on preview it seems I am mistaken about which comment(s) you were addressing. Jesus Christ, Miko, why on Earth weren't you specific about this way, way upthread?? I asked over and over for specific examples. This whole time, I thought you and others were objecting to the above comments, with all the suggestions that I was excusing problematic male behavior, etc. This has nothing to do with privilege or indeed feminism at all -- this is about clear communication. For the love of god please work on this!

Look, when I said "I'm done." in that thread as my final comment, I meant it. I didn't go back until pull-quotes were required for this thread. I even removed the thread from my Recent Activity -- I don't know if the mods can verify this or if anybody cares -- because I was sick of seeing what I viewed as willfull or at least careless interpretations, fighting an evil strawman cousin of what I'd actually said, and seeing them highly favorited, and it was really frustrating me. That's on me, I shouldn't take internets so seriously, but that's where my head was at the time.

For a little context, EC had gotten me a bit riled, but she apologized privately and virtual olive branches were exchanged. jessamyn called her out as well, which honestly salved my ego and my riteous indignation a bit. And EC learned The Truth About Blue Balls, which was fun for the whole family. But then, yeah, it really did seem like people were willfully or at least carelessly misinterpreting my comments -- I was getting more and more peeved, but whatever, my perspective. It culminated in you telling me that there were all manner of reasons why I was not suitable to explain males' experiences -- I took this as rhetorically unfair, as you and other women could apparently explain females' experiences without question. I felt this was fundamentally intellectually dishonest, and I flamily told you so -- basically, if those are the rules, we can't talk, or so went my thinking. I suddenly had nothing to contribute, and I left.

So yeah, I mini-flamed-out with a curt "I'm done." I never read your specific response in that thread, because I had left, not to return. To be clear, I didn't read-then-ignore it; when I said I was done, I was done. You have to expect that when somebody says, "I'm done", they're probably not going to read anything said after that point. I'll read it now and get you a legitimate response.

I still disagree with Gygesringtone, that men's behavior should not be explained, is not relevant to this topic, and becomes central when even included in discussion. I don't think that's a constructive approach when we're talking about problematic men's behavior, and ultimately modifying men's behaviors, unless we're just wanting to have a venting thread... which I feel is really patronizing towards women. And seriously, if I wanted to go all menrights on this topic, and/or make it all about men, I'd bust out some crazy, real-life stories about women inappropriately hitting on men -- some told to me by female friends, some by male friends, and some that happened to me personally. It'd be fun to talk about, but ultimately a derail to the subject at hand.

If you want to discuss this sub-thread further, or would like clarification, let me know.
posted by LordSludge at 9:38 PM on October 29, 2012


So what'd I miss?

You missed the comment where Miko outlined what she objected to.

Also, you missed the subcommittee where we proposed to ignore people who are overly twee. It's got a lot of support, I think it'll pass in the General Assembly.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:40 PM on October 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Wow!

you think it's generally not supported, but that's exactly what's happened in this case

What's "exactly what happened in this case?" I think it's probably not that someone used a stated concern of misandry to make space for sexism, but that you think there's a mob.

There is no mob. It's a fantasy. How is this mob organized? Who is in the mob? Who controls the mob? How do they plot their actions? Who are their targets?

It's nonsense. There's just me and my comments, you and your comments, everyone else and their comments. I am associated with no mob. Sometimes a lot of people disagree with you at once. Or want to talk with you at once. That's not the same thing as a mob. When people raise this idea of a mob they're often really looking to shift the focus on their own behavior. I'm not going to shift the focus. I'm not in a mob.

you were talking about sexist men in general

Yes, and offering you a way to think about whether these general descriptions of what men who act sexist do could possibly ever apply to you at any times and particularly in this singular case.

Now I've been presumed to have promoted a "sexist idea", without you presenting said "sexist idea"

You know exactly what the idea was, it's in the comment we've recently been talking about.

Another sexist idea is probably that you've been targeted by a mob of vicious feminists who want to silence you.

You didn't say anything. Except you did, Miko. It's pervasive. I'm beginning to think you have a real blind spot here

Nope, I'm not the one with a blind spot. Let me try one more time. The logic goes like this.

1. You said something that can be construed as sexist and often is meant that way.
2. You don't want to be seen as a sexist.
3. These are mutually exclusive. Therefore, if you want to maintain proposition #2, you need to revise or rescind proposition #1.

It's pretty simple. I never did call you a sexist. I don't know whether you are or aren't a sexist. I know you say you don't want to be one. I just saw that you visibly did #1, and what I said - everything I've said in pretty much the entire thread - was an attempt to ask you to think about how #1 is sexist, how it's mutually exclusive with #2, and that if you really don't want to be #2, you should choose a different response than...what you are still choosing.

Ooor you could state, emphatically, that "I did not do that thing you said I did."

So you are saying you did not make this comment that has your name under it?

I still disagree with Gygesringtone, that men's behavior should not be explained

If that's what you think Gygesringtone said then you still don't understand it, let alone disagree with it.

just wanting to have a venting thread.

Is that what you think women's discussions are whenever they're not talking about men's psychology?

A big takeaway, I think, for you, would be to read a lot more slowly, think more in between comments, and address points others have make in a meaningful way rather than a "how dare you" way. Respond to the content of the comments.

You seem to develop a fixed idea early on and then you're unable to actually follow a discussion because it doesn't fit with the fixed idea.
posted by Miko at 9:49 PM on October 29, 2012 [8 favorites]


Thanks OmieWise, that meant a lot.
posted by LordSludge at 9:51 PM on October 29, 2012


Miko, I'll try to get to you tomorrow.

But know what's crazy? I really hope you can find me a giant hole in my concept of feminist ideas, so that I can learn, grow from it, and become a better person. I think I'm pretty decent now, if a bit old, and if you can help make me amazing I promise I'll try to pass it on. Apparently I just don't get it yet. Please be patient with me. I'm totally sincere, no burger.

:ahem:

(That was not easy, heh... Miko, you realize we've been fighting all day!! Sorry this is my meta-meta-moment. )

Take care all. Thanks for your patience, mods.
posted by LordSludge at 10:04 PM on October 29, 2012


on preview it seems I am mistaken about which comment(s) you were addressing. Jesus Christ, Miko, why on Earth weren't you specific about this way, way upthread?? I asked over and over for specific examples.

I didn't miss anything. First, you never actually asked me for any examples. In this comment from yesterday it's clear that you knew exactly which comment I was calling out:
It went off the rails, for me, when I offered a possible explanation of what's going on in a guy's head when he inappropriately hits on women -- the problematic behavior in question -- making very, very, VERY clear that this was in no way excusing the behavior. My idea was that if there is a bad behavior, its important to understand the psychology behind the behavior, so that it can more readily be modified. Went over like a brick balloon -- the response was, essentially "I can't believe you're excusing this behavior!!" (Paraphrasing, but I'll pull quotes if you like.)
So there was never any need to provide specific examples since you knew what they were anyway; you'd provided them yourself, basically.

You also never actually asked me which comments contained ideas one could call sexist. Not even once. You made a lot of statements and took a lot of stances, but there were very few questions of any kind in there at all. The closest you came was this statement here to which I immediately replied. And you're acting surprised at the response and claiming you were talking about a different comment, but it's not as though anybody suddenly sprung this on you just now. And again, it's the same interaction you had already talked about, so it's not like anything was being kept a secret or any wires were crossed.
posted by Miko at 10:12 PM on October 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


I really hope you can find me a giant hole in my concept of feminist ideas, so that I can learn, grow from it, and become a better person.

Well, if you haven't gotten it so far, I'm not that hopeful, but time will tell. How about this:

if I wanted to go all menrights on this topic, and/or make it all about men, I'd bust out some crazy, real-life stories about women inappropriately hitting on men -- some told to me by female friends, some by male friends, and some that happened to me personally. It'd be fun to talk about, but ultimately a derail to the subject at hand.

Is that something a feminist would do? Would find "fun?"

Miko, you realize we've been fighting all day!!

I'm not "fighting." I'm commenting. Why is this a "fight?" for you? Why the repeated metaphor? I mean, I've been stuck inside for a couple of days with a hurricane that cancelled work, I'm writing a paper and doing stuff for class, and you keep popping back up. It's natural to respond.
posted by Miko at 10:15 PM on October 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Know what, LordSludge, I've said all there is to say and it's starting to get circular. I'm going to just let you sit with all this and maybe in rethinking or rereading or giving it time you can derive a few helpful thoughts in your quest to better understand others and better communicate with them. Suffice it to say, none of us is ever really done with that quest.
posted by Miko at 10:30 PM on October 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


rebent, I'm sorry your attempt to help the sexism discussions on MeFi has gone off the rails. I disagree with your matrix but didn't have time to comment on it early on. Now I feel like it'd be annoyingly nitpicky or offtopic to describe why I don't think it works, because it also seems obvious to me that you were making a genuine good-faith effort to help us all have a productive discussion, and the rest of the thread has gone in such a different direction. The moment has passed; maybe it'll come around again some other time. I just wanted you to know that your idea didn't just disappear into the air, and that this feminist appreciates the effort you made to help with a contentious topic :)
posted by harriet vane at 10:42 PM on October 29, 2012 [4 favorites]


For what it is worth, LordSludge, I was in that thread with you, and I felt you were participating in good faith and really going out of your way not to step on anyone's toes or invalidate anyone's experience and yet still participate in the discussion. I left, myself, because I felt it was getting over-the-top. It seemed to me that generalizations about men AND women were being made all through that thread, and that bothered me. That you were the one admonished by Miko, in what seemed such a patronizing manner--well, I thought I must be in bizarro Metafilter.

I respect Miko, I admire her. I feel a tremendous disconnect when I see Miko in a thread, chiding a user, going from an assumption of the user having engaged in sexist behavior, when I cannot see at all where that assumption comes from. I feel Miko just sees more comments as inherently sexist than I do. Our perceptions differ, it's a subjective thing.

What stuns me, I guess, is that there are those who think this is not a subjective thing, and that there is this bright shiny line of SEXISM vs NOT SEXISM. If you do not agree with the bright line people about where that line falls, it is because you simply are not educated enough or aware enough; you are sexist yourself for disagreeing. You are saying something that sexist people say (according to them), or which might be interpreted that way (by them), or which can be perceived that way (by them), so the fault has to be yours. That's the circular logic that bothers me--once those clear line people say something is SEXIST, it must by definition be SEXIST to all, except, of course, the SEXISTS themselves.

I can see how appealing that must be, of course, to have that clarity of thought, to feel that you know something to be true, while others have just not yet accepted that truth. I wonder if that is how Faith feels to the devoutly religious.

I question myself all the damned time. It must be comforting, to be so absolutely sure of yourself.
posted by misha at 10:48 PM on October 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


I respect Miko, I admire her. I feel a tremendous disconnect when I see Miko in a thread, chiding a user, going from an assumption of the user having engaged in sexist behavior, when I cannot see at all where that assumption comes from. I feel Miko just sees more comments as inherently sexist than I do. Our perceptions differ, it's a subjective thing.

Kind of shitty to do this after she's stated she's leaving the thread.
posted by kagredon at 10:55 PM on October 29, 2012 [4 favorites]


I don't think saying "Men can not really know what it's like to be women" is dubious.

One of the perspectives I have really, really appreciated and loved is the perspective of trans gendered women who had significant professional development before they transitioned to being accurately perceived. Interestingly, my first google took me to a different scientist who transitioned to being accurately perceived as male, but who also stated that his treatment was very differently depending on how he was perceived and that this had a material effect on his success in science. Somewhat ironically this just reinforces the tendency for men to be listened to when women are discounted. Heh, you have to laugh to keep from crying. Julia Serano wrote a book about her experience, who was who I was thinking of (though the quote I was thinking of came from Ben above, where his "sister's" work was disparagingly compared to his own - when all of it was his own work).

As a side note, I really like how Omnomnom and gilrain reference their areas of growth. One of the things which has really hit home to me over the last couple of years at my job (case worker with adults with persistent mental illnesses) is that although I still think "learning edge" is a horribly twee way to express "things I suck at right now," I think it's important enough to be aware of them that even the twee doesn't make me cringe.

Too much.

If you do not agree with the bright line people about where that line falls, it is because you simply are not educated enough or aware enough; you are sexist yourself for disagreeing.

No, really, it's the way of disagreeing. Look at the language of disagreement - referring to one person explaining herself over and over again as a "mob" (you could argue two people - I suppose that does make it twice the mob?) and the conversation as a "battle," not to mention comparing being called sexist with being called a pedophile! This is really common derailing tactics against people seeking social justice. Granted, you more often see it in disagreements about racism (see: Trayvon Martin being recast as a violent, aggressive burglar who threatened and was going to hurt the guy following him with a gun who subsequently shot him) but it comes up as a tool used to discount feminists as well, and hinges on sexism for it's power (women, after all, are not supposed to be violent; see: the very different sentencing of women violent in self-defense versus men violent in self-defense in similar jurisdictions).

It's one thing to say, "I don't think my comment was sexist and here is why." It's another thing to say, "Being called sexist is a horrible thing, the worst thing imaginable, and I definitely am not sexist, so stop rousing your mob to attack me and destroy my home and reputation!"
posted by Deoridhe at 12:33 AM on October 30, 2012 [13 favorites]


kagredon: Kind of shitty to do this after she's stated she's leaving the thread.

Not really. It's not a personal attack on Miko, and misha is allowed to state her opinion on these events, like anyone else. It's not her fault Miko bowed out before she had a chance to do so directly.
posted by gilrain at 5:40 AM on October 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


Hey, LordSludge. I was surprised to see you started your big self-quoting comment with the bit you chose, because that's one of the ones that maybe comes off the worst, despite the disclaimer it contains:
That'd be best, sure. (But hitting on women is better for a guy's social skills than avoiding them completely. Whether that's an assholish thing or not, well I'll leave that to your judgement.) Trouble is, for many, perhaps most, guys sex is kinda like air: If you're getting it regularly, it's no big deal. If you're not, it can become all-consuming. So meeting a new, attractive woman is more valued for the potential for sex than the potential to make a new friend.

This doesn't make awkwardly or rudely approaching women okay -- this thread (and common sense) makes it pretty obvious that its not. And it's pretty clear that your interaction will be, um, unpleasant if you awkwardly approach most any woman in this thread, as per Real Life. I'm just trying to explain part of what's going on here, as I see it, why a lot of guys behave like this. Certainly not excusing the behavior.
There are a few iffy things going on there, and since it seems like you're asking for these things to be pointed out, I thought I'd take a stab at drawing your attention to a couple.

For starters "But hitting on women is better for a guy's social skills than avoiding them completely" is just a weird thing to say, and can't help but color anyone's reading of the rest of your comment. It paints a picture of a world in which these men could possibly have no other way of talking to women other than by hitting on them. That's bizarro world! And it happens to be a bizarro world produced by sexism. You add that you're not trying to excuse the behavior (though only a paragraph later, after initially saying "whether that's an assholish thing or not, well I'll leave that to your judgment"), but it does at least seem like you're excusing the worldview. It is assholish to think that the only way to interact with women could possibly be sexually. It simply doesn't make sense to pose "hitting on women" and "avoiding them completely" as the only available options for anyone, or to excuse a mindset that would view the world that way.

So, seeing some of your more reasoned comments elsewhere, it might be clear that you didn't intend it that way, that you'd in fact wholeheartedly agree with the relatively obvious statements I've made just above, but maybe you can see how referring to an inflamed response to some of this as though it were a mob of people mindlessly piling on is kind of...inappropriate? Since it's really not unreasonable to see some of what you've written in a poor light?

(I assume you're using "mob" like "mindless mob of torch-wielders," not like "mafia/mob family." It sounds like there might have been some confusion there.)

And then -- and I get that you were probably already upset by this point -- it really didn't help that you added "And it's pretty clear that your interaction will be, um, unpleasant if you awkwardly approach most any woman in this thread" in that very comment. It's kind of hard to expect anyone to take that in a charitable light, right? Even if you somehow meant it as a value-neutral description and not as the patently offensive thing it sounds like?
posted by nobody at 5:51 AM on October 30, 2012 [5 favorites]


This is my home too. For all the reasons Lord Sludge outlined above. The total inability to accept that your action can be perceived as sexist even if that was not your intention is mutiplied by thousands and millions of men all over the globe, every day.
As women we are used to swimming in this toxic water, we've developed plenty of coping strategies but the toxicity directly leads to less income for the same job, less respect for the same achievements, less security in public spaces, on an...and an...and on...and that sucks, right? and you'd love to help out just because your a good person, right? so you engage here to show your credentials as non sexist. and that's why you're still here, your credentials as a not sexist person is so important. It has profoundly hurt you to have your actions, not your person mind, your actions, characterised as sexist.

and misha, my understanding of my toxic water envirnment is of course subjective but luckily the masses and lasses of evidfence that this water is toxic at least gives me some objective parameters to tell the people who are helping to make it toxic that I know it to be so. Sexism isn't some subjective opinion I have that just happens to be shared with the majority of women on the planet whether aware of it or not, there are so many examples, studies, and evidence of sexism I had thought it didn't need to be separated from allegations of subjectivism.

But I'll try to see where you're coming from and assume you mean one or other of the people arguing the point that LS action's are seen as sexist are being subjective?


My subjective opinion is that Lord Sludge, Shit Parade and 0's actions on this thread have been sexist and that they do not accept there is a need to check those actions.

the kind of empathy being shown in this thread by people arguing how many angels you can fit on the head of a needle isn't a useful kind of empathy. In case this is too indirect I'm referring to the later intervention from Shit Parade that argued that it is possible to understand via emphathy what another group's experience in society is. I don't need to be agressive to refute that position, I believe it to be plain wrong but I also know by saying this I will be lobbed into the knee-jerk "mob" designation but hey, the only 2 people in that mob are people I would be proud to be identified with so what the hey, we're a mob guys!

We're "fighting" the "battle" with metaphor, patience, explanation and intially we even threw in some humour. But that's gone, the humour, along I sincerely hope with the other agressive metaphors like mob, fight, battle, paedophile.


so getting back to the difference between saying your intention = your action it really doesn't doesn't matter that your contribution wasn't intended to change the Ph of the water in our particular toxic Goldfish bowl even more in the direction of not good, but I have to live with the reality that it doesn't really matter that you didn't intend to do it. But your intransigence in not letting the slightest thing go here, and demanding that we all acknowledge that you are right and therefore anyone who argues against you is wrong (you specify Mike and OmieWise but you're really asking anyone who doesn't agree with the way you see your own interaction here to acknowledge some grevious wrong is being done to you, gasp even unto calling me someone like a paedophile).

You've stepped over a line here, you've made the water so toxic and uncomfortable that jess is not the only woman who left the discussion, there will be plenty more like me, who are now sick to our stomach.

I would like an apology Lord Sludge for conflation. Calling your action out in another thread as being similar to how sexists undermine women's position does not equal calling you a sexist. Your actions since that point have illustrated very clearly that you unconciously act & react in sexists ways but we all do, we just try to be more aware of it than you do here.

But that we are in effect calling you the same thing as a child raper? Get over yourself. There are enough of us on here who survived that particular hell to call you out.
posted by Wilder at 6:00 AM on October 30, 2012 [8 favorites]


I'm physically shaking and distressed right now but I've only thrown up once so that's good.

I do not say this to play any kind of sympathy card although you will not accept that in good faith. I leave my behaviour here in my home to speak for me.


I say it because you're clearly an intelligent man so you know that stats that 1 in 4 women yada yada some for of sexual assualt yada yada. and you'll be aware on an intellectual level that since most sexual violence against women is perpetrated in the home that a sub-section of 25% of the polulation will have survived child sexual abuse.

So here, in your self-identified home, in a thread on gender, this I would argue is a piece of information which would inform how you express yourself. But in throwing that particular can of gasoline onto the bonfire here you didn't remotely think it had any practical application to the subject matter at hand. Your egotistical need to be right overrode your intellect. This the only way I can explain why someone would engage that particular rhetorical H Bomb.

But despite my disgust, my intense discomfort, and my awareness that this was not remotely your intention, in saying that by accusing you of sexism it felt like calling you a paedophile I still have to live with the fall-out of you choosing to express yourself in that way. For me it manifests in wanting to scratch all the skin off my arms but I luckily have better coping strategies (and it's too early to hit the bottle).

I saw at least one other long time member get seriously uncomfortable upthread and ask you to stop and you did, although I can't know whether you actually listened to her request because if you read her contibution as you've read Miko's I think it will be like water of a duck's back.

and that's the only reason I'm still here, patiently trying to ask you to listen, please, please listen.

we want you to feel like this is your home, but please forgive me if I go eat in the kitchen while you behave in this way to people who are engaging with you in good faith. I have an image of a large male ego standing in the living room, pointing a finger at me and telling me I'm of no value because his opinion is more important. I don't know what the images running through the heads of all the posters we've lost in the past in threads like this are, I can only give you my subjective experience (based on objective socially verifiable information) of the strategy you've decided to use
posted by Wilder at 6:28 AM on October 30, 2012 [5 favorites]


In the context of this thread, it could be construed as talking about me, in which case I heartily object and I'll need to go back and rebut, point by point.

No, you do not. You've mentioned versions of this a bunch of times, and honest to god it is not actually mandatory to respond to real or perceived slights endlessly and in excruciating detail. People are allowed to be wrong on the internet.

A much healthier (and more fun for everyone) personal rule of thumb is to respond once, or in some cases maybe twice, to someone being wrong, at which point you let it go. People reading these threads aren't idiots, and are perfectly capable of seeing who has made a smart point and is acting like an adult and who isn't. There is no personal legacy that will be protected or helped by endless circular arguing.

For example, you keep using the language of "mobs," with in a discussion of feminism works as sexist language. It's been pointed out to you a bunch of times, but you are still using it -- do I go down the path of "dammit, you are even WRONGER!!!" or do I shrug and say, well, sometimes people are just going to insist on being wrong?

Walking away makes for a happier day every time.
posted by Forktine at 6:44 AM on October 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yep, I still use what I think of as "immlass's rule of three" which is that you shouldn't repeat the same point more than 3 times. By that stage, either the person you're hoping to convince just doesn't get it, or you're just not able to find the right combination of words to express what you mean today, or both. It's time to move on, either to another point, another thread or (gasp!) to a place that isn't the internet.

Trust everyone else to be able to see what's going on. Detailed point-by-point fisking isn't necessary. Pretty often someone else will say exactly what you mean in a more concise way simply because they're not het up about the subject.
posted by harriet vane at 7:28 AM on October 30, 2012


Silliness. Back away from the keyboard. It all feels personal but it is a storm in a cliche cup. It is seriously not worth this angst. You are mostly arguing with people you agree with and you are caught in a semantic loop. Disengaging is the only way out.
posted by h00py at 8:13 AM on October 30, 2012


on the Green, member threesquared linked to a blog that really sums up in far more articulate way that I ever could (I'm sorry for the typos above, I did use the edit window but clearly missed a few) If anyone still has an open mind, perhaps this will help.

shakesville

"There are the occasions that men—intellectual men, clever men, engaged men—insist on playing devil's advocate, desirous of a debate on some aspect of feminist theory or reproductive rights or some other subject generally filed under the heading: Women's Issues. These intellectual, clever, engaged men want to endlessly probe my argument for weaknesses, want to wrestle over details, want to argue just for fun—and they wonder, these intellectual, clever, engaged men, why my voice keeps raising and why my face is flushed and why, after an hour of fighting my corner, hot tears burn the corners of my eyes. Why do you have to take this stuff so personally? ask the intellectual, clever, and engaged men, who have never considered that the content of the abstract exercise that's so much fun for them is the stuff of my life.

There is the perplexity at my fury that my life experience is not considered more relevant than the opinionated pronouncements of men who make a pastime of informal observation, like womanhood is an exotic locale which provides magnificent fodder for the amateur ethnographer. And there is the haughty dismissal of my assertion that being on the outside looking in doesn't make one more objective; it merely provides a different perspective.

There are the persistent, tiresome pronouncements of similitude between men's and women's experiences, the belligerent insistence that handsome men are objectified by women, too! that women pinch men's butts sometimes, too! that men are expected to look a certain way at work, too! that women rape, too! and other equivalencies that conveniently and stupidly ignore institutional inequities that mean X rarely equals Y. And there are the long-suffering groans that meet any attempt to contextualize sexism and refute the idea that such indignities, though grim they all may be, are not necessarily equally oppressive.


I wish I had discovered this sooner, but feel having been present at so many of these threads before, maybe my perspective as a member who has not left no matter how uncomfortable it gets counts for something
posted by Wilder at 12:00 PM on October 30, 2012 [17 favorites]


LordSludge, I'd like to address this comment of yours above:

I still disagree with Gygesringtone, that men's behavior should not be explained, is not relevant to this topic, and becomes central when even included in discussion. I don't think that's a constructive approach when we're talking about problematic men's behavior, and ultimately modifying men's behaviors, unless we're just wanting to have a venting thread... which I feel is really patronizing towards women.

because it seems to me that your reaction to Gygesringtone's comment (said comment here, and your reaction here, just for reference) is one of the tipping points where things started to go off the rails.

Let me just shoot my read of Gygesringtone's comment past you and maybe you can see how it differs from yours:

I don't think G was saying that men's behavior should not be explained. He was saying that not every conversation about gender relations has to include such an explanation. Especially because a lot of women participating in such conversations are likely to have a pretty good idea what those explanations are, simply by virtue of living with and among men every day.

I don't think G was saying that men's behavior is not relevant. He was saying that not every conversation about gender relations has to consider men's perspective on men's behavior.

I think he WAS saying that men's behavior and men's thoughts about their own behavior can easily become central to a conversation even if the participants in the conversation don't intend for that to happen. Because our culture places such a high value on men's stories and thoughts, the tendency to talk about men is deeply ingrained in a lot of us, men & women alike. It's like driving a car where the alignment if off and it constantly pulls to the right - if you're not paying attention, you can go swooping off a highway exit you never meant to take.

And quite a few people above have pointed out that this absolutely does happen. They've had it happen to them in Real Life, they've seen it happen on MetaFilter, they've seen it lots of other places on the web. I can see that it was happening in that thread. A whole bunch of us (some of whom I'm 100% sure are women) - me, you, sweetkid, discopolo, Marisa Stole the Precious Thing, iamkimiam, misha, probably some others - were starting to kinda meander down the road of talking about men's internal thoughts and men's behavior.

And you know, I thought it was overall a pretty good discussion; some interesting perspectives, some respectful clarification of terms, some (mostly) good-natured examination of other users' comments. . . . . . . and I'd bet not a single dam' one of us ever intended to turn the direction of the thread towards being primarily about men.

So I didn't take Gygesringtone's comment as being a version of, "Shut Up, Men!" I saw it as a version of, "*whistle* Hey, everybody, where ya goin'? The main road's over here, remember?"

Now, I get that he quoted you at the top of his comment, but if you'll consider a more charitable interpretation of that (as you've asked people here to give a more charitable read to your comments) - maybe he did not intend it as a personal attack as such. In fact, above he says, "I just wanted you to consider that every conversation shouldn't be about your insights, or mine, or the needs of socially inexperienced guys."

His intent was to ask you to consider placing less emphasis on men's perspectives and men's behavior in that specific thread. This is a long way from telling you to shut it and go away.


Finally, I don't think that's a constructive approach when we're talking about problematic men's behavior, and ultimately modifying men's behaviors, unless we're just wanting to have a venting thread... which I feel is really patronizing towards women.

Honestly, if people "just" wanna have a vent-fest, what's wrong with that?

I mean, I believe you when you say you view certain behaviors as problematic, and I believe you when you say you'd like to participate in solving or modifying those behaviors. And of course you're right in that an important part of solving a problem is analyzing and identifying the cause of the problem.

But not every conversation about these behaviors HAS to be strictly constructive. This is a very narrowly-focused approach to conversation, and not one everybody shares. It seems you feel that in the Simple Question thread (and maybe others?) you were shut down before you were finished making your points, because people wanted to take the thread in a different direction. And I could see how that could be hurtful and frustrating, but you have to learn to be OK with that - because, in a gender-neutral sense, trying to insist that everyone have the kind of conversation YOU want to have is rude.

But then we have the added complication that this isn't a gender-neutral situation - you're a man, and many of the people in Simple Question and here are women.

Let me ask you this - how is having "just" a "venting thread" patronizing towards women? Do you think that having a "venting thread" is somehow less valuable than a "constructive" thread?

Because I gotta point out that a BIG element of our embedded cultural sexism is that MEN have important, useful, constructive, problem-solving conversations, and WOMEN have pointless, time-wasting, chatter-sessions where all they do is vent and talk about their feelings and never accomplish anything.

So for you, a man, to tell quite a few women that they're being patronized to because they might want to have a venting thread is itself a patronizing attitude - essentially, the message you're sending is, "Stop having a Stereotypical Female Conversation. It's a big waste of time. You need to have a Solid, Constructive Masculine Conversation in order to Solve This Problem."

Think about it.
posted by soundguy99 at 3:15 PM on October 30, 2012 [9 favorites]


Soundguy99, I sort of get what you're saying, but I think there's some important info missing. This "vent-fest" -- and to me, from my POV, it was largely very much not just a vent-fest, but I guess could have seemed that way to some people -- didn't exist in a vacuum; we are not talking here about a conversation that spontaneously grew among a group of women and was interrupted by men, but rather about a response to an article that (a) was written by a man and (b) was extremely problematic, both in terms of its authorship (i.e., it having been written by a newly-minted male feminist whose history should raise eyebrows) and in terms of its prescriptions for male behavior. As the article is explicitly telling men how they should behave, and as the article is authored by someone who really may not be in the best position to give that kind of advice, and as much of what was outlined in the article seemed to me to come from a weird place of self-loathing and to be, I should say, utterly absent any sort of alternatives to the objectionable behavior other than, I guess, to retire from life and write a blog about Magic: The Gathering and tell men how sexist they are, I really do think the article warrants some skepticism and some attendant serious unpacking of its tenets. If in fact the article is to appear on MetaFilter at all, which I certainly wouldn't have voted for. But that aside.

I guess one can argue that a conversation emerged from the seed of the article that took priority over the article itself and the discussion of its meaning and intent. That's a whole other thing that's been an issue on MeFi since the history of forever -- is the link the important thing, or is the conversation what matters? For me, I think it's pretty clearly both -- otherwise, MetaFilter could be replaced by a Twitter feed that spams links. But if it's both, then it's both, and shutting down criticism of the article because it gets in the way of the conversation that people would rather have seems problematic. It also seems problematic to conflate the worth of the article with the value of the conversation. In other words, a vent-fest is A-OK as far as I'm concerned, but I don't know that the response to an FPP is really supposed to be a vent-fest?
posted by kittens for breakfast at 4:06 PM on October 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


harriet vane: "rebent, I'm sorry your attempt to help the sexism discussions on MeFi has gone off the rails. I disagree with your matrix but didn't have time to comment on it early on. Now I feel like it'd be annoyingly nitpicky or offtopic to describe why I don't think it works, because it also seems obvious to me that you were making a genuine good-faith effort to help us all have a productive discussion, and the rest of the thread has gone in such a different direction. The moment has passed; maybe it'll come around again some other time. I just wanted you to know that your idea didn't just disappear into the air, and that this feminist appreciates the effort you made to help with a contentious topic :)"

Heh, thanks for thinking it over! I myself disagree with it, actually, so I'm glad you agree with me! I'd still be interested in hearing your comments because I like to be the center of attention.
posted by rebent at 6:13 PM on October 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


For example, you keep using the language of "mobs," with in a discussion of feminism works as sexist language.

See, this right here is not a given. Some people have said they felt this way, but the concepts of mobs and mob mentality have existed forever. Any group with single-minded purpose can be referred to as a mob. It is a perfectly cromulent word.

If a person feels that in referring to a group as a mob someone is making a sexist slur, I find that is a matter of interpretation, not an unequivocal statement of fact. And there was a group, not just Miko, speaking in opposition to LordSludge. He called them a mob. They don't. That says nothing to the sexism charge. You can't argue someone is a sexist because someone sexist once used the same word they did, and that other person was sexist! That's a logical fallacy. The reasoning here is reaching the level of absurdity.

It is also problematic to me because the thread was not a discussion of feminism. The discussion was on the FPP.

[The FPP in question was an article written by a man, trying to explain through analogy why a particular woman might respond with frustration and annoyance when a man approaches her with the express purpose of trying to get a date/hook up. The author used a (in my opinion) rather clumsy analogy of someone using the pretense of buying the author a cup of coffee in a coffee shop and then making him listen to a religious spiel while he was a captive audience to try to show why a woman might feel trapped in that situation, and also bring home to the reader that this kind of attention is unwanted and happens frequently.]

So, a lot to talk about there with that FPP. Certainly chief among the topics was how some women related to the article and felt it did a decent job of explaining what enduring unwanted harassment on a frequent basis felt like.

But there was, or at least I thought there was, plenty of room for discussion on other topics, like why this kind of thing happened at all, since, as some women in the thread pointed out, they rarely agreed to go out on dates with these guys hitting on them. LordSludge made some good points, I felt, about his perspective, and I don't see why that wouldn't be helpful or relevant to the discussion.

The article is ostensibly addressed to men, regarding a problematic behavior some men engage in, yet no men in the group told any women that they were invalidating their experiences or making this all about them when the women talked about these issues.

Stuff like this was tossed around freely, though, right off the bat:

But...but...men's rights! Or genetic wiring. Or something.

Seriously, this is an awesome article, and I love the way she set it up by using religious proselytizing as a metaphor for unwanted sexual advances.


Emphasis mine. That's the first comment in the thread. Right out of the gate, it makes fun of men and also erroneously assumes that the article, because the user can relate to it, is written by a woman. That misconception is corrrected, and we get remarks like this:

I'm so glad that this man is explaining how I, as a woman, feel about men.

Hell, if the men ain't listening to US, then maybe they'll listen to another guy.

A man responds to this quote from the article, "You were bothering a woman in a clear attempt to get something from her."

As a relatively shy guy, I have to say that reading things like this set me back at least a few years from ever talking to stranger in public.

That comment got 75 favorites. Could be those are all sexist, privileged men thinking women should indulge them. I read it as shy guys who worry women will think they are always out to get something if they offer to pay for coffee, but maybe my interpretation is too charitable.

Still, this comment seems to me to be a direct attack on that poster: Then you badly need some therapy. You also need to revise your definition of 'relatively shy', because if you can't read an article saying, 'Hey, don't get all martyred if a woman doesn't react well to you hitting on her in public,' without having a reaction that extreme, that's not relatively shy, it's emotionally incapacitated.

You need help, it's on you to sort that out, and until you've got your head straight, you almost certainly aren't ready for a relationship.


I flagged it as breaking the guidelines. It stands.

Look, I'm a woman. I've dealt with sexism, harassment, rape, you name it. I've also been told that I am a sexist or an embarrassment to my own sex (by a so-called feminist, no less) because I've disagreed with some of this stuff.

But I just don't see how it is helpful to any productive discussion to ascribe the worst possible motives to someone. How about just reading what they've written in the actual context in which it was written and going from that instead?

What in the world comes out of making LordSludge the monster here?

And LordSludge, I think you also need to let this go. You are going to have to accept that you are not going to get an apology, because obviously we are at an impasse at this point. Right or wrong, you and Miko are both steadfast in your belief about what happened there, and your positions are diametrically opposed.
posted by misha at 7:35 PM on October 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


misha, you speak of ascribing the worst possible motives to someone and then do it in the very next paragraph.

What in the world comes out of making LordSludge the monster here?

A *monster*? Really? What I've seen is a number of people call out specific comment(s) made by LS as being sexist. Heck, the dude himself said in this very thread that he wanted to be "called out" if people felt he was being sexist! I've also seen many comments, my own included, by people who explained that they believed that LS was confused but acting in good faith, and that we all fall prey to -ist language sometimes but the important part is recognizing that fact and trying again.

I also highly object to your characterizing Miko's posts here as "diametrically opposed" to LordSludge. If Miko has been established as a feminist thinker in this scenario, are you intending to portraying LS as a sexist thinker, as the "opposition"? That's not really doing either of them a favor and frankly it's a crappy way to frame discussions about social equality.
posted by jess at 7:53 PM on October 30, 2012 [4 favorites]


jess, did you see wilder's comments?
posted by misha at 8:19 PM on October 30, 2012


kittens for breakfast,

In some ways I am really honestly confused about how you are interpreting both my comment and the original article(s) the FPP referred to: Can I Buy You a Coffee? and But if I Can't Buy You A Coffee, How Will Our Species Reproduce? (just in case anyone's lost track.)

This "vent-fest" -- and to me, from my POV, it was largely very much not just a vent-fest, but I guess could have seemed that way to some people

To state this very plainly: I was not and am not calling the Simple Question thread or this one a "vent-fest." I was responding to LordSludge's comment, "I don't think that's a constructive approach when we're talking about problematic men's behavior, and ultimately modifying men's behaviors, unless we're just wanting to have a venting thread", which I read as strongly implying that "vent-fests" are significantly less valuable than a "constructive" discussion, and "constructive" discussions must include analyses of men's behavior, and men's explanations of men's behavior. All of my statements about "venting" were in the context of disagreeing with this implied belief.


we are not talking here about a conversation that spontaneously grew among a group of women and was interrupted by men

True. I was talking about a conversation that spontaneously grew among a bunch of people, some of whom were women, some of whom were men (including myself), and how that conversation began to spontaneously turn in the direction of paying more attention to the opinions, attitudes, thought processes, and behavior of men. Gygesringstone pointed out that this was not giving women equal opportunity to say what they wished to say, and that this turning of the conversation towards men is Business As Usual, and maybe we should all keep that in mind as the conversation moved forward.


rather about a response to an article that (a) was written by a man

Men can write feminist essays - why can't they? I really don't understand what you mean by this. (If you think the "empathy" discussion above in this thread should somehow be interpreted as a belief that men can't honestly and intelligently write or speak about sexism and feminism, you are really misreading that discussion, and scody, I think, debunks that belief very clearly here.)

Furthermore, the original articles were aimed at men, the expected audience was men - what's so wrong with a man writing a feminist essay aimed at men? Do you really think only women can write feminist pieces? Do you think that feminists think that only women can write feminist pieces?


it having been written by a newly-minted male feminist whose history should raise eyebrows

First, I don't see how the author's "feminist vintage" really has any bearing on the quality of the article. N00bs can come up with good ideas, too. And if he'd been fucking it up horribly due to inexperience, I would think that someone would have pointed it out in the thread, and I didn't see that.

It's totally legit for any given reader to view his history with suspicion, but I think that is basically a private matter between the individual reader and the text. There's no rule that says that a person with a history of problematic behavior can't eventually change and produce something good. Brand New Day exists in the real world, too.

Along the same lines, when you say, "as the article is authored by someone who really may not be in the best position to give that kind of advice" - if by that you mean his history makes him an unreliable source of advice . . . . . I think I'd argue exactly the opposite. He might actually be in a really good position to give advice, because he's fucked up in the past, been VERY publicly called out on it, and has therefore actually probably had to put a LOT of thought and soul-searching into reaching the point where he can write an article that a fair number of MetaFilter feminists thought didn't suck.


in terms of its prescriptions for male behavior. As the article is explicitly telling men how they should behave, and as the article is authored by someone who really may not be in the best position to give that kind of advice, and as much of what was outlined in the article seemed to me to come from a weird place of self-loathing and to be, I should say, utterly absent any sort of alternatives to the objectionable behavior other than, I guess, to retire from life and write a blog about Magic: The Gathering and tell men how sexist they are, I really do think the article warrants some skepticism and some attendant serious unpacking of its tenets.

THIS is where you really lost me. I really, truly, genuinely don't see this. I thought the first article was written very plainly, in a good way. Most of it was his "evangelizing in the coffee shop" metaphor, and the rest of it was attempting to draw a connection between that metaphor and how a lot of women view being hit on in public by strangers. The only part I saw that could be described as a "prescription for male behavior" was the last sentence: "Think about what you’re spouting." That doesn't seem too harsh a prescription to me.

The second article did have more ideas about how men should behave, which can be summed up as, "pay attention to the context of your situation and, again, think about it and consider the woman's perspective."

I see nothing in either article that suggests a tone of self-loathing, nothing that suggests that the only alternative is to become an unloved hermit. Where and how do you see this?

is the link the important thing, or is the conversation what matters? For me, I think it's pretty clearly both

I agree.

But if it's both, then it's both, and shutting down criticism of the article because it gets in the way of the conversation that people would rather have seems problematic.

Well, sure, but go back and re-read the thread. By the time we got to the point where LordSludge was beginning to lose his temper and where Gygesringstone's comment was made, the thread had long moved past actual criticism of the article and into a more generalized discussion about gender roles. And mostly I think that's OK. But "criticism of the article" was not shut down. It seems either confused or disingenuous to claim that's what happened.


It also seems problematic to conflate the worth of the article with the value of the conversation. In other words, a vent-fest is A-OK as far as I'm concerned, but I don't know that the response to an FPP is really supposed to be a vent-fest?

OK, I think I see your point here. And I'd agree that an actual discussion is better than a vent-fest, and, I think, more in line with what MetaFilter is "supposed" to be.

But again, my point regarding "venting" was that LordSludge seems to have a very narrow definition of "discussion", and discussions that fall outside his definition he views as "venting", and I was trying to make the point that people can have a valuable (to them) discussion that any given individual MeFite might find worthless.
posted by soundguy99 at 9:39 PM on October 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


h00py: Silliness. Back away from the keyboard. It all feels personal but it is a storm in a cliche cup. It is seriously not worth this angst. You are mostly arguing with people you agree with and you are caught in a semantic loop. Disengaging is the only way out.

Agreed. Disengaging. I'll need to burn my account because of all this. Bummer.

In closing, I'll (re)quote words a wise woman once told me, "If you go looking for the worst in people, you're gonna find it."

Really sorry for any unhappiness I may have generated. If anybody wants to reach me -- Miko, mods, anybody -- I have MeMail. But I won't discuss this publicly any further.

(Promise!)
posted by LordSludge at 10:43 AM on October 31, 2012


Misha, I hadn't up until this discussion considered the word Mobs, at all. When I first saw it here referred to as gendered, I was a bit surprised so I did an interior check.

I originally see in my minds eye mobs of villagers coming for the witch, I see THE Mob, a codifed structure originating in either Naples or Sicily but basically men, and for some weird reason my mind threw up those Policemen with Alsatians and water hoses from Birmingham Alabama (I know, I know, not a mob but I just did a quick internal inventory)

when I turned that around and said well, what is the word for the group that comes for a transgressive man? the first thing that popped into my mind was the word Posse. Authorised, deputised by the powers that be to go off and get transgressive men.

Until it was said in this thread I would not have considered that word gendered. A simple google images search threw up pretty much what my internal inventory was for this word.
posted by Wilder at 11:46 AM on October 31, 2012


"Mob" is not a highly gendered word on it's own (though it certainly acquires those connotations in specific contexts). The issue here is it's use to ascribe extreme emotions and threat of violence to feminists, similarly to descriptors like "hysterical" or "overwrought."

It's a word choice that sets up a distinction between the reasonable, logical, and calm man, and the extreme, violent, undisciplined, and raving mob of feminists on the attack.

In context, that's sexist; there are a million other ways to use those words that isn't sexist at all.
posted by Forktine at 12:22 PM on October 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


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