British or personality disorder? October 3, 2016 9:35 AM   Subscribe

Reading the answers to this question I have to say that I'm a bit disappointed that the nation of 60 odd-million people that I belong to has been reduced to a bit of a caricature here. Metafilter normally does very well at avoiding stereotypical depictions of different nationalities and/or minorities of many kinds, so I'm curious as to why this rather broad brush approach to the British has been allowed to stand without comment or intervention.
posted by Chairboy to Etiquette/Policy at 9:35 AM (87 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

Huh. On the "without intervention" front, this is just about the first we're hearing about it; there were a couple of stray flags on comments, one of the two of which doesn't mention the British angle at all, but that was it, no contact form action or anything. So compared to a couple more active things this morning it's been entirely off my radar. I'm a little surprised to see that that's such a running theme in the thread, now that I look through it.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:39 AM on October 3, 2016 [3 favorites]


Sorry - I could have put that better. I didn't necessarily mean mod intervention, I don't for a minute really think it warrants that. It's more that it had passed without comment or discussion. It's the fact that that stereotype seems sufficiently a given for it to pass un-noticed that I'm concerned by.
posted by Chairboy at 9:42 AM on October 3, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'm an early offender and I am British if it helps. I thought I was amusingly exemplifying the subtle sarcasm under discussion in a meta but also helpful kind of a way.

If anyone comes off badly here I think it might be the poor Americans, depicted as completely nonplussed and unable to deal with those puzzling people who say things that don't have entirely straightforward literal meanings.
posted by Segundus at 10:06 AM on October 3, 2016 [48 favorites]


I suspect it's because the description in the question is so broad that there could be a huge range of things going on, from a slightly dry sense of humor (which in the US often does get labeled "British sense of humor") on one end to some sort of massive mean streak or untreated mental illness on the other. I don't think people meant to conflate "British" with "has a personality disorder."
posted by lazuli at 10:07 AM on October 3, 2016 [4 favorites]


Is the fabled "British sense of humor" not a real thing? Honest question; I've only spent a week there.
posted by michaelh at 10:08 AM on October 3, 2016 [3 favorites]


I expect cortex will proceed to sign up to that stereotype of literal-minded Americans by deleting everything, which can only add to the fun.
posted by Segundus at 10:09 AM on October 3, 2016 [7 favorites]


Now, one mustn't grumble.
posted by Chrysostom at 10:12 AM on October 3, 2016 [13 favorites]


I'm an early offender and I am British if it helps. I thought I was amusingly exemplifying the subtle sarcasm under discussion in a meta but also helpful kind of a way.

I am a member of an ex-British colony that shared a complex history of exploitation and benefit, and thought your joke was funny and apt.
posted by polymodus at 10:14 AM on October 3, 2016 [6 favorites]


I was one of the stray flags, and someone probably flagged me when I tried to point out what I thought the problem was.

I was a little surprised that the comment diagnosing the subject as a judgmental asshole somehow didn't disappear in a puff of irony.
posted by ernielundquist at 10:14 AM on October 3, 2016 [12 favorites]


The interesting thing is that this doesn't have to be a personality disorder. Humans, especially not metafiltery ones, are not very introspective. Person displaying these behaviors might consider it normal, maybe that's how their parents/grandparents behaved. Person might not know and might not have come to realize their behavior causes others discomfort or confusion.

Everyone is labeling it British, but it might just be cultural.

Or maybe this person has realized it and doesn't know or care to change their behavior. It's a personality flaw, not a personality disorder. (which I think is what the "asshole" answer was trying to convey)
posted by INFJ at 10:18 AM on October 3, 2016 [5 favorites]


Chairboy: It's more that it had passed without comment or discussion.

Well, AskMefi replies should not be addressed at other replies, but at the question. It's not a discussion platform. That might be a part of the reason why.
posted by Too-Ticky at 10:28 AM on October 3, 2016 [8 favorites]


I will Americanly say that I've been told by actual British people that Americans are too sincere, can't handle humor, etc, so when someone is all "perhaps this humor is too dry for people of your cultural background", I tend to try to be, like, culturally respectful and assume that it is indeed too dry/subtle/etc for someone like me.
posted by Frowner at 10:34 AM on October 3, 2016 [2 favorites]


The problem with the prohibition on discussion is that it creates this environment where claims go unchallenged and often end up snowballing. So the asker has made several subjective judgments about someone else's communication style and has categorized them into vague categories with no specific examples. This results in people imagining specific interpretations and scenarios, often based on personal experience, and subsequent people take those assumptions and interpretations as fact, then add their own, and eventually the commenters paint a picture of some strawman or, in this case, an actual cartoon character and go from there.

And I am still completely boggled that a comment diagnosing someone's personality type as "asshole" and deeming them judgmental and insecure based on such a vague and subjective third party description passed even one person's self awareness filter. All any of the commenters know about the person in question is the asker's impressions. It doesn't get a whole lot more assholean and judgmental than jumping to those sorts of dramatic conclusions based on nothing more than a third party's vague impressions.
posted by ernielundquist at 10:47 AM on October 3, 2016 [9 favorites]


Is the fabled "British sense of humor" not a real thing? Honest question; I've only spent a week there.

Doesn't exist. A sense of humour, on the other hand...
posted by Celsius1414 at 10:55 AM on October 3, 2016 [17 favorites]


ernielundquist, the answerer was probably projecting a bit. Those personality traits might be shared in someone that the answerer knows and considers to be an asshole.

AskMetafilter can be incredibly knee jerky at times. See all the questions about "My SO does this weird thing, what can I do about it?" Those questions get at least two-three responses suggesting that this one weird behavior is grounds to dump/divorce the SO.

It's one thing I wish we did differently here. I wish people automatically assumed, unless the question specifically asks it, that the asker wants to stay together with the SO and how do they change the behavior while remaining together.

Yes, occasionally someone is in a really shitty situation and they don't realize it, in which case AskMeFi can open their eyes.. but the default answer to "My husband always leaves his dirty socks on the stairs, how do I stop him?" shouldn't be DTMFA. I've seen people extrapolate that dirty socks on stairs means that the husband is a disrespectful slob and clearly not that much of an adult because only uncultured children leave socks on stairs, and that's why he should be divorced - but that's ridiculous. OP clearly doesn't want to divorce husband because of socks. OP wants socks to not be on stairs and ideally remain married to husband, who surely has redeeming qualities that OP didn't mention because they're not relevant to stairs or socks. Maybe husband dutifully mows the lawn, takes the trash out, and cooks dinner on Thursday evenings. All three of those, in my opinion at least, are valid reasons to stay married and have a adult conversation with him about socks and stairs.

/tangent
posted by INFJ at 11:05 AM on October 3, 2016 [20 favorites]


> It's more that it had passed without comment or discussion.

Well, it is askme, where commenting and discussion are generally frowned on if they don't help address the question.

It's the fact that that stereotype seems sufficiently a given for it to pass un-noticed that I'm concerned by.

It always gives me a bit of cognitive dissonance when I read commentary about how something is being allowed to pass without commentary. Like when I read an article about how the media isn't paying attention to an issue I am only hearing about because the person is saying no one is paying attention.

So this said, I think you had best prepare yourself for a plate of beans.
posted by cjorgensen at 12:40 PM on October 3, 2016 [5 favorites]


So this said, I think you had best prepare yourself for a plate of beans.

i'd agree with this too. 2 of the 4 answerers using that explanation are literally british. and i have a warm fondness for the so-called british dry witty sarcasm being referred to by the answerers in question.

is "answerers" a word?
posted by chasles at 12:44 PM on October 3, 2016 [2 favorites]


I think if the question had been ONLY "how do I learn to navigate this persona?", the answers might have been less offensive. However, the MAIN question was "Is there a name for this kind of character;" and "What personality type is this?". It seems like a harmless question, but I wonder if there's any answers that wouldn't at least mildly offend somebody.
posted by destructive cactus at 12:50 PM on October 3, 2016 [5 favorites]


I think you had best prepare yourself for a plate of beans mushy peas.
posted by octobersurprise at 12:52 PM on October 3, 2016 [10 favorites]


I'm glad that the original thread didn't get bogged down in Not All Brits whinging. Given that my read of the original question was along the lines of "please tell what the hell is wrong with this person*", I thought the "they might just be British" thing was a good way to show that the person might be entirely normal, but just be used to interacting in a different way than the asker might.

I think it's more telling that people are going with the personality flaw/disorder explanation for what is perfectly normal (and, in some circles/situations, desirable) behavior.

That being said, I guess I can feel for brits who don't share the "british" sense of humour. I have some thoughts about these sorts of cultural stereotypes vs. say, racial stereotypes but I'm not confident that they are coherent enough to not be problematic.
posted by sparklemotion at 1:05 PM on October 3, 2016 [8 favorites]


I actually wondered if this MeTa was an example of said behaviour...
posted by knapah at 1:31 PM on October 3, 2016 [1 favorite]


is "answerers" a word?

"responsingers"
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 2:07 PM on October 3, 2016 [9 favorites]


You should try hanging out here while being from Texas. It's a real hootenanny.
posted by nushustu at 3:17 PM on October 3, 2016 [3 favorites]


I for one was incensed by the "asshole" comment. Comic Book Guy is not deadpan.
posted by lucidium at 3:28 PM on October 3, 2016 [1 favorite]


That thread is insufferable. We're awful.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 3:51 PM on October 3, 2016 [8 favorites]


We can read a range of opinions and agree or disagree - thoughtless or stereotypical (DTMFA! GET THERAPY!) are often appropriate, but they're called out when they're not, and that's how it should be.

I think Ask Mefi is not Metafilter, and shouldn't be held to the same standards. It already has a very rigid topic razor that gets applied very effectively, and that's enough - it doesn't need the guarded self-checking of Metafilter.
posted by Sebmojo at 4:57 PM on October 3, 2016 [2 favorites]


That whole thread was horrible and I felt sad after reading it. So many mean spirited people ready to tear down a stranger for no reason mixed in with a bunch of vaguely racist stereotyping. Ug.
posted by shelleycat at 5:10 PM on October 3, 2016 [7 favorites]


Worst. Answer. Ever.
posted by fixedgear at 5:23 PM on October 3, 2016


cjorgensen: "Like when I read an article about how the media isn't paying attention to an issue I am only hearing about because the person is saying no one is paying attention."

"The mainstream media is ignoring this issue! [link to A1 Washington Post story]"
posted by Chrysostom at 6:41 PM on October 3, 2016 [2 favorites]


The only thing that bothers me about the answers to that question are the "autistic spectrum" ones. Um, what? Dry sarcasm is not a sign of autism. Quite the opposite, in fact. Lack of affect can be, but so can the tendency to take things too literally and/or an inability to read nonverbal cues -- both of which are exhibited by the asker and may well have prompted the question.
posted by Sys Rq at 6:56 PM on October 3, 2016 [6 favorites]


I'm not British, but I am like this, and I communicate with my British collegues like this. It's not the first question I've seen where the asker makes uncharitable assumptions about somebody who does not seem to share their 'open' and 'optimistic' personality traits - there was one about a 'rude' coworker that was also a bit upsetting.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 7:03 PM on October 3, 2016 [2 favorites]


I'm not British, nor do I communicate like this, but I know several people who do and they're fine, fun, interesting people whose off-kilter ways delight me and others.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 7:36 PM on October 3, 2016 [1 favorite]


The interesting thing is that this doesn't have to be a personality disorder. Humans, especially not metafiltery ones, are not very introspective. Person displaying these behaviors might consider it normal, maybe that's how their parents/grandparents behaved. Person might not know and might not have come to realize their behavior causes others discomfort or confusion.


I am very introspective. When I communicate that way, it's a way for me to a. appear to be polite, b. keep others at arms length who I do not wish to have an in-depth discussion with because they don't share my background or views (co-workers, people on the phone, etc) and c. amuse myself.

What's odd is that somebody online was able to pick up that I spoke in 'an annoying deadpan manner like that person from Mr Robot' (which I have not seen) simply based on statements I have made.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 7:38 PM on October 3, 2016 [1 favorite]


I tend to be upsettingly deadpan for some people, and I thought the "might just be British" comments were a way to point out that yes, sometimes people are like this, and no, it doesn't have to be pathological in nature.
posted by a strong female character at 7:42 PM on October 3, 2016 [3 favorites]


The comments along the asshole/disorder track would me right up as well. I really wanted to push back in the thread, but didn't have anything else to contribute to the thread beyond that.

I am not at all surprised it has ended up here. Holy hell.
posted by wats at 7:59 PM on October 3, 2016 [6 favorites]


Reading the question again that makes me think of a subtype of male nerd. If they'd mentioned quoting Monty Python it would have been answered straight away.
posted by Sebmojo at 8:24 PM on October 3, 2016 [1 favorite]


Reading the question again that's just a subtype of male nerd. If they'd mentioned Monty Python it would have been answered straight away.


In Australia and Britain, normies also quote Monty Python, and they are apparently mainstream. Also, Doctor Who. Quite odd.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 8:27 PM on October 3, 2016 [3 favorites]


On Netflix I recently came across the series Very British Problems, which from watching a couple of episodes appears to comedically pursue the theme of framing commonplace experiences as some sort of mental or social disorder. So Channel 4 may have sown the seeds of Britain's own stereotype destruction.

Though honestly "We're awful" seems like the most plausible explanation.
posted by XMLicious at 8:34 PM on October 3, 2016 [1 favorite]


In case it gets deleted from the original thread, I have a proposition:

If you/we can put a clever name to it, come up with some decent media/pop culture examples (this thread already has a bunch) and post it somewhere resonably popular (like MeFi Projects) we might have a new pop culture meme on our hand, like Sad Boner Author or Manic Pixie Dream Girl. Bonus points if we posit it as the cause/solution to some social issue.

How about it? Shall we crowdsource a thinkpiece?
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 8:55 PM on October 3, 2016 [1 favorite]


I was personally really bothered by the knee jerk psych diagnosis of personality disorder/autism spectrum/etc. (It's somewhat different if it's someone with one of these disorders speaking from experience.) I found that incredibly offensive, and I don't think it really followed at all from the examples in the question (which was really pretty light on specifics and relied on very broad generalizations). At the same time, phrasing this as "what would you call this?" does lead more towards this knee jerk psych diagnosis trend.

But now I feel like maybe my comment was out of line to, so I just flagged myself. Since I'm not British, I probably shouldn't have weighed in on that aspect at all, although it didn't feel wrong in the moment since I've spent so much time fantasizing about living in the UK and not the US. Maybe it was also wrong to mention the NY Jewish tendency thing, although since that describes my whole extended family, I kind of thought it was relevant.

Still, it's a good general rule not to stereotype like this, so I apologize for contributing to it. Mods, feel free to delete my comment if you deem it appropriate.
posted by litera scripta manet at 9:23 PM on October 3, 2016 [2 favorites]


Your comment seemed fine to me.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 10:16 PM on October 3, 2016


The commenters claiming that the person migh be British must not have heard of Benny Hill.
posted by Ideefixe at 11:10 PM on October 3, 2016 [2 favorites]


What Segundus said.

I was a commenter, I am (legally at least) British, and the whole question seemed to me to be an American not getting a British (or, as I said, Kiwi or Aussie) style of communication. To be fair I know more, personally, about Brits, Aussies and Kiwis than I do Americans.

I was more disturbed by "this person is an asshole (sic)"/"this is a mental health issue" responses but, as mentioned above, AskMe is not there to provide answerers with a forum for debate.

I have heard of, and even watched, Benny Hill - the existence of whom does not deny the prominence of irony in British humour.
posted by pompomtom at 2:45 AM on October 4, 2016


{reads AskMeFi question}
{starts to enthusiastically write comment}
{remembers recent dialog of a couple of Brits}
{reads it, remembers that one of the Brits is me, says "Oh."}
{quietly deletes partially written comment, passes on AskMeFi question}
posted by Wordshore at 6:45 AM on October 4, 2016 [3 favorites]


vaguely racist

the comments about the British humor were stereotyping? I thought they were mostly made affectionately, some by actual Brits, and mostly came off as condescending to Americans ("if you're not able to get the humor" etc).
posted by zutalors! at 8:03 AM on October 4, 2016 [5 favorites]


a bunch of vaguely racist stereotyping

Nope, try again. Leaving aside the idea that communities bound by nationalism can be described as "races," racism is fundamentally about power. This is xenophobia, maybe. But it's in no way racist.
posted by listen, lady at 9:54 AM on October 4, 2016 [11 favorites]


What ever exact word you want to use, it was a form of bullshit stereotyping which I personally find gross. If someone wanted to say this was a normal non-pathological person they could just say that.

I'm not British but I am a kiwi, which is apparently the same thing or something. We all would have been better people without that question and it's answers.
posted by shelleycat at 10:02 AM on October 4, 2016 [4 favorites]


I feel like there's a contradiction in here, or at least a discourse challenge.

On metafilter, it is broadly accepted that posters should recognize cultural differences and respect them. This is far more often honored in the breach than in the observance, but it's a commonplace to say "think again about your answer, maybe there is [cultural factor]".

We've also had a number of metas discussing how the site is too American-focused and that it's not very useful when American commenters assume American norms of behavior and beliefs.

Also, on this site, I've heard from various British mefites that British humor is subtle, dry, somewhat negative, etc, and that Americans often just don't get it.

When people tell me things about their own cultural background, I tend to believe them. And basically, I think that's a site norm - when someone says, "In my culture, we [use dry, ironic humor and don't have the same feel-good attitude that Americans seem to]", it is considered appropriate to believe them.

"This person is either an asshole or British" is pretty terrible, yeah, when it's not dryly amusing . But when people were all "hm, this could be dry British humor, if you were British/Aussie/Kiwi you might totally have the script for this", I found that very much in line with what British people have told me about British culture.

So I'm not totally sure what the best practice here is.
posted by Frowner at 10:06 AM on October 4, 2016 [8 favorites]


Yeah, as (another) Kiwi, I found that question, and the push back from oblivious Americans in this thread, extremely, well, othering and an example of the reflexive universalizing from the American experience that drives me nuts about the way people behave on this site.
the comments about the British humor were stereotyping? I thought they were mostly made affectionately, some by actual Brits, and mostly came off as condescending to Americans ("if you're not able to get the humor" etc).
I guess we're just being oversensitive.
posted by Sonny Jim at 10:10 AM on October 4, 2016 [5 favorites]


All of this talk of Kiwis makes me want to blow up a sheep.
posted by grumpybear69 at 10:13 AM on October 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


the comments about the British humor were stereotyping? I thought they were mostly made affectionately, some by actual Brits, and mostly came off as condescending to Americans ("if you're not able to get the humor" etc).

I guess we're just being oversensitive.


Um....no. I wanted to understand the charge of racism better. I also agree that "racism" is misapplied.
posted by zutalors! at 10:16 AM on October 4, 2016 [2 favorites]


It doesn't look like much was deleted (one thing, it seems)...?

If so, I really don't get the charges that this is an example of MF being awful. The answers give a few potential streams of possibilities, some ideas for how to broach the querent's uncertainty with the person, and some personal pondering. All pretty normal.

Further, I don't think it's an awful question. The querent seems to feel they're dealing with an archetypal personality they don't understand want to navigate better...and maybe let the person know it's not being received well. Maybe the person has been taught how to communicate and will be taken aback by the querent coming to them with their questions and/or ideas. One way or another, someone's going to learn something. I don't see that as bad.
posted by batmonkey at 11:06 AM on October 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


Nope, try again. Leaving aside the idea that communities bound by nationalism can be described as "races," racism is fundamentally about power. This is xenophobia, maybe. But it's in no way racist.

whether or not you can intellectually justify it, this feels like a terribly corrosive mode of thought.
posted by Sebmojo at 1:15 PM on October 4, 2016 [5 favorites]


Just making sure, we're relitigating the concept of institutional racism now?
posted by zutalors! at 1:38 PM on October 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


I think the real problem here is an AskMe where the question is basically "please pathologize a stranger via this random list of behaviors".

I don't think there's anything wrong with asking if the person in question is of a particular cultural background, since what is considered polite or typical social behavior does vary a lot from country to country. I do think it's kind of messed up to be given a list of personality traits and asked to diagnose someone.
posted by Sara C. at 2:41 PM on October 4, 2016 [13 favorites]


The things I have seen said on here, about British people, would have been deleted if they were said about anyone else (a black person, a gypsy, etc.) Honestly, the linked thread is stereotyping but is much less offensive than other things that I have seen.

The thing is, most of the people on here are white, middle class, male, and American, and how this impacts on discussions here has come up many times in differing contexts. There seems to be this view that we are fair game when others are not. I guess they just have never gotten over being one of our colonies. Maybe they should try to.
posted by marienbad at 3:26 PM on October 4, 2016 [2 favorites]


And it gets worse the further down the class scale you go - although this is not limited to Americans, others are just as bad in this context. Even the mods agree with it - the insults that were hurled around here about 100 days ago were allowed to stand. So it's bad news if you're British, but even worse news if your Working Class British. And triply so if you're English.
posted by marienbad at 3:29 PM on October 4, 2016


The things I have seen said on here, about British people, would have been deleted if they were said about anyone else (a black person, a gypsy, etc.)

Uh... You do know not all Britons are white, right, Enoch?
posted by Sys Rq at 3:43 PM on October 4, 2016 [14 favorites]


Also, please don't do the "sub black people for x" thing ever
posted by zutalors! at 5:04 PM on October 4, 2016 [21 favorites]


I don't think the majority of MeFites are white American males. (We are probably mostly middle class.) would be curious to find out how that breaks down.
posted by raisingsand at 6:28 PM on October 4, 2016


I dunno, zutalors!--it worked pretty well for Douglas Hofstadter in a piece that turned out to have a huge influence on Sherryl Kleinman...

(wouldn't try it myself, though. Paradigmatic substitution is tricky, esp. on such sensitive issues.)
posted by Joseph Gurl at 8:14 PM on October 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


I just - no, this shouldn't be controversial.
posted by zutalors! at 9:19 PM on October 4, 2016 [4 favorites]


(you read the two essays above? I actually have some criticisms of the Hofstadter, but I'm curious what you think)
posted by Joseph Gurl at 10:11 PM on October 4, 2016


Can we also please stop lumping New Zealanders and Australians in with British people as if we're all the same? We're really not.
posted by shelleycat at 11:05 PM on October 4, 2016 [4 favorites]


Most of the people doing that here identify as kiwi, so...?
posted by Sys Rq at 11:17 PM on October 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


What? No they don't.
posted by shelleycat at 3:51 AM on October 5, 2016


Also, please don't do the "sub black people for x" thing ever

There's nothing wrong with doing this, as long as one is sensitive to the ways that Black people have had to deal with oppression throughout history that may not have equivalents or analogues in the history of [whichever group they are subbing for].

I'm not 100% sure that that sensitivity was shown here, but the analogy is not automatically inappropriate/offensive, and it's often more conducive to discussion to talk through why the analogy is flawed in this particular case than to dismiss it out of hand.
posted by sparklemotion at 7:46 AM on October 5, 2016


It used to be established on this site that institutional racism is a thing and that "sub black people for x" isn't a constructive way to have a conversation. For one thing, pretending that "black people" is some sort of well understood "third rail" of discrimination that no one ever touches just isn't accurate. Secondly, marienbad's comparison is offensive specifically because many Britons are nonwhite.

I don't know if it's because of Trump style politics or that some more vocal minorities seem to be staying away these days, but we sure are relitigating a lot of topics that I've felt are done and dusted. Very disappointing and odd.
posted by zutalors! at 7:52 AM on October 5, 2016 [13 favorites]


There's nothing wrong with doing this

A lot of people are offended by it on its face, including, apparently, the person to whom you are responding.
posted by Etrigan at 8:07 AM on October 5, 2016 [8 favorites]


I guess they just have never gotten over being one of our colonies. Maybe they should try to.

Sounds like someone's got a case of the Yorktowns!
posted by octobersurprise at 8:26 AM on October 5, 2016 [6 favorites]


A lot of people are offended by it on its face, including, apparently, the person to whom you are responding.

I don't want to downplay the offense that anyone may feel, but would it not be better to allow the black people on this site to speak to whether a particular line of discussion about black people is "a constructive way to have a conversation?"

Obviously, I can't speak for all of the black people on this site, but I can speak for myself that I don't need people to be offended on my behalf on this particular thing.

It used to be established on this site that institutional racism is a thing

AFAICT, no one in this thread has disputed this.

"sub black people for x" isn't a constructive way to have a conversation.

It is often, in my opinion, a pretty darn good way to start a conversation. Especially one like this one that is kind of nuanced. In this particular case, I think that the reasons why marienbad's comparison was flawed actually get to the heart of the issue under discussion. Which is why it's frustrating to see attempts to shut down the discussion with with "don't do this!" comments from non-mods.

So yeah, wrong does not always equal offensive, and listening to the reasoning of people that I think are wrong can still teach me a thing or two.
posted by sparklemotion at 8:52 AM on October 5, 2016


Yeah, there's a long crappy history of "what if x were black people" or "what if black people were x" being rolled out as a clumsy gotcha in arguments on the site (and, maybe more to the point, far more of that elsewhere on the internet and in the world too) that makes it pretty difficult to take as just a neutrally reasonable rhetorical decision to run with.

That's not saying it's literally impossible to compare the experiences or circumstances of two different social groups or cohorts or whatever, nor is it reasonable to assume that everybody agrees about where the line is (from either inside or outside the experience of being black), but it's not something where "no, it's fine" seems to really incorporate the practical history of how often that particular tack has been used badly even when not in literal bad faith, here and elsewhere, over the years. Feels like a weirder tack yet to take in response to someone actually trotting out a lazy "but what if it were..." comparison in this actual conversation.

An all that goes for more than just "if x were black" comparisons—it's a template that's been used in pretty dumb and problematic ways as either a cudgel against or opportunistic exploitation of a whole variety of groups—but that's a pretty notable and familiar example of the move and one that I think people are fairly justified in being grumpy about at this point.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:58 AM on October 5, 2016 [6 favorites]


In any case, this is a conversation someone started about something other than "is it okay to swap black people for other groups to make a rhetorical point" and has only taken that turn through a couple of odd jaunts. There's potentially room to have a more detailed conversation about this some time if we have a better reason to do it, but I kinda feel like this footing isn't a great one to start from and is more likely than necessary to spin off into the less good kind of MetaTalkian generalized argument, so I'd personally rather people consider either moving back toward the original topic or letting it be for now.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:03 AM on October 5, 2016 [4 favorites]


I'm a Brit and I probably wouldn't have realised the person referred to in the original question was 'exhibiting' any kind of persona. That's just how some guys interact in offices.

'Bants/Bantz,' on the other hand, definitely is British.
posted by Coda Tronca at 1:25 PM on October 5, 2016 [2 favorites]


I mean, if you subjugate and exploit a globe-spanning empire for hundreds of years and the worst thing that happens to you after that empire falls apart is that a bunch of people on the internet making light-hearted jokes about you having a dry sense of humour... Yeah, I feel like maybe you don't need a whole lot of emotional guardianship? Which I think also goes a long way to explain why so many Brits have expressed that it doesn't bother them or even chipped in.

we sure are relitigating a lot of topics that I've felt are done and dusted

I've noticed this as well, and it's annoying.
posted by tobascodagama at 5:42 PM on October 5, 2016 [4 favorites]


Also, I agree that "diagnose this person over the internet" is probably not a thing we need to have an AskMeFi about in the first place.
posted by tobascodagama at 5:52 PM on October 5, 2016 [8 favorites]


Your feelings may not match with the feelings of others.

As an example, I would think it was a pretty terrible precedent, to start dismissing people's problems because of a millennia-spanning cultural history they happen to be at the end of. But then, if you're talking about re-litigating, it seems arguing whether people have a right to feel certain ways is back on the table.
posted by gadge emeritus at 7:00 PM on October 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


Most of the people doing that here identify as kiwi, so...?

And it occurs to.me that maybe you're referring to my first comment above. When I made it I didn't think anyone would think that a clearly over the top ridiculous, sarcastic, throw away comment was an actual earnest endorsement of the total erasure of my entire nation and culture. Which is actually why I want people to stop doing it (regardless if where they're from) because it perpetuates this incorrect idea. Also, I should have been more straightforward from the start and will try to remember that.
posted by shelleycat at 8:58 PM on October 5, 2016


Also, I agree that "diagnose this person over the internet" is probably not a thing we need to have an AskMeFi about in the first place.


This.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 10:05 PM on October 5, 2016


Sorry shelleycat but given the original question's subject I had to smile at the response "When I made it I didn't think anyone would think that a clearly over the top ridiculous, sarcastic, throw away comment was an actual earnest endorsement".
posted by Gratishades at 5:10 AM on October 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


whether or not you can intellectually justify it, this feels like a terribly corrosive mode of thought

You can feel however you like about it. You can also use the word "corrosive" in place of making an actual critique. To whom is it corrosive? White people? British citizens are not a race; this admittedly shitty joking is not about structural disempowerment.

The words we use do actually matter. Not sorry.
posted by listen, lady at 2:54 PM on October 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


As an example, I would think it was a pretty terrible precedent, to start dismissing people's problems

Saying something is not oppressive is not "dismissing people's problems." It's not an affective hierarchy. Problems are problems. They can just be ... that.
posted by listen, lady at 2:59 PM on October 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


You can still be hurt by something that isn't amplified by structural inequalities though. I'm British and thought the thread was unpleasent; one comment made me feel reassured that I was not the only one to find the thread odd. It's strange to be on the receiving end of stereotypes delivered in such a straightforward, supposedly helpful manner without challenging the questioners assumptions at all - like a quick experience of being "othered." Odd.
posted by eyeofthetiger at 3:04 PM on October 6, 2016 [4 favorites]



You can still be hurt by something that isn't amplified by structural inequalities though.


OF COURSE YOU CAN. I'm not saying that shitty shit is not shitty. I'm saying that filtering it through structural inequalities is unnecessary, inappropriate, and (ironically!) an exercise of the power that animates those structures themselves.

Like: I think cultural stereotypes as in that thread are rude & shitty. I NEVER said otherwise. I said it's not racism. Jesus. Nor is it oppressive because other people don't care that you've been hurt. It's unkind. That is enough! It can just be that!
posted by listen, lady at 3:07 PM on October 6, 2016 [7 favorites]


Yeah, really not racism.
posted by zutalors! at 6:58 PM on October 6, 2016 [3 favorites]


Sorry shelleycat but given the original question's subject I had to smile at the response

The initial thread was about someone with a very dry, sarcastic sense of humour. Whereas I was not joking and not trying to be funny. This stuff is, in fact, not funny to me at all. Which is why I should have been more clear from the start.

And we can all argue and quibble about what exact words to use to defend treating people badly or we can just stop using bullshit hurtful stereotypes about anyone and make the world a slightly nicer place. Saying 'I didn't know that was hurtful' is a pretty weak excuse in the first place, and now it's been pointed out that it is, even that excuse is gone. So why exactly are we still quibbling?
posted by shelleycat at 10:28 PM on October 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


Sorry listen, lady was not meaning to get at you, and completely agree with you.

Let's find another lens to look at this stuff through apart from racism then. I completely agree it can just be hurtful and doesn't need racism-dressing to be taken seriously. Is there a word for stuff that's in between structural oppressive stuff and everyday unkindness? The thread was a odd sort of pile-on using stereotypes with a weird detatchment and lack of awareness those stereotypes weren't OK. Sort of stereotype-blindness.
posted by eyeofthetiger at 2:17 AM on October 7, 2016


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