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Monday, 19 March 2012

Can't we all just get along? Even though you're being stupid?

The following is cross-posted from the Damsel in de Tech blog. Click here to see the original.


I seem to have spent a lot of time already talking about feeling empowered to call someone out when they're being a caca doodie head (like here, here, here, and here). I feel it only fair to now focus a bit on trying to find middle ground during some of these potentially heated exchanges.



There are occasions when there is no singular right answer or response. Take, for example, the Slutwalk movement as a response to systemic victim-blaming and sex-shaming. Many people will not be able to feel comfortable supporting a cause with such a provocative name. Many people will never put in the effort to find out what the cause is really about and will dismiss it outright because of the name. This does't mean that it does not have an important place in starting conversations about rape culture, and it does not mean that the positive experiences of those who have found a voice and solidarity in the movement are invalid. And those positive experiences don't mean that movements like Take Back The Night have run their course and are no longer relevant. There is plenty of room to agree to disagree.

Disagreement itself can also be healthy. None of us are perfect or omniscient (even if yours truly comes breathtakingly close). When we're disagreeing with people (or they with us) I think it's important to decide if in our desire to stick to our guns we may not be missing some important and credible critiques. Sometimes we can skip over that concern - goodness knows I'm not missing out on something lifechanging that could alter forever my appreciation of the cullinary arts when I mock trolls who make "sammich" jokes on feminist forums.


But outside of obvious trolls, I think it important to consider giving the poster the benefit of the doubt and holding back our desire to immediately squash debate.

For example, again going back to Slutwalk, this past summer the issue came up of persons of colour not being adequately represented within the Slutwalk movement. On its face, to supporters who have been aiming to be as inclusive as possible from the start, this was a distressing accusation. But, the Slutwalk founders listened to this criticism and are now endeavouring it make the Slutwalks better. (I talked more about it here)

I also think it valuable to have people who identify as feminist who have different ideas as to what being feminist entails. For example, there seems to be a huge division between feminists who support sex workers, including those who are voluntarily in the sex work industry and want to continue to be, and feminists who oppose sex work in all its forms, including stripping, pornography, and prostitution. I think both sides are needed, because there is no single solution to ending abuse of sex workers. There are sex workers who want safer work conditions within the industry, and sex workers who want to exit the industry and need supports set up to make that feasible. There is no one-size-fits-all solution, because to impose one would, in my opinion, disrespect the breadth of experience of those who are within the sex industries and have different needs.

It's not always easy to be able to discern in the moment (or even in hindsight), when one needs to stick to their guns, or shut down someone who's obviously trolling, or try to be more diplomatic and try to reach some sort of compromise. There have been times when I've dived head-first into snark and GIF parties when someone was honestly asking a question. There have been times when I've let a misogynistic dillweed lead the converstaion for the better part of a day because I was trying to be diplomatic. There will be many days to come, I'm sure, where I will fall flat on my face in the effort to weigh both sides. It's ok. I'll learn and I will continue to get better at it.

It's very important to note sometimes people may not word their disagreement terribly well. I have the benefit of a good education, with English as my first language, as well as a background education in advertising, and so what I want to say usually comes across the first time. Take someone with less impressive English skills and a subject that sparks a great deal of emotion, and you'll often come across a first post that reads like, "WTF IS RONG WIT U?!!!!!!!!!" Antagonistic, yes, and it doesn't give a heck of a lot to build on, but sometimes conversations that start off less than ideally can lead to a mutual understanding at the end.

When you come across a post that initally sends your blood pressure through the roof, I urge you to consider reading it a couple times before responding. And when you do, I hope you'll consider posting questions to draw out the crux of the poster's concern to ensure it doesn't lead to people needlessly ALL-CAPS RAGING past each other when it might be the result of a misunderstanding.

Given the current cultural climate, I want to make clear that, despite all this nice talk of diplomacy, there are some issues where there can be no middle ground. If I'm talking to someone who thinks women are like cattle, there is no middle ground to be had. If I'm talking to someone who believes the rights of a zigote always trump a woman's right to bodily autonomy, there's no middle ground to be had. If I'm talking to someone who believes that women who dress like sluts deserve to be raped, there is no middle ground to be had. These, and many more issues like these, require a hard-line stance. That doesn't negate the ability to be open about other topics, and the ability to be open about other topics doesn't undermine the importance of drawing the line at these topics. One doesn't have to be one or the other at all times ever. Human interaction is more nuanced than that.

But, legit, the attacks on women's health care are bullshit.


1 comment:

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    ReplyDelete

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