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1. What discourse norms do you tend to follow? Why? Do you think everyone else should follow them, and why?
Frankly, I think a lot of good discourse is just not being an asshole. Most people, if told they’re doing something that’s making other people uncomfortable, will knock it off—most of the time.
But some people fail to apply that rule if the thing that’s making other people uncomfortable involves their own privilege. Then, they’ll talk over the complaint, insist it was “no big deal”, or nitpick the complaint until the other person gives up from exhaustion. Much of the time, the counter arguments (if they go beyond “it’s no big deal because I said so”) amount to hearing about a friend’s house getting robbed and telling your friend, “Are you sure your house was robbed? Or do you mean to say it was burgled? Because there’s a difference you know. Legally speaking, the difference is that…”
Of course, the reason people act this way is because so much oppression is due to unconscious biases, so most people don’t realize it when they’re being racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, or ableist. So part of good discourse is working to become aware of your own unconscious biases and correcting for them. This is something that privileged people can’t expect members of oppressed classes to do for them, it’s something the privileged need to do for themselves by spending lots of time listening to other people’s experiences of oppression—and I mean actually listening, not just waiting for the first excuse to dismiss everything they’re being told.
Sometimes people balk at this because they misunderstand that’s being asked. An analogy I like to use—and I wish I could remember who came up with it—is for privileged people to imagine they’re on a job internship. If you’re an intern, obviously you’re going to spend lots of time listening and asking questions, and you’re not going to presume you have the expertise to tell the company’s full-time employees everything they’re doing wrong. In discussions of oppression, it’s people who’ve experienced oppression their whole lives who are the experts on their own oppression. So shut up and listen to what they have to say.
2. What is the true reason, deep down, that you believe what you believe? What piece of evidence, test, or line of reasoning would convince you that you’re wrong about your ideology?
Uh, because the evidence of society’s oppressive power structures is literally everywhere? I don’t want to invoke Donald Trump lightly here, because whether or not he wins, the mere fact that his presidential campaign has gotten this far has already had direct consequences, particularly for women and people of color, in terms of normalizing bigotry. So I don’t want to say that his campaign has been a good thing, or that it will have been a good thing even if he loses. But I do think there’s a silver lining here in that given nearly half the country is willing to vote for this guy, it’s now impossible to deny that bigotry and oppression are still major problems that need to be combated. Not to mention the fact that main reason I can say “nearly half” is because of rich old white dudes who are fine with racism and misogyny, as long as it’s polite racism and misogyny, but faint at the thought of anyone being crass about it.
Speaking of the current election, there’s also no shortage of examples to prove that oppressive attitudes are rampant among “progressives” as well, but 2016 also conveniently gave us an especially easy-to-use example of this in the Bernie Bro phenomenon. So really 2016 is the year in which everybody stopped having any excuses.
As for what would change my mind—I don’t know, waking up from the Matrix and Morpheus telling me, “oh, by the way, for some reason the machines decided to create an alternate 21st century where racism and sexism continued existing after 1970, which is when they were completely eradicated in real-world history.” I’m not being sarcastic, I think that may actually be more plausible than imagining we discover an elaborate conspiracy to manufacture evidence of ongoing oppression. I mean, it’s easy to make fun of MRAs for ranting about the secret feminist conspiracy that’s supposed to be controlling the world—but how else do you explain away all the evidence of sexism in the modern world (not to mention all the other *-isms that still exist).
3. Explain Gamergate.
Gamergate is an internet harassment campaign that started out targeting women in the video game industry and appears to have expanded to anyone who the Gamergaters perceive as a threat to their fragile male egos (including some men, but the Gamergaters seem to find women especially threatening). Actually, I’m not sure I can explain all of it, like I can recite the “it’s about ethics in game journalism” narrative almost by heart by now, and in a sense it’s a coherent narrative, it just bears no relationship to any of the documented facts. Like, we have screenshots from the chatroom where the harassment campaign was originally organized! There are links to them on Wikipedia! So I know what happened but I’m totally confused about who the Gamergaters think they’re fooling. Not that I’m surprised by the misogyny—but you’d think eventually they’d come up with a new hashtag and agree to pretend it has nothing to do with the old one?