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[ETA: An earlier version of this post was posted without links.]
1. What discourse norms do you tend to follow? Why? Do you think everyone else should follow them, and why?
I take pride in generally
– interpreting things people say charitably
– trying to phrase what I say really rigorously
– trying to be kind
The “why” is partly that I genuinely value these things but mostly that this is my most natural mode of interaction most of the time. I seem to have a sort of built-in charitableness filter that I actually find it really hard to switch off.
I think that the world would be a better place if most people followed these norms most of the time, but I do not think they should be obligatory in many contexts. There are many people whose natural emotional responses are much stronger and more turbulent than mine. This is especially common for people who have experienced painful and frustrating things like various oppressions. Requiring people to be maximally charitable and kind at all times would exclude lots of people from discourse, and it would disproportionately exclude people who are hurt by the very thing being discussed, which I think would be a really bad outcome.
Also, being really charitable does have failure modes – for example, I sometimes find myself confused that my friends are outraged at something which actually is totally outrageous but sounds reasonable after passing through my charitableness filter. Being charitable can keep me from seeing the worse implications of what someone says unless someone less charitable and more realistic points it out to me, and I appreciate when people do that.
I do think it’s a problem when people use this reasoning to be unnecessarily mean and abusive.
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?
The reason I started being social-justicey is because of statistics about things like implicit bias and resume name studies and various other demographic-related-bias studies which showed me that even though my society basically embraces equality (at least for race and gender), bias persists.
I have since read that some of those studies’ conclusions may not really hold up. I have not delved into the research enough to know exactly what to believe, but I think it is likely that many but not all social justice claims about the state of the world are true.
What keeps me feeling an affiliation with social justice is social justice values, and the usefulness of social justice tools and concepts in understanding the world. Regardless of the empirical question of exactly how common various forms of (for example) sexism are, social justice allows me to name, describe, and oppose sexism when I encounter it.
Some examples of what I’ve learned from social justice:
– Microaggressions: an extremely useful concept for the dynamic where a really small thing will make me feel disproportionately angry because it’s the tip of a much larger iceberg
– How to spot double standards and unequal expectations (for example: beauty standards; the way people sometimes criticize marginalized people for perfectly normal behavior)
– How to spot (sometimes) my own biased reactions/reasoning
– Trans acceptance & the norm of accommodating pronoun preferences
– Good consent and boundaries practices (in sexual and non-sexual contexts)
– How to understand & describe not-totally-blatant bigotry
– How abuse works
– What some common problems faced by members of various groups are
– What signs to watch out for to try to make a space welcoming to a diverse set of people (do people from different demographics all get to talk equally? Are a certain group’s perspectives ignored until someone from a different group brings them up? Is the event venue/activity/time set up to exclude a certain group of people? What assumptions am I making about what people do and don’t want and what tradeoffs are acceptable?)
I know that there is a distressing number of people who use social justice abusively or carelessly and hurt people. The reason this does not cause me to turn away from social justice is that I think we can make social justice self-correcting. In much the way that the fix for bad science is more science, the fix for bad social justice is more social justice.
What I mean is: I believe that most harmful social justice is caused by bigotry of the very sort that social justice generally condemns. (Most often ableism.)
– Nerd-bashing: ableism, sometimes racism (against Asians and Jews), gender & appearance norms
– “It’s okay to say arbitrarily mean things about privileged people because they won’t be hurt by it”: ableism (ignores that there are lots of people with mental illnesses that make them way more easily hurt than you might expect – and also just individual variation in resilience to this kind of stuff), ignores intersectionality (people who are in the privileged group may also be in a different marginalized group), ignores the complicated position of people with complicated identities (e.g. closeted or self-closeted LGBT people, mixed-race people)
– in particular, making fun of men for being upset about something (generally something allegedly more trivial than sexism) sort of reinforces the norm that men shouldn’t have emotions, which feminists generally oppose
– TERFs: self-explanatory
– being mean to people who don’t have thorough knowledge of social justice concepts and terminology: classism, ableism, English-centrism
– “you can’t talk about this unless you’re in X demographic”: requiring people to out themselves, which social justice normally objects to
– mocking political opponents often devolves into classist stereotypes and body-shaming
While in certain cases a bigoted social-justice-adjacent ideology does become entrenched (e.g. TERFs), and social justice people can be really stubborn in defense of their ideology, there is at the same time a norm in social justice communities that when one is told one is being bigoted, one should listen. Thoughtful social justice people can and do accept arguments that their activism is bigoted. And I’m not totally atypical in my opinions here – here are some Everyday Feminism articles saying some of the same things. (I know EF is often silly and bad, but (a) not always (b) it is certainly an example of social justice land.)
There are also social justice failure modes that don’t fall into this category, and those also need to be addressed, but I don’t think they doom social justice as a whole.
How you could try persuading me not to affiliate myself with social justice:
– convince me that if there was no history of sexism, racism, etc., the marginalized groups in question would not be substantially better off today than they are in reality. (I’m not sure how you would go about this, however. Also, you would probably need to convince me of this for most of the groups in question – e.g. I think there is a better case for this to be true for women than for black people in the U.S.)
– convince me that there are few true findings of modern-day bias
– convince me that the inclusiveness-optimizing behaviors I’ve learned from social justice don’t actually do much good
– convince me that social justice is overwhelmingly abusive in practice
I’m not sure exactly how many of those things would need to be true in order for me to be persuaded.
3. Explain Gamergate.
I really don’t remember it well at all, but here’s a go.
– I accept Ozy’s argument that Zoe Quinn emotionally abused her boyfriend. (I have not independently read the Zoepost so this is largely on trust that Ozy summarized it accurately.)
– Said boyfriend posted chat logs showing this.
– Lots of people on the Internet got really mad at her and attacked her, and because this is The Internet this involved a lot of really terrible misogyny and stuff
– People were also mad about her (a video game developer) sleeping with a video game reviewer because they thought this meant video game journalism was corrupt. These accusations sounded really overblown to me but I did not examine them closely. (Also I don’t know whether this or the Zoepost came first.)
– I think there was also a backlash against feminist critics of video games, which of course also became super misogynist. (Note: I know nothing about video games so I have no idea how reasonable the feminist critics were, but I am in general extremely in favor of feminist reviews of various media.)
– From what I heard the anti-Gamergate side got pretty abusive too; I do not know whether the amounts and types of abuse were comparable. (If nothing else it looks like most other anti-Gamergaters did *not* consider Quinn to be abusive, which is a problem (though again, I haven’t independently evaluated this).)