Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Oh, for the love of little green leaves!

Stop making segregation comparisons when talking about sexism!!!


It makes you look like an asshole, which makes any further conversation awkward and/or hostile.


  1. You SERIOUSLY don't see that there is a continuum of oppression?

    You seriously don't KNOW that the EXACT SAME FREAKING TACTICS of silencing from "oh just be nice and you'll eventually get equal treatment" to "if you don't STFU then you'll make us backlash against you" were used all through the first half of the twentieth century against any and all (even the mildest) attempts at civil rights reform?

    Or can't see that the following decades' "hey, we can stop talking about it now, because racism is SO OVER" is exactly the same tactic used to deny the existence of sexism and hence any need for reform (q.v. The Anchoress the other day)

    - and FWIW, I personally wasn't even able to begin considering myself a feminist until after reading many, many pages of contemporary and past Black Power dialectic, and recognizing that the utter bullshit I accepted of radical individualism (as embraced lately by Occasional Superheroine), you can make them accept you if you only try hard enough to be As Good As The Boys, to be Nice Enough, so long as you don't act like one of those uppity ones - was in fact the same bullshit I could clearly see was bullshit when used by, say, the National Review in re race.

    ...Kids these days, don't know their history, don't give damn about it, doomed to reinvent wheels and wonder why they're stuck spinning them.

    (And the fact that you find such a high overlapping set - in and out of fandom - of Guys Who Get Snotty About Feminism and Guys Who (Frex) Complain About John Stewart is not some random coincidence caused by the phases of the moon or what house Saturn is in, either.)

  2. I see your point, but I agree with bellatrys, too. It's good to think about the relevance of racial civil rights to our own situation; good comparisons can be made in argument if you're respectful and knowledgeable, and if you're actually pointing out salient parallels. If someone's just doing the "the other side is evil Segregationists!", tho, then yeah, please stop. You're just mucking up any real lessons of history for the rest of us... (This is pretty much exactly my opinion on Godwin's Law, too; if you know something relevant about historical Fascism, lay on by all means, but don't just use it as an epithet.)

  3. Fox -- Yes, there's similarities and relevance, but I've yet to see the respectful comparisons made at this point, and I've yet the see the evidence people making them are knowledgeable.

    Its one thing to discuss the overall trends and tactics in a discussion specifically about intersectionality, or in a long thoughtful comment that brings the overall matter of intersectionality to the conversation.

    Its another thing entirely to bring it up in soundbite-sized throwaway witticisms or not-so-thoughtful-essays to support a point in another discussion. When you use something like the continuum of oppression to just go and compare a social hurt against women to a historical legal hurt against minorities, you risk belittling the other person's struggle in order to advance your own values.

    Basically, you end up saying "my pain is more important than yours."

    It also, arguably, falls under the "Slippery Slope" fallacy, and comes dangerously close to the same logic as a troll arguing suppression of free speech when his comment is deleted.

    And that's just bringing it up meaning well. I've seen more than enough "Shut up because Martin Luther King was a great man and HE changed things by being nice" and "How DARE you compare yourselves to the Civil Rights struggle even though I'm the one who brought it up!" arguments to last me a lifetime. We should all know what's wrong with them.

    The Wizard thing is worth discussing in a reasonable manner, its worth being angry about, and its worth making jokes about. Its worth wild improbable rants and calm rational debates.

    Its not worth being an ass about.

  4. It's especially difficult to take from people who only bring up the civil rights struggle to point out the similarities to their own cause. It doesn't really give them impression that one has respect for the people who made those advances if you only bring them up when it's helpful to your, different, cause.

  5. It's like Isaac said on SportsNight: "And because I love you I can say this: no rich young white guy has ever gotten anywhere with me comparing himself to Rosa Parks. Got it?"

  6. Ragnell,

    I agree with you on this one. Comparisons to other civil rights struggles are appropriate when done thoughtfully and with the proper context, but when do we ever see that?

    The modern struggle for equality, particularly for women, has a lot to do with freedom from stigma and changing peoples' attitudes about gender roles. Simply making comparisons to other well-known struggles doesn't help anyone's argument. More importantly, most sexism happens in practice without real awareness on the part of the perpetrators. No one thinks to themselves 'I will treat this person as less because they are a woman.' The conditioning that leads to the behavior is far more subtle. While it can be just as damaging as institutional segregation, it's not the same thing, and can't necessarily be fought using the same tactics. While there's a lot to be learned from other civil rights struggles, making comparisons to Jim Crow isn't going to resonate with the people whose attitudes need to be changed for their to be progress. In other words, comparing people to George Wallace isn't going to make them want to agree with you.