Monday, August 4, 2014

Oppressive language isn't witty invective.

This is a pattern everywhere, but it really grates on me that it's a pattern in places where people should know better, and in places where people should want to do better to match up with their own self concept.

Frequently, oh so frequently, a skeptic or a feminist or a skeptic feminist or someone who cares about one or more important social issues will say something ableist (or they'll say something transmisogynist about Ann Coulter. That particular thing happens frequently too). This is someone who has a history of caring, at least to an extent, about social issues.

Someone will tell them that's not cool. Will they say "oh my bad" and rephrase? No. No they will not. Oh so frequently they will instead derail and ask for an exact list of "approved" and "disapproved" words, as though such a thing exists, as though they cannot look for themselves and see what communities do and do not denounce.

There are similar conversations with people who are heavily invested in their identity as skeptics. These are the folks who make sure you know that they are smarter and more rational and reasonable and empirical than thou. You must know, they are superior to you, and they are superior to anyone who disagrees with them, because the evidence says so, objectively. Just ask them.

Yet both of these groups, when you come right down to it, want to use marginalized groups as their invective. This is not in keeping with being interested in social justice--this is shitting on people. This is not in keeping with rationality and skepticism--if you are oh so superior to me, yet cannot disagree with me in any way but "whatevs, you're disabled & that's bad" your invective is not witty, it is just bigotry.  This is what Skepchick did when they decided to say "you DDoS because you're a 'tard" instead of "wow, what hypocrites to make a big deal about freezepeach and yet take down our website. How very sad that is. I wonder what it's like to have so much free time and so much cognitive dissonance?". This is what PZ does when he lazily, yes lazily, calls people or groups "stupid". This is what a whole lot of atheists in particular do when they call beliefs "crazy" or call religion "mental illness". This is what vaguely left ish people do when they call Ann Coulter the t slur.

This is not witty. It is not funny. It is not creative. It is lazy. It is not indicative of any superiority. It is bigoted. It is fucking bullshit. And there's barely any point in talking to any of the people who do it about it, because they generally don't want to actually criticise what they claim to be criticising. They want to continue throwing around bigoted ad hominem and patting themselves on the back for being funny.

The bigots are the only ones laughing with you, y'all. The only people who think you're superior because you crap on marginalized people are other folks who are more invested in feeling superior than in doing right. Punching down language may make you feel like a better person, like a witty superior master of invective, but it doesn't confront the issue at all. What the hell kind of skeptic are you if your entire argument is "but you're a marginalized person so you're wrong?"

The kind living in logical fallacy land, that's the kind. And unfunny. And likely not even hurting the person you're aiming for, but all sorts of other people. A good, and funny, take down will approach from a different angle, will actually confront the issue, and will not hurt innocent bystanders.

I don't see much of this though. I see lots of the same stuff we confronted in the lunch room in seventh grade. It wasn't clever then, & a decade later it's even less clever.

If you're so proud of your superiority, demonstrate it. If you're so into social issues, start treating all people as people. If you are just interested in being generically mean, keep up what you're doing.


5 comments:

Rhonda said...

People do not think about this enough. Folks toss out criticism with ableist language without a thought about the origins of that language. Good on you for the call out!

Rhonda said...

People do not think about this enough. Folks toss out criticism with ableist language without a thought about the origins of that language. Good on you for the call out!

Alex Conall said...

What the hell kind of skeptic are you if your entire argument is "but you're a marginalized person so you're wrong?"

The kind of skeptic who is NOT a marginalized person--at least not on the relevant axis--and is therefore completely unaware of how people get dismissed for being marginalized on that axis. Or something.

Chickenpig said...

The fact of the matter is if you use language that is hurtful or insulting to a group, it's hurtful or insulting. If that group tells you that it is offensive, or a person of a group tells you that it is offensive, than it IS. If a person continues to use that language, than they are intentionally being offensive and an a-hole. Period. That language may even shift and change over time, too bad, move with the times. I don't see why it is so hard to understand why using certain language just shouldn't be done in conversation. Not just because it's offensive, but because it's shitty and disrespectful.

DanYellow said...

As a self-identified crazy atheist, the idea of "religion as mental illness" is the biggest beef I have with mainstream atheists. They need to realize that no, religion doesn't make people crazy, and insanity doesn't make people religious. Theists and atheists are 99% neurologically the same, they just disagree about what's true. There are plenty of atheists and skeptics who are mentally ill. Before making any generalization about people, marginalized or not, always take a quick Nazism test: Replace the group you're talking about with "Jews" and if it sounds like you're reading from the Mein Kampf, consider keeping that to yourself.