A Series of Improbable Events
Content warning: copypasta, violated expectations
On the sixth of this month, Amanda Marcotte wrote something which made a lot of sense to me:
I’m sure this story is on its way to a conservative media outlet near you, where some white, privileged man in tighty-whities will roll his eyes about the hysterical feminists, which, in this case, well—good call. Still, one thing I’ve been trying to keep in mind is that the women getting wound up about the statue are really young and just starting to explore the identity of “feminist.” College is a time for taking everything too far, from drinking beer to sports fandom to sexual drama to using your fancy new vocabulary words picked up in women’s studies courses. Which doesn’t mean that one should refrain from having a laugh over this, of course. Let’s hope Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein are taking careful notes for the next season of Portlandia.
She is basically saying that social justice activists should be on guard against taking feminist ideals and jargon too far, using the Sleepwalker incident as an outstanding example. I say “hurrah” for calls to moderation (softly, of course) even when they come from unexpected quarters.
On the tenth of this month, Greg Laden wrote something which made a lot of sense to me:
The perfect storm of upset that arose from the DN Lee post take-down, the Bora take-down, the declaration of Henry Gee as the Feminist Anti-Christ, and the cries for boycott of Nature Publishing Group are examples of the tendency to accuse, try, convict, sentence, and severely punish perceived (real or not) transgressions to the Nth degree. I’m not sure if this eSociological phenomenon is more akin to a Monty Python-esque Medieval witch hunt or immature middle-school antics. Henry Gee was subject to ruination of his career and depression-inducing depression because some people did not like one of four hundred pieces of short fiction he was editor for. That would be a rather steep penalty even if Womanspace was the most sexist piece of literature ever written (though it was not).
This is pure pish and tosh when we consider the fact that promoting women and diversity, and promoting science generally, are shared goals of every single individual explicitly mentioned or implied as involved in this large scale conversation. We can be better than this.
Sounds to me like he is saying that sometimes we should focus more on our shared goals and values rather than witch-hunting each other in spasms of pro-feminist moral panic. I completely agree on this point, though there is much else in that article that I might call into question.
On the fifteenth of the month, Rebecca Watson wrote something which made a lot of sense to me:
I mentioned in a comment on Amy’s post that the idea that we should avoid words like “stupid” sounds like it was created by 4chan to troll people who care about social justice. On the other hand, there are apparently feminists who argue that a statue of a man in his underpants is a form of sexual assault, so it’s worth remembering that no movement is free of activists who get just a bit too excited about calling out perceived injustices. With that in mind, feel free to discuss the finer art of slur-free insulting in the comments below, but do try to keep the outrage in check.
Once again, we are counseled to show some restraint; social justice activists may “get just a bit too excited about calling out perceived injustices” and fail to “keep the outrage in check.” This is, of course, precisely what followed in the comments.
It is good to know that my fellow secular activists agree that we should be careful not to take “social justice” ideology so far that we start to do damage to our shared secular goals and humanist values. I sincerely hope to see more open discussions which allow us to explore which limitations are reasonable and productive and which are more akin to a Monty Python or Portlandia sketch.