As a result of a recent exchange on a blog in which I felt insulted enough by the patronizing tone taken by the moderator that I decided not to participate any further, while another commenter (a male) responded with a mere “LOL”, I asked yet another commenter (also a male) why he thought our reactions were so different. “Don’t men know when they’re being insulted?” I asked.
His response? “We know, we just don’t care. At the end of the day, it’s just words on a screen. Most of us don’t expect to convince anyone else, this is a social event of sorts for people who like to talk about stuff.”
He went on to say “We don’t expect to change anything, we’re just engaging in venting, observation, and entertainment. If we learn something new, all the better.”
I find this horrifying. Words have meaning! Meaning is important! At first I thought maybe that’s just a philosopher/non-philosopher thing, but then I recalled conversations with male philosophers in which I similarly felt like I wasn’t being taken seriously, in which I felt like, the man nailed it, “entertainment”.
I don’t feel that when I speak with women on these matters. So it’s a sexist thing, not a philosopher thing.
But it’s not that men don’t take women seriously, it’s that they don’t take each other seriously either. Suddenly their attitude toward debate—it’s a game—makes sense.
As for the convincing, the changing, maybe that’s a non-teacher-non-social-activist thing, but again, if it’s a male thing, then again, it’s horrifying. No wonder the world isn’t getting better and better: the people in power aren’t talking, thinking, acting to make it so. Their discussions on policy are just “venting, observation, and entertainment”!
I wonder if at its root, it’s part of the male relationship to words. Women are better with language, so it’s said, whether because of neurology or gendered upbringing; men are better with action, so it’s said, again whether by neurology or gendered upbringing. So that would explain why women consider words to be important, and men don’t.
[Hell Yeah, I’m a Feminist is a feminist blog, often radical feminist (radfem), always anti-gender and anti-sexism.]
Oh well, turns out I have a male-ish attitude towards debate, despite being a cisgender woman. Nifty.
Being able to abstract away all but the most pertinent factual content of a message, to prevent it from getting under your skin, is a survival trait, not a “fault”.
It’s kinda like a mental immune system… or a firewall in a computer network.
If it is easy to change your emotional state with written word, it doesn’t make you a “better world changer”, it makes you vulnerable and fragile.
Vulnerable not only to mere trollish trickery of assholes on internet forums, but to other, more insidious things as well (con artists, unwholesome employers, corporate competitive intelligence folks, politicians, and many, many others).
You might be easier to convince in a debate, though – but even that is not necessary a good thing (throughout history, various deceitful and outright retrograde political platforms managed to sustain themselves and even to come out victorious by emotionally manipulating “average” people into supporting them)
Anything along the lines of “Men are better with X, Women are better than Y” is a deeply flawed was of looking at the world. The range of ‘how good’ people are at any skill is always two overlapping gausian curves, it’s like height, saying Men are taller than Women is true, but tells you very little about how the relative height of any randomly chosen man and woman.
Sure it does get interesting at the extreme ends of the curves, because if, say, there was such a thing as male and female brains by either genetics or upbringing, and female brains are ‘better’ at (say) language, then a minor difference in the position of the maxima of the curves (say women are on average 1% ‘better’ at authorship than men) might produce ten times as many women of the literaly genius level than men where we’re looking at the final fraction of a percent of the end of the curves. Which would be interesting, but again tells you nothing of interest practically about the language education of girls and boys and the optiimal choice is to assume equality rather than worry about the one girl in (say) 100,000 and one boy in (say) 1,000,000 who is a literally genius.
I’m sure this is true of virtually everything of consequence – sexism, or any form of ‘ism where you have a range of capabilities in the population – is basically stupid if you want to maximise overall human potential.
Incidentally I don’t have the research to hand, but I do recall seeing that the psychological research suggests that the best outcomes in competitive situations tends to go to those people who are capable of treating the situation as a game.