Thursday, March 23, 2006

Mapping the Conversation

Lucky White Girl maps a conversation rolling through the blogosphere regarding the intersection of privilege and blogging. It's really interesting stuff.

The debate started with a Feministe discussion on whether feminist sites should allow non-feminists to post comments. I haven't been specifically following the thread of the conversation, but I have intersected with it in two places. First, back when Alas, a Blog was considering having threads reserved for "Radical Feminist Women" only, I wrote a post objecting and proposing instead that certain threads be "reserved" for anti-feminists to prevent sidetracking. AAB ended up taking a roughly equivilant stance, leaving most threads open while reserved some for "feminist or feminist-friendly posters," which, while limiting, is nowhere near as constricting as "radical feminist women."

I also read Dark Daughta's post on male feminist bloggers occupying a privileged position in the feminist blogosphere. This post I think was targetted directly at male-operated AAB. I read the post at about the same time as I was writing my "Privileged Man's Guide to Life" post, which I think parallels this discussion nicely as well.

In any event, it's an interesting discussion, and a topic that should be explored in depth (albeit civilly--a right to be hostile, even if justified, doesn't make it the best theory or the best practice).

6 comments:

Thin Black Duke said...

I'll have to respectfully disagree. As far as I can tell, most calls for civility are nothing more than an attempt to shut us up. Think about Martin Luther King's "Letter from Birmingham Jail," which was written in response to "well-meaning" folks asking for civility (emphasis mine):

"You deplore the demonstrations taking place In Birmingham. But your statement, I am sorry to say, fails to express a similar concern for the conditions that brought about the demonstrations. I am sure that none of you would want to rest content with the superficial kind of social analysis that deals merely with effects and does not grapple with underlying causes. It is unfortunate that demonstrations are taking place in Birmingham, but it is even more unfortunate that the city's white power structure left the Negro community with no alternative."

And so I stand by my statement. Fuck your civility. It's obviously not working (that is unless privilege is working in your favor).

David Schraub said...

I am allowed to chuckle about you "respectfully disagree[ing]" with my call for civility, right?

In any event, I think two points can be made. First, folks who equate "civility" with "silence" are being completely disingenious. Feel free to ignore them. I don't consider protesting uncivil. I don't consider forceful advocacy uncivil (I am a debater, after all). "Fuck whitey" (in those words) is what I mean by incivil--and I don't think that's absolutely critical to the civil rights project

Second, saying something "hasn't worked" with regards to civil rights is redundant. If it had worked, we wouldn't be having the conversation. But incivility hasn't worked either--has Louis Farrakhan succeeded in shocking White America out of its apathy and toward a redoubled effort at ending race hierarchy? Not really--all he's done is virtually obliterate the Black/Jewish civil rights alliance. "Not working" isn't a unique argument.

Thin Black Duke said...

I am allowed to chuckle about you "respectfully disagree[ing]" with my call for civility, right?

Hmmmm...you get my sense of humor. I think we'll find ourselves getting along.

As for your first point. To me, a statement like "Fuck whitey" has nothing to do with civility. It's pointless. It says nothing. It has no place in a debate.

And don't get my started on Farrakhan because I have a lot of incivil things to say about him as well.

The point that I'm trying to make is that some of us (yes, even some of us Ivy Leaguers) are most comfortable using the vernacular and have no problem being forceful about our opinions. You're right, a simple "fuck whitey" just doesn't cut it. But if I happen to use the word "fuck" (the most extreme example, but really I mean any vernacular phrasing--see, the response to Bitch | Labs use of "Awwwhellnaw" as an other example) in a coherent debate, and someone calls foul because of "civility" I tend to think that it's just an excuse to dismiss me.

So I guess "fuck whitey" isn't a matter of civility to me. It's a matter of bad argument.

Second, saying something "hasn't worked" with regards to civil rights is redundant. If it had worked, we wouldn't be having the conversation.

This interests me. I'd never thought of it that way before. I'll have to think more about it before I respond.

(see, at least my foul mouth is thought out :))

Ampersand said...

One of my pet peeves is the false claim that "civility" and "not using curse words" are interchangeable. They're not. Civility is about treating other people with respect, even while disagreeing with them.

You're right, of course, to say that false appeals to civility are misused to wrongly dismiss valid and important arguments. But that doesn't mean that civility is a bad idea; it just means that false appeals to civility are bad.

There's more to life than debate. (Sorry, David!). I think not treating other people like shit counts for something, too. If someone says "if you weren't such a fucking moron, you'd know that hate crime laws don't single out particular groups for protection. But you don't know that, because your brains are so full of shit that it's dripping down your nose," I'd agree with the point about hate crime laws, but still criticize the incivility.

Dark Daughta said...

When an issue is so close to home that you understand the folks who hold the other side in any given debate are positioned to literally cause harm and further marginalization of me and mine, I eschew civility and courtesy as their ability and willingness to put boots on my neck renders any niceties null and void. :)

Thin Black Duke said...

One of my pet peeves is the false claim that "civility" and "not using curse words" are interchangeable. They're not. Civility is about treating other people with respect, even while disagreeing with them.

I agree. And I also agree that we shouldn't treat other people like shit. I'm now realizing that our notions of "civility" differ. My experience is such that calls for civility have had nothing to do with treating people like shit, but with an attempt to shut people like me up. This is why I'm hostile towards such claims. It seems that your idea of civility has more to do with "not being an asshole." Well yeah, I agree with that. I don't want to be an asshole, but I will most definitely speak my mind and I'll do it as forcefully (and with as many swear words) as I need to. Dark Daughta is right: "Their ability and willingness to put boots on my neck renders any niceties null and void."

Exactly. That's what I mean when I say "we have a right to be hostile."