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Raise your hand if this is a familiar source of tooth-grinding frustration: "Shame on you for being concerned/upset/worried about thing X, because thing Y is way worse."

(This post started as a comment over at a post Jen wrote about comments Richard Dawkins made. But this annoys me enough, I want to just make it a post all its own. And also, I want to detach it from GettingHitOnInAnElevator-gate. Because really, it's a more general complaint and what Richard Dawkins said is just one example.)

Now, I've run across this faux-argument mostly when I bring up an issue as a feminist, but I'm sure that it happens on other topics1. In one instance (among many), a couple of years ago I got in to the middle of a dogpile on the World of Warcraft forums because several of us female type humans had the audacity to say that we thought there was a particular thing in the game that was probably intended to be cute, but we found it sexist, creepy, and insulting. And immediately, that argument got pulled on us. We're not allowed to complain that something in the game sexist and insulting because women in less socially liberal countries are under the thumb of some really horrible misogynists.

There are a multitude of reasons that this "argument" is a steaming pile of bullshit:

1) We are capable of being concerned with more than one thing at a time. And we can be concerned about an array of both large and small issues and speak out about them. Feminist women and our feminist male allies are - and this comes as a shock, I know - capable of multitasking.

2) You (directed at the general "you" that uses this ridiculous argument) do not have any way of knowing what I have and have not done toward the cause of women in less privileged countries. And further, it does not matter because you have no right to dictate to me what I can and can't be concerned about.

3) You may think that thing X is less important than thing Y, but you must also acknowledge that I am directly affected by thing X, and that potentially gives me more power to do something about it. There is a limit to what one of us can do on our own about a giant issue in a far away place; we can donate money, we can volunteer, we can work to raise awareness. A "smaller" issue that affects you personally is something that you can act much more directly on. So you know what? I cannot personally end the practice of female genital mutilation. But I can personally try to change something that affects me directly - to use the WoW example, as a paying customer of the company that's doing something offensive, I can make a stink about "Hey, I think this is BS."

4) EVERYONE performs this sort of mutlitasking and issue triage. Everyone. Trying to tell someone they shouldn't is frankly hypocritical.

5) Also, if you are that concerned about thing Y, why the hell are you wasting your valuable time and energy arguing with silly wrong-headed feminazis on the internet instead of combating thing Y?

6) Every time I hear this argument, this is what I hear: "The issue you have chosen to speak about is one that I dislike or makes me uncomfortable, and I don't really have a good answer to it. Therefore I will try to shame you with my powers of sarcasm in to shutting up because OMG children are starving in Africa."

Ultimately, it comes across as almost less insulting if your "argument" is just a baldly stated "go make me a sandwich," because at least then it doesn't sound like you're pretending to be on our side.

Please, just let this argument go; it's not going to convince anyone, and is frankly going to fan the flames of anger because it sounds so damn condescending. There are a lot of other ways to deal with something you think is turning in to a tempest in a teapot. Ignoring it could be one course of action, since for some reason basically telling people to shut the hell up on the internet doesn't work unless you have the power to simultaneously kill everyone's broadband and melt their smart phones. Maybe just saying "I don't consider this an issue so I'm going to go do something else" would come out as more positive, and you can have a smug little thrill that you're totally the only adult in the room as you go flouncing away.

Or hey, maybe trying to understand why people are freaking the hell out about something you consider to be a non-issue could be worth a shot. You never know.

1 - Hm, maybe along the lines of "You shouldn't whine about 'under God' in the Pledge of Allegiance because there are countries where being an atheist will just get you executed!" And so on.



( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 4th, 2011 05:29 am (UTC)
*blinkblink* Creepy guy is creepy. Where he's creepy or how he's creepy doesn't actually change the creep-factor. Bigger creeps in Africa mutilating women don't change creepy guy's creep-factor either. I am lacking in understanding how one effects the other. The starving children in Africa argument is a logical fallacy and irritates me as I expect better from him.
Jul. 4th, 2011 02:11 pm (UTC)
Yeah, with this specific Richard Dawkins case, apparently he's now basically saying he won't listen to what Jen says because she cusses. So... yeah. *facepalm*

I mean, the argument is general BS. The particular dude in an elevator thing has exploded into such a mass of internet stupidity that I don't even want to touch it with a ten foot pole.
Jul. 4th, 2011 09:14 pm (UTC)
Oh, so now there's a tone argument in the mix, too? AWESOME. ~_~
Jul. 5th, 2011 03:08 am (UTC)
Yeah, it's just... yeah. I made the mistake of reading comments again tonight. Am backing away slowly before I explode.
Jul. 4th, 2011 06:16 am (UTC)
Perhaps advising them to wear cotton undies and iron them after washing will help. (odd mood, not trying to be offensive.)
Jul. 4th, 2011 02:09 pm (UTC)
Jul. 4th, 2011 12:24 pm (UTC)
Let me guess? Was it the Playboy Bunny ear thingy on WoW? I remember thinking that was pretty fucked up....
oh and yeah, that argument was RIPE for picking from almost any male on the masculinist lists I debated on some years ago. It was almost as if they were programmed with it.

LOOK LOOK, feminism is DONE here in the industrialized world, we who are *true humanists* realize this and don't want to oppress men, but bother with those poor muzlim/african/other ethnic wimminz in lesser countries instead! (which in fact they didn't at all..)
Jul. 4th, 2011 02:08 pm (UTC)
That would be the WoW issue. I also got some shit at some point when I posted about how awesome it would be if the female characters got to wear armor that looked like armor.

I had a feeling you've heard that BS "argument" a zillion times before.
Jul. 4th, 2011 10:19 pm (UTC)
Oh man, that argument really makes me froth! Just because I can actually do something or speak out about Thing X doesn't mean I don't give a shit about Thing Y. It's kind of like a creep arguing that it's okay that he grabbed your tits because at least he didn't *rape* you. Besides, he was 'just kidding around' and why the fuck are you so pissed off that he violated your space and body.

As you might remember, I'm a pretty outgoing, friendly person but some creeps seem to think that it's okay to make remarks about my tits. Which... no. Yes, I know they're big. I'm very well aware, thank you very much. Not.

You may have already seen this and if so, I apologize, but your WOW discussion reminded me of this vid. Hope you enjoy.
Jul. 5th, 2011 03:10 am (UTC)

And all this BS because apparently people just can't understand why a woman could possibly find it creepy that some dude has followed her in to an elevator, where it's just the two of them at 4 in the morning, to proposition sexy times.


Seriously, the next time someone tries to tell me that atheists are more enlightened than the general population, I will laugh so hard that I just might pass out.
Jul. 5th, 2011 05:04 pm (UTC)
*chuckle* well, you know my opinion of dawkins, at least i think you do.

he does this with every minority group. it's just standard, classist british elitism, at its best. ask your hubby about it. it's like white guilt, but more virulent and snobby, with tea.
Jul. 5th, 2011 07:07 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I definitely agree with you on Dawkins now. I didn't know a whole lot about him back in the day, but now that he's opened his mouth a couple of times... yeah, you're right. So right.
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )

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