Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Feminism and Civility and Communication (Oh My!)

Over on Alas, there has been an on-going discussion about "civility." Since the thread has been closed before I could make a few comments of my own, I figured I'd go ahead and re-open the discussion here.

Over the years, a number of studies have pointed out that, in the "real world," men tend to interrupt women more often than other men, and far more often than women interrupt either men or other women.

Theoretically, in the world of the internet, this will happen much less frequently. On a blog or discussion board, there's simply no way to interrupt a person, right? No one can even read what they've had to say until they've written it out entirely, proofread it, and so on.

In practice, however, it seems that men have simply found a new way to interrupt -- the all too common "thread drift" (or "derailment"). Now, I'm not saying that thread drift, to one extent or another, isn't natural (in many cases it is). Nor am I saying that women never engage in it (directly or indirectly). But, in my experience, the most egregious offenses have been done by men. In fact, I pretty much gave up posting any threads about a month back (and then went on to create this new blog) because I was so sick of the flagrant disregard for what I was saying, and the constant need to dramatically drift the thread onto an entirely different subject within the first couple of posts. Admittedly, this was due to a particular man at the time, but it made me take a closer look at other instances where it had happened, and sure enough, it was primarily men. Some of the men were self-proclaimed anti-feminists, others were self-proclaimed [pro-]feminists.

As I said, there are definitely times when thread drift just naturally occurs during the course of a conversation. And I'm not talking about that. I'm talking about total thread derailment. What I see happening, more often than not, is a few men who suddenly feel that they are not a part of the conversation -- either because they don't have enough knowledge about the subject matter, or it is simply of no interest to them. Rather than simply sitting back and listening for a change, they attempt to change the subject entirely. Their feelings of entitlement allow them to do this without nary a shred of remorse. Hell, in most cases, I'd suppose, it allows them to do this without nary a shred of recognition of what they are doing.

In the "civility" thread (ironically), this happened again -- with Rad Geek and Foolish Owl leading the way. It started out pretty typical -- men, unable to join the conversation as it is, change the subject in order to be able to engage in some conversation. This time, however, they were asked (politely) to stop their derailment, and even given an alternative thread in which to discuss their obviously important discussion. (Yes, this polite request was made by a man -- credit where credit is due.) Yet, that still didn't seem to be enough. Foolish Owl had to continue on with his oh-so-important response, ending it with a suggestion that they take Amp's advice (thereby acknowledging that he did, in fact, see the request, and simply chose to ignore it).

Funnie responded:

Jesus Christ this is so fucking classic.

Either the thread drift is distracting or it isn’t. How very goddamned male to go ahead and DO WHAT YOU WERE JUST ASKED NOT TO DO in order to get a word in and then SUGGEST THAT YOUR OPPONENT BE THE FIRST TO PLAY BY THE RULES.

So civil! So polite! No personal attacks in Owl’s posts, nosirree! Just the classic war of attrition against women, in which space is taken up by “reasonable” men who say things like I don’t think it makes sense to argue that civility or debate are inherently patriarchal, or otherwise inherently oppressive and then politely continue doing whatever the fuck they feel like doing, wherever and however they feel like doing it.


Hostile? Yeah, but I can understand. It is "fucking classic." Some men (Owl and Jake Squid) have gone on to say that they don't understand where the hostility is coming from -- that they honestly don't understand what the serious offense is, and therefore the hostility is unwarranted and instead, Funnie (or women, in general, perhaps) should have spent more of her/our energy on even more handholding and explaining.

Frankly, I cannot understand why this isn't as plain as day -- but then, I don't have the male entitlement that would allow me not to see what is so incredibly rude about Owl's actions. And, even more importantly, I'm sick to death of spending more time and energy on handholding and educating than anything else. Funnie did explain what was wrong -- what pissed her off. Maybe men should spend more of their time and energy really listening to what is being said. It's really not a different language.

This is but one example (among many) of the double standards of "civility" enforced by men; of a civility that by and large benefits the oppressor and keeps the oppressed silent.

48 comments:

bean said...

This is a comment left by Alsis -- I believe it was meant to be in this thread, but was accidentally entered as a comment in another thread:

..Rather than simply sitting back and listening for a change, they attempt to change the subject entirely...That's the most important part to me, right there. Too often, the same men who wonder why women would want a space of their own to debate or just shoot the shit, are the same men who simply can't bear to let a single thread go by without posting *SOMETHING* in it;Even if that something doesn't really have fuck-all to do with the actual discussion. Yarrgh. --alsis38.5

FoolishOwl said...

This is FoolishOwl.

I blundered; I'm sorry. I thought it would have been rude not to respond to Rad Geek's post. On looking back, yes, that was stupid of me. And yes, it was a fucking classic example of men talking over women.

What upset me about Funnie's criticism wasn't that it pointed out I'd blundered, but that it described it as if I'd been acting out of deliberate and conscious malice -- which made it difficult for me to recognize the justice in the initial complaint.

Raznor said...

I hope I haven't rudely done this. I suddenly think of something I left on feministe the other day with regret. Crap.

Understand that we men never asked to be men, nor to have society bestow privelege upon us as a fucking birthright due to the fact that we have penises. The way I see it there are two ways to react to this. One can be honest, and recognize that we have priveleges, which are so ingrained from birth that it's hard to see what they are, or we can be comfortably dishonest, and pretend that we have no priveleges whatsoever. I try to fall into the first category as much as I can, for what it's worth.

bean said...

There is a difference between "male privilge" and "male entitlement." One is something you have less control over than the other. With male entitlement (which is what I see happening as described in my post) is something which might take some longer than others to realize that they are using it, but it is something that any man can easily get rid of.

Mary said...

Interesting points. What caught my attention early on, was the men interrupting women more often than vice versa, or even men interrupting other men. That's hard to see on the Internet compared to RL, but in RL, yeah.

I go to governmental meetings and there's six men, one woman and the woman is lucky if she can get two words out(and she's polite, though sometimes challenging of them)and the men, especially these two individuals are always interrupting, cutting in and I know from experience when I talk to them, they do the same thing. The only time they do it to a man, is with the Black councilman, who doesn't do it back but objects when he's interrupted-loudly.

(racial politics is as big as gender politics at the city level in politics)

I've called them on their behavior and have had less luck with this, though I did have some luck when I called one male councilmember on the carpet for his temper tantrum a few weeks ago, when someone spoke against the war. He was probably censured inhouse for that too, as much for his own political health as anything else.

If the female council member acted like that...whoa! Hysterial. Unstable. Tempermental. Hormonal. Those words and others would come to play.


She's a feminist by the way, I think, b/c when I discuss feminism, which has come up at meetings, she nods her head in the way women do when we understand each other.

radfem

FoolishOwl said...

What happened in that "civility" thread, from my point of view:

Off-topic stuff was introduced early, in post #2. I'd tried to swing it back to a discussion of civility, but Rad Geek and I ended up going off on a tangent. I'd made post #8, and logged off the Internet. When I came back, we were up to #34.

I saw that Q Grrl had responded to one of my posts, so I spent a fairly long time working out a response to her response. After I posted that, I noticed Rad Geek's post #29, which I'd somehow missed before. I vaguely remembered having seen Amp's request to move the off-topic thing to another thread. So, I wrote what I thought was a quick response to Rad Geek's post (I spent maybe two minutes writing it), ending with the suggestion we move this to another thread.

I usually assume that deliberately ignoring someone else's question is one of the most insulting things that you can do in a conversation, and a non-responsive answer is little better. Apparently, that's my idiosyncratic belief, since apparently no one else thought I'd responded appropriately. From my point of view, I'd wanted to answer an interesting question -- and the "interesting" part is where my blunder lies -- but get things back to the official topic. I had several exchanges with Q Grrl, before I got criticised for my response to Rad Geek.

That seemed to me to be completely out-of-the-blue, and I got angry. But, I thought I'd better try to acknowledge the possibility I'd made a mistake, or I'd be a hypocrite. So I asked what I should have said.

The angry refusals to answer my question upset me *far* more than funnie's criticism. It really took me most of a day to calm down from that. I hadn't understood what I'd actually done wrong, since from my point of view not answering Rad Geek would have been arrogant and rude -- but the refusals to answer suggested I really did know what I'd done wrong, and that I was being deliberately malicious.

The thing is, it's not so clear in my head where the division between "entitlement" and "obligation" is. I can see, on reflection, how my response to Rad Geek was an expression of entitlement, but I'm surprised no one saw that it was also something I felt obligated to do.

bean said...

I'm surprised no one saw that it was also something I felt obligated to do.Oh, I do understand that you felt that. That's part of what I'm talking about.

Jake Squid said...

I do understand where the hostility comes from, I just don't understand the purpose of it. I do find it odd that it was only after I mimicked the hostility shown by several commenters by using the word "fuck" that I saw responses that I was able to understand - but that could be a coincidence.

I can also understand not wanting to expend energy on handholding and educating, wanting to spend it on something that you see as more constructive. And since you don't want to do that, I won't ask any questions.

Amanda said...

Glad to see you have your own blog, bean! Does this mean you're not gonna post at Alas, anymore?

Amanda said...

DOH! My bad. I guess I thought Amp was saying you had a brand new blog. Well, just doing my part to even things out by not listening to a man.

SorchaRei said...

I hadn't understood what I'd actually done wrong, since from my point of view not answering Rad Geek would have been arrogant and rude -- but the refusals to answer suggested I really did know what I'd done wrong, and that I was being deliberately malicious.Now, see, this is where I get lost. I accept that you didn't understand what you did "wrong". I understand that it would have been easier and faster for someone who did see what you did simply to explain it to you. The thing is, the fact that people did not do so does not, in fact, suggest that they thought you knew what you had done and had done it deliberately.

It might mean that they thought you had access to enough information to figure it out, and that you were smart enough to figure it out, and that a good use of time might be for you to spend that effort.

In fact, my interpretation when people refused to answer you was that they were treating you with respect: the data was all there, and they thought that if you calmed down and thought about it, you could figure it out.

Had I engaged in that part of the discussion, I would not have answered your request for enlightenment, either. But it would have been exactly because I did not think you knew what you had done, and because I thought that treating you like an adult included giving you the space to calm down and look at what had already been said (which did, in fact, explain the "offense"), and try to understand it without someone having to make it palatable and easy for you to see.

I learned a long time ago (as a white woman doing anti-racism work) that if a person of color (or particularly several people of color all at once) started saying things to me that seemed unhelpful and crazy, then it was time to slow down, get over myself, and really start to pay attention to what I was doing and why I couldn't see what was so obvious to others.

Why you think "funnie already explained what you did that upset her" is equivalent to "you did it intentionally and with malice aforethought", I do not know. But it is not the first time I have seen a person on the privileged side of an imbalance do the same thing. Spoon-feeding and hand-holding is tantamount to telling you that you are incapable of doing it differently, at least left to your own devices.

nobody.really said...

*Gender Relations,* a play in one act:

Joe walks along and steps on Mary’s toes. “Ow!” say Mary.

“Oh, I’m sorry!” says Joe. “I didn’t see you there. Please forgive my ignorance. Now I know better and I won’t do it any more.”

Paul walks along and steps on Mary’s toes. “Ow!” says Mary.

“Oh, I’m sorry!” says Paul. “I didn’t see you there. Please forgive my ignorance. Now I know better and I won’t do it any more.”

Jack walks up to Mary. “Hey, WATCH OUT FOR MY TOES!” Mary cries. “WHAT’S THE MATTER WITH YOU MEN? ARE YOU ALL BLIND?”

“Jeez!” says a startled Jack. “I didn’t see you there. But calm down. Yeah, I might have stepped on your toes if you hadn’t said anything, but you did and I didn’t, so stop over-reacting. I mean, it’s not like I was gonna step on your toes on purpose. And don’t slander my gender. Maybe other guys have stepped on your toes, but I had nothing to do with them. It’s pure prejudice to attribute their crimes to me just because we have the same gender.”

“Always remember,” Jack continues, “anger is only appropriate in response to *intentionally* harmful conduct. Of course, I understand that children and other people simply haven’t learned to master their emotions, and I guess we must all make allowances for them. But if you want to be taken seriously among the grown-ups, civility is required. ”

*Curtain*

Anonymous said...

Ack... I think I've been doing this in conversations alot (if not on blogs). Thank you for making me aware of it. -EdgeWise

Anonymous said...

bean,

I refrained from participating in the civility thread, and related threads, over at Alas because the boundaries of the topic did not seem to be well-defined.

In your post here, you seem to have identified the topic of this thread as thread drift and what should be done about it.

1. "men have simply found a new way to interrupt ... they attempt to change the subject entirely. ... men should spend more of their time and energy really listening to what is being said."

Maybe that topic is really just the lead-in to a different discussion about another topic:

2. "the double standards of "civility" enforced by men"

The first topic is worth a discussion, I think, because it opens the floor to consideratoin of ways to encourage commentators to stay on-topic.

The second topic also presents potential for an interesting discussion, of course, but its boundaries do not appear to be well-defined yet.

Although meta statements (and qustions) about threads could lead to drift, my intention is to clarify what is actually on-topic and open for discussion here.

FoolishOwl said...

But I did NOT have access to enough information to figure out what I'd done wrong. Nobody but Charles suggested what I should have done instead. As I saw it, I had no other option that wasn't even ruder than the option I'd taken. I was wondering if there was some other possibility I'd completely missed, because I was just not seeing it.

What I keep saying is that my notion of civility means that if someone asks a question, you're obligated to answer if you can. Not answering a question directed to you is an insult to the asker. If I didn't answer Rad Geek, I'd have thought that Rad Geek would have taken it as some sort of insult, that I didn't think Rad Geek was worth my time.

That the refusal to answer my question was intended as a deliberate insult was reinforced by all the repeated comments about "spoonfeeding" and "I'm not your Mama."

Speaking as someone who got the crap beaten out of him, many times, by people who called me a "sissy" or a "Mama's boy" while doing it, I'm inclined to take that sort of comment as a deliberate and direct insult.

I tend to think that the fundamental model of having a conversation is answering each other's questions. I can only guess we're coming at this incident from different models of conversation.

SorchaRei said...

I think we do have different models of conversation, actually. I think that one thing that can happen in conversation is that we can answer each other's questions.

What I don't agree with is the assertion that this is the only useful way conversation can unfold, or with the implication that therefore, if I ask you a question then I have created an obligation on you to answer the question to my satisfaction.

People ask questions for all kinds of reasons, including the desire to get more information. However, people also ask questions to put other people in uncomfortable positions, to make rhetorical points, to demonstrate their power over the other person, and for all kinds of other reasons that may or may not include treating the person they are asking with respect.

Even in the case where the question is asked with seriousness and no malice, I don't accept that it creates an obligation on the person of whom it was asked. Conversation is always an on-going negotiation, and the premise that by ending a conversational gambit with a question mark, I can keep the other person in the conversation (or at least in the wrong, if she chooses not to answer) denies free choice to everyone in the conversation. It also suggests that asking a question is always a power play, whether that was the intent of the asker or not.

Now, I was certainly raised to believe that when someone speaks to me, it is polite to answer them, and for the most part, I follow that dictum (although I certainly reserve the right to do something else when I think that's more appropriate). However, the question, "How does A work?" has more answers to choose from than "Here's how A works" or a refusal to engage at all.

Other possible answers include:

-- I don't know.
-- I don't think that it's my place to discuss that.
-- That's not how I want to spend our time together.
-- I don't think it would be helpful if I answered that.
-- I am willing to answer, but let's go in the other room before I do.
-- I need to think about that.
-- How do you think A works?
-- I could tell you, but then I would have to kill you.
-- I've already answered that question three times, and I am too tired to answer it again tonight.
-- Go ask your father.
-- Did I ever tell you about how not knowing how A worked saved my life once?
-- Why would you ask me something like that?

Now, in some circumstances, some of these answers are unbelievably rude. In other circumstances, some of them are stupid, or funny, or annoying. But all of them are legitimate, in my view, in any circumstance whatsoever.

Your belief that asking a question creates an obligation to answer it in the way you would like it answered doesn't make it so.

P.S. I assert that people did answer your question: they told you that in their view, there was sufficient information already in the comment thread to answer the question, if you went and looked for it. They may have been wrong about your ability to see what was so clear to them, but it doesn't mean that they were attacking you, or treating you with what they viewed as disrespect.

funnie said...

Bean,

I really appreciate you engaging what I said.

-f

Anonymous said...

Excellent post. I see this over and over again. And Funnie was right to point it out. I really thought this discussion on Alas reached a level that most feminist discussions never do, because sometimes feminists are too worried about playing nice with the guys. I think I learned more about feminism these few days than I learned in years.

morgan

shannon said...

This is a great comments thread. To me, I must admit that when someone does something offensive and then acts like they don't know why people are offended, I feel that the person is lying and am even more offended.

But I experence racism and sexism as almost the same entity so I'm used to constant dishonesty about people's real feelings and really paper thin excuses that are insulting in their thinness as the mode of discourse between the privleged and non privledged.

The idea that we have to stop everything and cater to someone seems to be a power play to me.

bean said...

If I didn't answer Rad Geek, I'd have thought that Rad Geek would have taken it as some sort of insult, that I didn't think Rad Geek was worth my time.But not one single person has said that you shouldn't have answered him. You were given a very clear and convenient location to respond to him, even. A location that was much more relevant to that particular conversation. You chose to ignore that.

You decided that it would be better to be rude to a group of people (primarily women -- all feminists) than one man. Of course, since you had an alternative solution at your fingertips, it was a dilemma of your own creation there. Nonetheless, you chose being rude to women over being rude to a single man. And that's telling.

Anonymous said...

Maybe men should spend more of their time and energy really listening to what is being said. It's really not a different language.Yes yes yes yes yes!

And what SorchaRei said

I learned a long time ago (as a white woman doing anti-racism work) that if a person of color (or particularly several people of color all at once) started saying things to me that seemed unhelpful and crazy, then it was time to slow down, get over myself, and really start to pay attention to what I was doing and why I couldn't see what was so obvious to others.Exactly. If enough women say you're being sexist, it's a damn good possiblity that they're right! (duh!)



-Morrigan25

Raznor said...

In my opinion, I think foolishowl was being foolish. One can't blame him though. He is, after all, foolishowl. I think part of the reason that people were so snarky to him is when he posts "what should I have done?" it seemed snarky. I thought it was snarky, and I was sympathising with him. The difference between a snarky question and an honest question is all in the inflection, which doesn't quite come across in posts.

nobody - wow, just wow! Way to bring everything to light in a humorous way. Rawk on!

Bean, you're absolutely right regarding privelege vs entitlement. I'd add something to it, but you've said enough, and I don't want to be act like an overly entitled man here. :/

bean said...

Raznor -- there's nothing wrong with adding to a conversation that is already taking place. One does not inherently have to use male privilege or male entitlement to do that (they can, but that's not simply because they posted something to the conversation). It's just when one starts derailing the topic altogether to talk about some completely other topic that the problem arises. So, if you want to say something about male privilege or male entitlement, feel free.

Anonymous said...

"In my opinion, I think foolishowl was being foolish. One can't blame him though. He is, after all, foolishowl."

Hey! Look at that. We can't blame men for what they don't do as individuals ("I'm not a sex tourist!"). OTOH, we can't blame them for what they *do* do as individuals (derail threads and show disrespect for women). Isn't that exiciting. And how civil.

Paige

shannon said...

Hey, it's the good ol' responsibilty exemption. It's probably your fault anyway, you know?

leen said...

"I'm sick to death of spending more time and energy on handholding and educating than anything else."

I was in this (incredibly awesome) workshop once, where the woman running it talked about the concept of "meeting people halfway". And she said, and it really struck with me, that if you want things to change, you have to be willing to go the whole way. That if you're not willing to go the whole way, and you want to be met halfway, then you're giving away *all* the power to the other party, because who knows where they'll stop?

From my POV: The derailment was lame, and FoolishOwl's continuance of it was lame, and Funnie's gut response made sense. And his first "What should I have done" DID sound snarky, but then consequent, "No, really, what?" questions were just answered with nastiness.

It seems like: if you're sick of answering questions and handholding, then don't. But why spend your energy being blatantly unpleasant? It seems victimy, to give so much attention to something you don't respect and want to be gone.

-leen (who does not have any sort of male privelege or entitlement or male anything, for that matter)

Morgaine said...

I was just sort of a visitor on Alas the last couple of days, but I was a little mystified by what went on. Not realizing that tempers were already flaring, I made some statements that drew what I felt was some unwarranted ire. Bad timing on my part.

The thing is, it's a guy's blog with admittedly anti-feminist men participating. I used to work for the government, so I got used to making myself heard in meetings and having to take into account that your average straight guy is clueless. Often well-intentioned, well-educated, but clueless. If I don't want to deal with that, I don't go where men do.

I write my blog for women, but I get more mail from men. I am automatically suspicious of men who troll feminist blogs. On one hand, I'll tell them what they did wrong and try to explain my position. At some point, with some of them, you really do just have to tell them to fuck off and then ignore them.

What you're calling "thread drift", I call "misdirection". It's the number one tactic of the Right Wing. It's to throw you off balance and get you on the defensive. It's really effective if you take the bait. The trick is to stay on topic in spite of the disruptor. When you watch pundits on TV, pay particular attention to the way the Conservatives will try to "reason" a liberal into an untenable position. That's what these men are doing.

Some of them don't know they're doing it. Some do. Give them the benefit of the doubt, and if that doesn't work, give them their walking papers. The problem at Alas was that the rules kept you from telling them to fuck off. Nothing else works with a true misogynist. You either have to insult them, make fun of them or ignore them.

It's a lot easier just to stay on your own turf. This blog is a great resource, or you're welcome to come visit me.
Congratulations on your new blog!

Raznor said...

Paige, I think you misinterpret me. When I said "you can't blame him" my tongue was firmly in my cheek. The point is, being named foolishowl, one can expect him to be foolish. It's an implied character trait. Hence the humor. And I don't feel we need ride him any more. I think at this point, I should hope he's learned his lesson and won't do it again. I hope I don't do it again either. The thought of being an asshole is not appealing.

Bean, my point is, all I could think to say would be rehashing what you already said, as if it were my own opinion. Nothing like men taking credit for the work of women (blech). But if I have to add, although as a man, I can do something about my own sense of entitlement, this requires first knowing where my sense of entitlement is justified and where it's not. I can only hope that as I go on, I will continue to get better in this regard.

Raznor said...

Damn that's a jumbled second paragraph. Blech. Hopefully it's coherent.

FoolishOwl said...

I'm sorry I posted an off-topic comment. But do you really think it means I'm a rightwing misogynist?

Fred Vincy said...

I've commented on these threads here:

The Limits of Discourse"

Anonymous said...

ChurchofBruce here.

This is really, really interesting.

I post in a place that is *overwhelmingly* female (a figure skating group) and a place that is very much male-majority (the Yahoo group for my erotic writing.)

And you're right. My male-dominated Yahoo group is far, far looser. Thread drift? What thread? :-) I mean, the group is ostensibly set up to discuss my writings--and sometimes it actually does that, especially when I post a new chapter or new piece. But outside of that? Yeesh. Sometimes I don't know why we even put subject headers on the threads!

However, I do have to say two things: the women in the group--and there are women in the group, including about five of the most frequent posters--go with this as well as the men do. Maybe it's just adapting to the enviroment? I dunno. But the other thing I have to mention is the moderator--me--is completely laissez-faire. I make it clear it's a pretty 'anything goes' group. Plus the nature of the discussions generally preclude any kind of serious disagreement. We're generally going from one pleasant topic to another pleasant topic. Though how we got from sex to cars to hockey in one thread in three days is still beyond me :-)

However, in the figure skating group--which isn't a political group but still gets very, very contentious--there's a constant war going on between the 'Stay on topic!' people and the 'Ah, lighten up' people. And the people decrying thread drift are all women. However, almost all the 'lighten up!' people are women as well. (There are probably a few hundred regular posters on this group--less than ten are male.) So, I don't know what that says.

But being active in two groups with completely different gender-majority profiles--well, your post made me think. I'm going to have to pay attention to this. And, to be honest, I'm going to have to make sure that the women in my group aren't getting stepped on. I don't *think* they are--and, frankly, one of them wouldn't allow herself to be stepped on under any circumstances :-)--but I am going to pay attention to it. So I thank you for calling my attention to it.

Trish said...

Great post, Bean. And I'm glad I found your blog.

I had been aware of commenters who go off on tangents but I had never before looked at it as a way of getting a conversation off track. Now, I see that's exactly what it is. I've noticed that men mostly do it much more so than women. It's a way of gaining control of a conversation. I have a commenter who has tried to get a mediation post comment section off topic by bringing up abortion and adoption. I didn't take the bait with the abortion comment, saying it was off topic, and he immediately "corrected" me. He wanted to get the discussion of on a tangent I didn't think was appropriate for that post. The same applied to his adoption comment.

I'm well aware of trolls who use inflammatory language in an attempt to derail comments, but I've never looked at changing the topic that way until you pointed it out. Thanks. I see it now.

Sheelzebub said...

nobody.really--wow, that rocked. I might post that on my blog and credit you, if you don't mind.

Trish, people have tried the same passive-agressive BS on my blog. I posted on the hyporcisy of free-speech defenses of people like Eminem, and I got a troll who cut and pasted an article about a catfight between a father's right advocate and a Harvard Professor. He tried to say that it had everything to do with free speech because feminists controlled it.

I mean, give me a freaking break, already.

I've experienced some of this "civility" via passive-agressive BS in other threads, such as in abortion or sexual violence, or porn. And it always goes the same. They ask questions, you answer them, and then you get the tired old: no, that's not right, you don't know what you're talking about because my one source/1950's textbook/the Bible says so. And then they go back to asking the same questions again, and get all wide-eyed and innocent when someone tears them a new asshole. Oh! What did I dooooo to deserve this? I was just engaging with you, after all! And what ends up happening is that you lose your patience in general--after dealing with this crap all of your life, you tend to see anyone who does this as an ignoramous. You just get tired of dealing with it.

This sort of reminds me of the anti-feminist hysteria generated on the rape porn thread over a year ago at Alas. Telling posters you didn't like what they called people who didn't agree with them was apparently a horrible, oppressive thing to do. But was perfectly okay for anti-feminists and feminist-allies in disguise to call us anti-sex, victims, whiny, simplistic, and a whole host of other things. In their eyes, that was civil--but calling them on their bullshit wasn't.

Amanda said...

Oh god, Sheez, that is like my number one pet peeve are the men who ask these condescending questions in a way that pretty much says, "I will patiently ask the question Socrates-style until the childlike female coughs up the 'correct' answer." The most "respect" they can come up with is to "respect" that we will eventually agree with their superior male point of view as soon as we drop our female hysteria after their "patient" questioning.

Anonymous said...

(this is portia; I find that Blogger profile thing really annoying)

I found this really interesting (from NY Times article about Summers releasing the transcript of his comments):

Several female scientists who were at the National Bureau of Economic Research forum and who expressed outrage at Dr. Summers's remarks there said they felt vindicated. Critics had accused them of misinterpreting him and overreacting out of political correctness.No woman, anywhere, gets to not deal with this misdirection tactic. And all women are judged based on how they deal with it. Helpful advice on how to come out of that judgement more favorably miss the forest for the trees.

-p

Raznor said...

Well, I'm bored, and therefore so should everyone else be. I hereby shall derail this thread and turn it into a discussion of how men are right about everything. Behold my mighty civility!

Sorry, I'll be serious here.

I think I'll have to make a similar request to Sheez about posting nobody.really's post on my blog (with proper credit, of course) as it is awesome. But I want to comment on Trish's point.

The thing is, tangents are natural in discussions (without anyone rudely interrupting, I mean). For example, take this discussion. Bean posted about a specific situation, and that turned in part to a small discussion between bean and myself regarding male privelege and entitlement. There's nothing wrong with that, it's simply taking a specific situation and discussing the general situation surrounding it. Then someone could take the discussion of the general and give another specific example, unrelated to the first, where the general situation comes into play. But there may be another general situation that is expounded upon, then another specific situation until all of a sudden, we're discussing how awesome Rhebus monkeys are. (Well, this hasn't ever happened but wouldn't it be cool if it did)

This fact makes it difficult for males like me, who is used to being entitled to saying whatever the fuck I want, to feel like there is nothing rude with going on a tangent at will. Going back to what bean originally wrote:

Frankly, I cannot understand why this isn't as plain as day -- but then, I don't have the male entitlement that would allow me not to see what is so incredibly rude about Owl's actions.That, I believe hits the nail on the head. I have never seen this idea so excellently expounded on (which speaks to the brilliance of bean as a writer - good going bean). So judging from Trish's reaction, it seems that this comes as no surprise to her, but she just wasn't able to articulate it so clearly before. But for me (and I'd imagine a fair number of other men) this really comes as a slap in the face, one that I desperately needed.

Elayne said...

I am automatically suspicious of men who troll feminist blogs.Not to derail the thread :), but I think it behooves us to have a bit less suspicion in some cases, because a lot of us (Roxanne, Amanda, etc.) have invested quite a bit of time in the "why aren't there more women (political) bloggers" nonsense and one of the stock responses we wind up giving is "why aren't you linking to and visiting more blogs by women?" so if men are visiting our blogs I take that as a positive step. :)

I have to admit, my experiences seem to be different from many of you. In a conversation I'm usualy the worst interrupter, above and beyond the guys (having a loud and projecting voice, and being a large woman, probably helps), and most women I know in RL are also big talkers/interrupters. I've probably been guilty of as much if not more thread drift on comment sections, message boards, etc. than the guys on those venues. I don't disagree with what you're saying, it makes sense to me and all (and it's certainly in keeping with what I learned in my feminism classes way back in college), I'm just saying my own particular experiences don't bear it out, so I feel kind of detached from all of this. (Kinda the same way I feel when people talk about dating rituals, since I never did those either.)

Very glad to see you have a blog of your own, Bean, and look forward to your future posts!

Anonymous said...

I wonder if similar pattern of behaviour (interruption) can be seen in other primates

nobody.really said...

At the risk of going off-topic :-), I'm flattered people liked the *Gender Relations* play post. Please feel free to share it - and give a link to Bean's blog while you're at it!

Trish said...

Razner, I know that tangents are natural. They happen on my blog all the time. The ones I've noticed (thanks to Bean for pointing them out to me) that are "thread drift" are the ones where (usually) a man comes in and makes a point he wants to talk about in a comment thread that has nothing to do with the issue at hand. An example is a man who brought up abortion in the middle of a talk about mediation and parental interference. Abortion had nothing to do with the topic at hand, and I didn't want my blog to devolve into a hairy abortion argument. He had taken a "Choice 4 Men" type of position that I was also unwilling to allow gain footing on my blog. Granted, I think the people who use "thread drift" as opposed to the usual obnoxious method of trolling are harder to identify because they are being "nice" and "civil." Nonetheless, the tone of condecension is definitely there. It's this idea that us girls and feminists need to be "educated," and we should shut up and listen to "facts" the guy decided are important that bugs me. I don't like that.

Trish said...

I just noticed another common tactic the guys use to silence women. When we confront them with our concerns, they claim they feel "attacked" and then "demand an apology." A commenter wrote that at Alas, a commenter on my blog wrote it, and I ran into a whiny guy in real life who said the exact same thing to me when I confronted him with his drivel. It would be an effective stopper if I allowed it to get to me, but I don't. They refuse to listen to what women say, and then feign hurt and demand apologies to keep the attention focused on them. Punish the women who won't let them get away with their condescending remarks? No thanks.

Raznor said...

To an extent, though, Trish, it's that they don't realize they're doing it. Not saying that excuses them, it's still an ego-centric if not downright assholish thing to do. It reminds me of HUM110 back at Reed, where people who clearly didn't do the reading try to interject their opinions. Eventually people should figure out if they don't know anything about the discussion they should just shut the fuck up.

Pseudo-Adrienne said...

I notice those kinds of assholes on your blog Trish. Sorry they're so attracted to you ;-) And it's also very annoying to see some anti-feminist male troll just pop up in a middle of a discussion and spout all kinds of ridiculous anti-feminist and even anti-woman shit and derail the conversation. The Administrator can always delete the comments, or let the posters deal with him, and waste energy and time doing so. It's the same way during abortion discussions as Sheelzebub said.

" This is but one example (among many) of the double standards of "civility" enforced by men; of a civility that by and large benefits the oppressor and keeps the oppressed silent."Unfortunately very true at times.

"They refuse to listen to what women say, and then feign hurt and demand apologies to keep the attention focused on them. Punish the women who won't let them get away with their condescending remarks? No thanks."

Feminist women and women in general, need to stop apologizing to men for our views and opinions. If the frail little egos of some of these fellas are that easily bruised by a woman who refuses to kowtow to his whimpering and whining, then too fucking bad. It's their problem, not ours. I don't care whose little male ego gets "bruised" when I speak my mind and refuse to apologize for it. Cry me a river I say.

And they say women are more sensitive. Pff! I think it's the other way around sometimes, especially when a male ego is "bruised" by a woman, especially a feminist woman who isn't going to take his shit.

Anonymous said...

I came here from Pandagon and it's clear that thread drift and redirection is an intentional tactic of some people, especially the trolls at Pandagon. But I should also point out that this behavior, especially interrupting people to make a point, is usually subconscious behaviour for males. It is also, perhaps unfortunately, a behavior that is learned and encouraged in interactions within groups of men. You quickly learn that if you don't interrupt to make your point, then (a) you probably never get to make a point, and (b) you are perceived as less interesting and less respected by the rest of the group.

I should quickly point out that this does not excuse this behavior, nor does it excuse men from trying to recognize this tendency in themselves and to try to correct it. Most importantly, it is important to feel out and react to the personality of the group you are in, rather than allowing your automatic responses to dominate the conversation. But I think we would all agree that in trying to come to a happy compromise in discussions, it is important to understand all the factors involved. Social and environment factors are important on both sides of the gender equation.

ginmar said...

What the fuck is the deal with all the spam? I bet they're all male anyway. Sorry, couldn't resist. It's no less jarring than twits who do the exception thing.

I posted about people who accept stereotypes of rape and of women and sure enough, some guy popped up to say, "Well, it does happen." Well, gee, let me just let you change the subject from the many to the one and make it all about you. Christ.

funnie said...

Hi, bean,

Tried to email you at the address you list here, but it bounced back. Then I belatedly realized you have a "recent comments" section anyway, so you should be able to find this comment, even if it's on a buried post.

Anyway, I started a community on LJ for the purpose of discussing male feminists, and linked to this post of yours. I hope that's all right, and tried to make it clear that you're in no way implicated or associated with it. But if you'll let me know (there, here, or by email to me ... f_u_n_n_i_e at yahoo, *with* all the underscores), I'll take it down.

Thanks,
funnie

funnie said...

DUH, you will need the link. Well, for spam's sake I won't put it directly, but you can find it at livejournal. It's a community called "mf_unicorns"