Saturday, 30 August 2014

No More Damsels, No More White Knights

I'm getting annoyed. This is a pity, as it's been a great week, with some great chemistry lab practicals (I made aspirin!), a victorious early return to my kids, and general goodness. And then some ass-hats had to be wrong on the internet. Now I have to fix everything.

None of it is strictly news. Feminists spoke some truth, ass-hats got in a fuzz about it, and rather than trying to rationally object and converse and learn, they insulted, threatened and abused. Nothing fucking new at all, I'm afraid.

What's bugged me has been the number of my friends who've rushed to support the obviously wrong side in this matter. I don't think my friends are ass-hats themselves, but they seem to have some strange ideas about false "balance" and have bought into certain common misogynist narratives.

The balance thing is easy to address. One side is calling for a more fair and just sort of society. The other side is responding with threats of rape and murder, or (at best, for a very limited definition of 'best') simply suggesting that actually we shouldn't make society fair and just. Even if the former side is not getting things 100% right, even if they're making a lot of mistakes, it's still not hard to pick the right side.

There is room for improvement on the feminist side, but that doesn't seem to be what the false balance gambit is pushing for. Mostly, the aim of it seems to be to want to shut people up, not to help them make their points better. It is not a constructive effort.

And if someone really didn't want to pick sides at all, I'd expect them to be more silent on the matter, not louder and angrier. I do not believe that those calling for balance really want that. Not the ones I've seen.

The other thing that's bugging the fuck out of me is the use, pejoratively, of terms like 'Damsel', 'White Knight' and 'Social Justice Warrior'. I have only seen aging white folk (of non-impoverished backgrounds) use these, and I don't think its a coincidence; it's textbook privilege shit. The gimmick seems to run like this:

1. Complain that feminists have no evidence to back up their claims.
2. When someone presents evidence:
2.a. If they are female, accuse them of being a drama queen, an attention whore, a Damsel in Distress. Reject everything they say out of hand.
2.b. If they are male, accuse them of being a White Knight, out to defend those who neither want it nor need it. Reject everything they say out of hand.
3. Complain that nobody's willing to talk to you calmly and rationally.
4. Repeat until 6 = 7.

The demand for evidence is a decoy, a red herring. They don't actually want the evidence, and so when they're presented with it, they try to shut it out, to deny its validity. The pejorative use of Social Justice Warrior is the ultimate expression of this, the attempt to shut up anyone who tries to make any positive action, on the false premise that anyone attempting this is actually as big an ass-hat as the ass-hat who caused trouble in the first place.

Too many of my friends have used the phrase, "I am a feminist, but...". It's eerily similar to the classic "I'm not racist, but...". Don't do it. If you really care about equality and goodness in society, you'll avoid loaded terms like Damsel and White Knight. They only ever play into the hands of misogynist ass-hats, they have zero constructive use. Honest, fair, meaningful discussion is not possible while those intellectual traps are still in play.