February 07, 2015

Teaching through condescension doesn't work

I love stuff like this, "16 Questions For Men That Reveal The Casual Sexism Women Experience Every Day", in the sense that I despise it. Human interaction is messy and too often hideous. That isn't a shaky limb to walk on. However, in my experience, "gotcha" as a teaching tool is unlikely to convince people who don't already agree. It is built on challenging smug assumptions by making its own smug assumptions. It strengthens defensiveness rather than opening doors.

The list opens with this (links omitted):

Sexism can be hard to point out when it's so engrained in our everyday lives. Clementine Ford, however, found an awesome way to highlight casual sexism with a simple hashtag.

Even though I disagree with the tactic, which is mostly (but not entirely) on how Huffington Post packaged these questions, the goal of challenging sexism deserves answers. First, the two tweets from Clementine Ford that kicked this off:

Question to the male writers/speakers etc out there. Is it common for you to be called an ‘attention seeker’? Or do just women get that?

A: Common? No. Men and women have told me this in debate, though.

#QuestionsForMen: When you have a hostile disagreement with someone, is it common for them to say you’re angry because no one will fuck you?

A: Common? No. Men and women have told me this in debate, though.

And 16 of Huffington Post's favorite #QuestionsForMen tweets (source article has the links):

Q1: Have you ever been told your business ideas are cute? #QuestionsForMen

A1: No.

Q2: #QuestionsForMen Are you comfy with the federal government & Christian conservatives holding decision making parties in your "boy" parts?¹

A2: About that... This routinely happens with "boy" parts. So, no, I am not comfy with others holding decision-making parties for my "boy" parts. Yet, others already made my decision.

This question is why the smug, closed-mind "gotcha" approach is stupid. You want me to think outside the box² you think I'm in? Think outside the box your question shows you're in.

Q3: #questionsformen do you walk home with your keys placed in between your fingers? are you constantly looking over your shoulder?

A3: No.

Q4: @clementine_ford #QuestionsForMen how often do you have to fake laugh at stupid/cringey/creepy/sexist things older men say regarding you?

A4: I've experienced those comments based on me being a ginger. I doubt the things said were as stupid/cringey/creepy/sexist as what is said to women.

Q5: #QuestionsForMen have you ever been late to work because you've had to change streets 5 times in 5minutes to avoid being catcalled by women?

A5: No. Again, I have had people bother me with rude things about being a ginger as I've walked. But I doubt the things said were the same. Nor has it happened a lot.

Q6: Do women jump into your face calling you fat, ugly, or that you "should get raped" for expressing an opinion online? #questionsformen

A6: I've been called names equivalent to fat and ugly for expressing an opinion online. I have not had threats of violence, sexual or otherwise. I have witnessed (and challenged) threats of violence against women and their children for expressing an opinion online.

Q7: #QuestionsForMen When out having a few beers, have you ever said "no" to a woman & then been hassled by her for the rest of the night?

A7: No.

Q8: #questionsformen In a job interview have you ever been asked how you will juggle work and home?

A8: No.

Q9: Do you get told 'you'll change your mind eventually' when you say you don't want to have children? #QuestionsforMen

A9: No. I have been told I should be thankful to my parents for having me circumcised as a healthy infant, even though I oppose it for myself. Similar in the sense that my opinion about myself isn't relevant to what society may expect of me?

Q10: #questionsformen anyone not hire you on the basis of "you're a man - you'll be having a family soon and need to devote time to that." ?

A10: No.

Q11: Do you send your mates a message to let them know you've gotten home safely? #questionsformen

A11: No.

Q12: If you take a leadership position, do you worry about being seen as bossy? Are you called bossy? #questionsformen

A12: No. No.

Q13: #questionsformen when you achieve something great, do you expect the female reporter to say, 'give us a twirl, who are you wearing?'

A13: No.

Q14: #QuestionsForMen Have you ever been basically told that going home with a woman means that she’s entitled to rape you?

A14: No.

Q15: @clementine_ford #QuestionsForMen How often are you expected to provide an explanation for why you didn't change your name to your wife's?

A15: Never. (My wife didn't take my last name. I couldn't care less.)

Q16: Have you ever had a coworker refer to you as sweetheart? #QuestionsForMen

A16: In the context implied here, no.

Sexism exists. In many ways it's systemic. We need to fight it. I don't have all the answers on how. I'm not perfect. I'm paying attention.

**********
¹ This person responded to someone who answered the question with the same point. She wrote:

[@...] Circumcision is NOT in a federal or state law book as a mandate, but is rather a parents' religious or cultural #choice.

This is how to miss the point, to be inside the mental box the original question demonstrated. 1) Why should a boy care whether it's his parents or his government imposing non-therapeutic genital cutting without his consent? 2) The state violating a child's rights is bad. The state permitting parents to violate a child's rights is also bad. And looking the other way matters when Congress (and states) legislated that "parental choice" is gendered. 3) Read the BBC link from my answer above. A German court found circumcision to be a violation. The German Bundestag, with support from Chancellor Angela Merkel, passed legislation to permit circumcision to continue. Twenty members of Congress publicly supported this.

The only valid choice (i.e. #choice) involved in circumcision must be the individual who would be circumcised. This "gotcha" needs rethinking.

² I'm not saying I'm outside (or inside) that box. I want to deal with this honestly. I think I'm good at not perpetuating sexism. I don't assume I am to the point I don't need to consider it regularly.

November 27, 2014

Tap Tap... Is this thing on?

Every Thanksgiving I'm amazed at the shaming of consumers and particularly, how they "force" people to work on a holiday rather than stay at home with family. I have worked on a holiday¹, voluntarily, because there was work to be done and I needed the money. I valued the money I'd earn at least as much as I valued the free time I wanted. I don't assume everyone who works retail on Thanksgiving is thrilled to do so. I don't assume everyone who works retail on Thanksgiving is not thrilled to do so. This seems obvious to me.

I think that plays into a larger theme on Thanksgiving, and how we treat the preferences of others, generally. "What are you thankful for?" has an acceptable answer. "I'm thankful I live in a society where I can afford to buy quality products at a cheap price" isn't it. "I'm thankful I have an opportunity to experience pointless cultural chaos on Black Friday because I enjoy the spectacle" isn't it. It can't be something trivial, and only the questioner decides what is and isn't trivial.

I've shopped on Black Fridays in the past. Never early, but always on the day. I don't now. My priorities have changed. I value my hours more. My needs have changed. I can afford to save time rather than money. Technology has changed. I bought my annual discounted iTunes gift card online² earlier this week. Why is saving 15% on money I'll spend with Apple anyway somehow bad because I shopped near Thanksgiving?

I know I tend toward the margins of social opinion and preference. But we're humans. We like rituals. I understand that. "What are you thankful for?" is less a question and more an agreement so we don't feel alone. This value on rituals also helps explain Black Friday, I think, which is why I'd rather know the truth than participate in the script. I prefer your answer to the answer.

P.S. I almost apologized somewhere above for how tender and/or pretentious this probably is. Nah.

¹ New Year's Day, so not exactly the same. And I was young and single. But I would've worked Thanksgiving and Christmas that year, if I could've. I earned $7.50 an hour as a recent college graduate. Every hour and dollar helped.

² I probably would've driven to Best Buy tomorrow afternoon in between making beer and watching hockey if it hadn't been available online. It was, so I save the time and the money. If everyone did that, would the Best Buy retail workers like it?

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