Sunday, July 1, 2012
Playing the privilege card
If you're bored (and not remotely inclined to suicidal ideation) it's sort of fun to keep track of how many comments are posted over at the FtB before someone derides someone else (usually a white guy) for having 'privilege' while having an opinion, particularly in threads where the original post is at least somewhat related to sexism or feminism or some other form of group-based discrimination.
So Much Wrong - Comment #10
Real Threat Assessment Experts - Comment #6
Threat Assessment - Comment #18
Schroedinger's Threat - Comment #83
Why I Have Hope - Comment #2
Sexual Harassment Definitions - Comment #5
Holy Fucking Shit - Comment #19
Eye Runny - Comment #16
I look at the slimepits - Comment #26
Making my comment rules explicit - Comment #52
This is just a small sampling, of course, and should not be considered statistically representative. Moreover, I don't mean to lump in serious conversations of the actual problem of privilege with the use of the word as a pejorative: a shorthand way to dismiss dissenting voices, lock out neophytes who are't yet hip to the jive, and prevent a two-sided exchange of ideas.
It's not just the term 'privilege' that's being used as a cudgel over there, either. Try expressing a dissenting view on any sensitive issue without being called a 'troll' or worse. Don't take my word for it, go ahead, try it yourself. Be as polite as you like while doing so, but disagree with the OP and see what happens.
And that's really what this kerfuffle has really been about - dissent. We can all agree that sexism is a real problem, but disagree about the scope of the problem and whether the solution should be handled in an authoritarian top-down manner (creating and enforcing policies) or via the usual interpersonal social mechanisms (informally enforced cultural norms against harassment, misogyny, and the like). As usual, the rift is between an authoritarian feminist approach (e.g. actively creating safe spaces unburdened by dissenters) and a more laissez-faire masculist approach (e.g. passively allowing unmoderated slimepits), and as usual the debate has degenerated into name-calling and recrimination in most corners of the web.
Personally, I lean towards the FtB / Skepchick party line on this particular issue, but that doesn't mean that I'm remotely thrilled about the name calling and derision heaped upon those who disagree. One can agree upon ends but not means, after all.