Monday, July 02, 2012

A Guide to Offense

Not absolutely sure I should post this, but what the hell.

Plenty of kerfuffle out there these days, as the game industry's deep-set misogyny is finally being attacked. A lot of guys are upset that they are being called misogynistic. Well, the situation is pretty simple, I'll spell it out for you as much as I understand it. Keep in mind that if someone is upset at you for some other kind of insult (homophobia, racism, etc), the situation is more or less the same. These rules pretty much apply across the board.

1) If someone is offended, they are offended. You don't control them. Saying that they shouldn't be offended, or that they aren't really offended, is kinda pointless. They are offended, and that's that.

2) If someone is offended, the thing in question is offensive. That's the definition of the word.

3) Someone speaking up about how offended they are is an outlier in volume, not direction. That is, if someone tells you "thing A" is misogynistic, there are probably a hundred times that many people thinking the same thing that just haven't said anything. Dismissing "whiners" as outliers is very much not recommended. If in doubt, ask around.

4) Your behavior may be "normal", but "normal" is a culture which has a lot of misogyny built right in (and homophobia, and racism, and so on). You don't have to be consciously misogynistic to do something misogynistic: you just have to act normal, and eventually you'll probably get called on it.

5) Even if you do not see what is offensive about it, it is offensive. You are not the only human on the planet. Understand that what you did caused offense to a certain category of human, regardless of what you thought or intended.

6) You are certainly allowed to be offensive. But, generally, you'll want to know what sort of person you are offending. I'm happy to offend anti-vaxxers, for example, because child endangerment pisses me off. But categories like "woman", "gay", "black", etc? Why would I want to offend them? What sort of moral statement does that make?

7) All of this basically boils down to one choice. If you are told something you did was offensive, recognize that it was offensive and decide, consciously, whether you want to offend those people in that way. Your two options at this point are "whoa, sorry, I didn't realize! I'll try not to do that again." and "fuck off, I don't care."

8) Complaining that "they want more rights than me" or "that it happens to white guys too" is not valid. If you ever think about making this argument, stop. It's pathetic, transparently invalid. It's declaring your molehill is the same size as that mountain, because you're kneeling by your molehill, desperately getting your eye as close as possible. "My molehill sure looks big from here!"

Anyway, that's my approach to "if someone gets offended by you". I'm pretty oblivious, so I pretty much just accept that if someone was offended by something I did, then what I did was offensive.

Of course, I'm also an ass, so I'm pretty much okay with offending anyone who's made a choice I disagree with. But "women"? Why would you want to? What's the point? What's the moral argument?

I ask these questions rhetorically. That means "don't answer them". I really have no interest in anyone's arguments on why they think being misogynistic is fine.


Drew Hickcox said...

The best response to 8 I've ever heard boils down to "That may be the case, and you might have a valid thing to talk about, but that's not the issue here. Let's deal with the issue and then go talk about your thing."

Ambient Malice said...

One problem is that people take an attack on an action/behavior to be an attack on them personally. For example, criticizing a New Zealander for making rude jokes about Australians, or vice versa, is not an attack on them personally, but criticism of a cultural practice.

Likewise, take more controversial topics - things such as abortion. Some people see attacks against abortion as being attacks against women. When in fact a behavior is what is being attacked, not a person. I think this important distinction is all too often lost.

What you do is not who you are.