tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
2030-12-18 02:14 pm

How to post comments if you don't have a Dreamwidth account

I request that you read my comment policy before commenting, especially if you don't know me offline.

If you have a LiveJournal account and want to leave comments on my journal, you can do that without giving Dreamwidth a password or any personal information except an email address. You can follow these instructions (with slight modifications) if you have an account on a site that provides OpenID credentials, too. (For example, any Google or Google+ account should work this way.) Here's how:

  1. Go to the main Dreamwidth page
  2. Follow the "Log In with OpenID" link
  3. In the "Your OpenID URL" box, put yourusername.livejournal.com. For example, if I wanted to log in with my LiveJournal account, I would type "catamorphism.livejournal.com".
  4. Click Login.
  5. Click "Yes, just this time" or "Yes, always" when LiveJournal asks if you want to validate your identity.
  6. The first time you log in, you'll see a message "Please set and confirm your email address". Click the "set" link and follow the instructions.
  7. You'll get an email from Dreamwidth containing a link. Follow the link to confirm your email address.
  8. Follow the instructions. You should now be able to leave comments.

Edited to add as of February 26, 2013: There have been intermittent problems with using OpenID to log in to Dreamwidth. The most reliable way to comment is to create a Dreamwidth account, which is free.
tim: "System Status: Degraded" (degraded)
2016-07-22 07:48 pm
Entry tags:

Even liberals still aren't sure whether women are people

It's a popular thing to say that abortion is a complicated issue, or a moral gray area, or that there's room for lots of different opinions on it because it's so nuanced. It's popular in general to take this kind of mealymouthed non-position, because it makes you sound thoughtful without requiring any moral effort or stamina.

When it comes to reproductive rights, even liberals are likely to hesitate, to cite bioethics, or to say that abortion is a necessary evil. They're likely to say that it should be safe, legal and rare.

But here's the thing about abortion: the only way you could possibly have doubts as to whether everyone should have completely unfettered access to it is if you're either uncertain about bodily autonomy as a right everybody has, or if you're uncertain about whether it's something people other than cis men should have.

I don't think anyone is really uncertain about bodily autonomy. At least for cis men, we're generally in agreement that one of the rights that all human beings have is to not have any other person in their body without consent.

One of the times when we decide to suspend personhood is when somebody is imprisoned. The widespread acceptability of prison rape jokes shows that the one situation when we consider suspending bodily autonomy okay is when we think somebody deserves to be punished.

So there are really only two reasons for thinking abortion is a moral gray area:
  • You don't think women are really people.
  • You think women should be punished for having sex.

Of course, cis men don't get punished for having sex with other consenting adults, because having sex with other consenting adults is something that human adults get to do. So it comes down to whether or not you're sure women are really people.

(While the effect of forced pregnancy is that everyone with a uterus, including cis women and trans men like me, as well as genderqueer people who have uteruses, the intent behind the pro-forced-pregnancy movement is to control women and punish them for existing as sexual beings. We need to be aware of both effects and intent here.)

Are you sure that women are people? Then surely you believe that nobody has a right to be in a woman's body without her consent.

Do you think that having sex grants implicit consent to pregnancy? Then you don't really think women are people, because we're all fine with men having consensual sex and don't, as a rule, believe they waive any of their basic human rights by doing so. Thinking women waive their bodily autonomy by choosing to have sex really just amounts to treating pregnancy as a punishment for sex.

I'm assuming that people who have doubts about abortion believe that fetuses and embryos are people. If they don't think that, then I really don't know what they're on about (although there is plenty of evidence they don't really think that -- ask a pro-forced-pregnancy person whether they favor punishing somebody who has an abortion in the same way that people who commit murder are punished.) Believing that fetuses are people poses no threat to my believe in the fundamental right to an abortion. Like all people, fetuses have no right to be in any other person's body without that person's consent.[*]

And yet, in 2016, I still live in a country where people considered liberal, progressive, in favor of civil liberties, and so on can still say abortion is a moral gray area with a straight face. I still live in a country where even liberals, even people who support personal freedom, haven't made up their mind about whether women are people.

[*] In answer to the question, raised elsewhere, of what we say if we believe fetuses are people and recognize that they didn't consent to be in the body of their gestational parent: I'd say three things to that. First, the concept that you have the right to self-defense isn't too controversial. You can come up with plenty of reasons why an adult person who is posing a threat to you might not be a totally free agent, but ultimately, your right to defend your body against invasion by them is considered sacrosanct. Second, fetuses don't have the ability to defend themselves, and I'm happy to defer that particular what-if to the time when that changes. And third, being in a situation you didn't consent to doesn't generally confer the right to use somebody else's body -- for example, if you would die without a kidney transplant, and if you didn't consent to have kidney failure, that still doesn't give you the right to force someone to donate their kidney to you if they don't want to.
tim: A bright orange fish. (fish)
2016-07-18 03:59 pm
Entry tags:

[Linkspam] Monday, July 18

An open letter to the author of the "I'm a closeted trans woman and I'm not coming out" essay, by Katelyn Burns (2016-07-13). "How many times will a closeted trans person read your essay and convince themselves again that not transitioning is the correct move?"

Not your feminist dream girl, by Raquel Rosario Sanchez (2016-07-13). "Like men, women are multifaceted people who can simultaneously support terrible policies and empowering ones. They are political candidates whose personal and political lives may make us cringe at points and cry with emotion at others. Feminists have pushed for more strong, complex, imperfect female characters on TV and in film, in order to get away from the one-dimensional women we are usually presented with in media. In Hillary, we have an influential woman who is just that: she is not the easy-to-figure out stereotype we expect women to be."

Invisible Talent, by Kaya Thomas (2016-07-14). On the frustrations of being a Black female computer science major and being told by an industry desperate to pretend its cultural failure is a "pipeline problem" that you don't exist.

Evidence, by feministkilljoys (2016-07-12). "My proposition is simple: that the evidence we have of racism and sexism is deemed insufficient because of racism and sexism." Long, meaty article about the function of demands for evidence of racism and sexism.

"The Best Time I Pretended I Hadn’t Heard of Slavoj Žižek", by Rosa Lyster (2016-07-14):
My advice is intended only for special occasions. It is for when you have an itch to scratch, and that itch is called, “a puerile desire to get on other people’s nerves.” All you do is stonily deny any knowledge of a person or cultural touchstone that you should, by virtue of your other cultural reference points, be aware of. These will of course be different for everyone, but my favorites include:

Žižek, John Updike, MORRISSEY (only for experts), Radiohead, Twin Peaks, David Lynch in general, Banksy (only for streetfighters), Withnail and I, Bauhaus (movement), Bauhaus (band), Afrika Burn, the expression “garbage person,” A Clockwork Orange, Steampunk (this one is really good), Jack Kerouac, “Gilmore Girls,” Woody Allen, the expression “grammar nerd,” the expression “grammar Nazi,” cocktails, bongs, magical realism, millennials, Cards Against Humanity, trance parties, bunting, many comedians, William Gibson, burlesque, the Beats, The God Delusion, sloths, anarchism, Joy Division, CrossFit, “The Mighty Boosh,” and Fight Club.


A White Male Led Revolution Against American Inequality, You Say?, by D Frederick Sparks (2016-05-22). "This blind spot, not being able to see these things because they don’t have to, is why I find it highly unlikely that white male left progressives are going to be the ones who identify and anoint the messianic figure in American politics who will lead the revolution against inequality. And if I had to wager, I wouldn’t put my money on said messianic figure being a privileged white male from the Northeast. I’d put my money on a black woman from the south or a Latina from the Southwest, someone who on an ontological and inter-sectional level understands the various power paradigms that contribute to unfairness in this country and can competently speak to and address all of them, and not just get fixated on one."

Dissociation is scary. Dissociation is safety, by Sarah Gailey for the Boston Globe (2016-05-08). CW: firsthand discussion of having PTSD and being triggered. This article describes what it's like for one person to have PTSD -- it's only somewhat close to my own experience, and if it isn't like this for you then you shouldn't assume it means you don't have PTSD, but more stories are always useful.

Martin Luther King’s hate mail eerily resembles criticism of the Black Lives Matter movement, by David Matthews (2015-08-18). Title says it all.
tim: "System Status: Degraded" (degraded)
2016-07-13 09:38 pm
Entry tags:

Casual narcissism

[CW: Brief discussion of rape]

Alice: "You stepped on my foot! Ow!"

Bob: "It hurts my feelings when you say I hurt you by stepping on your foot. I'm a good person, and you're attacking me."

I hope we all agree that in this interaction, Bob is wrong. He's treating Alice as if she said that he stepped on her foot for the sole purpose of hurting him -- as if all her actions revolve around him, erasing her desire and need to protect herself.

But what about this interaction?

Carol: "Hey, guys, does anybody know the phone number for CVS?"

Eve: "Not all of us in the group you're addressing are guys. It would help if you used gender-neutral language."

Carol: "Stop attacking me! I'm not some kind of sexist asshole, and anyway, 'guys' is gender-neutral."

In this interaction, as in the first one, Carol is being narcissistic. She is treating Eve as if all of Eve's actions center around Carol: as if anything that Eve does that has the effect of hurting Carol must be done with the sole purpose of hurting Carol. Carol can't conceive that Eve might be asking Carol to use gender-neutral language because Eve doesn't like being misgendered (or because Eve doesn't mind, but knows other people in the group who aren't guys don't like it). She can't conceive that something might hurt her feelings, but not be done in order to hurt her feelings. So Carol changes the subject from Eve's feelings of hurt (or desire to protect others) at the misgendering use of "guys" to her own feelings of narcissistic injury over having her behavior corrected.

Now how about this example?

Faith: "I think you should know that Oscar is a rapist."

Grace: "I hate call-out culture so much. You're just trying to ruin Oscar's reputation. It's so mean of you to try to exile him from the community."

Grace's response reflects a similar misconception (perhaps accidental, perhaps deliberate): she hears Faith's damaging statement about Oscar, and she assumes that Faith only said it in order to harm Oscar. Perhaps Faith wishes Oscar no harm, but also wants to protect her friends from being raped. To keep her friends safe, it's necessary for her to say something that reflects poorly on Oscar. Grace assumes that because Faith says something negative about her friend Oscar that she's only doing it to hurt Oscar. Again, it's apparently inconceivable to her that Faith might value Oscar's well-being, but not enough to put her friends in danger by keeping quiet about Oscar's behavior of raping people.

When someone says you did something hurtful and you change the subject to how you're actually a good person, how your interlocutor doesn't really know you, and how you feel attacked, you're behaving like a narcissist. And you're committing a logical error: the assumption that nobody would act in a way that's disadvantageous to you unless they did it in order to hurt you. (This is also true when the person you're defending is a friend rather than yourself -- in that case you're still defending yourself, since you're attempting to protect yourself from the pain of having to admit someone you like and trust did something wrong.)
tim: A bright orange fish. (fish)
2016-07-11 07:55 pm
Entry tags:

[Linkspam] Monday, July 11

Baby Storm five years later: Preschooler on top of the world, by Jessica Botelho-Urbanski for the Toronto Star (2016-07-11). Remember the news story from five years ago about the Canadian family who declined to assign a gender to their newborn? Storm is five now and she's doing great.

Processing, by Erica Joy (2016-07-06). About the alienation of being Black and working in a white-dominated workplace with people who don't seem aware of what you have to be aware of.

"my best employee quit on the spot because I wouldn’t let her go to her college graduation", by Alison Green (Ask a Manager) (2016-07-05). Look, who knows if this letter is real or not, but bosses are scum and it well could be.

Is The New York Times Collaborating With Anti-Trans Lawmakers?, Chase Strangio (2016-05-22). When all the media coverage of an issue uses the same tropes, you have to start asking questions.

Stop Talking about Men in Women's Restrooms, Chase Strangio (2016-05-17). 'You might believe that a person’s genitals define their “biological” sex but that does not make it so and continuing to put forth that narrative without challenging it as an ideological position as opposed to a fact is extremely harmful.'

What To Do Instead of Calling the Police: A Guide, A Syllabus, A Conversation, A Process, by Aaron Rose. A compilation of links on that subject, which I plan to work my way through.

Curriculum for White Americans to Educate Themselves on Race and Racism–from Ferguson to Charleston, by Jon Greenberg (2015-07-10). Likewise.

If you think women in tech is just a pipeline problem, you haven’t been paying attention, by Rachel Thomas (2015-07-27). Seriously, stop blaming "the pipeline" for your inaction.
tim: A warning sign with "Danger" in white, superimposed over a red oval on a black rectangle, above text  "MEN EXPLAINING" (mansplaining)
2016-07-09 02:38 pm
Entry tags:

Why do cis people need the concept of "biological sex"?

"Sex is just what cis people call 'gender' when they want to misgender you." I've said this many times and I'll keep saying it as many times as I need to. If people remember one thing I've said, I hope it's that.

Why do cis people need the concept of "biological sex" so much? Why do they have such a strong need to put trans people in their place by saying, "Sure, you identify as a woman. But your biological sex is male"?

At the root of cisnormativity, like all other harmful normativities, is a desire to control. To exercise power over somebody else. And telling somebody, "You aren't really who you say you are -- I can invoke some greater authority that says you're lying about who you are" is a way of controlling somebody else. It frames that person as an unreliable narrator of their own experience, and reinforces the cis person's greater power to name, to identify, to categorize.

It doesn't help that the watered-down liberal version of trans education that has been promoted for a long time emphasizes the difference between "sex" and "gender," making cis people feel like they can evade criticism as long as they memorize that talking point. It also doesn't help that anyone who challenges the simplistic sex/gender binary gets accused of wanting to alienate allies or wanting to make it harder for them to understand us.

That didn't cause the problem, though.

"Sure, you identify as a man, but you'll always be truly biologically female" ultimately means, "What you identify as doesn't matter. It's not real; it's all in your head. My objective observation of your body is that you are female, and that's scientific."

There is no rule of science that says we must use terms for other people that they wouldn't use for themselves. That's social and political.

So the attachment to "biological sex" is really about saying this: "There is something other than your own self-description that I can use to classify and categorize you without your consent. I can categorize and label you based on externally observing your body, without asking you what categories you belong in." The power to name is the power to control. And cis people react badly when we try to take this power from them by saying that "sex" is just another name for gender.

It's easy to see what purpose "biological sex" serves structurally: gender-based oppression would no longer be possible if gender categories were entered into consensually. To oppress somebody, you need the ability to place them in an oppressed class in a way that others will generally recognize as valid.

But on an individual, psychological level, I wonder what purpose it serves. Why is there such a strong need in so many cis people to tell somebody else they're wrong about their own sex?

One answer is that cis people don't like admitting mistakes, and that most cis people learned as children that boys have penises and girls have vaginas. When faced with a choice between recognizing trans people as fully human, or maintaining their own omniscience, they go for the narcissistic choice of refusing to admit that what they learned early on was incorrect.

But I don't think that's the whole story. People make all kinds of mistakes, but admitting that they were taught something incorrect about sex categories seems uniquely difficult.

So I'm leaving it here as a question. Why does any individual cis person feel such a strong need to tell a trans person, "You are truly biologically male," or, "You are truly biologically female" when that isn't how the trans person would describe themself? The answer isn't "science", since science doesn't require anybody to place others in particular political categories; as well, very few cis people saying this have any understanding of science. I don't know the answer to this question, but I think the only way to begin finding it is to reject the pseudo-scientific notion of biological sex as objective truth rather than socially and politically motivated narrative. We have to stop asking what biological sex is, and start asking what work the concept of "biological sex" does and what needs it satisfies.
tim: A bright orange fish. (fish)
2016-07-04 07:58 pm
Entry tags:

[Linkspam] Monday, July 4

"Managing Assholes", by Jess Rose (2016-06-27). "I don’t care what kind of skills your toxic team member brings with them, you can afford to remove them from your team. "

"Euthanasia as a Dutch Neoliberal Success Story", by Flavia Dzodan (2016-06-29). Raises some troubling questions about what it means to choose to end your life in a capitalist society where few people actually get to make free choices.

"The Puzzle Box of Shame", by [personal profile] sonia (2016-06-01). "If the adults around us do not provide soothing touch and welcoming delight, we learn instead that we have to earn our place in the world by being quiet enough, or strong enough, or unemotional enough. We believe, before we have words, that there is something terribly wrong with us. We question our right to exist. We feel ashamed to the core."

"Buying Coffee Every Day Isn’t Why You’re in Debt", by Helaine Olen for Slate (2016-05-26). Speaking of shame, we all get taught to feel ashamed of not having any money and taught that it's our fault for wasting it on things we enjoy. The article debunks that pernicious lie.

"Killing Dylann Roof", by Ta-Nehisi Coates for the Atlantic (2016-05-26). A look at which people are socially pressured into forgiving, and which ones are socially sanctioned for committing violence.

"US nuclear force still uses floppy disks", BBC News (2016-05-26). Title says it all.

"This may shock you: Hillary Clinton is fundamentally honest", by Jill Abramson for The Guardian (2016-03-28). Criticize Clinton for her policies, but most of what she's actually getting criticized for is baseless.

"Hillary Clinton isn't progressive. She's just the lesser evil in the general election", by Kiese Laymon for the Guardian (2016-04-27). The best piece I've read about the election so far.

"There's a gender divide on nuclear power, but it doesn't mean what you think it means", by David Roberts for Vox (2015-05-27). 'What looked like a gender divide on nuclear power is in fact mostly a function of the "extreme risk skepticism" of "white hierarchical and individualistic" males. (In the US, "white hierarchical and individualistic" males generally go by the more economical "conservatives.")' If you want to claim that everyone who opposes nuclear energy is just unscientific and stupid, then you need to be prepared to argue that white men are more likely to be scientifically educated and smart than everybody else is. (Spoiler alert: there's no evidence for that.)

"White Supremacy and Magic Paper", by The Rancid Honeytrap (2015-03-27). "My main objection is to the doctrine of free speech absolutism. In addition to directing the attention, resources and goodwill of decent people to organizations and individuals that would imprison and murder them if they could, it perniciously minimizes the genocidal and avaricious politics with which it makes common cause; it promotes a view of power and social change so ahistoric and infantile it qualifies as magical thinking; and it promotes libertarian as opposed to communitarian values and politics. "

"The Self-Storage Self", by Jon Mooallem for the New York Times Magazine (2009-06-06). Storage units as "our last national commons — places where nearly every conceivable kind of American still goes." (I find storage units endlessly fascinating, and this article feeds my love for the topic.)
tim: A bright orange fish. (fish)
2016-06-27 07:52 pm
Entry tags:

[Linkspam] Monday, June 27

First of all, some shameless bragging: my friends Jamie and Marley were on the front page of Saturday's San Francisco Chronicle, making out at Trans March!

I was also proud to witness Mayor Ed Lee and Supervisor Scott Wiener getting booed off the stage at Trans March. You can't support trans people while supporting police and criminalizing homelessness.

Unrelatedly, here's an adult capybara booping a baby capybara.

Orlando shooting: It’s different now, but Muslims have a long history of accepting homosexuality, by Shoaib Daniyal for scroll.in (2016-06-27). A cool trick that Western white supremacists pull is to attribute blame for homophobia exported by Western countries onto the Asian and African countries into which they exported it. You don't have to fall for it.

"No more rock stars: how to stop abuse in tech communities", by Valerie Aurora, Mary Gardiner, and Leigh Honeywell (2016-06-21). I'm very proud to call the authors of this article my friends; they offer a comprehensive analysis of tech communities' handling of abuse and harassment, as well as many actionable suggestions.

"Patching exploitable communities", by Tom Lowenthal (2016-06-21). A great, succinct summary of the aforementioned article.

KatieConf - if you can write an entire conference lineup consisting only of women named various forms of "Katherine"/"Catherine"/"Katie", then what's your excuse for not being able to find women speakers?

"Who Gets To Be The 'Good Schizophrenic'?", by Esmé Weijun Wang for Buzzfeed (2016-04-07). When we talk about mental illness in an attempt to destigmatize it, we need to go further than drawing a line between nice, friendly mentally ill people who are "only" anxious and depressed, and scary, dangerous mentally ill people who are schizophrenic.

Lecture by John Darnielle at Calvin College's Festival of Faith and Writing (audio, 2016-04-14). I would listen to John Darnielle talk about pretty much anything for 47 minutes, so I don't really know how to sell you on this if you wouldn't.
tim: A bright orange fish. (fish)
2016-06-20 07:41 pm
Entry tags:

[Linkspam] Monday, June 20

I'm going to try doing a weekly linkspam post, because why not? Maybe it'll motivate me to get through my Pinboard backlog.

  • "Parents, right? Psh, who needs em!", by Talia Jane (2016-06-20). A hot personal take on the silencing of people who were parented incompetently. "Why would you care about the rocky nature of my personal life? Well, why do you think I’d care about how healthy your personal life is? Why would you think I’d enjoy seeing happy photos of you with your parents, outside of the fact that I might be happy you’re not curled up in a ball crying for six hours?"
  • Unsuck It: A bullshit-business-jargon-to-English translator (occasional ableism but on the whole pretty on-the-mark). "wellness: A notional substitute for a decent health insurance plan. Frequently includes chipper admonishments to do obvious things, such as get off your ass and walk or eat more vegetables."
  • "creativity and responsibility", by [personal profile] graydon2 (2016-06-17). On "creativity" as applied to software development: "I think 'creative' also serves as a rhetorical dodge about expectations, or perhaps more bluntly: responsibilities." Tangentially, this post reminds me of a quote from Samuel Delany that I love:
    The sad truth is, there’s very little that’s creative in creativity. The vast majority is submission – submission to the laws of grammar, to the possibilities of rhetoric, to the grammar of narrative, to narrative’s various and possible restructurings. In a society that privileges individuality, self-reliance, and mastery, submission is a frightening thing.

    (I think the software industry could do with a bit more submission to models, and there's probably something to be teased out here about why some people are so resistant to type systems and other forms of static verification.)
  • "To Keep The Blood Supply Safe, Screening Blood Is More Important Than Banning Donors", by Maggie Koerth-Baker for FiveThirtyEight (2016-06-18). We've all known for a long time that the ban on MSM donating blood is based in homophobia and not science, but it's always nice to see more evidence of that.
  • "The Myth of the Violent, Self-Hating Gay Homophobe", by Cari Romm for New York magazine (2016-06-16). No, homophobes aren't all (or even mostly) closeted self-hating queers. Hetero people really do hate us that much.
  • Interview With a Woman Who Recently Had an Abortion at 32 Weeks, by Jia Tolentino for Jezebel (2016-06-15). Long, harrowing interview with a woman who had a very late-term abortion. Makes me feel glad that there are still a few doctors courageous enough to provide this care, and sad that so many have been terrorized out of doing it.
  • "How Bernie Sanders Exposed the Democrats’ Racial Rift", by Issac J. Bailey for Politico (2016-06-08). "To minority voters, Trump’s candidacy feels like an existential threat. It’s one thing for Republicans to either ignore or embrace his racism; the party already seems unwilling or incapable of making the kinds of adjustments it must to attract more non-white voters. It’s quite another for white Democrats to not appreciate how liberal minorities feel about the possibility of a Trump presidency and what that would say about the state of racial progress in America. It would be a slap in the face, the latest sign that a kind of white privilege—throwing a temper tantrum because they don’t get their way despite how much it hurts people of color—is deeply rooted within liberal, Democratic ranks as well."
  • "The Ethics of Mob Justice", by Sady Doyle for In These Times (2013-11-08). Unfortunately, relevant again. "So we’re left with upholding structural principles, and this brings me to the Internet’s other poisoned gift to social justice: Even as it enhances our ability to censure those who violate the social contract, it makes the individual members of that society more visible, warts and all. Where the radicals of previous generations could spout high-minded rhetoric about the Common Man, Womankind or the Human Spirit while interacting mainly with the limited circle of people they found tolerable, we contemporary activists have to uphold our principles while dealing with the fact that actual common men, women and human spirits are continually being presented to us in harshly lit, unflattering close-up..." (I don't read this article as being opposed to public shaming, and I'm certainly not. Just as taking a skeptical eye to the targeting of women for having unacceptable feelings in public.)
tim: Solid black square (black)
2016-06-13 09:17 pm

A short, inexhaustive list of things I am tired of hearing

CW: violence, homophobia, victim-blaming

Read more... )


"I am so tired of waiting.
Aren’t you,
for the world to become good
and beautiful and kind?
Let us take a knife
and cut the world in two —
and see what worms are eating
at the rind."
-- Langston Hughes

tim: "System Status: Degraded" (degraded)
2016-06-11 07:12 pm

Broken Metaphors, Flawed Technology

Language affects thought, and part of why science isn't objective is that communicating scientific knowledge relies on language, which is always imprecise and governed by politics and culture.

In "The Egg and the Sperm", Emily Martin wrote about how the language used to describe human reproduction distorted the truth. Scientists, mostly cis men, were biased towards seeing sperm as active penetrators as the passive egg. In fact, as Martin detailed, eggs do a lot of active work to reject weak sperm and entice strong sperm. (Of course, even the metaphor of "weak" or "strong" sperm reflects socially mediated beliefs.)

Another example from reproduction is the misunderstanding of the biological function of menstruation that also arose from sociopolitical biases about gender. In a 2012 journal article, Emera, Romero and Wagner posited that the function of menstruation has been misunderstood due to sexist beliefs that bodies coded as female are intrinsically nurturing: the endometrial lining was previously construed as the uterus creating a nurturing environment for a potential embryo, where in fact, it might be more accurate to view it as a hostile environment that only the strongest embryos can survive (there's that "strong/weak" political language again.) I'm not qualified to assess on the accuracy of Emera et al.'s idea, but I am qualified to observe that assessing its validity has been so far hindered by the misapplication of gender stereotypes to biology.

Yet another example is that of same-sex sexual behavior in non-human animals; Bruce Bagemihl's book Biological Exuberance details the history of (again, mostly heterosexual cis male) scientists getting itgrievously wrong about the nature and function of sexual behavior. It would be funny if it wasn't so harmful. Just one example is the publication of a paper, in 1981, entitled "Abnormal Sexual Behavior of Confined Female Hemichienus auritus syriacus [Long-eared Hedgehogs]". It's not objective, rational, or scientific to label hedgehog sex as "abnormal" -- rather, it reflects social and political biases. And in that case (and many similar cases), politics kept scientists from understanding animal behavior.

In all of these cases, bad metaphors kept us from seeing the truth. We used these metaphors not because they helped us understand reality, but because they were lazily borrowed from the society as it was at the time and its prejudices. This is why scientific research can never be fully understood outside the context of the people who produced it and the culture they lived in.

Master/Slave: a Case Study

In computer science and electrical engineering, the term "master/slave" has been used in a variety of loosely related ways. A representative example is that of distributed databases: if you want to implement a database system that can scale up to handling a lot of queries, it might occur to you to put many servers around the world that have copies of the same data, instead of relying on just one server (which could fail, or could become slow if a lot of people start querying it all at once) in one physical location. But then how do you make sure that the data on all of the servers are consistent? Imagine two different whiteboards, one in the computer science building at Berkeley and one in the computer science building at MIT: there's no reason to assume that whatever is written on the two whiteboards is going to be the same unless people adopt a mechanism for communicating with each other so that one whiteboard gets updated every time the other does. In the context of databases, one mechanism for consistency is the "master/slave" paradigm: one copy of the database gets designated as the authoritative one, and all the other copies -- "slaves" -- continuously ask the master for updates that they apply to themselves (or alternately, the master publishes changes to the slaves -- that's an implementation detail).

A lot of the historical background behind the use of "master/slave" in a technical context already got covered by Ron Eglash in his 2007 article "Broken Metaphor: The Master-Slave Analogy in Technical Literature". Unfortunately, you won't be able to read the article (easily) unless you have access to JSTOR. Eglash examined early uses of "master/slave" terminology carefully and pointed out that "master/slave" entered common use in engineering long after the abolition of slavery in the US. Thus it can't be defended as "a product of its time." He also points out that "master/slave" is also an inaccurate metaphor in many of the technical contexts where it's used: for example, for a system with multiple hard drives where the "master" and "slave" drives merely occupy different places in the boot sequence, rather than having a control or power relationships.

But I think the most interesting point Eglash makes is about the difference between power as embodied in mechanical systems versus electrical systems:

A second issue, closely related, is the difference that electrical signals make. Consider what it meant to drive a car before power steering. You wrestled with the wheel; the vehicle did not slavishly carry out your whims, and steering was more like a negotiation between manager and employee. Hence the appropriateness of terms such as "servo-motor" (coined in 1872) and "servomechanism" (1930s): both suggest "servant," someone subordinate but also in some sense autonomous. These precybernetic systems, often mechanically linked, did not highlight the division of control and power. But electrical systems did. Engineers found that by using an electromagnetic relay or vacuum tube, a powerful mechanical apparatus could be slaved to a tiny electronic signal. Here we have a much sharper disjunction between the informational and material domains. And with the introduction of the transistor in the 1950s and the integrated circuit in the 1960s, the split became even more stark.

This coupling of immense material power with a relatively feeble informational signal became a fundamental aspect of control mechanisms and automation at all scales...

In light of Eglash's observation, it's worth looking harder at why some engineers are so attached to the "master/slave" terminology, aside from fear of change. The "immense material power" of an electronic signal can't be observed directly. Do engineers in a white-male-dominated field like talking about their systems in terms of masters and slaves because they need to feel like they're somebody's master? Does it make them feel powerful? Given that engineering has become increasingly hostile to people who aren't white and male as it has become more dependent on leveraging smaller and smaller amounts of (physical) power to do more and more, I think it's worth asking what work metaphors like "master/slave" do to make white male engineers feel like they're doing a man's job.

Bad Metaphors

"Master/slave" both serves a psychological function and reflects authoritarian politics, even if the person using that term is not an authoritarian. No one needs to consciously be an authoritarian, though, for authoritarianism to distort our thinking. Language derived from societies organized around a few people controlling many others will affect how systems get designed.

A master/slave system has a single point of failure: what if the master fails? Then there's no longer any mechanism for the slaves to keep each other consistent. There are better solutions, which constitute an open research topic in distributed systems -- discussing them is beyond the scope of this blog post, but I just want to point out that the authoritarian imagination behind both societies organized around slavery (we still live in one of those societies, by the way, given the degree to which the economy depends on the prison industry and on labor performed by prisoners) impoverishes our thinking about systems design. It turns out that single points of failure are bad news for both computer systems, and societies.

I conjecture that the master-slave metaphor encourages us to design systems that have single points of failure, and that the metaphor is so compelling because of its relationship with the continued legacy of slavery. I don't claim to be certain. People who design decentralized, peer-to-peer systems may not be any more likely to have egalitarian politics, for all I know. So I'm asking a question, rather than answering one: do fascists, or people who haven't examined their latent fascism, build fragile systems?

Names are important. Lazy evaluation, for example, wasn't too popular when it was only known by the name of "cons should not allocate." So master/slave is worth abandoning not just because the words "master" and "slave" evoke trauma for Black Americans, but also because flawed thinking about societies and flawed thinking about technology are mutually self-reinforcing.

Good metaphors have the power to help us think better, just as bad ones can limit our imagination. Let's be aware of what shapes our imagination. It's not "only words" -- it's all words, and people who write software should understand that as well as anyone. Metaphors are powerful. Let's try to be aware of how they affect us, and not suppose that the power relationship between people and words only goes one way.


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tim: text: "I'm not offended, I'm defiant" (defiant)
2016-06-09 08:25 pm
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Against Education: A "Trans 101" 101

Arguing over the terms of reform means trying to get people to understand complexity. It violates the old adage that in politics when you are explaining you are losing. Better to let the other side explain complex formulae while you line up behind an easily articulated view.
-- Michael J. Graetz and Ian Shapiro, Death by a Thousand Cuts: The Fight over Taxing Inherited Wealth
"Transphobia comes from ignorance. Cis people treat trans people badly because they just don't understand gender. If we take the time to educate them, it'll pay off in respect."

That's my impression of the premise behind most "trans 101" workshops, handouts, and books that I've seen. I think the premise is flawed, because asserting boundaries is incompatible with education. This is not to say that education is never necessary, just that exchange of ideas and boundary-setting shouldn't be intermingled freely, much as developing software and doing code review -- or writing a book and editing it -- are different activities. While I suspect what I'm about to say applies to other social power gradients besides just trans/cis, I'm going to focus here on "trans 101" education.

I believe education is extremely oversold as a means for effecting change. You cannot convince people that you are in possession of facts and truths (borrowing Rebecca Solnit's words) while you are educating them. And in the case of "trans 101" education, what we need to teach people is exactly that: that trans people are reliable narrators of our own life stories. But in order for us to teach people what they need to know, they have to believe it already! This is why the ubiquitous advice to "educate people before you get angry at them" is as ineffective as it is smarmy: you can't educate someone into treating you as a person.

"Trans 101" workshops, on the other hand, are situations where someone or a group of people (sometimes a trans person, sometimes a cis person, sometimes a mixed group) has volunteered to do the work of educating in a structured and planned way. This isn't like randomly telling people on the Internet that they should educate strangers for free -- there's a better return on investment, and it's not something people are coerced into doing.

In practice, though, most "trans 101" content I've seen, well-intentioned as it is, is fundamentally flawed. "Trans 101" materials often rely on infographics like various versions of the "Genderbread Person" diagram, and these pictures illustrate the fundamental flaws of the educational approach. Rather than embedding any version of that diagram in this post (bad publicity is still publicity, after all), I'll defer to an illustrated critique of the 'Genderbread Person' trope that articulates why all of the diagrams are reductive and misleading.

Rather than teaching cis people what sex is, or what gender is, or about the difference between gender identity, expression, and role (I can never remember what those all mean anyway), or what "performativity" means, you could save everybody a lot of time and set a boundary, specifically: "Everyone has the right to have their sex and gender, as self-defined at a given moment in time, recognized as valid. If you are a respectful person, you will respect that right and not cross a boundary by denying the validity of someone else's self-defined sex or gender." Here's how.

Tell, Don't Ask

A hidden assumption behind most "trans 101" content is that the educator's job is to persuade. It goes without saying in much trans 101 content that the speaker (if trans) is asking the audience for permission to be a person, or that the speaker (if cis) is trying to explain to the audience why they should treat trans people as people. No matter who's saying it, it's self-undermining. If you expect to be treated as a person, you don't ask for permission to be one.

"Meeting people where they are" is a commonly cited reason to tone down or simplify discussion of boundaries and self-determination in "trans 101" content. I think most people grasp the basic concept of boundaries, at least those who are old enough to have learned to not grab the other kids' toys and that you don't get to pull your mom's hair just because you want to. So if we "meet people where they are" on the common ground of boundaries, we'll share the understanding that boundaries are not negotiable and require no justification. Justifying a statement implies it's not a boundary -- it implies that you can negotiate or debate with me on whether or not I'm a person. Actually, I know more than you do about what my subjective experience is; your opinion isn't equally valid there.

I think the premise that "meeting people where they are" requires a great deal of explanation arises partially from the difficulty of functioning in a system where it's still not widely accepted that everyone gets to have bodily autonomy. Disability, children's rights, the right to an abortion, sexual assault, or consent to being assigned a sex/gender, are all examples where the conditional or contingent granting of bodily autonomy causes significant pain.

So stating boundaries isn't easy. But piling on the explanations and justifications doesn't help either. You don't take power by asking for permission. You don't demand respect by asking for permission. And there's no "please" in "I am a human being, and you had better treat me as one."

Eschew Obfuscation

You know those people who ask for a checklist, right? "Give me a list of words I should avoid using, so that I can be sure that no one will ever get mad at me again. If they get mad, I'll tell them you gave me the list and they should get mad at you instead." A lot of "trans 101" content panders to the desire to avoid doing hard interpersonal work yourself -- to formalize and automate empathy. Unfortunately, that is also self-defeating. Ideally, a "trans 101" talk should provide as few rules as possible, because checklists, flowcharts, and other rule-based approaches to respecting other people are just another site for people to exploit and search for loopholes.

The flowchart approach goes hand-in-hand with the peddling of various oversimplified models of sex and gender that have the supposed benefit from being different from the one that white American children were taught in elementary school in the fifties (that boys have a penis and grow up to be men, girls have a vagina and grow up to be women, and there's nobody else.) But trans people don't get oppressed because cis people don't sufficiently understand the nuances of sex and gender. Rather, cis people construct models of sex and gender that justify past oppression and make it easier for that oppression to continue. For example, teaching people that sex is "biological" and gender is in your mind doesn't make them any more likely to treat trans people as real people. We see this in the ongoing legislative attacks on trans people's right to use public accommodations: cis people who have learned that "gender identity" is self-determined while other people determine what your biological sex is have adapted to that knowledge by framing their hateful legislation in terms of "biological sex."

Remodeling sex and gender doesn't fix transphobia because a flawed model didn't cause it. You can't address fear with facts. Models are interesting and potentially useful to trans people, people who are questioning whether they're trans, and people who study science, culture, and the intersections between them. Everybody else really doesn't need to know.

Compare how pro-choice rhetoric fails when it revolves around enumerating reasons why someone should be allowed to have an abortion: what if you were a victim of rape or incest, or young, or sick, or you can't afford to raise a child, what if, indeed. What if nobody has the right to be in somebody else's body without that person's consent? You don't need a reason or an explanation for wanting to keep somebody else out of your body -- dwelling in your body is reason itself. Likewise, we don't need to furnish reasons or explanations for why you need to use the names and pronouns for someone that are theirs. We just need to say you must.

Know Your Audience

In "The Culture of Coercion", I drew a line between people who relate to others through coercion and those who build relationships based on trust:
  • A person operating on trust wants to be respectful, even if they don't always know how. These people are who "Trans 101" workshops try to reach. They are the majority. You don't need to give them reams of scientific evidence to convince them to be -- they decided to be respectful a long time ago. You don't have to bring reams of scientific evidence to convince them to respect. It muddies the waters when you do.
  • A person who operates on coercion isn't really sold on that whole "everyone is human" concept. Workshops cannot persuade these people. If someone doesn't accept the reality of others' personal boundaries, no amount of evidence or civil discussion will change that. Firmer enforcement of those boundaries will, and an educational workshop is not the tool for enforcing those boundaries.

Education requires being really, really clear on who you're trying to reach. And unfortunately, even trust-based people are likely to try to game the system when given a flowchart on how to be respectful -- well-intentioned people still look for ways to avoid feeling like they did something wrong, because because narcissistic injury is uncomfortable. The only circumstance under which you can teach is when your audience wants to know what your boundaries are, so they can respect them. So tell them!

Against Education?

I'm not really against education. Consciousness-raising, cognitive liberation, freeing your mind, getting woke, or whatever you want to call it is a prerequisite for organizing for change, especially when you're trans and are systematically denied language for describing who you are. But that is self-directed education, and I think that intentionally directing your education inwards -- in the company of like-minded people, with the goal of discovering the power you already have -- is the only way education changes the world.

In any case, education can't take place without boundaries -- classrooms have ground rules. Ask any teacher.


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tim: text: "I'm not offended, I'm defiant" (defiant)
2016-06-06 08:43 am
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Opinions Are Abundant and Low-Value

[twitter.com profile] moscaddie once wrote, "Dick is abundant and low-value." As she acknowledged later, this statement is cissexist, but I can borrow the phrasing without endorsing the cissexism:

Opinions are abundant and low-value.

[twitter.com profile] _danilo summarizes the co-optation of "diversity" in this Twitter thread: he observes that those who feel "marginalized by those who live in reality" demand inclusion because of "diversity of opinion."

Contorting "diversity" to demand more airtime for already-well-known beliefs relies on a fundamental misunderstanding of diversity. Diversity is a well-intentioned (if flawed) intellectual framework for bringing marginalized beliefs to the center. "Diversity of opinion" is a perversion of these good intentions to reiterate the centering of beliefs that are already centered.

Failure to explicitly define and enforce boundaries about which opinions a community values has the effect of tacitly silencing all but a very narrow range of opinions. That's because speech has effects: voicing an opinion does things to other people, or else you wouldn't bother using your time and voice to do so. (Stanley Fish made this point in his essay "There's No Such Thing as Free Speech, and It's a Good Thing, Too" [PDF link].) Everybody thinks some opinions are harmful and should be suppressed -- invoking "diversity of opinion" is a derailing tactic for disagreements about which opinions those are.

We do not need more opinions. We need more nuanced, empathetic conversations; more explicit distinguishing between fact and opinion; and more respect for everyone's expert status on their own lived experience. People who say they want more opinions actually want fewer opinions, because they are invariably arguing for already-privileged opinions to receive even more exposure. We do not need to value diversity of opinion; there are other values we can center to guide us closer to truth.
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tim: text: "I'm not offended, I'm defiant" (defiant)
2016-05-31 11:59 am
Entry tags:

Reporting suspicious activity in North Carolina

Edited to add: The quote turns out to be from a fake news site, but calling the governor's office can't hurt!

At a press conference today, North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory took further steps to ensure that his controversial bill, HB2, will be upheld when it comes to law enforcement. McCrory announced that his office has setup a 24-hour hotline for individuals to call if they witness someone not abiding by the new law.

“If you see a woman, who doesn’t look like a woman, using the woman’s restroom, be vigilant, call the hotline, and report that individual.” McCrory told reporters. “We need our state to unite as one if we’re going to keep our children safe from all the sexual predators and other aberrant behavior that is out there.”

Tom Downey, a spokesman for the Governor’s Office, explained the new hotline to reporters.

“Beginning today, individuals that notice any kind of gender-suspicious activity in the men’s or women’s restrooms are encouraged to call the new ‘HB2 Offender Hotline’,” Horner said. “We encourage North Carolina’s residents to take photographs and report as much detail as possible when calling. With the information gathered from this hotline, we’ll be working closely with local law enforcement agencies to make sure this law is enforced and those who break the law see jail bars. We are sending a clear message to all the transsexuals out there; their illegal actions and deviant behavior will no longer be tolerated in the state of North Carolina."

[...]
To report suspicious bathroom activity, North Carolina residents can call the ‘HB2 Offender Hotline’ at 1-800-662-7952. For individuals living outside of North Carolina, please call (919) 814-2000. To file a complaint after normal business hours, call (919) 814-2050 and press option 3.


-- ABC News report


(Note: I struck out the 919-814-2000 number. It doesn't accept voicemail and when I called during East Coast business hours, I got a recording saying to call back during business hours. The 800 number appears to reject calls from non-North-Carolina area codes.)

I encourage you to use your own words, but if you don't know what to say, here's a script you can use when leaving a message at the 919 number, or both numbers if you have a North Carolina phone number you can call from. I adapted this script from a post on Tumblr by [tumblr.com profile] lemonsharks.

I am calling to report suspicious activity.

It is very suspicious that the state of North Carolina is spending money enforcing a law whose sole purpose is to harass trans people and stop them from participating in public life. This would be suspicious even if North Carolina didn’t have a child poverty rate of over 25%. 

It’s suspicious that people who are not trans are enacting this kind of legislative violence against trans people. It’s suspicious that they have not reflected on their own fear, asked themselves what they are so afraid of, rather than projecting their unexamined fear outward onto vulnerable people.

I think you need to investigate this immediately. Thanks for your attention. Goodbye.
tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
2016-05-16 11:52 am
Entry tags:

Fundraising for Code2040: recap

As per this post from me a month ago, I said that I would donate $5 for each harassing tweet I received as part of the SJWList harassment campaign. I received 5 such tweets and have donated $25 to http://www.code2040.org/. The combined impact of this donation will be $125: $25 from me, $25 each from [twitter.com profile] bcjbcjbcj and [twitter.com profile] cbeckpdx, $25 from an anonymous donor, and a $25 match from my employer.

A few harassing tweets can go a long way! (Not meant as encouragement to harass people :)
tim: "System Status: Degraded" (degraded)
2016-05-14 04:27 pm
Entry tags:

Disowning Desire

[CW: discussion of rape, cissexism, transmisogynistic violence]

Disowning desire: how cis people use deception, contamination, and stigma to deny their attraction to trans people

The biggest threat to cisnormativity is the idea that a trans person, particularly a trans person who was coercively assigned male at birth, could be attractive.

The social stigmatization of trans people creates a positive feedback loop of attraction and desire in cis people's minds. A minor manifestation of that feedback loop is the OkCupid question that has ruined more of my potential relationships than I care to count: "When is it most appropriate for a transgender person to reveal their transgender status to a match?" [Screenshot of an OkCupid question; the text of the question and answers are in the body text.] The answer choices are, "It should be clearly stated in their profile," "During messaging prior to meeting in person," "Prior to having intimate contact or sex," and "Never." Absent is the answer I want to give: "Only if and when the particular trans person in question wants to and feels it is safe to do so."

Typically, cis people frame their answers to this question (if asked to justify their answers, which they seldom are) as being about "honesty." A cis person might say, "I have the right to know important parts of someone's history before I get into a relationship with them." Absent is an explanation of why it's only the parts of someone's history relating to the sex they were coercively assigned at birth that are relevant, and why no other aspect of someone's history requires this level of transparency.

Platitudes about "the right to know" or "honesty in relationship" are tidy disguises for a messy collection of fears, insecurities, and desires. I think they serve to conceal the work that the OkCupid question does: the work of shifting emotional labor off people in socially privileged classes, and onto people in socially disprivileged classes.

In a (current or nascent) relationship, who does the work? Who takes risks? Should a cis person risk embarrassing another cis person by asking, "Are you cis?" on a date or in a message thread on a dating site? Or should a trans person (in practice, usually a trans woman) take the initiative in disclosing that they are trans, thereby taking on the risk of being harmed or killed? How much bodily harm does a trans person need to be willing to risk in order to spare a cis person from embarrassment?

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tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
2016-04-14 09:24 am
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Fundraising for Code2040

If you missed it, I (and several hundred of my colleagues) are now on a blacklist because we signed a statement saying that we disagreed with the LambdaConf functional programming conference's decision to host a white supremacist speaker.

I filed a complaint to the Internet service provider (Alchemy Communications, a partial subsidiary of Dreamhost Communications according to Alchemy's home page) for the blacklist, since its purpose is clearly to incite harassment and violence against individuals. In response, an employee of Alchemy posted my personally identifying information to 8chan, and I'm now being harassed on Twitter with tweets @-mentioning both me and the CEO of the company I work for.

From now until May 15, I'll be donating $5 to Code2040 for every harassing tweet I receive as part of this campaign. (I am the final arbiter of which tweets are harassing and are part of this campaign, for the purpose of this fundraiser.) I'll make the final donation after May 15 and post receipts. Donations will be matched quadruply by an anonymous donor who will match up to $100; [twitter.com profile] bcjbcjbcj, who will match up to $250; and [twitter.com profile] cbeckpdx, who will match up to $150. That means the first 20 harassing tweets (I've gotten 4 so far) will count for $20 each, the next 10 will count for $15 each, the next 20 will count for $10 each, and all remaining tweets up to May 15 will count for $5 each.

What better way to deal with white supremacist harassment than to support Black and Latin@ programmers? Let me know if you'd like to match donations as well.

Thanks to Kelly Ellis for the idea.
tim: Solid black square (black)
2016-04-11 10:32 am
Entry tags:

50

Debra would have been 50 today.

"you were a presence full of light upon this earth
And I am a witness to your life and to its worth"
(x)
tim: A person with multicolored hair holding a sign that says "Binaries Are For Computers" with rainbow-colored letters (binaries)
2016-04-04 09:22 am
Entry tags:

Depression is Not an Evil Monster

CW: depression, suicide

"And you can stay busy all day
He’s never going away"
-- the Mountain Goats, "Keeping House"


I've lived with depression for 24 years, more than two-thirds of my life. That's not to say that I subjectively feel depressed all the time, thankfully, just that for me, depression is a chronic illness. Sometimes, it incapacitates me. Sometimes, I have periods of time that make me ask myself, "So is this what it's like to be a normal person?". Most of the time, it's present as ambient noise that rarely quiets completely.

It is currently popular to talk about depression as a thing exterior to a person, like a virus that uses a person as a host but has no real life of its own. I guess it's popular among people with good intentions: they want to de-stigmatized depression. But the metaphor of depression as an evil monster that takes you over makes me wildly uncomfortable. The evil-monster metaphor frames depression as a thing a person has, like a suitcase, that can be put down -- not an intrinsic part of a person. Alternately, it frames depression as being like a demon on your shoulder, whispering lies in your ear: it's a bad part of yourself, it's your "jerkbrain". It's an interloper that is occupying your mind and body with no regard for you.
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tim: text: "I'm not offended, I'm defiant" (defiant)
2016-03-10 11:05 am
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The Culture of Coercion

Much of the conflict between "social justice warriors" and their antagonists arises from a conflict between mutual trust as a political foundation, and coercion (arising from distrust) as a political tactic. (I previously wrote about this conflict in "The Christians and the Pagans".)

People who are used to operating on coercion assume the worst of others and both expect to be coerced into doing good, and expect that they will have to coerce others in order to get what they want or need. People who are more used to operating on trust assume that others will usually want to help and will act in good faith out of a similar desire for mutual trust.

I want to be clear that when I talk about coercion-based people, I'm not talking about sociopaths or any other category that's constructed based on innate neurological or psychological traits. In fact, people might act coercion-based in one situation, and trust-based in another. For example, a white feminist might act like they're trust-based in a situation that involves gender inequality, but coercion-based when it comes to examining racism. And I'm also not saying people never cross over from one group into another -- I think it can happen in both directions. But to stop relying on coercion requires work, and there are few incentives to do that work. There are, however, a lot of incentives to give up trust in favor of coercion (or at least pretend to) and give up your empathy.

If you assume the worst of other people, of course you won't be able to imagine any way to achieve your goals other than coercion. Assuming the worst isn't a character flaw -- it's taught, and thus, can be unlearned. At the same time, experience isn't an excuse for treating others badly (and people who assume the worst of others will treat others badly, partly because it helps make their assumptions self-fulfilling, removing the need for them to change their assumptions and behavior). We are all obligated to do the work that it takes to live with others while minimizing the harm that we do to them.

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