Tuesday, August 2, 2011

In Which Enigma Says Something Stupid

I've been reading a lot about the events that surrounded what happened to Skeptichick Rebecca Watson some several months ago while she was in Ireland. I have my own take on it, but before I get into that, let me explain something: I'm naturally a peacemaker; I don't like to see people on my own side fighting and, honestly, if we're working towards the same goals I see no reason why we should. I have a very visceral, physical reaction to seeing two individuals I respect engaging in an otherwise very nasty fight. It gets even worse when you try to step into that warzone with your own opinion, and you're worried about making enemies of the people that you used to, and still do, respect. I'm no tone troll. I have no use for tone trolls. I just do not like to see individuals I respect fighting, so I avoid the topic. Sometimes, though, you just can't avoid it. It's too important an issue to ignore and focus on other things.

So, having said that, let me get this out of the way: What happened to Ms. Watson. While she was in Ireland, she said that she was propositioned in an elevator at night, by an individual. She declined, and the individual went on his way. Honestly, I'm not entirely sure of to many more details beyond that because of how quickly that degenerated and decimated the online skeptic community. Well, she posted on her blog about it telling guys that you don't do that. What followed was Richard Dawkins making a remark on PZ Myer's blog, and the whole thing boiled over from there. Watson then, in real space, called out one of her critics during a skeptic conference from her spot at the bully pulpit. What followed was a meteoric impact on the skeptic community that was pretty devastating in flame war after flame war. ERV's blog, over on Science Blogs, reached some 2000 (2006, iirc) posts on the matter in a giant flame war that I just finished skimming through (no way I'm reading 2006 comments. That's just nuts.)

So, because this is my blog and my opinion tends to dictate the way that this blog goes (and make no mistake; everything herein is me elaborating on my opinion and where I stand, and why I stand there), where do I stand?

I can't just default and say "Enlightenment stand," because, well, the Enlightenment really didn't have a stand on this material. The Enlightenment promoted rationality and insight, and a look towards the future. I guess I'll start there.

I'm a post-gender individual. I see no physical use for gender or sex beyond enjoying the physical act of sex. It has no bearing on your personality (beyond the hormones at play), and it has no bearing on your physical, mental, and social capabilities (with the exception that women carry and give birth). When I look at person, I judge them on the basis of what I know they can do, rather than what they are. "Yeah, well, that's all nice. Everyone says that."

That's true. Everyone would like to say that; and it's also true that eerily reeks of "why can't we just live in a colorblind society?" But that's not where I'm coming from with it. Colorblind (political, not biological) means that you're missing so much about life; if you only see gray, black, and white, then you're missing out on the beauty, the majestic tapestry of humanity. Not only that, but you end up downplaying the contributions that their ancestors had, and you deny them the right to their own experience based on their color/sex by just watering everything down into one, two or three discrete categories that remove any cognitive dissonance associated with doing it. This is what the Religious Right does. This leads to a world of absolutes rather than objective truths. It also means those with the privilege keep that privilege, and those without it don't get it, because there's still categories. You're not color blind - you still see black and white.

That's not the proper Enlightened response to this.

The proper Enlightened response is to look at someone, and rationally deduce where they've come from based on their sex/ethnicity/color without judging their personality on the matter.

It's only proper I should bring that up before I start talking about feminism and a lot of the sensitive matter about it. I have respect for both sides, but this is where I side at, and no, I'm not trying to reach for some kind of false medium.

I remember seeing a sticker once that one of my professors wore. It said "Feminism is the radical idea that women are people too." It's amazing how something that small can shape a philosophy, but that's honestly how I approach things. It's the radical - the Enlightened - idea that women are people too. That's at the heart of my feminism philosophy - at my Humanist philosophy. When you treat someone as a person, you're looking at them and deducing their where they're coming from, with respect to their origins and experiences, while judging based on who they are as a person, rather than what they are. Feminism, then, boils down to a matter of respect. You respect the individual, you have empathy for that individual, and you understand where that individual is by trying to understand their journey to where they are now without making any kind of a priori assumptions based on what they appear like.

There's a lot of nitty-gritty here; discussing the power inequality, the patriarchy, and everything else, but that takes the post into a deep, dark pit that will need to be saved for a post that comes replete with some triggering warnings. I don't have the time or the fortitude to go there right now, but just chalk it up to one more article I'm promising to right at this nebulous time called "the future."

And, and the watch word, political correctness - no discussion is complete with out it. What's my opinion about political correctness?

I don't believe words should be censored. I just don't. No word, regardless how hurtful it is, should be censored from view. That's how the First Amendment works. Freedom of Speech is most beautiful when it's most ugly. With that in mind, there's no such thing as political correctness. See, whenever I hear that term, I envision the staid conservative talking head, pissed off because he can't call those Black people "nggrs" anymore in public. Because he can't tell all women to shut up and make him a sandwich anymore, or stay in the kitchen. That's what political correctness is. It's the projection of angry and pissed off "adults" who are mad because society continually reminds them that their language is hurtful and that they'll get criticized for using it. Political correctness is not censorship (liberals do engage in censorship. I've seen it happen, so no, this isn't just a conservative fantasy here. Our side is guilty of trying to remove words from the vocabulary.) What political correctness is, is someone lacking fortitude accusing other people of stopping him what he whats to say when he knows, deep down, that it's a hurtful and wrong thing say and that people will criticize him for it. One might even say that it's the manifestation of cognitive dissonance and guilt.

So, that's my opinion on the matter. Was it worth it? I guess the one thing that I walk away from this from is my watchword - empathy. So long as you have empathy for others, things usually turn out for the best.

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