AI: Calling People Out On Social Media
Earlier this week, someone on my Facebook newsfeed posted a rape joke. This isn’t a unique occurrence – it’s more like a regular reminder that even my network of acquaintances isn’t a nice bubble of acceptance and kindness and logical arguments. Having grown up in an area that’s 98.5% white and very conservative, in addition to attending a university that’s got a 2:1 male:female ratio and a lot of relatively privileged students (who, oddly enough, don’t know how to construct logical arguments), I know a lot of people who have screwed-up opinions and no problem expressing them, whether explicitly or insidiously.
Anyway, I don’t usually say anything to people in these all-too-common situations, mostly because I’m too scared about the potential reaction and I’m not that good at arguing with people (particularly those who’d rather be even more hurtful than consider that they might be wrong), but this time I did. It went… well, better than I expected, actually. The initial backlash was a short, laughably indignant reply with about half a dozen points taken straight from Derailing for Dummies, a few ad hominems and little else, which made it easy to refute. After that someone else offered a less terrible counter-argument and we’ve been having a proper discussion. I didn’t handle it as well as I wanted to – I started off by citing rape statistics, the concept of a rape culture and how “harmless jokes” are part of that, though I placed too much emphasis on triggering and not enough on trivialisation (which was the more important thing in this case) – but hopefully I didn’t make a complete mockery of the whole thing. What I worry about is people seeing the guy on the other side as the voice of reason despite his lack of an argument because zomg teh manhat0rz. Or something.
This whole episode has made me think about when it’s the right time to speak up against offensive things online and how you make that decision. I’ve also been thinking about how those decisions translate into real life. Whatever I decide, I may be annoying a few more people in the future with my (and I quote) “militant jingoism” and “single-minded crusade”…
What do you do when you see people make offensive jokes or voice offensive opinions online? Have you ever called out a close friend or relative? How do you work out when to respond and when to leave well alone?
The Afternoon Inqueery (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Queereka community. Look for it to appear on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays, at 3pm ET.
(Featured image by xkcd.)