Sunday, 29 March 2009

I don't get these people

In unionism there is a communication technique called Anger Hope Action. It is useful to talk workers who are dispirited through how they can change what is getting them down. The general gist is that anger is the antidote to fear, hope is the antidote to feeling powerless, and action is the stuff you do towards making the change you want.

I'm disturbed that there are people out there on the Left who do not get angry about stuff. Being angry does not mean you are incapable of a rational response. It does not mean that you can't contribute constructively. It does mean that you are passionate, and interested, and care. It means that you are probably prepared to do something, rather than nothing.

So I'm at a bit of a loss about some of the responses I've seen lately:
  • Pay equity for women - apparently it's not a real pay gap, just a function of the market, down to individual women's actions, nothing to see here
  • Paul Henry's obsession with Stephanie Mills' facial hair - can't you take a joke? let's just ridicule him by saying he was the first person in the world to lose an election to a transexual, if we pay this any attention then it'll just get him more ratings, he was just saying what everyone was thinking anyway, you don't write anything about Islamic oppression of women therefore you should just shut up
  • Sexist attacks on Pauline Hanson via faked photos - you're just giving the issue more oxygen and making it a news story by discussing it in the first place, and also her politics are awful so she is getting what she deserves
  • Female politicians being ranked for their beauty - it's just one facet of the way they are judged, they probably like that people think they are beautiful, besides I've had better
I'm sure I could go back further than the last week or so and come up with many many more. The underlying theme is one that is blind to the privilege of the writer, and often has to seek refuge in the idea that because New Zealand is "not as bad" as other places overseas we should just STFU.

To me it's an analysis that denies how change happens in our society. Changes happens because enough people say they want it. They'll express that differently, and they'll work towards the change they want differently too, but being silent and doing nothing changes absolutely nothing. Waiting for someone else to do it may work, but sniping at those who speak up for change is generally counter-productive.
This picture was a snap I stole from somewhere during the trials around Rickards, Shipton, Schollum, McNamara and Dewar. I can't remember where it came from, so I apologise that I'm unable to give that hat tip. The Louise Nicholas case, and associated trials, seemed to me to breakthrough to many New Zealanders who weren't normally roused to anger. The groundswell was slow to build, and underground for a long time, and for me it wasn't until I was present at Louise Nicholas's book signing in Auckland that I realised it wasn't just the circles I moved in who were outraged. I think that when we are silent about these matters many people think they are alone in their anger, when in fact they are not.

If we say nothing in opposition then Pakeha culture takes that as consent. It is different in Maori tikanga, on the marae and at hui, but out here in the mainstream to be silent is to agree. When we get angry here, and we say something, we're standing up and disagreeing. Why some others would rather sit down and "tactfully discredit" people like Paul Henry, using bigoted statements that don't actually challenge the world view he espouses, is beyond me.


Alison said...

Thanks for this post Julie. I haven't been commenting on all the excellent HM posts so much in recent weeks, partly because I was feeling completely snowed-under by the influx of comments that implied that to be angered by something that didn't anger the commenter is irrational. It bothers me to see even self-proclaimed feminist allies deriding anger - more specifically, female anger - as irrational, unreasonable and even downright laughable when it's not shared by the population as a whole.

Thank g-d I share a home with a person who listens to my anger and lightens my load a bit by taking some of it on himself. It's amazing how much easier it gets the moment someone hears and says "yeah, I can see why that would piss you the hell off."

Alison said...

Of course, making occasional or regular comments on a blog doesn't put oneself on the line in anything like the way actually blogging does, so thanks to you and all the other HM bloggers for putting yourself out there even when the response is one of ridicule (or, umm, outright sexual harassment like one comment that was deleted earlier tonight :-\ ).

Julie said...

Thanks for the nice words Alison. I'm glad it struck a chord with you.

The recent influx of dissenters has been disappointing in one way, however it does signal that this blog is now seen as a challenge worth engaging with I suppose. Certainly the commentariat here have been dealing with any problems well so far, but like you I do often notice the one nasty disagreeing comment more than the ten constructive ones (whether they agree or disagree).

The role of readers and commenters is crucial to blogging, so thank you for your contribution too :-)

Also, is anyone else annoyed that this Paul Henry thing has been labelled "moustache-gate"? The trouble here is not anyone's facial hair it is Paul Henry's behaviour.

Gina said...

Neighbours of a 2-3 yr old little girl saw her running around on a hot tin roof. They didn't say much about it. And she died. (WTF- this is NZ?). People should speak up when they see something wrong- something that perpetuates hatred towards a person or a group of people in society.

I love this blog. Thanks people.

xx Gina

Anonymous said...

Well, no one would accuse me of failing to get angry about stuff ...

With regards to the name thing, I suppose it's for convenience' sake; if we labelled every time Paul Henry acted like a bigoted infant "Henryispainfullystupidgate" we'd have run out of numbers already.

Psycho Milt said...

apparently it's not a real pay gap, just a function of the market, down to individual women's actions...

I guess I have to stick my hand up for that one. But on the other hand, Julie is so far the only one here willing to debate the issue.

The recent influx of dissenters has been disappointing in one way, however it does signal that this blog is now seen as a challenge worth engaging with I suppose.

Why is it disappointing? When I post, I'm hoping people who disagree will respond, because you don't persuade anybody by having only people who agree with you read your blog. We should be happy if people who disagree turn up to argue the point.

Alison said...

Psycho Milt, I don't think it's so much the disagreers on finer points that concern me (or Julie I suspect) - it's the influx of people who come here to abuse the concept of feminism, make claims based on stereotypes about the posters and commenters, and outright abuse the bloggers that are of concern.

Lucy said...

@Alison: I really agree with you about the derision involved. So often, anger is used to silence women, and it's so unfair, because then you get angrier about the attempted silencing, and then it's used as evidence that you really are irrational! But if you're not angry, no-one listens to start with. It's a perfect catch-22.

Julie said...

Dear Psycho, I don't mind debating the pay equity stuff with you, because you actually engage. What annoys me are the people that just write things like "this is so not an issue, why don't you write something about women in Africa" as rebuttal. Or ignore these issues entirely. You are honest and generally pleasant in your discussions, which is fine by me and I enjoy debating with you.

I guess the price of contributing to a feminist blog is that we are more likely to attract anti-feminist trolls. I don't mind people who disagree, I just want them to do it in a way that doesn't completely deny women's experiences, my experiences, or opinions.

That said we actually don't have that many people coming here to troll. By far the vast majority of commenters are constructive. Sadly the squeaky wheels of trollishness are often the ones that stick out. Not least because they are so surrounded by more pleasant people.

Brenda said...

and i thought the "don't you have a sense of humour argument" was unique to IT trolls on mailing lists.

There's a 5 step pattern, repeating over and over:

1. someone says something inappropriate, rude, and sexist in a public forum

2. someone objects.

3. hoards of normally polite people start to attack the objector - they don't agree with the idiot who said it, but they want the objector shut up and stop pointing out the sexism in their community. Can't they tell a joke when they see one?

4. objector get clobbered and trodden on for objecting, leaves community.

5. No more objectors - community goes back to wondering where all the (women|blacks|asians|muslims|etc) are and why they don't want to join their community

The Paul Henry incident is heading that way.
The Pay equity discussions are close.

AWicken said...

I dunno, Brenda,

I think there's a difference between a basic question posed by someone different to the dominant demographic/ideal in a particular blogsite or newsgroup (back in the day) vs a classic "troll" who's self-worth revolves entirely around alienating others.

The objective of "troll-type" behaviour is to silence the debate by exhausting all who disagree (victory scenario), but it is also encouraged by people attempting to engage in rational debate.

The trouble is that publicly stamping on trollish behaviour (as I have occasionally popped and done) can intimidate people who do want to ask the basic questions in a genuine discussion.

I think that the HM bloggers and administrators manage the debates remarkably well (especially given the politicly charged nature of some of the threads)- promptly removing grossly offensive posts, logically stating why, and many people don't have to wade through the worst vitriol to follow the thread. Too many left-wing moderators seem to think that "everyone can have their say" means that "pointless abuse needs to remain permanently in the thread".

And this male in particular is happy to be a part of the community (although I do try to be on extra-good behaviour, as a relative term only). And not just because it's fun to see other people's interpretations and plot expectations for BSG.

A Nonny Moose said...

"Stay true to your anger" is my new mantra.

I'm so glad I have HM to come to now (and like Alison I have a Mr Moose who listens with an open heart and mind). It's helping me articulate many feelings, and solidify positions I've held a stand on in the past but never had enough ammo for.

My regret is that I didn't articulate and get angrier sooner - I thought getting angry was the wrong way to approach a debate.

Anonymous said...

I reckon it's the new cult of individualism which has ridden into town on the coat tails of neo-liberalism. Everybody has difficulty in understanding that individual comments and actions have a social impact. They are not merely 'expressing their own opinion' or 'the way things work'.

I'd expand on this, but it's Friday evening already, sorry.


Sam Buchanan

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