Wednesday, September 8, 2010

On friends who won't engage with reason...

So I have a friend, who for some reason has started posting the most venomous anti-feminist statements as her facebook status messages. Of course this annoys the heck out of me as they are not exactly flattering to anyone... and the person who I think they insult the most is herself. Unfortunately, she seems to have a bunch of friends (who I don't know) who agree with her and reinforce the stereotypes she is perpetuating. I'm pretty much at a loss because I tried pointing out how her comments weren't very nice, but she insisted that they were "true" and basically accused me of attacking her and not respecting her opinions. She is a very intelligent woman and I don't understand how she can not understand what is wrong with her statements!

I like her as a friend, and I think it would be a huge shame to give up on her, but I'm seriously considering it if she keeps this up. It's rather saddening.

I wrote summaries and brief analyses of my thought processes in our conversations after the fold.

Her statements with my responses (paraphrased if without quotes because I don't remember the original wording and it has been removed):

Women should be paid less because they have wombs and you never know when they will get pregnant and thus you are taking a risk in training them up.
I didn't get a chance to respond to this before she removed it. At least she realised it was wrong if she removed it I guess?
But anywho, my immediate reaction would be to point out that this is tremendously unfair to those who can't/don't get pregnant, and also because people with wombs can't help having them. I guess this one is the easiest to respond to with common sense.

A few days later she posts this:
"I don't understand why I should be held accountable for being emotional and totally unreasonable. Am I not a woman for goodness sake?!"
My response:
"Because assuming that women are totally unreasonable isn't very nice?"
Her: something along the lines of "Oh, but we can be, especially once a month" (She deleted that particular reply, but none of the rest of the thread. Not sure why...)
Somebody else jumps in and tells me I don't want to argue with her because she'll be so irrational it won't make sense.
My response:
What can I say? Being a woman is not an excuse for being unreasonable. I hate those stereotypes because while they allow women to have freedom to express their emotions they are often used to discount our feelings/opinions. Women are not slaves to their hormones, and saying that they are is damaging.
$name, you're an adult, and part of being an adult is being held accountable for your actions. Please don't degrade all women to excuse your own occasional irrationality.
She says "ok", hard to tell what she means by that so I take it at face value and leave it at that. Somebody else posts a reply that says "sarcasm alert!" but I give her the benefit of the doubt.

Then comes this post:
"most girls are manipulative and most guys fall for it time and time again"
Some other women reply and agree with her, saying
"so true! girls are like venom and guys are like venom-seekers... except the gay guys of course, they seek venom-seekers"
Perhaps if that reply hadn't been posted I possibly wouldn't have said anything, but after that I feel almost obligated to stick my neck out. I say:
"Wtf $name, why the sweeping generalisations lately? So basically you're saying that all women are controlling and all men are idiots. Don't you think that saying things like this is insulting/damaging to everyone? Do you really want to build relationships around these assumptions?"
To which she replies:
"If you read my status *properly* you'll find that I never used the word "all", therefore, YOU were the one who misrepresented me and generalized by using words such as "all" and "everyone". I would really appreciate it if you can recognize sarcasm or respect my opinions (like I respect yours even though I don't agree with some of the things you do) because I am going to post whatever the heck I like. If you choose not to, then there are other measures you can take to ensure that my comments don't "damage" you (so dramatic!). And no, I don't think my comment was insulting/damaging to "everyone", just one or two :)"
which somebody "liked"
... I don't think she understood what I was trying to say at all. The difference between "all" and "most" in this context is hardly the issue here - the effect of using them here is pretty much interchangeable. I think perhaps she is trying to derail me as a defensive mechanism? (I feel so cold putting it like that!) "I was being sarcastic" is a pretty unimaginative defense, as are the later parts in which I think she is implying that I am "censoring" her and that I am taking it too personally. Hmm... I attempt to sidestep the worst of the derailing attempt and reply:
$name, the problem is not that I am insulted by your comments (even though I am!), but that such comments perpetuate tired, old stereotypes. Every time we hear things like this, they are cemented further into the back of our minds, and if we hear it often enough we begin to think of it as "truth".
Of course there are measures I could take to prevent myself from being annoyed by your comments, like making your wall posts not appear in my feed or unfriending you. However I think it would be a shame because you are my friend and I would lose touch with you. I am also speaking out because I believe we can all build better relationships with each other if we stop making assumptions about people based on their perceived sex or gender. Yes, I have a personal stake in this battle, but don't you too? As a woman, aren't stereotypes about women being manipulative insulting to you too? Or do you consider yourself an exception?
I don't know how she will respond to this. I need references and backing up by somebody so I'm not the lone voice of dissent. I don't think I was entirely successful with the first paragraph either. Argh, I need someone who is better versed in feminist theory and who is better with words than I.

.... What a train wreck. I'm now horribly frustrated and I think I pissed her off, perhaps ruining my chances of getting her to think about what she is saying. She is also living in a different country to me at the moment so I can't go and talk to her in person, and we're not really close enough for me to make the long distance call. Besides, I'm not the greatest at thinking of arguments on the spot, so I don't know how much that would help anyway. I'm not sure all this is worth the effort.

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I have two basic requirements for commenting in my space; be nice, and stay on topic. If I ask you to discontinue a thread of conversation, please do so or further posts will be deleted. Nasty and off-topic comments may be deleted without warning.