Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Vanilla is a flavor, too.

"[this blog] couldn’t live on a feminist site or a men’s rights site. I do not want to sign up to a shared mission statement or ideological aim. That would completely undermine what I try to do here, which is to consider gender issues without dogmatic or ideological constraint, to call the stories as I see them, and speak my mind because it is what I want to say, not because it is what someone wants to hear."

"I come to this place because of the neutrality and rationality of the commenters here."

These are quotes from a blog and it's comments that I recently removed from my RSS feed.  I do think that there is much of value being said on the blog, but I'm getting increasingly annoyed at statements like those.  It reminds me a lot of things said during the Epic Mansplainer Debacle (the one who tried to 'splain happiness to me, because if I didn't enjoy talking to him that was something I should try to fix about myself).  I am slowly piecing together thoughts behind why this annoys me.

1.  Neutral is an ideology.  Neutral is a choice.  Someone who agrees with some issues from one group and some issues from another is someone whose ideology agrees with one group sometimes and another group other times.  A Catholic who supports welfare but not abortion is not inherently more free of dogma than a feminist who supports both.  There is dogma from the middle as well as the sides.

2.  Neutral is not inherently better or worse simply because it is in the middle.  To Godwin this, no one thinks that being "neutral" about genocide is a morally superior stance to "full opposition." 

3.  In the first quote, the writer praises himself for a lack of dogmatic or ideological constraints, implying that feminists and men's rights activists do not.  It assumes that people who have these ideologies assume positions because of the ideology, rather than claims the ideology because it fits the position.

I do not support reproductive choice legislation because I say I'm a feminist.  I describe myself as a feminist in part because I support reproductive choice legislation.  My feminism is descriptive, not proscriptive.  Conversely, my father's conservatism is the same.  Implying otherwise is strawmanning and insulting. 

4.  Neutral is not the same as open minded.  Some people with neutral ideologies are open minded, some are not.  The hypothetical Catholic I mentioned, who votes Republican on abortion but Democrat on welfare, might be just as unwilling to hear the other side on either of these issues as someone who votes straight ticket. 

5.  I do not agree that "neutral" is a virtue.  I do believe that "open-minded" is.  Open minded means able to listen and understand opposing viewpoints and willing to critically examine ones own prejudices and assumptions.  Someone who is open minded is capable of changing their mind, but that's not the same as actually doing it.  Someone may critically and fairly examine all the arguments and still reach the same conclusion that they had before. 

6. I was proud of myself, recently, for blocking a Facebook conversation in which someone described people with equal signs for avatars as "smug" and "self-righteous," and criticized them for not being able to understand other people's point of view.  As if taking a side was a moral or intellectual flaw.  I hid the post, but it still grates on me. 

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