03 December 2012

Social justice warriors

Ariel Meadow Stallings of Offbeat Empire is frustrated with her social justice allies and attempts to describe the problem in her post Liberal bullying: Privilege-checking and semantics-scolding as internet sport.

I love learning new things about how cultures are defining themselves. I love that people take the time to try to improve my publications by sharing the latest language that communities are using. I love that readers feel safe enough to voice their concerns. I love this shared concern for sensitivity around language. I love the social justice motivations, and the encouragement that we all be self-aware of how the language we use has powerful, sometime unexpected impacts on the people around us.

BUT. But. Seriously, I'm just not down with:

  • The derailing of conversations to debate semantics
  • The need to process it all publicly (look at me look at me look at meeee! I am the very MOST aware of my privilege and am therefore the very BEST progressive on the entire internet!)
  • The righteousness
  • The intolerance and inability to respect that those who share your values might not share your opinions on this particular subject

This is where this kind of conversation begins to feel more like liberal bullying, where the only correct response is agreeing and acquiescing. Any other response is seen as ignorant at best, hateful at worst.

My priorities with online discourse are dialogue and respect. In my little corner of the online world, I keep my focus on constructive critique and articulate, compassionate communication. Shouting down people who disagree with you (even if I agree with your argument!) simply doesn't feel productive or helpful.

I've been trying to find a way to talk about this thoughtfully for years. I still don't have an answer that I'm happy with.

Update: A friend points me at a strong critique of how this piece falls into classic patterns of defense of privilege.

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