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Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Why are some feminists rude and defensive?

"To you I'm an atheist; to God, I'm the Loyal Opposition." - Woody Allen

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Gabriel Seah's answer to Feminism: Why are some feminists rude and defensive? - Quora

Question Details: "Why do many feminists post curt and rude responses when their statements or arguments are questioned? One would normally assume a civilized and thought out responses for an argument, well, it doesn't seem to be so. In past 1.5 years, I have been blocked by 3 people, all feminists, who didn't have an answer to my statements (my statements were against stereotyping my ethnicity or pointing out their ignorance, not against their ideology).
Why are opposing arguments ignored or attacked?"


Me: "I too find that feminists in general are rude and defensive, but perhaps it is not feminists per se but people who openly (and loudly) identify as feminists, especially online, who are the problem. Since you mention 3 feminists blocked you, I'm assuming you encountered them online.

It is significant that even the centre-left British magazine New Statesman had an article on this (There’s no point in online feminism if it’s an exclusive, Mean Girls club) where the writer, who even praises Andrea Dworkin (despite her being deeply problematic; The Dworkin Whitewash) got burnt by online feminists, and there are good examples there of the harsh words that were directed her way.

Part of the reason is due to a phenomenon that rears its ugly head in other areas: the online disinhibition effect (basically people are nastier online; Online disinhibition effect)

However, it goes beyond that, since I've found feminists I know (or knew) in real life to be this way as well.

The three major reasons, I think, are strong identification with feminism, the assumption of infallibility and a Manichean worldview.

We all have multiple identities. Research on tolerance shows that "A simple social identity is likely to be accompanied by the perception that any individual who is  an  outgroup  member  on  one  dimension  is  also  an outgroup member on all others" (Page on The5f). In this context, if one strongly identifies as feminist (and this identification is very important to one's identity), one will be less tolerant of non-feminists. People who openly (and loudly) identify as feminists are thus less tolerant of non-feminists (we see this elsewhere too, among militant atheists, religious fundamentalists and ideologues in general).

Next, feminists seem to be incapable of imagining that they are wrong. Thus, people who disagree with them are wrong, and it just remains to be determined whether they are wrong because they are ignorant (in which case "education" is the answer), trolling (in which case the correct response is to ignore the "trolls"; related: Gabriel Seah's answer to Trolling: Why are some people obsessed with trolls of both the real and imagined variety?) or evil (where the 'misogynist' gets verbal abuse hurled at him).

As for the last, a Manichean worldview is a strongly polarised one: you are either good or evil and there is no middle ground. If you disagree with feminists, you are not just wrong but evil (because the opposite of feminist is, obviously, misogynist) and thus worthy of being insulted. This is especially so if you are male (and thus part of the Patriarchy, and guilty by association). Women are generally let off more easily but not spared (e.g. Camille Pagilla, Christina Hoff Sommers, Sarah Palin).

I also suspect that the reflexive (automatic) attitude of going against stereotypes (feminists love to champion the breaking of stereotypes) is responsible: since stereotypically women are supposed to be nice and polite, female feminists (since most feminists are female) are nasty.

Postscript: Feminists being rude is part of a larger phenomenon: Liberals tend to be ruder than their counterparts on the other side of the spectrum (Compassionate Liberals and Polite Conservatives: Associations of Agreeableness With Political Ideology and Moral Values) and more likely to block those they disagree with (Study: Liberals more likely to block social-media friends over political differences). For a prime example of this, you can look at PZ Myers's blog (Pharyngula - Just another site) which is full of he and his fans insulting people they disagree with (for example every time libertarianism comes up, the comments section is full of people slamming them as "assholes")"
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