Further Thoughts on Human Nature

So a new commenter (hello, Casus Belli!) made a couple of points that I thought were interesting to think over some more.

I was thinking about those web forums I’ve observed where the contingent tends to be heavily weighted towards people who may or may not know they benefit from the status quo. And it is true that part of the way things are is that human nature can be intractable at times.

Now, what is rather darkly amusing is when people like the aforementioned web-forum clusters of misogynists, homophobes and/or racists try to use the very intractability of some aspects of human behavior as an excuse to just give up. “Nobody’ll ever stop being racist/sexist/homophobic! So stop trying, you silly (insert slur of choice which is intended to get a round of laughs and metaphorical backslaps from the fellow travellers on said webforum)”

However, it would be the worst thing to give up! Because giving up plays right into their hands. What they really mean when they say “give up”, is they mean the same old hoary thing defenders of the powerful have always said since time immemorial: “If those (insert category of human beings) would just shut up, things would be fine!”

How many people wished black people would “just shut up” in the 1960s when demanding their civil rights?

How many people wished women would “just shut up” in the 1900s and 1910s as they demanded suffrage? (or even later eras as they demanded other preferences normally given only to men)

How many people wished QUILTBAG people wouild “just shut up” from the 1970s onwards as they demanded social and political equality of treatment?

“Just Shut Up. Just Give Up.”

Because if nothing ever changes, then all the people scared of change will never have to confront themselves, see in themselves where their fear comes from and fight it to become a better person. For all that these people (who are usually cis straight white men) love to bellow and roar at each other to “man up and stop being a sissy fag/woman/etc”, they seem to be eager – astonishingly eager – to want society to conform precisely to their emotional weaknesses as it pertains to their place in the world.

That would be fine if all they wanted was to live in a cocoon somewhere in a place where there is essentially infinite supply, but we don’t have robots and we don’t have access to a star that just went supernova.

Instead, they’ll pick the next best thing: where oppressive structures exist that favor them over others.

And that, people, violates a fundamental dictum I never tire of quoting:

“You shall not side with the great against the powerless.”

What everyone on this planet deserves is a fair shake and a chance to be of themselves all that they want to be. Trying to dismiss the concerns of the powerless goes directly against the grain of that simple philosophy.


Male Gamers Behaving Badly

I think I will start adding more political commentary to this blog, especially as the way USian society in particular seems to be amping up the misogyny in recent years is concerning and worrisome. As noted in my previous political-commentary type posts, we’ve seen examples of the most grossly hypocritically homophobic behavior from some men, as well as men advocating permanently disfiguring women just for being women.

I will stop and note that for people who are upset by the crudity of misogynistic comments, a trigger warning applies to the links I have put in this writeup.

I refer to this link, which contains archived screen shots of commenters to a Youtube video which is related to a project designed to explore the ways in which female characters in computer games are often portrayed using stereotypes (an example which comes to mind is Lara Croft, whose sexual attractiveness is de facto primary rather than any gameplay elements).

Judging from the depth and intensity of the misogynistic manure pile that formed after this Kickstarter thing hit the Interwebs, it’s abundantly clear to me that at least some men (they may not even really realize why they are acting like this*) feel so threatened by women who question the status quo in computer game design that they lash out incredibly viciously.

What I want to know is why these people don’t feel any shame or loss of self-respect, or even just embarrassment, that they’ve behaved so badly. I mean, when I look at those comments? My reaction is utter speechlessness. I can’t fathom this. Disbelief. Shock.

I’m a man. In the course of my life I’ve had some very illuminating experiences along the social-justice learning curve, and it’s apparent if one just takes the time to look for a few moments that the harrassment of women, just for being women, is a serious problem. In short, I’ve learned not to universalize my own experience, and if a woman says something happened to her that I didn’t “see”, I try not to dismiss it out of hand, but attempt to put myself in her shoes (not that I think I’ve always been successful).

Why is it that other men feel that they can, in 2012, behave like it’s 1812? From the “get in the kitchen and make me a sammich” jokes, to completely and utterly frothingly batshit raging against someone like Anita Sarkeesian–

What?! What can it possibly be that’s so goddamn threatening about women asking not to be treated like sex objects!? Or portrayed as such?

What can it possibly be about women who want to have jobs, live independently, do all the things that men take for granted as do-able in a Western country, that’s a threat that calls for the most coarse and vulgar displays of misogyny like it’s a one-up contest and the man with the best bile-spewing talent wins?

Well, see the asterisk* up there? How it may be that these misogynists don’t even realize why it is they overreact so tremendously, they just do and it probably feels good to them to vent their sudden anger on a target who doesn’t deserve it?

The answer is probably partly given by a word apparently used by Marxists at one point: “mystified”. I learned this from Harry Turtledove’s alternate history TL-191 books. The word doesn’t have a good exact translation, but a rendering of the concept might be “socially-conditioned”, or “taught to believe something so deeply it is considered to be natural”. (EDIT: The term is apparently definitely derived from Marxist discourse, as noted here)

It seems to me that effectively, some men are mystified into believing that all women are threats unless they conform to certain acceptable social roles as they concieve such roles to be. So women who question the existing order of things, through no fault of their own, provoke an extreme reaction from these men out of all due proportion to the question being asked, because the men who are mystified have a powerful belief that if the existing social order (as they see it) is preserved, then the way they view women and how women will interact with them will be validated as correct.

This doesn’t excuse their behavior, but it does, perhaps, explain it. The problem is, I don’t see any solution that immediately comes to mind except that gamers, who are usually very computer literate, pride themselves on being a certain kind of “intelligent” (notice how some male gamers tend to deride women for “not being real gamers”). Anybody who can get inside that gestalt can probably start proving quite easily that their stereotypes of women are wrong, but it’s a laborious task and not one easily undertaken.

Finally, any men reading this? Who may, just possibly, have availed yourself of derogatory commentary to women in the past?

Read that Youtube link. Would you speak to your mother or your sister that way? If you pride yourself on being someone who “mans up”, well, “manning up” includes behaving properly even to people you think are wrong. If you think those commenters on Youtube are in any way “correct, but….” or “well, maybe they had a point” – if you even so much as think that any of those deluded assholes were correct in what they were saying, then what you are doing is trying to validate them even as you try to distance yourself from them.

Don’t do that. If you have ever said “My dad taught me to treat women properly”, then now is the time to put that into action and behave like a human being instead of some kind of poo-throwing monkey.

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