Time Heals All Wounds.. And Then Kills the Patient
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Sat Dec 17 23:14:12 2011
Personal Antonym

I was recently pointed at a blog which is very interesting for me in that I almost entirely disagree with its author despite being theoretically on the same side on a number of issues. She's in a very different subgroup of feminism than I am; basically at the heart of one of the groups that I'd define as "the problem". The blog is named "Genderbitch".

I generally dislike her tone. I dislike that her arguments are occasionally not actually arguments. I am working from a philosophical base that is very different from and hostile to her base. I dislike how keen she is to "call out" or write-off others for not agreeing with her precise theory, often using a "no true scotsman" fallacy where scotsmen are replaced with "allies". Her language strikes me as absurdly shrill and terribly alienating. As I've said before, I am keen to tell people who are potentially interested in feminist perspectives that many feminists are not like her at all, that many feminists avoid feminist discourse (it being the tool of a specific cluster of types of feminists), and that so long as people recognise that women and men are ill-served by the existing gender-norms and are willing to both defend those who break those norms and push against actions with sexist intent, they are good feminists and should be willing to push back very hard against anyone who says otherwise because of lack of adherence to a very specific hegemony (that only represents a narrow portion of feminists).

Still, a good difference of opinion is often inspirational for some philosophical discussion. Here are some of my frameworks relevant to a few things she's blogged about recently. I note first that to me, philosophical stances, worlds-of-terms, and general perspectives are fairly personal things. Personal growth and meaning in life comes from tweaking parts of our mental universe. This is a sacred task. Unless one is malicious in how one undertakes this task, generally one's conclusions are personal, and it is invasive and rude for people to demand that others talk or think in a particular way. There are some circumstances where it might be reasonable, but in general the more particular someone is in how they demand others talk or think, the less credibility they have and the more narrow and rude their philosophy is. It's probably ok to be a bit rude, but one needs to seriously pick one's battles and respect in general the perogative to think and talk naturally and freely (again provided no malice). This is not an excuse to hound people with one's views; if, as a christian, you tell me that you think I am going to hell, that's fine. If you feel the need to tell me that every time you see me, that's kind of obnoxious. Continued harassment of gay/bi/trans people is not at all acceptable; harassment in general is generally uncool (there are exceptions, e.g. harassing many kinds of racists can be ok).

I note as well that I find it to be cowardly and unacceptable to ever alter one's views for the comfort of a person or community. People and communities are not necessarily entitled to respect (except as human beings). We remain free to dislike the life choices or philosophies of communities. I dislike religion (broadly speaking). Religious people might dislike atheism. That is fine. We might mock each other quite a lot in many ways. That is ok. Being thin-skinned about it sucks for everyone. Harassing people for their religious views is different though, and is not acceptable; I would not picket a priest's house just based on belief, and I would expect them not to picket mine for lack of belief. Note that altering one's views because one is convinced they are wrong/untenable/ugly in consequence through argument is fine, but it must never be something one is bullied into. There are many reasons one might have a perspective; maximal friendliness to every possible perspective or life-choice is not something one should even aim for (and is unduly restricting of one's life-philosophy).

Finally, in dialogues of privilege, there is a layer that I consider crucial to discuss; is the unpriviliged party in a matter entitled to protection in this matter? The world is full of privilege abused, with parties in the lesser position than some other party, having things done to them that they do not like. Quite aside from the question of "is harm intended", we also might consider various kinds of things to be expected of groups in society. Enduring of mockery is something that all groups of society should be prepared to face. Enduring of disapproval as well. There is a wide gulf between accepting a group (and giving them their due as humans) and approving of them, and we are not generally obligated to approve of life-choices (even if we are often obligated to accept them and still treat people decently who make them, giving them equal rights, etc).

In general, I prefer that groups, when seeking to define themselves more tightly than a broader group, try to do so with as little malice as possible, and not police terms.

Moving onto the blog content and my two frameworks, the topics are:

My intuition is that cultural appropriation is a very positive thing, with only slight qualifications. I don't see the boundaries of culture as possible or appropriate to police; all cultural content belongs to all of humanity, and it is the perogative of every individual to rewrite their cultural imprint if and to the extent they want to. Cultural content may not be owned. Philosophical content may not be owned. Cultural terms cannot be owned. Any claims of ownership are simply a theft from the commons, and a restriction on the intellectual and personal growth of everyone who is unwise enough to listen to such ownership claims. An interculturalist identity (which I advocate) intentionally, explicitly, and happily deconstructs cultural boundaries, building new traditions out of old ideas. It ideally blurs the boundaries between cultures, helping us find unity as a species and counteracting self-segregation. I don't intend to give that up.

I approach identity from a very different angle from her, again with my emphasis on respecting philosophical exploration. For me, there is no unity of identity; there is:

I distinguish categories from identity by noting that identity has the character of "what a person is about". Categories can be from mundane to very special, but a person might belong to one but not think it defines them.

Both categories and identity are perspective-bound; a person might have a definitional framework that places them in a category that another person's definitional framework may not (e.g. is this person jewish? Some use Halakah, some do not). For both categories and identity, this is not a problem. It is acceptable for people to reach their own conclusions about each, and for there to be many distinct categorical or identity-perceptual systems that have differences on any given person. The only grounds for criticism I believe is easily acceptable is (again) if someone is being malicious, they may (and only may) be in the wrong.

In this, I recognise that these are not generally arguments. They are not meant to be; they are sharing a perspective. If you don't define things this way, that is okay with me. In general, I am disinclined to tell people how to think/speak, unless the content of their speech is to stifle others without a very good reason.