food for thought: is civility a social good?

Between the ongoing discussion of gamer culture and misogyny, and then academic turmoil over the limits of speech protections, it’s been a busy week for questions of “civil” society and who benefits from (certain) codes of conduct that end up reinforcing an unequal status quo.

Free speech, ‘civility,’ and how universities are getting them mixed up” by Michael Hiltzik @ The L.A. Times:

A major problem with using words like “respect” and “civility” to mark the boundaries of free speech protections is that they don’t have fixed definitions. One person can be deeply affronted (or claim to be) by language that another finds perfectly innocuous. And it’s one thing to set standards for expression in private forums — comment pages on websites, for example — and quite another to impose them as conditions for legal protection of free speech.

Men are More Harassed On The Net Than Women. So Cathy Young Tells Us.” @ Echidne of the Snakes:

Those would be counted as tweets harassing the recipient in the Demos study.  And if I tweeted to someone “I just got called an old bull dyke.  Ever happen to you?”  that, too, would be counted as me harassing the recipient.

On the other hand, a tweet that is explicitly threatening and horrible would slip the study as long as it didn’t use any of the dirty words.

Thus, strictly speaking the Demos study is about the number of tweets celebrities, politicians, journalists and musicians receive which contain dirty words.  There’s no doubt that many/some of those are harassing tweets.  But the relationship is not one-to-one.  “Fucking brilliant!”  is not a harassing tweet, yet there are subcultures on the net which would use language of that sort.  Figuring out that relationship between tweets containing naughty words and harassing tweets would be a good project for someone.

Civility, Outrage.” by Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig:

I think the wise thing to do is to not treat all arguments, arguers, or subjects as identical. The ‘civility’ code seems to suggest that there’s one style that’s appropriate to all frames, all people, all subjects, all stakes — and I’ve tried to show why I think that’s inadequate and often harmful. A better approach is to distinguish between cruelty and love; it’s one thing to want to defend poor kids from stigmatization, for example, because you love them; it’s another to bash someone who happened to argue for the stigmatization of poor kids because you already disliked them, and see this as a mere opportunity to gain some ground. Obviously it’s a little challenging to judge motives like this, but usually significant social or political stakes should tip you off as to whether a very fierce line is worth pursuing. In this realm I also include ethics having to do with relative power and status; don’t break, as it were, a bruised reed. Don’t punch down.

via Frederick deBoer.

Why We’re Winning: Social Justice Warriors and the New Culture War” by Laurie Penny @ Penny Red:

If I sound angry here, it’s because I am. I’m angy because I’ve had to listen to these things being said to and about me and many other women creators I admire for too many years now to be polite about it. My anger, however, is different from the incoherent rage sloshing around 4chan, Reddit, MRA forums and other nests of recreational misogyny right now, because the people perpetrating these attacks on women, the people who are so unspeakably angry that women dare, they dare with their stupid ladyheads and evil ladyparts, they dare to come into their special boy spaces and actually demand a voice, they don’t understand why not everyone can see how right they are, how noble, how absolutely justified they are in their cause. They believe that they are justified because freedom of speech-  except not freedom of speech for women and queers and people of colour, because those people don’t really speak, they just whine, shriek, scream, like animals, because really that’s all they are, animals.

…They can’t understand why their arguments aren’t working. They can’t understand why game designers, industry leaders, writers, public figures are lining up to disown their ideas and pledge to do better by women and girls in the future. They can’t understand why, just for example, when my friend, the games critic and consultant Leigh Alexander, was abused and ‘called out’ as an unprofessional slut, a lying cunt, morally and personally corrupt, just for speaking truthfully and beautifully about all of this, it was Alexander who was invited to write her first piece for Time magazine, Alexander who got to define the agenda for the mainstream, who received praise and recognition, whilst her abusers’ words will be lost in a howling vortex of comment threads and subreddits and, eventually, forgotten.

via @femfreq.

What ‘GamerGate” Reveals About the Silencing of Women” by Katherine Cross @ RhRealityCheck:

However, to avoid speaking publicly about the persecution makes those who do not confront it on a daily basis more likely to dismiss it—or, in the case of GamerGate, to propagate behavior that worsens it. Much like street harassment, it depends on the silent submission of its targets, the passive pseudo-consent of accepting such behavior as the backdrop to everyday life. Sexual harassers on the street want to use women as props to bolster their sense of virility. Political harassers online want their target to be quiet and go away, an anathema to anyone who makes her living by speaking in public.

… and to cap it off, your depression social science data of the week.

In Some Jobs, Past Achievements May be Held Against Female Workers” @ NPR:

VEDANTAM: Exactly. So Inesi and Cable decided to conduct a laboratory experiment to test that question. They recruited volunteers and gave them the same personality test and they tested how strongly these people wanted to maintain gender hierarchies. And then they asked them to play the role supervisors and evaluate subordinates who had resumes and who had performance information and so on. And they found again that for men with traditional views on gender, the more accomplished a woman was, the more competent she was, the worse her performance evaluation became. This was not happening when the supervisors were evaluating men. In those cases, the performance evaluations were stellar. Inesi told me this is dispiriting because for many women, they’ve long felt that having competence, that demonstrating competence and amassing these strong credentials was one way to overcome barriers. Here she is.

INESI: A lot of women say, you know what I’m going to do? I’ll show clear evidence on my CV, my resume, that I am competent. I’m going to get a high degree. I’m going to go to a great school. I’m going to get – do wonderfully in my job, and anybody who sees that can never doubt that I’m highly competent. And what we’re showing here is that down the line, the knowledge of this past competence can actually come back to haunt these women.

As always, if you have links you think the Amiables would find valuable, do shoot us an email at amiablearchivists [at] gmail [dot] com, or find us on Twitter — or right here in comments!

This has been another Wednesday edition of “food for thought.”


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