Some Notes to Progressives on Criticizing Conservatives

Ahem.

Based on some Facebook interactions (I won’t post them here, but you can see the interactions in this thread), I have a couple of notes to progressives on criticizing conservatives.

Note 1: Can you please not criticize Ann Coulter by talking about her prominent Adam’s apple, or saying she looks like a man? It’s sexist, and it’s transphobic. It’s sexist because you’re criticizing a woman in the public sphere by insulting her appearance, when that shouldn’t be relevant. And it’s both sexist and transphobic to insult women by saying they look like men: it reinforces the rigid gender binary, and reinforces the gender policing of trans people. There are approximately 879,500,403 legitimately negative things you can say about Ann Coulter. There’s no need to resort to sexism and transphobia. Thanks.

Aaaaaaaaaaand, Note 2: When someone says, “Hey, when you criticize conservatives, can you please not do it in this sexist and transphobic way,” and you reply (paraphrasing here, but not by much), “I’M NOT BEING TRANSPHOBIC OR SEXIST, THEY’RE A TERRIBLE PERSON SO I SHOULD BE ABLE TO SAY ANYTHING I WANT ABOUT THEM INCLUDING INSULTING WOMEN FOR LOOKING UGLY AND TRANS, AND I’M GOING TO THROW IN SOME HOMOPHOBIC INSULTS AT A CONSERVATIVE I THINK IS GAY WHILE I’M AT IT, YOU’RE BEING PC AND UNDERMINING FREEZE PEACH, DON’T TELL ME TO STOP I WILL DO WHATEVER I WANT FOREVER” — you have 100% failed at being an ally. In fact, you’ve 100% failed at being progressive. You are more interested in rooting for Team Progressive and dissing Team Conservative than you are in actually advocating for the issues that progressives supposedly care about.

I’m just sayin’, is all.

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Greta Christina is author of four books: Comforting Thoughts About Death That Have Nothing to Do with God, Coming Out Atheist: How to Do It, How to Help Each Other, and Why, Why Are You Atheists So Angry? 99 Things That Piss Off the Godless, and Bending: Dirty Kinky Stories About Pain, Power, Religion, Unicorns, & More.

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Some Notes to Progressives on Criticizing Conservatives
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15 thoughts on “Some Notes to Progressives on Criticizing Conservatives

  1. 1

    It’s weird – as if there aren’t enough things about Ann Coulters’ beliefs that are worth criticizing? That well should not run dry for a long long time.

    I feel the same way about making fun of Trump’s hairpiece. Sure, it’s goofy. But it’s probably the least goofy thing about him, compared to his business acumen and hypocrisy… I digress.

  2. 2

    Greta, what you are citing is not issue advocacy. It is mindless and immature ranting, which is the lion’s share of what is on Facebook. I have almost given up trying to have anything resembling an exchange of ideas on Facebook. It is just not the type of forum that is conducive to a rational discourse, without heavy moderation and a commitment among participants to keep it at a sensible level. Too much ignorance for me.

  3. 3

    You are more interested in rooting for Team Progressive and dissing Team Conservative than you are in actually advocating for the issues that progressives supposedly care about.

    Totally! Those people have been bothering me as of late. Which brings me to mikeinohio @2… If these people are advocating for an issue, but derail a conversation via “mindless and immature ranting,” that’s a problem. And it’s a problem because the people at the other end of that ranting won’t necessarily be thinking, “Oh, it doesn’t matter because it’s Facebook.” No, they may instead think of all the stereotypes that they have been told about progressives, like how we’re really the intolerant ones. And that’s bad for the issues we’re advocating for.

  4. 4

    The immature human need to be always be right, to avoid being corrected or contradicted by some other yahoo on the Internet (or by a parent), is so strong in most people — especially when young — it seems often impossible to imagine a day when even a plurality of humans will become self-aware enough to see the hypocrisy within their own behavior.

    When confronted by people like this (especially via social media) I always hope that I am merely reading the words of a young person who has yet move emotionally to a point in their lives where they can accept basic constructive criticism in a mature and rational way — because the alternative scenario is just too painful: That the world is generally populated and run by a mess of old cranks, gits, and humps who never progressed beyond the petulant teenager level of emotional development.

  5. 5

    Greta, what you are citing is not issue advocacy. It is mindless and immature ranting, which is the lion’s share of what is on Facebook. I have almost given up trying to have anything resembling an exchange of ideas on Facebook. It is just not the type of forum that is conducive to a rational discourse, without heavy moderation and a commitment among participants to keep it at a sensible level. Too much ignorance for me.

    mikeinohio @ #2: Sorry, but I don’t buy the idea that “oh, that’s just Facebook.” For one thing, it’s not true (or it’s often not true). I’ve seen, and participated in, many very good political conversations on Facebook and other social media.

    For another: Interaction on social media is human interaction. It’s people expressing their opinions and feelings and experiences. Yes, people do this differently in different media: human interaction is different at cocktail parties, town hall meetings, conference panels, conference after-parties, quiet dinners among friends; yes, it’s different online than it is in person, and it’s different in different online forums. But it’s still human interaction, and people are still responsible for what they say and do. Yes, this was mindless and immature ranting — and it was mindless and immature ranting that was hurtful to women, trans people, and gay people. It’s way too common, and it does harm, and it’s worth calling out.

    And finally: Interaction on social media isn’t just human interaction. It’s an important place for political conversation. An ENORMOUS amount of political conversation is happening on social media — and it’s not trivial. It has an impact. Some of that interaction sucks, and some of it is awesome, and a lot of it is in-between. But the fact that it happens on Facebook doesn’t make it trivial. I hear from people all the time who tell me that they changed their minds because of me — and while some of that probably came from my books, most of it came from my work on the Internet. The content of political opinions isn’t lessened when it’s expressed on Facebook.

  6. 6

    I’ve seen Coulter’s gender questioned in many other places besides Facebook by people who should know better. Pretty well every time she’s mentioned in Pharyngula someone makes a transphobic comment about her (and gets slapped down by the commentariat). It’s not just a FB or general social media problem.

  7. 9

    While I agree with the sentiments expressed, it’s really inappropriate to claim allies without consent. Of course people expressing these sentiments fail at being allies, but many of them never wanted to be allies in the first place. It’s about hurting the people that hurt other people for the express purpose of hurting the “bad guys”.

    Some are people are avengers (the people expressing these sentiments) and others are actually constructive.

  8. 12

    I find it helpful to think of Facebook as a platform or outlet with a variety of uses. And as Greta points out above the value of an opinion is not deminished by being on Facebook. Some of the most insightful things that I have read on gender issues have been on Facebook. However I should hasten to add that this was in a Closed Group on Facebook which meant that for the group I am citing each person added to the group is known to one of the admins directly or known to someone they trust. And substituting critcism of a person’s appearance for a serious discuss of issues is not tolerated.

  9. 13

    In the future there will be 3 main political positions. Conservatives who care about being right and think that they are right, Progressives who care and being right and think that they are right, and Assholians who don’t care about being right at all and were kicked out of both “serious” political camps because they make their side look bad and give ammunition to the “enemy”.

    Assholians will then rule the world, because they are legion and they outvote everyone wherever there is democracy. Ad-hominem attacks will become the new currency and social status will be measured in the number of LOLs generated by inane statements.

    Ricky Gervais should make a movie about it – “Asstopia”. Spoiler Alert – Aliens turn up at the end, and exterminate us all for the good of The Multiverse (TM)

  10. 14

    We should always, always push back against criticisms which have to do with looks rather than with content of the argument.

    My method is to pointedly ask for clarification. For example: “What size Adam’s Apple would make her argument valid?”, then ask, “Do you have a physical characteristic that would make your arguments invalid”?

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