I made a snide remark aimed at certain trollish parties in a comment at Almost Diamonds in a post that probably could stand far less of my snideness. Stephanie describes the repeated and disdainful dismissal of the conflict between folks who want harassment policies and folks who don’t, and the repeated and disdainful reductionistic treatment of that conflict as one between DJ Grothe and Rebecca Watson, two players who, while leaders in our skeptical communities, are really both adjunct to the overarching question of whether or not our communities need better harassment policies. You should read that post in its entirety before coming back here.
Did you do that? No, seriously, do that. This really won’t make any sense at all otherwise.
Okay. Assuming you’ve actually read what she has to say, and you’re not just a dirty horrible blog-skimmer, here’s why I reacted the way I did.
When I hear the word “drama”, I immediately think of fiction. I think of plays, screenwriting, of driving conflict so you get the nice happy denouement at the end of the show. I think of the intentional building of drama, the “let’s make it another notch worse” aspect of most screenwriting. I think of bombast, and overacting. I don’t think of people having legitimate grievances with one another by default, and a big part of the reason why I don’t is because it’s generally not used that way in popular culture. The fact that the most appropriate definition for the actual use that people mean when they call this stuff “drama” that Stephanie could find came from Urban Dictionary is very telling.
There’s a reason you hear “dramatics” used in the same sense as “hysteria” or “histrionics”. Either it’s coded to mean people making shit up about one another just because they enjoy creating strife where there isn’t or shouldn’t be any, or they’re just using it as a new anti-woman meme since “hysteria” and “histrionics” have pretty well gone the way of “shrill harpy”.
The debate in our community about whether we should have harassment policies and whether they will disproportionately harm innocent men — notwithstanding the underreporting problem, the fact that reports are often disbelieved even with multiple lines of corroborating evidence, and the fact that such policies exist in just about every other workplace — is trumped up. It does not match the background experience in society, and while any policy could be abused, false reports apparently match false reporting statistics for other crimes, e.g. between 2 and 4%. (Could someone source that for me, or disprove? It matches what I suspected, but I can’t find those stats myself.)
To be perfectly clear: talking about differences between folks, even heatedly and about very high-stakes issues, isn’t “drama”. Drumming up conflict over irrelevant concerns, conflating facts with fiction, and just plain making things up is drama. It’s fictionalised conflict. And if there’s one trend we’ve seen lately, it’s that there’s a bunch of people willing to make things up about the Loyal Opposition and their position. Cross-reference witch-hunting, Taliban, and any other code names. But what’s horrible is, it’s as likely this “side-plot” will be dropped as will have a nice happy denouement, unless of course the conversation moderator decides to drop the truly dramatic voices.
Conflict is conflict. Drama is illegitimate conflict, in a manner of speaking.