Playing Stupid

Posted by mouthyb | Posted in , , , | Posted on 3:50 PM


There's a reason I have something of a short fuse during internet discussions, other than that I'm too old for some of this shit-- I was born too old for some of this shit.

One of the most frustrating things in conversations about feminism on the internet is the person who plays stupid or feigns ignorance. It can be tricky figuring that out, if you're the one on the receiving end of that sort of thing, whether or not the other person is sincere. Playing stupid can hopelessly derail the conversation, preventing any sort of meaningful conversation from happening because every time you explain something, someone in the listeners demands that you start over.

They're essentially demanding that you perform all the work in the conversation, refusing to participate or give the willingness of the doubt (see ElevatorGate). Frequently, this goes hand-in-hand with nitpicking and distorting what is said in the effort to 'prove' that what the speaker believes couldn't have existed. As an aside, I notice that most people don't try it with me after I start carpet-bombing with social science studies. (Pro-tip: There are easily 60 years of studies on the subject. Sexism and social problems related to sexism and racism are very well researched, in terms of volume.)

Generally, for a conversation to happen, both parties must participate. A frequent assertion, when I'm talking about feminism, is that I'm not participating enough to overcome the skepticism or resistance to the ideas of feminism, typically after I've given up trying to explain for the millionth time some extraordinarily basic ideas (like that people have different experiences of culture) and have moved on to insults.

It is not, for fuck's sake, my job to force people to concede my point. There are plenty of people who refuse to concede anything. I can't force them to concede that the sky is blue, because they're so afraid and/or contemptuous of the ideas in feminism that they won't agree, just in case the sky being blue becomes a critical weakness in their philosophy.

I can't figure out if they believe feminism to be so powerful it can disrupt the laws of physics, or if they're so incapable of letting go of the mental comfort of being a good person all the time that they can't concede the point. After all, if feminism is right (yes, it is), they could be not good people all the time and not have realized it. Someone is always wrong on the internet, but by jebus, it can't be them. If they're wrong, it means that they can never be right again, or something. There are a few things which tend to tip me off to insincerity in persons I'm chatting with (other than refusing to concede that the sky is often blue during the day):

The first is when they drag their goalposts for proof anywhere they have to in order not to concede anything; the burden of proof keeps changing. Maybe they'll believe if I show them science, oh but social science is not science, oh but everyone knows that statistics are unreliable, oh but women are too emotional, oh but words are flexible and this means I can't be logical or some shit along those lines.

The second is when they refuse to read the research studies I post and/or accuse me of being a snob for posting them. It's arrogant not to look at resources provided by experts, and stupid to accuse someone trying to provide you with information of being mean for hunting down information for you.

The third is when they cherry-pick research studies, saying they mean something which they do not, or cling to one or two research studies instead of making an attempt to understand the field (hint: as a professional, I have to survey the field to publish.)

The fourth is when they insult my expertise either because I'm female or because I can't be trustworthy as one of those college professors. I've been teaching and/or a college student for 15 years. My value is measured in my intellectual labor, and I am building a specialty in inter-disciplinary research. Respect mah fucking dedication, people.

The fifth is when they devolve immediately into insults, but I often find that laughable.

Generally speaking, I'm willing to offer ideas, tips and discussion (given that I'm not tired). But when I run into those, I know I'll just be wasting my time.

Anyone who plays stupid does not deserve my time.

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