Monday, 25 April 2016

Women Without Religion make unfortunate decision to block feminist man that simply disagreed with them.

- Rani Chan

Sometimes busy atheist admins get Facebook dialectic all wrong...

In a post about the apparent scientifically proven propensity of men to mansplainingly monopolise conversations in problem solving groups and other settings (ample evidence was provided) one thread respondent on the Women Without Religion website decided to dissent from the view despite having little evidence to counter the presented study.

A short debate - or something approximating one - ensued, with the result that Bruce Long seems to have ended up blocked for presenting a dissenting opinion.

Note that at this point in the above image a short reply by Mr Long indicating that WWR had used a lot of words to make their point (we was intended to be ironic on a justifiable basis) was removed.

Now it's plain that Long didn't engage on a terribly evidential basis, and that he did not satisfy the demands of the admin to do so, but that does not seem to be terribly good grounds for quashing dissenting opinion by blocking his right to respond at all. Could it be that the WWR admin was simply struggling to deal with Long's point, and that - rightly or wrongly - he embarrassed them by citing the fact that they had used something of a tirade to counter his simply, and wryly, stated view?

Mr Long explained to Memetic Planet that he wasn't trolling, but that he simply wanted to express that he felt that even though the studies may well be salient, overemphasising them seemed to constitute gender stereotyping and sexism, and that he wondered if they had correctly identified the root of the problem.

It certainly seems that there is more than a hint of unilateral bias and ad-hominem against Long in the place of argument in the exchange. The admin keeps renewing calls for evidence like some kind of overstrict primary school teacher from the early part of last century - even when Long accedes that he cannot satisfy the requirement placed upon him but that he does not think this invalidates his opinion (there are clearly echoes of feminist history and the systematic oppression of women with discourse in the subtext here).

Long also conceded openly in two replies that he was not able to provide contrary evidence (partly due to time constraints), but that his opinion was that something may be awry - perhaps with experimental setup - and that if not, it may still be classifiable as gender stereotyping to make such an issue of the studies.

When asked to comment for Memetic Planet, Long wrote:

"Well, there's obviously a lot going on here in terms of politics. I said that they had used a torrent - and avalanche - of verbage to refute my opinion, and the clear implication was that this was ironic. I thought this was both intelligent and more than fair. I did use the term 'splain' to make the point, but I think that should have been taken in good humour. I'm no postmodernist, but I just think it's just very salient that they tried to crush me with a scientific grand narrative (albeit a well credentialed one), with put downs, and with authoritarian condescension and then gagging (blocking).

Well, in the end after I had been accused of failing to follow some kind of apparent unwritten rules of discussion by not presenting countering studies, and being addressed as essentially ignorant and intellectually lazy, I wanted to reply as follows:
['I am as scientistic as the next feminist athiest (and I believe I have said twice already that you win on evidence, which is pretty emphatic surrender). I just think that it's possible that - even if the studies are not suffering confirmation bias or setup problems (I doubt it - Brigham Young is Mormon) - that making it a huge issue is still gender stereotyping. To apply limited critical thinking - what if the causes of voluminous 'mansplaining' are not something men can do anything about? (I don't know - because of hormones or psycho-social cognitive development or something)?
I am not entitled to my own facts in the rather straw manning way that you assert, but I am entitled to dissent with my opinion and say so pending further thought/research/learning. Or is that not acceptable??']
However, the admins blocked me before I had a chance. The admin in question seemed to be very irritated, but I thought that I was making a fair point even without a lot of evidence. Some things are about logic and context - you know?"

Women Without Religion - regrettably - could not be reached for comment. However, Long (who is a PhD candidate in Analytic Philosophy at The University of Sydney) kept the conversation in screen snaps for posterity. They seem to bear out that Mr Long was conciliatory, and acceded valid points, but was condescended to and punished for not falling in line in terms of his opinion.

The accusations of snark and trolling leveled at Long do not seem to hold water on inspection of the content of the posts. It seems possible that the WWR admin simply did not like to be disagreed with, even in a good humored manner. Long acceded the validity of their point several times, whilst restating his opinion, but gave intelligent responses that were in some cases quite critically insightful, and that deployed subtexts and implied references to the debate that were more than relevant.

"They even complained that I liked their posts and replies. That was simply intended to be friendly. I went and liked a whole lot of other stuff on their page too. I did that in an effort to ensure them that I was interested in their material and not antagonistic. This just seemed to make it worse. I tried to make the exchange light hearted and not take myself too seriously, but this just seemed to enrage the admin more. I thought it only fair to imply that rather ironically they were using a lot of force of discourse and overmuch verbage to quash my point of view, and that their fairly overbearing response to that was also ironic.
Moreover, at no point did I attack any person, but they pursued me ad-hominem as a troll just for expressing a contrary opinion. They wanted evidence, but I was of the view that my point stood to some extent without it (on the basis of logic and general knowledge of the historical complaints of women that studies have been used to demonise and stereotype them - which is true), and I am still of that view. I think perhaps that the admin person may have been a little young. In any case - they sure put me in my place if you know what I mean. This kind of thing seems symptomatic of a generation that believe Bill Nye and Stephen Hawking when they say philosophy is all but useless. The same kids don't seem to be able to engage in basic philosophical logic - even the contingent variety. At no point did I say the word "bullshit" as they implied in their reply, having deleted some of my previous responses - nor did I use any vituperative."
Long said that he had "no hard feelings" over the exchange, but that he "regretted" the WWR admin decision to block him, calling it "unfortunate and unnecessary".

So perhaps 'having a seat is not the same as having a voice' on the WWR page. In fact it seems that if one has a voice, it had better comply with the prevailing political attitude, or else one will simply lose the seat altogether. It's fairly apparent that in this situation, it is women who were not listening and were not giving a voice to a contrary opinion. Disappointingly, responses like this to the feminist opinions of feminist men seem to be based upon overarching desire for contention and point scoring - a kind of gendered zero sum game - rather than an attempt to reason.

Trolling and Goading (See image 1 above for the comment that said simply 'Cower') - or the making of a very salient point?