There is this term, right, that describes a psychological state that I totally made up. It’s called Gendered Paranoia.
Wait a sec, hear me out, before you decide I’m full of shit. I may well be, but I honestly think it’s a thing.
The most important tool in psychology, if not science in general, is observation. From my many years on the internet, I have observed many a thing. One of those things is people arguing. More often than not, because of the people I choose to interact with and the sites I choose to visit, it quite often comes down to gender.
In the spirit of full disclosure, I have observed more often and can describe this psychological state in terms of the male gender (for want of a better term) better. But, of course, my being female does give me a certain type of privilege on that front.
Oops. There I go. I said it. Privilege. That dirty word that leads arguments about Feminism or Sexism into absolute shitfights. Actually, it doesn’t even have to be about gender. It can be about racism. Mental illness. Socioeconomic status. Fruit cake. Monkeys. Frisbees. But, more often than not, it falls into gender lines. Mention privilege and people whip themselves into a frenzy trying to defend themselves, telling you that you’ve only trotted that term out to shut the other person down, that you’re refusing to listen to them because of their privilege, and that there’s no point in arguing with you because you’ve decided they know nothing because of their genitals. Or, conversely, that the person you’re arguing with can’t understand because of their privilege, and because they are aware of the word ‘privilege’, are obviously wilfully refusing to accept their privilege and are just using it against you, so can’t be argued with any more.
I’m sorry, but, no, it doesn’t work that way.
Well, actually, sometimes it does.
Look, I mention privilege once and already I’m arguing with myself.
The word privilege is not meant to shut down an argument. If you’re using to shut down an argument, or if you jump to the conclusion that it is meant to shut down an argument, then, frankly, you’re a cunt.
This is where my observed Gendered Paranoia comes in.
In terms of definition, it is the overreaction to an argument on a certain topic, after coming to the conclusion, be it real or misinterpreted, that the argument is being shut down on the basis of your gender.
This overreaction stems not from the argument itself, but from an internalised paranoia that your gender will not be heard on a certain topic. An internalised sexism, if you will. Or, to put it another way, a paranoia about how the other gender will react to you because of your set of genitals. It stems from your life experiences away from the computer, rather than arguments on the internet. What happens on the internet triggers these emotions. Unfortunately, like any argument, ‘IRL’ or electronic, we bring our entire past with us. Or, we do it if we’re not self aware enough to pause, think about the argument for a second, and take our emotions out of it.
The best way I can describe this is in terms of the male gender, and I’m sorry I have to do that. I do want to say that this, in my experience, is not actually the majority of males. But it’s where the majority of arguments based upon gender lines start.
A heated discussion starts on the internet. It falls along gender lines. A female will mention the privilege a male has in society, indicating they may not be able to understand the concept fully because they come from a different perspective, one where life is a little easier. The problem with this is that every time someone brings it up, the male in the argument gets into a tizz and says, “I refuse to believe someone would tell me I can’t discuss this because of my genitals”.
The thing the male NEVER understands about privilege is that it does not discount you from an argument. Personally, I believe a lot of males know this, and they are using this line as a type of manipulation because they paranoid about how women see them. As mentioned before, this stems from life experiences, not just the argument in question. They don’t do it on purpose. They firmly believe the females think they’ve won the argument by mentioning this privilege.
All any man, or any person, has to do to stay in the argument is *acknowledge* their privilege, then continue making their point. If you don’t think it’s relevant, because you’re making a point that does not fall along gender lines, all you have to do is SAY SO.
I can understand how that could be hard, especially given the nature and history of the word privilege, and the point that the other person is trying to make is that you’ve said [this derogatory thing] about females, when you really haven’t.
However, maybe you have. And maybe you are speaking from a position of privilege and just don’t realise it. All you have to do is take your emotions out of the argument and try to look at it objectively. The great thing about arguments on the internet, unlike real life, is that you get that opportunity. You can sit at your keyboard and think for a bit. You can walk away from it. You can write a huge missive about how angry you are, let it all out, then delete it and start again.
However triggering it might be, ragequitting the argument and blaming the use of the word privilege is just not fucking fair. If you come from a privileged position, especially as a white male, you must accept it. That’s just it. If you don’t, just fuck off.
It is possible to do so without conceding. Learn how to do it. You’ll probably learn more about yourself in the process.
Conversely, screaming, “PRIVILEGE” without careful consideration of the argument is not fair either. If you’re female and have decided that the other person doesn’t understand their position of privilege, by all means, mention it. However, it doesn’t stop there. Help them understand what you mean by ‘privilege’. Explain that, in terms of your argument, that they have every right to contribute, but they may not understand the concepts you’re discussing, simply because their life experiences won’t allow it. Reinforce the point that it does not discount them from the argument, that, in fact, they may learn something about their privilege by participating. They just might not be aware of that. This is not pandering to their privilege, it’s simple education.
If you are female and refuse to take the time to explain privilege, meanwhile setting up strawman arguments to prove your point and telling the entire internet that the person you’re arguing with is sexist and that’s the end of it, then, please, quit the internet now. You’re just making it hard for the rest of us. This is where the female side of the paranoia comes in. Your life experiences have taught you that men don’t understand the issues women face. You’ve probably been told, flat out, that you can’t do something because you’re female. You may have been abused, mentally or physically, because you are female. Your experiences have taught you men will react to you, as a female, in a certain way, that makes being considered an equal match in debate difficult. Emotions are triggered, and quite rightly so. However, in the midst of a debate, it leads to the belief that every man on the internet has an understanding of their privilege and will use it to win every argument. You have to defend every feminist point to the hilt and YOU WILL NOT STOP UNTIL THE INTERNET IS FREE OF SEXIST JERKS.
And, you know what? You’re right. The internet is full of sexist jerks. The internet is full of men who will try to undermine you because of your gender. The internet is full of men who will try to shut down your argument because they claim you aren’t taking them seriously because of the genitals they have. We need to fight against them and we need to stop it. There is simply no need for sexism on the internet. Young women need to know they can hang around forums and be treated as equals, not the underdog.
I’d love an internet where I don’t get called a Feminazi every time I try to stop criticism on the basis of gender. Seriously, that would be awesome. But, however, arguing every point about sexism and privilege like a Russell Crowe style gladiator every single time, with the rage of a thousand fights on a thousand internets, is not going to stop it then and there – though I wish it fucking would.
And, before you start, I’m not saying you should not argue with a man just so you don’t disturb their delicate privileged position. Fuck me dead, if you think that, you have never seen me argue on the internet, or anywhere. Read the rest of my blog first, please.
Pick your battles. If someone is being a privileged prick, point it out to them. If they refuse to understand, see above as to why. If they are suffering their own Gendered Paranoia, there’s not much you can do about that until they exorcise the demons they are fighting away from the computer. Tearing a man down due to a lack of understanding, rather than intentional and malicious sexism, is kinda proving their point, to be honest. That’s where you need to look at where your rage and paranoia comes from. Why do you need to make this point so fervently? And why right this second?
These things I talk about do not mean your argument is not valid. Everyone has a right to argue their point on the internet. It’s essentially what it’s there for. And porn. And, obviously, the combination of the two. My point with Gendered Paranoia is, are you arguing this way because you’re fighting the good fight or because of an insecurity you have in how the other gender will react to your argument?
Privilege is a Very Real Thing. We all have a certain type of privilege which prevents us from understanding certain concepts, simply due to our life experiences. For example, I am a white, cisgendered, female, who lives in an affluent suburban area. I have no idea what it’s like to be a Person of Colour. I have no idea what it’s like to be a Person with Disability. I have no idea what it’s like to struggle with my gender identity. Although I had a pretty poor childhood in socioeconomic terms, I don’t know what it’s like to live in abject poverty. I have no idea what it’s like to be male. I don’t believe, however, that discounts me from arguments or discussions on the subject, but I’m willing to sit down and consider that I can’t possibly see the other person’s perspective and I probably never will. That doesn’t make my argument invalid, but it does mean my perspective is skewed. Accepting that does not mean I’ve lost the argument. Or, that it was even my argument in the first place.
We all have shitty days, myself especially. If I decide to ragequit as a result, then that’s my loss. If I do so because I’ve not accepted my position of privilege, due to a paranoia that extends from life experiences, then that makes me a jerk. If I use this entire article as a way to undermine someone down in future, the writer will burn my house down. Wait, what?
And, remember, I am just another arsehole on the internet who thinks they know everything and totally made up a psychological term.
Now I think I’ve offended every single person on the internet. Job done. Happy New Year!