You’re having what was a productive conversation about some inclusivity-related game topic (harassment, representation, recruiting more women). And hundreds of posts later, you’re exhausted and bow out of what has become a flamewar, feeling frustrated and perhaps vaguely confused about how what started out as a problem-solving convo became an endless circular argument about whether sexism is real.
Your conversation got derailed.
This sort of thing happens every time we try to talk about inclusivity, about getting more women/non-binary people, POC, etc. (I’m going to use “women” here as shorthand because it’s the context for this convo, but the same holds true for other marginalized groups) working in games, featured in games, and playing games. Every. Single. Time. (For that matter, it also happens in conversations about harassment, and other gender issues.)
And the thing is, it’s so normalized, that people often don’t even question it. They treat these sort of tactics as legitimate.
What do I mean by “derailing”? Well, every time conversations about, for example, increasing diversity in games happen, people try to turn the conversation to:
Arguing about whether it’s actually important to get more women into games (just hire the best candidate! gender shouldn’t matter!)
Complaining about how taking any steps to do outreach/encourage women to apply is unfair to men
Playing Devil’s Advocate
Quibbling over whether sexism is real
Just changing the subject entirely
Turning the discussion to a tone critique (the people talking about it are too angry or too vehement!)
And much, much more!
If it’s about harassment, it’ll be whether things were actually harassment, whether false claims about harassment are made, whether women are too sensitive, whether it’s unfair to men to call it harassment, etc. It happens so often that we have a bingo card for it:
But shouldn’t we be having these conversations?
The problem here isn’t that these sort of discussions are happening. It’s that they're different discussions, and that the people who start them are insisting on having them instead of the discussions about, in this example, how to get more women into games. They’re attempting to force the people trying to discuss how to solve that problem to run down endless rabbit holes and jump through endless hoops before they can have the original conversation (which, ultimately, will never happen if they get their way).
“How do we ensure that attempts to recruit more women into games aren’t unfairly disadvantaging men?” is a legitimate discussion. It's related to the discussion of how to get more women into games. It’s a discussion that, as part of a larger conversation about making games more inclusive, we should have.
But it’s not the same discussion as strategies for outreach to women.
Is it intentional?
I don’t think that the people who do this are consciously thinking “How can I shut this conversation down?” But I do think they’re uncomfortable with the original conversation and want it to go away.
They get angry if they’re told to make the topic they’re trying to shift the discussion to into a separate discussion.
This is especially apparent when the discussion is taking place in a forum thread: being told to start a new thread makes them furious. They rant about censorship (even though they’re not actually being told they can’t have the conversation, just that they can’t use it to shout down people who are trying to have a different conversation).
If they genuinely just wanted to have a conversation about, say, ensuring that hiring practices are fair to men, I don’t see why making it a separate discussion thread would be an issue, any more than it is any other time a topic splits. But you don’t usually see this sort of anger in response to new threads being made about subjects that don’t touch on inclusivity.
While it’s not as obvious in discussions that take place in other mediums, it still happens in pretty much the same manner. Once you’re aware of this sort of derailing, you start to see it crop up in every discussion about inclusivity.
So, what do we do about it?
Refuse to let it happen: don’t get drawn away from the original topic, and don’t engage with would-be derailers unless they’re staying on the actual topic (which isn’t to say you can’t engage with them in a separate discussion on the topic they’re trying to switch to – just don’t do so in place of the original discussion).
Call it out so other people realize what’s happening: point out that an attempt to shift the topic is happening, and that while it may be related, it’s interfering with attempts to have the original discussion. Suggest that they start a new discussion (in parallel to, not in place of) the discussion that’s already happening.
And then, again, stop engaging with them on the new topic unless you’re doing so in a separate discussion.
But isn’t it natural for discussions to wander?
Sure. But discussions wandering naturally is different from the sort of overwhelming, continual, vehement sidetracking that happens every time people attempt to have productive conversations on increasing diversity in games. (Heck, for an extreme example, spend some time looking at the discussions gamergaters are having on 8chan for an example of people who are very aware of what they’re doing, and are strategizing about doing it deliberately.)
Again, there’s nothing wrong with having these other conversations. There is something wrong when people insist on having them over and instead of conversations about ways to fix problems.
If you want to engage on these topics, go ahead! Just be sure to do so in a way that doesn’t drown out attempts to have the original conversation.
The moment you hear an oppressed person talking about the oppression
they face and you, a member of the group benefitting from their oppression, respond by telling them to use different words so you don’t feel bad…
You, personally, are literally oppressing them, right then, right there.
That kind of tone-policing bullshit is directly prioritizing
your feelings over their right to speak the truth.
reinforcing the hierarchy where you have privilege over them.
You are using your privilege to silence and derail discussions about their human rights.
Now you know. And if in the future you exercise your privilege to silence the oppressed, you can’t say you weren’t told. I’ve just told you. So shut the fuck up and listen.
This is one of those things that I’ve been needing to write for awhile, because I see MRAs say the same ignorant crap over and over. There’s a lot of that. Anyway.
“What rights do men have that women don’t?”
Here you have an MRA declaring that the only rights that matter are the ones specifically coded into law. This is a derailing tactic, which is really all MRAs have. Don’t get pulled into this bullshit.
Yeah, women are allowed to work now, and own property, and vote, hooray. But this is not all there is to life and this does not mean that women are on equal footing in Western society.
There are fundamental human rights that, if pressed, everyone will agree on. For example, people should have the right to say no, correct? When someone makes a request of you, you have a right to say no. You cannot be forced to do something for someone else that isn’t ordered by the courts, like with child support or something.
Technically, a woman has the right to say no. She can’t be arrested for saying no to a man. But we’re not talking about legality here, people. We don’t live in some bizarre black and white world where the only thing that matters is law. We’re talking about the structure of society - the social norms that dictate our daily functioning and interactions with other humans.
When a man wants to have sex with a woman, or do anything sexual, a woman legally has a right to say no at any time and she must be respected. However, socially, this is actually unacceptable most of the time. A woman who says no to a man without being super careful to cradle his delicate feels or make up some excuse is condemned by our society. She’s a heartless bitch. When a woman says yes to some things and then says no when the sexual contact escalates, she’s a cold bitch or she was leading him on, therefore a bitch. Men routinely react with indignant outrage to a woman saying no to them, and we’re told constantly through media and through the condoning of this behavior that he’s right to act this way.
So if a woman is a bitch if she says no, that tells us that under the law of social norms, women have no right to say no.
This is just one example of many. There’s the right to safety, the right to not have to smile if you don’t feel like it, the right to not have to interact with every asshole who wants your attention, the right to go about your day without being harassed by fuckoff asspile men who think they have every right in the world to the immediate and unconditional attention and compliance of women.
This is yet another reason I will never take MRAs seriously. People understand that there is more to human rights than what is coded into law. But as soon as it becomes convenient for MRAs, then governmental law is all that matters.
Maybe we should just collectively decide to turn this particular flavor of bullshit around on MRAs. They’re always complaining that they don’t have reproductive rights. But what law is there saying that cis men can’t abort their pregnancies? Any cis man has every right to abort the fetus growing inside him, so it’s perfectly equal. You can put up for adoption any baby that you birth from your body. Ok cool everything’s good here, bye.
Okay you seem like a cool blog and all (fuck fckh8 and all that) but showing people "Geek Feminist" wikis to back up your behavior? Or showing them to a biased Wiki at all? That is a quick way to lose credibility fast.
if you’re going to dismiss the INFORMATIVE, CLEAR, ACCESSIBLE and CORRECT information because it’s on a feminist website we don’t really care if you doubt our credibility. if you don’t like it you could read up on the “tone argument”/“tone policing” and find another source that says pretty much the same thing, and/or expands on why “you’ll never get people to agree with you if you’re too emotional/angry/mean/upset/passionate” is 101 derailment