When ‘shutting down debate’ is nothing of the kind

Following my post about a thoroughly misguided lawsuit against LSE, the comments thread devolved into a display of off-topic nonsense, wherein the issues I highlighted and the questions I wished to highlight were not discussed adequately, in favour of what three commenters felt more comfortable talking about.

I took action, as the thread deviated from relevance. And, of course, I was met with the traditional cry. I was ‘shutting down debate’.

Those who have spent more than five minutes on the internet will be familiar with this charge. Those who have seen it in action will also be well aware that often, when it is employed, it is hardly as a reaction to Stalinist censorship. Indeed, it usually comes when someone becomes sick of banging their head against a wall, or wishes to get away from a troll firing personal attacks, or even when someone expresses the desire to have an on-topic conversation.

When used like this, it is a red herring. Usually, it’s a very effective red herring; it rings with implications of totalitarianism. The target becomes The Party, or Norsefire. It’s like invoking Godwin’s Law without having to mention Nazis at all. When the howl of ‘you’re shutting down debate’ goes up, what is usually meant is ‘let me say whatever I want, you big smelly Hitler! I want to look like I’m winning’.

The thing is, sometimes ‘shutting down debate’ is the only way that a debate can actually happen. It’s pretty hard to discuss, say, the perfect burrito, when someone keeps cropping up and shouting that we should be talking about quesadillas instead. Quesadillas are great. But we’re talking about burritos here. It’s also not possible to have the burrito conversation if someone is loudly calling everyone a cunt for liking burritos.

Far from shutting down debate, silencing Captain Quesadilla is sometimes the only way the conversation can be had. The aim is not to develop a burrito-based echo chamber, but, rather, to discuss a focused topic. If a passionate, yet polite, row breaks out over the merits of refried versus black beans, it’s relevant.

Before writing this post, I googled the term ‘shutting down debate’, to see if anyone had written a piece like this. Maybe they have. I didn’t make it past the first two pages, where I saw charges of shutting down debate levelled at gay people, Jews, black people and the nebulous, miscellaneous ‘left’. It made me wonder, why is this phrase so ubiquitous?

I’m not saying that all instances of the phrase ‘you’re shutting down debate’ are used so that somebody can continue shitting all over the world with prejudice, as it’s not true in many instances; only those of hate speech.

In the remaining instances, it is usually a reaction to being told to focus. We all have our pet causes and things which interest us, things we feel more comfortable discussing. These things are not always relevant. And we do not need to opine at every given instance, when our opinions are irrelevant. For example, I don’t typically spend family meals articulating the merits of anarcho-syndicalism, as it’s not relevant to my mum’s holiday photos. My mum is not shutting down debate. She’s showing me her holiday snaps.

There are times, of course, when debate is shut down. It does not usually look like someone closing a comment thread on a blogpost, nor does it look like moderating out off-topic comments, nor a block on Twitter.

Shutting down debate looks like Trafigura’s super-injunction which prevented discussion even in Parliament. Shutting down debate looks like the Prime Minister’s desire to regulate social networking. Shutting down debate looks like the attempt to ban Nick Griffin from Question Time; he’s welcome to his silly, wrong opinions.

Griffin on Question Time is a prime example: the episode was dedicated to immigration, so it was all right that he was perpetually farting on about immigration. Had the topic changed to, say, recycling, though, and he still kept banging on about immigration, he’d be off topic. I’d hope he’d be told to shut the fuck up. And he’d likely howl about shutting down debate when nothing of the kind had happened.

Fear not the charges of shutting down debate. Often one is ensuring the debate can happen at all.

Chode of the day

From Alas A Blog, I have discovered this gem written by a “nice guy”.

When the Feminists came for the Rapists,
I remained silent;
I was not a Rapist.

When they locked up the stalkers,
I remained silent;
I was not a stalker.

When they came for the Players,
I did not speak out;
I was not a Player.

When they came for the men who they got bored of,
I remained silent;
I wasn’t some one they were bored of yet.

When they came for me, the nice guy,
there was no one left to speak out.

Lest the meaning of his poetic stylings are too opaque, the author of this short appropriated verse expands:

This is why I’ve become a harmless perv at this point.It’s not like there is an acceptable rule book, or social norm on this, and if I’m going to be the bad guy no matter what I do… might as well get it the fuck out the way right up front.

I might as well ENJOY being the villain.

This is, of course, somewhat worrying. What we have here is a “nice guy” calling for male solidarity with rapists, against those big mean feminists who are spoiling their fun. He’s a thousand times worse than the standard “nice guy” (who often aren’t that nice). I’m sure the fact that he can’t find a girlfriend is entirely down to the fact that he is “too nice”, and nothing to do with the fact that he’s fucking creepy (“harmless perv”) and thinks that rapists are unfairly maligned, and manages to do all of this while simultaneously making fun of the Holocaust.

Because women are all bitches, right? Particularly those feminazis?

What a rotten little shitstain.

Search terms.

 

I occupy my days working on a PhD which includes a hefty chunk of taxonomy development. This blog is half procrastination and half catharsis from said day job. Unfortunately, sometimes they meld together. While looking through the search terms which lead to this blog, I happened upon something worrying: I was mentally taxonomising search terms.

I hereby present a taxonomy of search terms used to find this blog. They are all real search terms.

I. The relevant (these are, unfortunately, slightly boring)

1. Feminism

A. “Straw feminist” statements: “all men are rapists”, “feminists hate men”.

B. General searches for information about feminism: “what is misogyny?” “how many people identify as feminists?” “feminists and equal pay”

2. Psychology concepts

A. Relating to ambivalent sexism: “reverse scored items in the ASI”, “how to measure misogyny”, etc.

B. Relating to evolutionary psychology: “evolutionary psychology”, “evolutionary psychology critique”

C. Relating to Nudge: Only one of these so far, but it made me the happiest woman in the world: “nudge- worst book of the year”. Yes. Yes it was.

3. Names of people mentioned in this blog: Dorries and Roger Helmer MEP. I am glad.

4. This blog– searches for “Another Angry Woman” or “stavvers”. Meta.

II. The irrelevant (In which I extend an apology to all those who found this blog looking for porn, and instead ended up with feminism)

1. Searches for porn 

A. Knicker-based porn: “british woman flashes knickers”, “world’s sexiest woman giving you a glimpse of their knickers”, “upskirt orgasme [sic]”

B. Porn involving belly buttons: “fucking beautiful navels”, “sex with navel”.

C. Porn involving hairy women: “hairy woman in the world naked pic”, “big cock fuk hairy cunt [sic]”

D. The quest for fanny: the top referrer in search terms to this blog is “female fannies”. More so than searching my name.

2. Sex advice for fanciers of angry women

Invariably pertains to sex with angry women, for example, “how to make an angry woman calm by fucking”, “learn how to fuck angry woman”. For the former, I would say that fucking isn’t always the best approach to making an angry woman calm.

3. The downright bizarre

Some absolute blinders here:

“islamic view of wisdom teeth”

“drawing or picture of an angry woman with a tray full of fruits”

“black bloc badminton” I do hope this tactic is adopted at future demos. I am not sure the police would know how to react if a black bloc showed up and started enthusiastically volleying a shuttlecock.

The vast majority of searches were of the not-relevant variety, which leads me to ponder a new tagline for the blog:

“Another Angry Woman: Sorry. You probably weren’t asking for it.”

Accompanied, of course, with a drawing or picture of an angry woman with a tray full of fruits.

 

26

I turn 26 in two hours’ time. Here are 26 things I am angry about and intend to overthrow before I turn 28*

1. The Coalition

2. The patriarchy

3. The distinct lack of free chlamydia screening for people my age

4. Theresa May

5. Bankers

6. Hiding anchovies inside perfectly nice olives

7. The Coalition

8. The kyriarchy

9. Tories

10. Lib Dems

11. Labour

12. Fuck it, parliamentary politics on the whole

13. Rapists

14. People who don’t find lame puns funny

15. Andrew Lansley

16. The government

17. The patriarchy

18. Putting milk in tea without explicit prior consent

19. Plane trees

20. The police

21. Rape apologists

22. Prawn crackers

23. Tax avoiders

24. Nadine Dorries

25. The government

26. The patriarchy

There may be some overlap between concepts. This is because everything is connected.

*I have a slight aversion to the number three and its multiples, and therefore will be skipping 27 (3^3) and doing 28 twice.

Fannies, noo-noos, tuppences

Recently, on a bored Friday afternoon, I decided to conduct a small straw poll: what did you call women’s genitals when you were a child?

I asked for two reasons: first, I was bored and wanted some @-replies. Second, I was genuinely curious as to the language surrounding the issue, especially considering that the male answer is the near-ubiquitous “willy”.

From my highly scientific survey, childhood euphemisms for cunt seem to fall into four major groups:
The ridiculous: nou-nou, fanny, twinkle, foof, minnie, and similar. Words that one cannot say without a giggle; silly and frivolous words that one could equally use to describe the remote control or other household items with temporarily-forgotten names.
The clinical: the supposedly-correct ‘vagina’ or the more accurate ‘vulva’. I had an acquaintance at school who said ‘vulva’. At six years old, I found it absurdly clinical.
The cultural: I used what is apparently a rather rude Greek word: pouto. Perhaps it was foreshadowing: it translates as ‘cunt’. Other people from other backgrounds may use a word from a mother’s mother tongue.
The shameful: one of my Twitter correspondents knew children who would say ‘Delilah’. The Freudian connotations are startling. Into this category, I would also place what emerged as the clear winner in the straw poll: ‘tuppence’. I cannot think of any anatomical reason why the female genitals would resemble a 2p coin, so the reason must buy into the transaction model of sex. A cunt is worth pennies–two, to be precise–a thing where the ferryman must be paid in order to gain safe passage.

Outside of all of this, and one which made me smile was “willy for boys and billy for girls“, which the submitter found with hindsight presented an “equal but different” approach. Certainly sweet, although somewhat derivative of “willy” and therefore suggestive of a “men as norms, women as other” approach.

A further point of note was the sheer quantity of tweeters who did not ever speak of genitals, particularly female ones.

Even as children, female genitals are surrounded by shame, by sly giggles. As one tweeter put it:

fanny & willy, although as a boy fanny always felt naughtier and ruder.

This was not limited to boys, though. Many women tweeted that they were too embarrassed to say, even as adults.

We are taught to fear cunts. They are as hidden in language as we are supposed to believe they are concealed between our legs. It starts early, with daft squishy words thought to be horribly rude, or with grubby connotations of financial transactions and treacherous sexual power. It is not just the word “cunt” which holds power.

Female genitals are supposed to be secretive, mysterious; euphemised in frivolities and foreign dialect. Shame grows from the mystery–if it is not talked about, how can we ever know that a cunt is nothing to be frightened of? That a cunt is not ruder than a cock? That it’s all just perfectly lovely, non-shameful stuff.

I am not exactly the child-owning sort, but if I had children, I would teach them a rainbow of words, from the unnecessarily-obscene “cunt”, to the absurdly clinical “vulva”, and everything in between. And with that, I would say “there is nothing inherently wrong with cunts. And they’re worth more than 2p”.