How we say what we have to say

2 Dec

Are you on any form of social media, posting pics, tweets or even long posts about identity, diversity and equity (just sayin’)?

Ever gotten a comment from someone you didn’t know? What was that like?

feedback. So I was interested to watch this video, succinctly titled “Some Creepy Dudes Said Some Creepy Things To This Reporter. So She Is Calling Them Out In Public”: http://www.upworthy.com/some-creepy-dudes-wrote-some-creepy-things-to-this-scientist-so-she-is-calling-them-out-in-public?c=ufb1.

In a nutshell, Upworthy science correspondent Emily Graslie shares and responds to the sexist comments she has to put up with just because she’s a woman who hosts the educational video series “The Brain Scoop” on youtube (http://www.youtube.com/user/thebrainscoop). She’s spot on.

As you watch (and you really do need to watch–this is pretty entertaining and educational, as critiques of sexism go), notice how much Graslie has to qualify, preface, reason and essentially apologize for even bringing up the subject of unequal treatment of men and women in science-focused social media. And notice how she never calls her youtube commenters “creepy”–that’s her male coworker’s (who posted her video on Upworthy) privilege at work. Graslie can’t afford to call names. She needs to be irreproachable as she makes her case. Because even as rationally as she presents her argument (in response to a viewer query about her experiences of sexism in the STEM field), she knows she’s gonna get more sexist e-mails in response. Inevitably some angry ones, too. Just you watch.

It happened to Anita Sarkeesian for daring to critique sexism in video games. As a gamer. Who loves playing video games herself, and writes about misogyny in gaming from a measured, intelligent, evidence-based perspective.

Yes, the response to Sarkeesian’s naming the obvious has included praise and gratitude. It has also included an on-line hate campaign (http://www.newstatesman.com/blogs/internet/2012/06/dear-internet-why-you-cant-have-anything-nice) and the “Beat Up Anita Sarkeesian Game.” (As you beat her up on your screen, bruises and welts appear on her face. You can see screen shots of the game here: http://www.newstatesman.com/blogs/internet/2012/07/what-online-harassment-looks.) That’s right, haters made a video game that does exactly what Sarkeesian writes about video games doing.

I couldn’t help but think about Sarkeesian as I watched Graslie’s video. And both women make me think about how I present my perspective, online and in person: about the proactive ways in which I have to couch my message if I want at all to be effective in my work. Because evidence and sound reasoning aren’t nearly enough to make the case for cultural and personal change.

So what can you and I do? Around 4:14 Graslie talks about the tendency to downplay when someone shares their experience of being on the receiving end of discriminatory comments (with rationalizations like “it’s youtube,” “they’re just anonymous comments” and the like). Instead of dismissing what they heard, suggesting they’re taking it too personally or seriously, we can acknowledge what happened as what happens, bring to light the cultural norms that make us want to shrug off what happened, and speak up. Because just consoling or agreeing with each other also won’t effect change. We need to talk back, loud and en masse.

** Thanks to SP for sharing this link.

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