I love intellectual debate. I like the exchange of ideas. I like the way I start at point A and end up at point G. I like how I can stand up for what I think and feel, but also learn about the way other people process information. I like the way I feel awake and jazzed about ideas afterwards.
And for me, it is always about the information. With very few exceptions (blatant racism, homophobia, sexism, etc.), it's not an emotional thing for me. It's just about "oh, we disagree on this point, let's discuss." I might not sway their opinion. They might not sway mine. But I've had to substantiate something I felt and assumed, and thus understand it better. Also, I understand why they feel the way they do better.
Which is maybe why the recent 'Just shut up' responses are so incredibly offensive to me. I've gotten them before, interestingly enough when I was trying to acquiesce a point and said "whoops, I was wrong. You're right." Only to hear an essential 'nobody cares, you were wrong once, thus you are wrong forever. Shut up and go away.' As though no one has ever been wrong before. Not all of us were lucky enough to be born understanding everything and everyone. Some of us had to work for it, and are still working, and that doesn't make us trolls or 'less than' or 'bad feminists'. It makes us in progress. I honestly hope everyone is 'in progress'.
Recently I saw a more egregious example of the 'Just-shut-up' fad while watching two of my friends fight it out on Facebook. Friend A posted something, Friend B mostly agreed, but had a counterpoint, a pretty interesting one honestly even though I didn't agree with it. Friend A told her to shut up. Friend B asked if she had said something offensive, because she didn't mean to, and would like to apologize if she had. That she just thought it was interesting and wanted to chime in and had been looking for someone to talk to about this idea.
Friend A told her to shut up...again.
It hurt to watch. These are two great people, with more in common than not in common. I didn't know much about the topic (WOC in art and misappropriation) so, I was looking forward to watching these two amazing intelligent women lay out some points for my viewing pleasure.
And before the discussion, the beautiful idea exchange, happened...it was stopped.
And the same phenomenon happens on every online forum. Especially Jezebel, honestly. Someone posts an opinion, and is immediately told to shut up. To go away. That their opinion is wrong, and thus they are wrong, and should go slide back into whatever wrong hole they emerged from and hang out with their friends there, who are probably equally wrong.
When did it become okay to tell another human being that a 'wrong' opinion makes them worthless? And who feels like they were born knowing everything about everything?
The assumption seems to be that we all should be living in our own private echo chambers, with no retaliating opinions. But isn't that how chains of thought become diseased?
Every time we yell at an MRA and tell them to just shut up and go back to their wrong hole...aren't we just affirming their suspicions, and then sending them back to echo chamber with a whole bunch of other MRAs?
I'm not saying snark isn't acceptable. I've been snarky and sarcastic my whole life, I probably won't stop anytime soon. But that's not the same as literally taking away someone's voice and dismissing them on the grounds of what should be an intellectual disagreement.
What I really object to is the taking away of someone's voice. A voice that could add something, even if it's just an experience, to the public exchange. I hate the sense of resentment that it creates. And yes, for me it is personal. As a rape victim, I was told to shut up and go away because I challenged the assumption that campus was safe (it wasn't) or that people's opinions of a popular student were incorrect. But I was told to shut up. And I did. And I hated them for making me shut up. I hated me for listening. I hated the world for not hearing me.
And I don't know why this is more okay in communities that are supposed to be accepting. I was a shitty feminist before I found sites like Shakesville and Jezebel. A truly shitty feminist. I critiqued others clothing and bodies, and I didn't understand sexual identities outside of 'gay' 'bi' and 'straight'. It's like only being able to see in three colors.
But the older generation of Jezzies took me by the hand and patiently led me to information and resources that made me better. I am a better person.
What if they had just told me to shut up?
Likely I would have thought "Oh, maybe I don't belong here. Maybe I'm not a feminist." And then I would have kept thinking the wrong things, and kept being a not great human by accident.
Is it the responsibility of current feminists to educate 'new feminists'?
Of course not. But it's also not their responsibility to take out their anger and aggression on them. If someone is being a jackass? Sure. Both barrels out. But if someone is saying "well, I think this because of this", what is the net effect of telling them to "shut up"? If you don't want to explain it, leave a link to an article that helps clarify. Or just don't say anything and let someone else have a go at responding.
But what I'm really curious about is why people tell others to shut up? Is it because they don't want to challenge their own thoughts? Or because it's too emotional a topic? Or because it's just not a 'debatable' topic and they feel controversy is being stirred up for no reason. And if it is any of those things, why don't we simply address them that way?