A Few Examples of “Shut Up and Listen”

May 18, 2013

So I gave a talk yesterday afternoon in which I emphasized how horrible it was that women had been suppressed for thousands of years, and, on many matters, had been instructed to remain silent.  As I stated at the end of my talk, this enforced silence robbed women of their humanity, and I indicated that CFI was committed to working toward a society in which the autonomy of women would be respected and, among other things, they would be free to express themselves however they wanted. 

But that is not what people wanted to discuss; instead, a number of people took strong exception when I expressed concern during my talk that the concept of privilege sometimes was being invoked to tell people to “shut up and listen.”  Tweets during and after my talk complained I offered no specific examples. 

Two quick responses.  First, my talk was over its allotted time limit as it was, and my concern about the misuse of privilege was not the primary focus of my talk, as already indicated.


Second, there are examples you can find on the internet through a few minutes search.  For myself, when I drafted this portion of the talk, the two examples I had in mind were a presentation on privilege that was given at the Heads meeting in January and a statement by PZ Myers.  I am not going to identify the speakers at the Heads meeting, as the meetings are supposed to be confidential, but if you ask around, other people will confirm that there was a lengthy discussion of privilege, and within that discussion there were examples of how members of  “privileged” groups should be quiet and just listen to those in the non-privileged group when the latter were discussing their experiences. 


The Myers quote is below:

“When a member of a marginalized group tells a member of a privileged group that their efforts, no matter how well-meaning, are wrong, there is one reasonable response: Shut up and listen. You might learn something.
There is also a terrible response: arguing back. It always makes it worse.
It’s not that they are infallible and we are totally stupid. It’s that THEY are the experts and the subject of the discussion.”


It can be found here.


Other examples of the “shut up and listen” trope are here and here


By the way, I am well aware that our communications director in his personal capacity quoted Myers approvingly.  Obviously, I disagree with him on this point.  The fact of that disagreement does not affect our working relationship.  Paul is a great communications director.  Are there limits to what CFI employees can say?  Sure, but the restrictions are fairly loose.  At CFI, we do not follow the rule “shut up and listen.”  Generally, employees can express their opinions.  There is one requirement, however.  They need to supply reasons and evidence. Invoking their racial/sexual/ethnic/class identity, whatever it might be, is not considered a substitute for argument. 

 

Comments:

#1 Monette Richards on Saturday May 18, 2013 at 7:36am

One must be in a state of not talking to be able to listen. If one is currently in a state of talking, one must stop talking before one can listen.

This is called shutting up. This is not a difficult concept.

You will not get a cookie for pointing out how religions have kept women quiet when you follow that with to scolding us for telling men to shut up so that we may begin talking.

#2 PQ (Guest) on Saturday May 18, 2013 at 8:48am

@Monette Richards : that argument makes sense when applied to verbal communication where someone’s speech is literally making another’s inaudible, or someone is talking so nonstop that they have no chance of hearing what someone else says.

It doesn’t when applied to, say, posting things on the internet, as it frequently is.

#3 Brian Carnell (Guest) on Saturday May 18, 2013 at 9:00am

I realize it is part of PZ’s schtick, but “shut up” is a rude insult/command, not a way to encourage listening, much less create a dialogue in which people may come around to your position.

#4 Whisper Walrus on Saturday May 18, 2013 at 9:18am

“One must be in a state of not talking to be able to listen. If one is currently in a state of talking, one must stop talking before one can listen.”

You started out well, I had hope for a moment…


“This is called shutting up. This is not a difficult concept.”

...and then you blew it. Shutting up is not the same thing as not talking. For one, you completely ignore the inherently dismissive tone that “shut up” carries. It’s one of the reasons many parents tell their children not to say it; it’s considered rude.

“Shut up” is just an economical phrasing for “I don’t like what you’re saying and I don’t want to hear it anymore, ever.” It is exactly the sort of phrase that aims to silence, just like Lindsay pointed out in his speech.

That you don’t understand that is probably part of why you don’t get the reactions from others that you’d like when you say it to them.


“You will not get a cookie…”

That you expect other people do things for (imaginary) rewards is a serious problem you should devote some time to working out.

You are aware that statements like that come off as if you’re treating others as misbehaving children, right? I’m pretty sure patronizing others isn’t conducive to real conversation either.

#5 Monette Richards on Saturday May 18, 2013 at 9:21am

@PQ,

Oh, but it does apply to online dialogue! Have you never seen someone comment, repeatedly, while not having all the information they need on the topic, derailing it as a result?

This makes it difficult to discuss the topic, or otherwise participate positively in the discussion.

#6 PQ (Guest) on Saturday May 18, 2013 at 9:41am

@Monette Richards,

Sure, but I’d say that’s a different thing.  Someone repeatedly posting ignorant statements is “talking” a lot, and possibly (because they’re being ignorant), not listening, but there isn’t really the direct connection as in the verbal case.  One can post vast quantities of text (ignorant or not) and still be paying attention to what other people post.  One can be paying attention and still make stupid responses, due to being stubborn, or obnoxious, or whatever.  Online, your saying something does not directly prevent other people from doing so.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with saying that someone’s wrong (although obviously people will likely require some evidence to accept that), or derailing a discussion (although the latter is more a problem of, say, a single blog’s thread, not people posting opposing opinions on their own blogs).  But that’s a judgement that can (and should) be made solely on the quality of what they say.

#7 Monette Richards on Saturday May 18, 2013 at 10:51am

@Whisper Wallace

The admonishments of our dismissive tone while talking to people who have been dismissing us is ridiculous.

#8 DM (Guest) on Saturday May 18, 2013 at 11:02am

Monette, if you are right then perhaps you need to shut up and listen to what others are trying to teach you right now.

#9 Monette Richards on Saturday May 18, 2013 at 11:31am

@DM

Oh yes. I imagine I have a lot to learn from the people who keep talking over us. Because they haven’t been controlling the conversation long enough, right?

#10 Dave Allen (Guest) on Saturday May 18, 2013 at 11:48am

Monette, regarding your remark “The admonishments of our dismissive tone while talking to people who have been dismissing us is ridiculous.”

It depends on what grounds they dismiss you and whether or not those grounds - or the manner in which they state those grounds - deserve a response along the lines of “shut up”.

Perhaps if the people really raising objections to the style of feminism that has been deemed fit for (say) the Atheism Plus forum really were just obnoxious trolls then a response such as “shut up” might seem more sympathetic (though personally I advocate chilly civility as the best way to disarm a troll as opposed to getting visibly upset).

However, in my own experience “shut up and listen” (or variants to the same end such as “you’re ‘splaining” or “you need to check your privilege” or “you’re JAQing off”) are just as likely to be aimed at those who have listened and then raised reasoned objections to what they have heard as those who are actually invested in mocking feminism or seeing it fail.

And as such - whilst I imagine this particular attitude may serve some sort of political purpose - I think its as likely to put people off engaging with the feminist perspective as it is to enlighten people to its worth.

Learn a bit of patience.

#11 Whisper Walrus on Saturday May 18, 2013 at 12:14pm

“The admonishments of our dismissive tone while talking to people who have been dismissing us is ridiculous.”

If you don’t like the idea of being dismissed, then why would you take on a tactic that does that to others? If you don’t like being silenced, then why would you take on a tactic that does that to others? Assuming your goal is actually equality, you don’t use the same tactics as your oppressor when you know first-hand that those tactics cause a negative response.

As you pointed out in your first comment, listening requires that the listener not speak; that very fact already makes the “shut up” part redundant. Tack on the bit where it’s just rude and off-putting to constantly see and you’ve just become your own worst enemy.

If you really wanted to be heard, you could find a way without blatantly using expressions aimed at silencing others. Be better than what you’re fighting against, which in the context of Lindsay’s speech means not trying to silence people who happen to be the same group as that which silenced your group.

Though this all assumes that a conversation is what you’re after. Judging by many/most/all of the people I’ve actually seen using the “shut up and listen” meme, I’m not convinced that’s the case and you’re certainly not dispelling me of that now.

#12 Asher Kay (Guest) on Saturday May 18, 2013 at 1:17pm

>>“my concern about the misuse of privilege was not the primary focus of my talk, as already indicated”<<

That subject was the one with the most words devoted to it in your talk. Over half your talk was dedicated to disagreements within feminism and the misuse of the concept of privilege. These were also the subjects that occupied the center of your talk, and the ones which built to its conclusion.

I’m sure that the issue of whether it was the “primary” focus could be argued ad nauseum. But let me ask you this: why did you consider it important to focus on that particular issue as the issue with which to open the conference?

When thinking to yourself, “I’m giving the opening talk at a conference to discuss the issues of women in the secular movement—what relevant and important issues should I bring up?”, your answer to yourself was, “the misuse of the concept of male privilege to silence men”. Why?

You seem to be concerned and upset that you have been misunderstood—enough to seek out examples that you say support what you said in your talk. But the primary question is why you considered those specific things to be more important than other things. Help us to understand that.

#13 Dave Allen (Guest) on Saturday May 18, 2013 at 1:43pm

Asher.

Why?

Is it perhaps because he thought it was an interesting phenomenon pertinent to the topic of women in secularism?

#14 Asher Kay (Guest) on Saturday May 18, 2013 at 2:00pm

>>“They need to supply reasons and evidence. Invoking their racial/sexual/ethnic/class identity, whatever it might be, is not considered a substitute for argument.”<<

Who is saying it is? You see someone “invoking identity” and I see someone invoking their lived experiences in the world.

The effects of misogyny, sexism, etc., are effects *on the lived experiences of people*. Lived experience is a central issue. It is, in essence, the “evidence” of sexism.

If someone who actually has these lived experiences is telling you, not simply to shut up, but to shut up *and listen*, don’t you feel it’s a little ironic that you spend your mental energy on the first part but not the second?

It’s also ironic that of the three examples you linked, two are articles written by men. So how could they be invoking identity?

#15 Asher Kay (Guest) on Saturday May 18, 2013 at 2:04pm

>>“Is it perhaps because he thought it was an interesting phenomenon pertinent to the topic of women in secularism?”<<

We’ve already established that he thought it was interesting and pertinent (unless you want to argue that he gave a talk on things he considered uninteresting and non-pertinent). The question I asked is why he found this topic *more* interesting and pertinent than the other things he might have talked about.

#16 Andrew Wilson (Guest) on Saturday May 18, 2013 at 2:07pm

“It’s also ironic that of the three examples you linked, two are articles written by men. So how could they be invoking identity?”

Why, do men not have an identity?

#17 Pandora3 on Saturday May 18, 2013 at 2:20pm

If you find yourself using a speech usually meant as a welcome to instead obliquely snark at a specific feminist’s blog post, ruminate about how you personally feel about Atheism +, and complain about men being told twice to shut up, (not the women who have literally been run off) maybe it’s time to re-think your motives.

#18 Hunt (Guest) on Saturday May 18, 2013 at 2:40pm

>>“It’s also ironic that of the three examples you linked, two are articles written by men. So how could they be invoking identity?”

The reason for that is that many feminist men have embraced the idea that their place is to remain mute, i.e. not interact conversationally, when instructed to do so.  PZ Myers certainly fits this model.  They might converse when tolerated, that is, speak when spoken to, but women feminists have the option to direct them to remain silent at any point they deem appropriate to convey a salient point that should not be interactively questioned.  I leave it to the reader to judge whether this is a healthy direction for feminism to take.

#19 Dave Allen (Guest) on Saturday May 18, 2013 at 2:44pm

“The question I asked is why he found this topic *more* interesting and pertinent than the other things he might have talked about.”

Presumably it is not in error to highlight the topic as being of pertinence to the overarching theme of women in secularism seeing as it has generated a degree of debate. Also, whilst some people are bemoaning the fact that he chose to mention it, none of those people deny the existence of the phenomena.

So it does seem to have been a successful choice of topic, seeing as it relates to the theme of the show and got people talking (as opposed to shutting up).

“You see someone “invoking identity” and I see someone invoking their lived experiences in the world.”

Identity and experience aren’t mutually exclusive things are they? Psychologists of a social-constructivist bent might even say they were one and the same.

“If someone who actually has these lived experiences is telling you, not simply to shut up, but to shut up *and listen*, don’t you feel it’s a little ironic that you spend your mental energy on the first part but not the second?”

Not really. It’s my lived experience, in regard to the sort of feminism being touted as fit for the secular community, that stuff like “shut up and listen” is not employed as a device to further understanding or dialogue, but to quell dissent. As I mentioned above, its telling how many different terms there are for much the same thing: you just don’t get it, you’re JAQing off, you are ‘splaining, check your privilege, listen to the women, etc…

Now in one regard - that doing so allows for a workshop area such as the atheism plus forum - I don’t particularly care. However if you want to be taken seriously in a bigger arena you should understand that telling someone to shut up isn’t the least bit conducive to having them listen to you.

And if that’s perceived as a problem for women in secularism by someone who cares to see more productive dialogue - why shouldn’t they highlight that in the most pertinent of arenas (to some apparent effect)?

#20 Dave Allen (Guest) on Saturday May 18, 2013 at 2:59pm

Pandora - have the women who have been “literally” run off been *literally* run off?

#21 Hunt (Guest) on Saturday May 18, 2013 at 3:10pm

I’d be more tempted to say that at a women’s conference it might be inappropriate to address something impacting men if it weren’t for the fact that Watson and others have never allowed contextual concerns like that stop them from expressing themselves.  So I’m pretty willing to chalk this one up to “what goes around comes around.”

#22 Pandora3 on Saturday May 18, 2013 at 3:20pm

Dave—yes, I would think Jen McCreight would be a publicly known example.

#23 Dave Allen (Guest) on Saturday May 18, 2013 at 3:28pm

She was physically chased somewhere was she?

No.

She may have been effectively silenced, and I in no way wish to condone online bullying. But even if she genuinely couldn’t take (or even be expected to take) the abusive comments and threats she received, that doesn’t amount to anything other than a figurative running off.

#24 Ryan Grant Long (Guest) on Saturday May 18, 2013 at 3:42pm

Despite that I am gay - that is, a minority currently discriminated against, not just socially but *legally* - I have been told to shut up by PZ Myers - a straight, white, heterosexual, cisgender, financially well-off male.

Well to be more precise, he blocked me from his blog after asking a single polite question; called me a “f*cking idiot” twice in the same paragraph; and then claimed I am a member of the “Slyme Pit”, a forum I have no account with and on which I have never posted anything in my entire life.

Similarly, lots of the other people crying about “privilege” are white, straight and/or cisgender men and women who are perfectly happy to tell a member of a minority demographic like me to shut up if they dare to disagree with him. And I’ve noticed they are perfectly willing to do the same to other women and feminists who disagree with them as well, regardless of their minority status.

Additionally, having actually studied concepts like privilege in a formal academic setting, I can promise you Mr. Lindsay that your grasp of this concept is much better than that of the people who love to throw it around as an insult on the Internet. Generally, very little of the “feminist drama” that has occurred over the past year or so has been anything like the professional and reasonable discussions we had in college-level Women’s Studies courses. Some of the loudest voices appear to have the LEAST expertise in gender issues or any related field; and I can’t even imagine someone like PZ or Rebecca Watson making it through a single day in any reputable Women’s Studies courses, considering the divisive tactics and incendiary rhetoric they routinely use to express their inflexible political opinions.

#25 Pandora3 on Saturday May 18, 2013 at 4:01pm

Dave, google “idiom.” They’re common in English and practically every other language. Did you have a point in your strange derailing attempt, besides minimizing her experience? Like if she was run off by a torrent of verbal abuse which made her fear for her safety that’s not so bad?

Also….do you realize how this makes you look under a blog post where a man is complaining it’s unacceptable when TWO blog posts say “shut up and listen” and OMG this warrants a fair chunk of his opening remarks?

#26 Asher Kay (Guest) on Saturday May 18, 2013 at 4:06pm

@Dave Allen

Plenty of words - no answer to the question. But I’m really looking for Lindsay’s answer, since he’s the one who chose what to speak about.

If the topic was “successful” it was successful at turning the discussion to what *Lindsay* considers to be important. The question is still why he finds it more important than other issues.

>>“Identity and experience aren’t mutually exclusive things are they?”<<

No. And if you’ll take the time to understand my argument, it’s based on the idea that what we choose to focus on is as telling as the actual words we say on the topic. Lindsay focuses on identity as the important aspect, seemingly ignoring another aspect which *does* involve evidence and reasons.

>>“whilst some people are bemoaning the fact that he chose to mention it, none of those people deny the existence of the phenomena.”<<

Why would someone choose to argue about the existence of a phenomenon when their point is to question why he found it such an important thing to discuss in the context in which he did?

>>“its telling how many different terms there are for much the same thing: you just don’t get it, you’re JAQing off, you are ‘splaining, check your privilege, listen to the women, etc…”<<

This could be telling of many different things, only some of which can be used to support your position.

#27 rogelio tavera (Guest) on Saturday May 18, 2013 at 4:19pm

mr. lindsay, the reason many people took offense to your comments was because they were dismissive of the experiences of women.

this conference has a special focus on women. 

if i and other people of colour are having a discussion about racism, and a white person pipes up with, “but latinos can be racist too!”, they are basically dismissing the experiences that we have had.

but the fact that a mexican kid picked on him in middle school pales in comparison to the persecution that people of colour in your country have endured.

when an event geared particularly towards women has a male speaker does the same thing by pointing fingers at women who have been meanies to a man, he is diminishing the experience of women who have received rape threats, death threats, outlandish sexual harassment and other attempts to chase them off from the movement that they have every right to be a part of.

i have found that when i shut up and listen is when i learn.

that is when i am more easily able to try and put myself in the shoes of someone else and gain the empathy that i need to work with them on any matter of social justice.

don’t get me wrong, i have also been told to shut up and listen.

but i can certainly understand the frustration that would lead someone to take such a stance, and i have found that by doing so, and when i say doing so, i don’t mean just shutting my mouth as i think of what to say next, but actually listening to the other person, the doors of communication have been opened on both sides.

#28 Asher Kay (Guest) on Saturday May 18, 2013 at 4:20pm

>>“She was physically chased somewhere was she?”<<

You’re providing a pretty good example of what I’m talking about. Someone said that an important thing to focus on would be the running off of women in the movement.

You chose to focus on the use of the word “literally”. This was the important thing to you—whether she was physically chased.

What does this accomplish? It shifts the focus to a side argument (the thing *you* think is important) and minimizes the importance of people being run off.

And you use the extremely common “I don’t condone…. but…” formulation, which hedges against accusations of sheer baseness, but keeps the focus on what *you* find important, which is the “but” part of what you’re saying.

#29 Dave Allen (Guest) on Saturday May 18, 2013 at 4:21pm

“Dave, google “idiom.” “

Pandora, I don’t need to Google idiom, I already know what an idiom is, as in a Not-Literal figure of speech.

This is why I asked you whether or not you were being literal, which you assured me you were - even though you were using an idiom - which isn’t literal.

So might I suggest that whatever tangent I introduced (and I don’t think I even did - I was checking on something before continuing) you exacerbated it by not answering a straight question with a straight answer. Yes - I thought you were being hyperbolic - but I thought I would check before risking being dismissive about someone genuinely being run off, actually and credibly physically menaced from participating.

Seeing as you’re talking idiomatically there’s nothing new for me to consider. I already know some people can’t take online abuse and - depending on context - I can sympathise. It’s not a problem on the scale of being “literally run off”. Frankly Jen’s spooking seems a little weak sauce to me, plenty of people get it a Hell of a lot worse.

But I’ve not been there so what do I know?

Anyway - seeing as we are talking about figurative, rather than literal, runnings off - is it not a phenomena that gets regular coverage at conferences past and present?

#30 rogelio tavera (Guest) on Saturday May 18, 2013 at 4:35pm

>>>#8 DM (Guest) on Saturday May 18, 2013 at 11:02am
Monette, if you are right then perhaps you need to shut up and listen to what others are trying to teach you right now.<<<

actually…....

i know monette.  we disagree on a number of things, but i have found her to be a great listener with an open mind and she has offered me insight that i didn’t have before any given conversation.

i hope that she feels the same way about me.

but i seriously doubt that the plural you that you refer to can teach her anything that she didn’t already know.

but bless your heart anyway. 

#31 Nobody (Guest) on Saturday May 18, 2013 at 4:39pm

My problem with the “privilege” argument is that it’s often misused. Firstly—how do we know who has privilege and who doesn’t? By what criterion is it measured?

Then—what are the exact privileges in question? It’s one thing to describe someone as “privileged”—but HOW are they privileged? What specific privileges have they got? The privilege of not being treated like a criminal? That’s a right, not a privilege.

How about the privilege of being taken seriously, regardless of your gender? Again, that’s a right.

Or the privilege of not being mistreated in your day-to-day life? No, that’s a right. Yet on the web, among certain people, these are viewed as “privileges”. The argument, many times, isn’t about special advantages others have—it’s about DISADVANTAGES leveled at others. This is an important distinction. In one case, a group has unfairly gotten something they can discard; in another, a group has unfairly been denied something they deserve.

To be told by a stranger that you are “privileged”, using only your skin or your gender as a barometer for measuring privilege, is infuriating. It makes people—at least, it makes ME—not take the speaker seriously when the “privilege” accusations are let loose.

#32 Pandora3 on Saturday May 18, 2013 at 4:44pm

Dave, that was the most predictable post ever. A wordy claim you were confused as to the literal meaning, followed by a dismissal of Jen’s experience because golly, nobody chased her down the street. Followed by a “it could be worse.” Again, did you notice you’re posting this below a man who asserts two blog posts saying “shut up and listen” is so important and must be addressed?

Has it ever occurred “shut up and listen” is meant for men like you? Why do you think your opinion is equal to the person who actually experienced the abuse? Telling women how they should feel is dismissive and sexist. It’s really the flashpoint of the debate, men telling women how they should react to something *you haven’t experienced.*

The “shut up” part is for men who continue to assert their superior knowledge because..well, I don’t know why you feel entitled to judge Jen McCreight’s experience. Oh wait, I do, it’s called sexism.

#33 SallyStrange (Guest) on Saturday May 18, 2013 at 4:47pm

The request was for examples of this actually being used to “silence” men by feminists. No one doubts that there’s any shortage of feminists suggesting or commanding or demanding that men keep quiet and listen to women’s experiences for a change. The question is, has there been one or more instances of feminists actually bullying a man to the point where he reduced his blogging, took a break from the internet to protect his mental health in an attempt to escape the constant harassment and demands that he shut up, received rape and death threats if he refused to shut up, informed the police about them, etc.

That’s what “silencing” means. That’s a real, tangible effect on someone’s ability to speak freely. A bunch of people saying, “Hey man, you’re fucking wrong, here’s why,” and then NOT harassing you about it isn’t “silencing.”

#34 Dave Allen (Guest) on Saturday May 18, 2013 at 4:48pm

“What does this accomplish?”

It lets me know whether we are discussing what I think we are discussing (people being effectively intimidated from participation for reasons I may or may not sympathise with) or something more disturbing.

But I suppose I could just “shut up” and allow myself to be effectively silenced as I try to figure out by myself what Pandora meant (literally idiomatically) instead of asking her.

“Plenty of words - no answer to the question. But I’m really looking for Lindsay’s answer, since he’s the one who chose what to speak about.”

That’s why I didn’t try to answer for him, rather I raise the point that his talk does seem to be generating more interest than other topics (within the sphere I inhabit) and does seem related to the recent drive to influence secular circles with the brand of feminism advocated by A+/FtB.

So, cheerleading rather than answering.

“Lindsay focuses on identity as the important aspect, seemingly ignoring another aspect which *does* involve evidence and reasons.”

Right, well I’ll try and talk about lived experience more directly then.

As said, I can’t answer for him, but were I in his shoes ... and I don’t mean this to apply to you personally as such seeing as you are here dialoguing - but in general…

I think the reason this line of thinking is engaging is - as a moderately pinko/leftie/liberal type - I have been rather dismayed to encounter the sort of rhetoric mentioned and the reception people like me (and including me) got from A+, which I was initially warm to.

To the extent where I have found myself becoming more cynical and more inclined to listen to critics of feminism (of the sort extolled by FtB and A+ - I realise feminism isn’t monolithic and retain respect for other feminist perspectives and voices).

Now “cry me a river” you may say - and I think part of this stuff (privilege, JAQing off, shut up and listen, etc…) may serve to get fence sitters like me to jump either way. But presumably you would agree there is some jeopardy to this.

It is often said that “you need your friends to tell you when you are being an arse”. It’s not necessarily hostile to an ideology to point out that certain habits or aspects of that ideology are counterproductive.

And as for your last point - yes I think it is telling when an ideology invents a variety of different ways in which to tell someone that their input is illegitimate. As I said initially, telling someone to shut up when they deserve it may be understandable, but wheeling out ‘splaining/JAQinmg-off/check-yr-privilege when people have genuine points to make, or heartfelt objections to voice - that just serves to alienate most of the time.

#35 Dave Allen (Guest) on Saturday May 18, 2013 at 5:01pm

“Again, did you notice you’re posting this below a man who asserts two blog posts saying “shut up and listen” is so important and must be addressed?”

My impression is that it is the gestalt phenomena he is addressing, with the two posts as evidence. Are the two posts a comprehensive review of the phenomena? I doubt it.

“Has it ever occurred “shut up and listen” is meant for men like you?”

The notion doesn’t strike me as plainly as the phrase’s utility for shaming one out of a spirit of genuine enquiry.

“Why do you think your opinion is equal to the person who actually experienced the abuse? Telling women how they should feel is dismissive and sexist.”

I don’t consider the relative weight of my opinion vs the subject’s and I didn’t tell her how to feel. I voiced certain suspicions with a caveat that I might be wrong.

“The “shut up” part is for men who continue to assert their superior knowledge because..well, I don’t know why you feel entitled to judge Jen McCreight’s experience. Oh wait, I do, it’s called sexism.”

At the risk of repetition - I did not judge her experience and admitted that my cynicism regarding her ability to withstand the abuse she received was a matter of possibly flawed personal opinion.

So it seems the only thing I could do to meet your approval would be to lie about how I feel.

Which I don’t think would be of any use.

#36 Pandora3 on Saturday May 18, 2013 at 5:30pm

“yes I think it is telling when an ideology invents a variety of different ways in which to tell someone that their input is illegitimate.”

...sez the guy who decides if Jen McCreight’s experience is disturbing or threatening. Jen’s input is illegitimate, Dave’s is legit.

C’mon, Dave, you wouldn’t be here if you weren’t a fan of rational thinking in some way. The idea you know more about how she should feel than she does is not rational. Why would you make such an assumption?

And again, why are you poo-pooing her feelings which have resulted in real consequences for her? Mr. Lindsey felt entitled to seize the podium based on his feelings. Language he or you might find demeaning is important. It counts. If you feel alienated by language you think that’s a point—as you state in your last sentence—and others should alter their language or behavior.

Jen’s reaction to words however is “weak sauce,” despite your complete ignorance of what was said to her. 

It’s maddening to fight such overtly irrational behavior in men who claim they just want to talk rationally, if only those whiners would follow their example of cool rationality so we can get to the important men’s feelings.

#37 athyco (Guest) on Saturday May 18, 2013 at 6:09pm

I contend that you have in this article shifted the focus of the original question.

Quite a few women and their allies in secular work, like PZ Myers, the only one identified in using this construction, would look at you askance if your argument is that there’s denial of “Shut up and listen” being used; PZ would be the first to point to his own example of using it.

He would also point to all the things that you have quoted yet not addressed:

When a member of a marginalized group tells a member of a privileged group that their efforts, no matter how well-meaning, are wrong, there is one reasonable response: Shut up and listen. You might learn something.  There is also a terrible response: arguing back. It always makes it worse. It’s not that they are infallible and we are totally stupid. It’s that THEY are the experts and the subject of the discussion.

The audience for this particular “Shut up and listen” is for a majority group member who is actively making efforts to help a minority group. It’s sharp, but it’s intended to pierce a self-satisfied veil that can fall over the well-meaning doer of good deeds. The person hearing it who’s making the blanket assumption that it’s personality or intent or decency that’s being cut short is in the wrong; it’s the outcome of their actions. If the person hearing it wants to claim working for equality, it’s the work that counts.

If you witness a traffic accident and an off-duty paramedic is there as well, do you refuse to listen if the paramedic tells you you’re doing something that hurts the patient or impedes the medic’s attempts to stabilize the situation? Do you began defending your actions, arguing you’re sure you’re right because you saw what you’re doing on a documentary or your cousin who’s also a paramedic described almost the same thing?

That bystander trying to help the paramedic is the one PZ is talking to, and the bystander who shuts up and listens can be a fabulous asset. The one who declaims huffily how rude the medic is—that bystander deserves dismissal as the medic looks for someone who’s willing to put the work first. Yeah, there may be the very rare bystander who can say to a newly certified EMT, “I was once in an accident; my brusing and swelling looked like this. Have you considered flail chest?”

But as I said earlier, your ignoring of the nuance in the quote you gave is secondary to your changing of the focus of the question you were originally given. You weren’t asked for examples of this linguistic construction being used, you were asked for specific examples of it having the chilling effect of making men active in the field shut up.

Do you have those examples?

#38 Ulysses (Guest) on Saturday May 18, 2013 at 7:24pm

At CFI, we do not follow the rule “shut up and listen.” Generally, employees can express their opinions. There is one requirement, however. They need to supply reasons and evidence. Invoking their racial/sexual/ethnic/class identity, whatever it might be, is not considered a substitute for argument.

In my company we are expected to give reasons and evidence to support our opinions.  And, at least at the meetings I chair, we have a rule that one person speaks at a time.  When Person A is talking the others just shut up and listen.  When Person A is finished talking then someone else can speak.  This is called “courtesy” and “manners.”  You might consider instituting the “shut up and listen” concept at the free-for-alls you apparently have at CFI.

#39 Pitchguest (Guest) on Saturday May 18, 2013 at 7:26pm

Pandora3:

And pray, what was said to her? She claims was bullied off the internet. Really? Any evidence to amount for that? As far as I’m concerned, before she made these alleged claims she was busy creating a “third wave of atheism” in the form of Atheism Plus™, for which she would be at the forefront, and actively creating blog posts on FtB (Freethought Blogs).

If she can regularly dish it out like she did with her blog posts, as well as in her post about Atheism Plus™ said the atheist community is just a “boy’s club” filled with (and I’m paraphrasing) privileged old white men, who didn’t care about misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, etc, then I should think she should be able to take it when she gets dished right back.

So when was she “bullied out”? When she was “literally” run out of the community? Provide examples and cite sources.

#40 Pitchguest (Guest) on Saturday May 18, 2013 at 7:39pm

Ulysses:

And in my company, we usually pay attention to what’s being said before we open our mouths. In this case, reading would be more appropriate. Specifically about the “shut up and listen” rule that Ron mentions, which is a two parter, namely this:

But it’s the second misapplication of the concept of privilege that troubles me most. I’m talking about the situation where the concept of privilege is used to try to silence others, as a justification for saying, “shut up and listen.” Shut up, because you’re a man and you cannot possibly know what it’s like to experience x, y, and z, and anything you say is bound to be mistaken in some way, but, of course, you’re too blinded by your privilege even to realize that.

This approach doesn’t work.  It certainly doesn’t work for me. It’s the approach that the dogmatist who wants to silence critics has always taken because it beats having to engage someone in a reasoned argument. It’s the approach that’s been taken by many religions. It’s the approach taken by ideologies such as Marxism. You pull your dogma off the shelf, take out the relevant category or classification, fit it snugly over the person you want to categorize, dismiss, and silence and ... poof, you’re done. End of discussion. You’re a heretic spreading the lies of Satan, and anything you say is wrong. You’re a member of the bourgeoisie, defending your ownership of the means of production, and everything you say is just a lie to justify your power. You’re a man; you have nothing to contribute to a discussion of how to achieve equality for women.

Now don’t get me wrong. I think the concept of privilege is useful; in fact it is too useful to have it ossified and turned into a dogma.

By the way, with respect to the “Shut up and listen” meme, I hope it’s clear that it’s the “shut up” part that troubles me, not the “listen” part. Listening is good. People do have different life experiences, and many women have had experiences and perspectives from which men can and should learn. But having had certain experiences does not automatically turn one into an authority to whom others must defer. Listen, listen carefully, but where appropriate, question and engage.

By the way, Ulysses/‘Tis Himself/Rodney Nelson. In my neck of the woods, plagiarism isn’t very courteous or polite.

#41 Ichthyic (Guest) on Saturday May 18, 2013 at 9:24pm

If she can regularly dish it out like she did with her blog posts, as well as in her post about Atheism Plus™ said the atheist community is just a “boy’s club” filled with (and I’m paraphrasing) privileged old white men, who didn’t care about misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, etc, then I should think she should be able to take it when she gets dished right back.

now, why does this sound like a rape apologist saying “the bitch deserved it! Just look at that short dress!”

you sir, are entirely clueless and pathetic.

#42 athyco (Guest) on Saturday May 18, 2013 at 9:32pm

Dave Allen #34:

TL;DR version:  You think you’re cynical? Nowadays, I ALWAYS shrug when fence sitters expect me to take responsibility for how deep their horizontal backside creases are getting.

I think the reason this line of thinking is engaging is - as a moderately pinko/leftie/liberal type - I have been rather dismayed to encounter the sort of rhetoric mentioned and the reception people like me (and including me) got from A+, which I was initially warm to.

To the extent where I have found myself becoming more cynical and more inclined to listen to critics of feminism (of the sort extolled by FtB and A+ - I realise feminism isn’t monolithic and retain respect for other feminist perspectives and voices).

Now “cry me a river” you may say - and I think part of this stuff (privilege, JAQing off, shut up and listen, etc…) may serve to get fence sitters like me to jump either way. But presumably you would agree there is some jeopardy to this.

In this case, I don’t care if you cry or not. You think you’re the only one looking around and getting more cynical? That’s pretty shortsighted.

Lots of groups have shorthand for larger concepts—and those who want to portray those shorthands as groupthink, trying to claim the high ground, or rudeness are free (and usually quick) to do just that.  “Black power” still allows Sean Hannity to be all up in arms about the minuscule-members of the New Black Panthers and white voter registration while ignoring sweeping restrictions against college student, the elderly, the poor, and other minorities by Republican legislation. “Illegal immigrants” say one side. “Undocumented workers” say the other. “Pro-life/pro-abortion” one side says. “Pro-choice/anti-choice” the other side says. On both sides, you’ll have members of the group who are willing to laugh at your jokes just to count you in their number or willing to hold your hand to get minimal effort from you while other members of the group don’t have time to stoke up your initial warmth into the fire of activism or gasp in consternation while leaping to alleviate your dismay. Such an obvious fact can’t have escaped your notice.

I find the concepts of privilege, JAQing off, and “shut up and listen” quite effective when I choose to use them. And I do choose. I don’t go with a shorthand like “intent isn’t magic” until a person who’s caused harm has it explained and answers, not with an apology/acknowledgement, but with an “OK, but you know, I didn’t mean it that way. You’ve got to give me credit.” I’ll give credit as in “You really stepped in it, but that was a quick and gracious apology.” Telling the one harmed that we need to take a serious moment to make the (claimed) oblivious one feel warm and fuzzy? Nope.

Most of the time that people object to the shorthands in a blanket manner, they reject the concept entirely OR are expressing that they don’t trust the one using the shorthand. You can debate the rejection of the concept. If you don’t reject the concept, you have no right to call yourself open-minded if you’re declaring an entire group using the concept untrustworthy with it.

Todd Akin, for example, is a man who has the privilege of not having to worry about pregnancy after being raped. It may have been reinforced by his privilege of being ignorant through Christian dogma, but I’d say not having the ability to become pregnant at all counted most. Is that concept of privilege debatable to you, or do you not trust those who use that concept?

Now, Todd Akin will not shut up and listen because he’s already set on his side, even though his privileged stupidity has cost him—and others who align with him—mightily.

One actively pro-choice but ignorant on this topic would would shut up and listen. He may end up mortified that he was so ignorant, and that’s not a good feeling, but since he knows which side he’s on, he’s not swayed to the other side even if a woman’s telling him sharply that delivering his ignorant-ass information will cause harm to some raped women who do become pregnant. He also risks more active enmity from all pro-choicers if he wants to argue the point. Someone ignorant about a goal he believes worthwhile is happier in the long run when his ignorance is relieved.

That leaves fence-sitters. I’m sorry to be the one to tell you, but they’re a drain. Those who are against us watch in lazy satisfaction as some of the picket-perched number do their heavy lifting through JAQing off, nitpicks, just being a devil’s advocate here propositions, and you could have ME on your side if you were just nicer plaints. Hell, sometimes they even imitate the FSers or steal their arguments because they’ve made it easy to get a wedge in some places. The more drumbeaters, the louder and longer the din, after all.

Fence-sitters also distract us from working with those allies firmly on our side through calls for “cookies” for even simple acts of decency and there, there, we know you didn’t mean it pats on the head for good intentions after actually listening enough to realize there’s been a foot put wrong. Fence-sitters who complain to us are the moderate white liberal from Dr. King’s Letter from the Birmingham Jail. We often point out that they seldom turn around and complain just as often at the other side, and the hurt feelings come out again as “Well, we thought you would listen to us!” FSers who call “a plague on both your houses” are like the xkcd comic with the last line “Well, the important thing is that you’ve found a way to feel superior to both.”

Oh, there will be plenty who will hold hands and gently teach FSers the 101 course. But I don’t know why you think every person working toward a goal wants to take the time to entice fence sitters. Even hand-holders among us more admire people who’ll show the gumption to get off the damned fence by themselves because the work, the goal, is right. Not everyone cares what causes fence-sitters to be “dismayed” or to what they claim to have been “initially warm.” Plenty can hear that kind of language as more akin to a manipulation than a negotiation, and it leave us cold.

We don’t sit on the fence about it. If you leave us alone, we leave you alone. If you organize conferences to fit your goals, have at it; we won’t tweet the WBC about ‘em. If you go active against us, we’ll determine logically that you’ve moved from fence sitting to opposition and act accordingly. Sitting on a fence may provide a lofty perch, but I’ve never known it to advance anyone anywhere.

#43 Pitchguest (Guest) on Saturday May 18, 2013 at 9:49pm

Ichtyic:

now, why does this sound like a rape apologist saying “the bitch deserved it! Just look at that short dress!”

you sir, are entirely clueless and pathetic.

Beats me. Maybe you should get that checked out.

#44 athyco (Guest) on Saturday May 18, 2013 at 10:29pm

Pitchguest:
Once upon a time, William Dembski twitted Richard Dawkins about having The Blasphemy Challenge reproduced on his website and challenged him to disown it.

Part of Richard Dawkins’ reply was as follows:

I hadn’t listened to any of them before you raised the matter. I have now done so, and I must say I find them more charming than offensive. They mostly seem rather nice young people, and they are doing their bit, in their own lively and entertaining way, to raise consciousness and set an example to their peers. I am especially pleased to note how young they are, for organized atheists have, until recently, been noticeably and discouragingly grey-headed. I think we may be witnessing the beginnings of a shift in the tectonic plates of our Zeitgeist. I am delighted to see so many young Americans taking part, in a way that suits their age group better than mine or yours.”

Someday he may just acknowledge other shifts in the tectonic plates of our Zeitgeist. But if you wish to claim that one will find put downs along these same lines of Jen McCreight’s ideas and assertions, then I’d suggest that you scan over the 5 pages that come up when you type “Jen McCreight” into the search bar at the Slymepit.

#45 Nobody (Guest) on Saturday May 18, 2013 at 10:54pm

>Todd Akin, for example, is a man who has the privilege of not having to worry about pregnancy after being raped.

You have so thoroughly cheapened the word “privilege” that it no longer has any meaning at all.

In fact, the way you lot use “privilege” is the way Catholics use “sin”. How is it a privilege to not have to worry about pregnancy—after being raped? Tell me how that is some kind of special advantage. What, because men have it less worse than women? It’s still sexual violence. Are you being facetious? I honestly can’t tell. And if you genuinely do regard that as a “privilege”, you reveal so much about yourself.

There is no hope for you. Perhaps if you’d shut up and listen…

#46 M. A. Melby on Saturday May 18, 2013 at 11:07pm

In reference to the OP.

The quote by Myers is talking about how someone shouldn’t define someone’s experience FOR them and acknowledge when someone else knows something that you don’t…and perhaps even can’t, because there is no WAY of knowing.

A good example is when people try to explain that because “retard” has a meaning other than “retarded person” that therefore nobody should get offended by the use of the word “retard” as an insult.

This asinine argument has been used with me more than once. 

Certainly those people should probably shut the hell up and consider that other people exist who actually have different perspectives and experiences than they do.

Not every communication is an argument.  Sometimes people actually just share their experiences and observations.

For example, I know EXACTLY what it is like to be a white woman who grew up in an isolated rural area and pursued a career in STEM; because I’m a white woman who grew up in an isolated rural area and pursued a career in STEM.

If I were to talk about my experiences and explain: HEY this is my perspective.  That wouldn’t be up for argument.

We’re getting this bizarre situations where people are being asked to *defend* their first-hand experiences like they are making *arguments*.

“Invoking their racial/sexual/ethnic/class identity, whatever it might be, is not considered a substitute for argument.”

How about perhaps they know more about being who they are than you do - so if they are explaining that to you, maybe you shouldn’t be talking back to them and just take in the information being provided by a primary source.  That is REALLY all that quote from PZ Myers said.

And, I’m sorry, but it IS infuriating that - after the absolute intense BS that some of the women in the skeptics movement have endured; just bat-shit amazing constant repulsive PERSONAL attacks; complaining about THAT quote from PZ as some sort of notable silencing tactic is….there are no words….I’m just speechless.

#47 athyco (Guest) on Sunday May 19, 2013 at 12:31am

In fact, the way you lot use “privilege” is the way Catholics use “sin”.

Hmmmm.  All are born with original privilege.  No, I don’t use it that way. That was a venial privilege, not a cardinal privilege.  No, not that way either. Everyone privileges, we are all privilegers in the eyes of God. Nope,I can’t think of a single way in which I use “privilege” the way a Catholic uses “sin.”

I’d say I use it in a humanist way: we’re all human beings influenced by the societies in which we live. If the system of that society has a flaw that produces a privilege for some others, I should recognize when such a flaw works to my benefit. The many axes of benefit/harm mean I have intersectionality of privilege to consider.

How is it a privilege to not have to worry about pregnancy—after being raped? Tell me how that is some kind of special advantage.

Well, one type of special advantage is in immunity from a harm. Being pregnant when you don’t want to be is a harm. Oh, hell, there’s no one who says “I can’t get pregnant so it’s no harm no foul that I was raped,” but having that harm not even capable of appearing on the list of harms done to you is an immunity.

‘Nother example. Last summer, I, as an edging-into-elderly white woman, was pulled over at 3:47 a.m. on the interstate because my tag light was out on my 1997 sedan. I fit the immediate parameters for people running drugs—old, roomy, non-flashy car you wouldn’t care about if confiscated; on the road in the middle of the night; going a “safe” 5 mph over the speed limit; a violation that might indicate the trunk wiring was fouled up due to a shifting cargo where it shouldn’t be…so a state trooper took the opportunity to light me up.

Now, that 1997 sedan also had a busted a/c unit, so I was driving at night to avoid the worst July heat in Alabama. Besides having my windows down, I’d also taken off my shirt so I was driving along in my bra and shorts. The officer was at my window so quickly after I pulled over that I didn’t have time to put my shirt back on. He never blinked. Just told me that my tag light was out, get it fixed as soon as I could, have a nice night, and he was gone.

My age, sex, and color all worked together to give me immunity from anything more. My long-haired, mid-twenties nephew had offered me his seat in his dad’s air conditioned car while he drove my car hundreds of miles in the heat. No one who heard my story thought it would have ended the same way if I’d agreed and he had been the one pulled over. I had immunity due to the trooper’s assumptions upon seeing me.

What, because men have it less worse than women? It’s still sexual violence.

No, I never came close to intimating that men who experience sexual violence have it less worse, but the assault alone didn’t make up the full parameters of the topic. Akin’s comments were about “legitimate rape,” remember? About a woman’s body having ways to shut that whole thing down? That’s ridiculously ignorant biologically. With the number of women in the US (including Catholic women) who use hormonal birth control, I’m sure that a great majority of Republican women aren’t that ignorant. After the Cleveland kidnap story in which one of the women was starved and beaten to bring on multiple miscarriages, I certainly hope that even Todd Akin might get a clue.

Are you being facetious? I honestly can’t tell. And if you genuinely do regard that as a “privilege”, you reveal so much about yourself.

Then I will tell you: no, I’m not being facetious. Todd Akin had already told voters that he’d vote to block insurance companies paying for hormonal birth control. He stood against abortion in all cases, even rape and incest. He was leading in the polls against Claire McCaskill; his party had thrown plenty of money his way because—even though she thought him barmy enough to be her weakest opponent—they saw him as capable of defeating her. I thought him possibly pandering to a religious right base, but he proved that he is a deep drinker of the kool-aid in his own right.

I can’t imagine that he didn’t have staffers and party pols discussing talking points with him. They just didn’t go down this rabbit hole deep enough to know he believed something as nonfactual and harmful. They may have heard him say something like it to religious, Republican-friendly crowds and thought, “Well, like Romney with his 47%, he knows just to say that to his base.” But they were wrong—he believed it deeply enough to say it for full public consumption.

Until it was broadcast, he was immune from the backlash of an ignorance that was harmful to others. And until it was broadcast, he was on the verge of becoming a US senator who could propose and vote on laws about birth control and abortion for the next six years. Now, I already said that there were other tie-ins that put him in that position, but do you truly think that he—getting as far as he’d gotten in public life, supposedly smart enough to legislate for the nation—would be that ignorant of the workings of a uterus if he’d had one for the 65 years of his life?

There is no hope for you. Perhaps if you’d shut up and listen…

Perhaps. You’ve asked me questions, though, so perhaps you’re more hopeful for me than your words convey.

#48 Dave Allen (Guest) on Sunday May 19, 2013 at 1:43am

Athyco - I didn’t suggest I was the only one - so I don’t see how your screed applies to me.

#49 athyco (Guest) on Sunday May 19, 2013 at 2:39am

I didn’t suggest I was the only one - so I don’t see how your screed applies to me.

Neither did I suggest that you suggested that you were the only one. The concept of a single fence sitter in this arena is ludicrous. C’mon, I know that you know that I know there are far more fence-sitters out there than we ever hear of/from. Why else would I point out at least two types of comments from the ones we do hear from? Why else would we argue our points in a blog’s comment section? Unless you have been working maniacally as the world’s best sockpuppeteer, the fence-sitters have even infiltrated the lurkers!

Who knows? There may be a fence-sitter reading this now who’s thinking “I don’t like athyco’s comment. Too cheeky. I’m going to the other side now.”

Yet another might like what I had to say and begin commenting to support like-minded blog posts or something. Yay!

A couple more might comment here to chide either you or me, cementing their fence-sitter cred. (I don’t consider anonymous @45 a fence-sitter. Too vague what with “it no longer has any meaning at all” without providing a definition so that my examples fall outside it, and with “you reveal so much about yourself” without a hint of what’s been revealed.

Oh, and far too dismissive with “There is no hope for you.” A real fence-sitter wouldn’t want me to think I couldn’t make a catch, maybe with some different bait.)

Was it in the last couple of paragraphs when I went from third person “they” to the second person “you”? That was a matter of convenience. You do know that “you” is both singular and plural? Just imagine the words “fence-sitters” as an appositive behind each “you.”

#50 Nobody (Guest) on Sunday May 19, 2013 at 2:40am

Athyco: “Privilege” and “Sin” are used in a similar manner: to engender a feeling of guilt in the target. Don’t pretend that it has never been used this way, many people who call themselves Radical Feminists do this. It’s a way to get someone to shut their mouth because, it is implied, they aren’t allowed to have an opinion on the topic in question. They have “privilege”, vaguely defined, never concretely pinned on them in a solid way.

>one type of special advantage is in immunity from harm

That is stretching so far that I can hear the sound of tendons snapping. How are we to disabuse men of the privilege of not being able to bear children from rape? A privilege is something you do not need; in this case, using the word is ridiculous. Substituting the phrase “special advantage” is dishonest: the implication of “privilege” remains.

>you car story

It’s at an officer’s discretion to issue a warning or a ticket in cases which are not serious violations. A busted light is not the end of the world. To use this as an example of societal privilege seems…I mean, I just don’t know how to respond to that. Moreover, it’s anecdotal. How do you know the officer wouldn’t have done the same for anyone else? You encountered this officer once. You haven’t a good metric to measure his enforcement history.

>Todd Akin

Akin is one of the most miserable men I have ever had the displeasure to hear about. He, Rick Perry, and Lamar Smith all need to be immediately ousted from their positions and disallowed any sway in the governing of anything more complicated than a coffee shop. How did they get elected? Easily: they pandered to an audience by telling them what they wanted to hear, in every case. In some cases, such as Akin’s, he was talking to religious people, who, we know, have a talent for believing incredibly silly things.

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