Splain it to Me

{{Title link: https://status451.com/2016/01/06/splain-it-to-me/ }}




Wow. This is a truly excellent work of Rationalist Social Justice. Status 451 may have just redeemed itself in my eyes.

(Also, I had no idea just how deeply I’d internalized the “nerd model” of communication. Not even just with other people; my internal monologue consists largely of me Taymonsplaining things to myself. Including while reading this article.)

This makes a ton of sense to me. The whole concept that “privileged people” are not supposed to correct “marginalized people” makes me instinctively feel like people are trying to avoid intellectual discussion and trying to evade defending their perspective or ideas. Which bothers me in part because I don’t want to be taken less seriously BECAUSE I’m marginalized – I’m concerned I’ll be dismissed as a politikid if I talk about it at all.

Where to them it might be more like “we don’t have the advantage of a whole long field of study with far-reaching traditions, but that doesn’t make my perspective invalid. Please take seriously the idea that a different way of thinking about that might make sense.”

The opening section about New York listening is a great explanation of competing access needs. 

And, yeah, I feel like different communication norms is a part of what’s going on in peoples’ reactions to learning ‘don’t correct marginalized people’.  To people like me who feel infinitely more comfortable with the information model of communication, “don’t correct marginalized people” almost comes across as “exclude marginalized people: cut them off from the flow of ideas and corrections and debates and redefinitions”. When a conversation is almost entirely about corrections and counter-corrections and reframings, “don’t argue with people” means “don’t take their ideas seriously”. 

Just like if you told the New Yorker “don’t interrupt me while talking”, they might think you mean “don’t behave in a way distinguishable from a flowerpot” and decide you don’t actually care about them as a listener. 

For people coming from a different communicative context, though, “don’t correct marginalized people” means “when people correct me, it’s almost always to assert the worthlessness of my ideas, not to engage with them. I don’t expect, when I’m corrected, that we’ve embarked on a back-and-forth of refining ideas; I expect that you’re corralling excuses to dismiss me. I can’t override this expectation (and it’s usually warranted, anyway) so if you want to actually hear my ideas communicated and fully realized, don’t offer your objections and disagreements and thought experiments. Doing that doesn’t include me, even if it is how you always communicate.”

…huh. I’m having a lot of trouble trying to map this article’s descriptions to my own life, because to me, the defining experience of navigating social-justice culture is constantly perceiving status games that nobody else would admit to seeing and that may not even have existed. (Seeing everything in terms of hierarchies and commands is what They do, after all. We are better than that. (Not that anyone would phrase it in quite that way, of course.)) I have had conversations that I perceived as an exchange of carefully veiled insults and insinuations that the other person should be outcast, and that I suspect (but am not certain) the other person perceived as friendly conversation about, say, the downsides of cleverness-based power fantasies. I have had so many conversations that I suspect the other person perceived as commiserating and that I perceived as them presenting their credentials and demanding to inspect mine.

I feel better around rationalists not because they lack hierarchical thinking but precisely because they acknowledge it. In general, they tend to recognise when things they say might be interpreted as orders and are careful to make it clear when things are not orders. And if it’s not clear, *it is permitted to ask for clarification on whether something was an order*. I use such extreme emphasis because it’s very, very important. Thinking in terms of “mandatory” and “permitted” and “forbidden” (rather than “right” and “okay” and “wrong”) isn’t itself forbidden here! I actually feel reasonably confident that you won’t jump all over me for writing this post! (Slightly less confident than I was before you reblogged this, but still enough that I’m willing to post it.) I don’t know whether you understand how huge a relief that is.


#not only am I reasonably confident people from the rationalist-sphere won’t jump on me for writing this #I am even cautiously optimistic some of them might stand up for me if somebody *else* jumps on me #which in the end is the deciding factor in pressing ‘reblog’ rather than ‘close’ #reply via reblog #my issues with sj let me show you them #(the following category tag was added retroactively:) #our roads may be golden or broken or lost

3 thoughts on “Splain it to Me

  1. Pingback: Brinens and Things
  2. Pingback: Brinens and Things

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