Thursday, 14 July 2016

Drowning in Hysteria

I am getting sick; tired; and sick and tired & sick and fucking tired of people who are trying to silence others. I am very hypocritical at times, I have a habit of seeing issues in very solid, black and white terms and it takes me a while to admit when I am wrong. But, I am proud to say that, even if it takes me time, I am almost always willing to listen to the other side.
I consider myself a skeptic, and it's only by testing my beliefs that I can expand my understanding. It's only by exposing myself to the opposing ideas that I can come to learn them in any way, and even if those ideas are wrong, through my understanding I can become more right. But, it seems that others don't seem to understand this . . . even if you are right, you should listen to the people that are wrong, because through their wrongness you can learn something.

The Word of the Day is: 'HYSTERIA'.

Hysteria /his'teareeə/ n. 1. Senseless emotionalism; emotional frenzy. 2. A mental disorder characterized by violent, emotional outbreaks, affecting sensory and motor functions.

I know this blog has become quite topical and reactionary lately, but I can't quite help it. I'm writing about what's on my mind, and THIS is on my mind.
See, not all that long ago, a sports commentator made a joke on the radio, and I need everyone to understand that this doesn't matter. It doesn't matter at all, because nothing in, of or about the joke even matters.
In essence, Eddie McGuire was chatting with some associates about a charity event called "Big Freeze at the G", where money is raised for Motor Neurone Disease by having people donate to see celebrities plunge into ice. In response, he said:
  "I reckon we should start a campaign or a one-person slide next year: Caroline Wilson. I'll put in the first donation, ten grand -make it twenty- And if she stays under, fifty."
Now, is this comment innocuous? Well, no. Because he went on to say they need to be careful, because the woman in question was "like a black widow" and everyone should stand around and bomb her. Now, this was a joke, but this was a joke at someone else's expense, and that is wrong. But, it's wrong because it's rude, there are friendly jives, roasting and jokes, but I think he took it too far. And since the man has a history of running his mouth off about people in ways that listeners find offensive, the issue is that this man is a bit of an insensitive prat, and someone really needs to tell him that he has some kind of problems dealing with the way he expresses himself, especially in regards to people he dislikes.

But people have been taking this comment, and claiming that the man was inciting domestic violence.

WHAT?! What the actual fuck, people?! No no no, I get that it can be stretched. Because domestic violence is part of the issues in regards to violence against women, and it is true that in this instance they were discussing committing violence against a person that is a woman.
But, whilst they were talking about violence against women, they weren't talking about violence against women. The actual subject of that conversation was not that they wished for a person to die by icy drowning, but that they all found certain aspects of that woman's character distasteful, and since her benefit results in their detriment, the inverse must be proportionally true. It's surprising that I have to get to this level of explaining how language works, but _here we are._

But, for context, Eddie McGuire is not married to this woman, he does not spend his time with her in his home, they are not even neighbours. The mere implication that his joke about drowning a co-worker is related to partner-on-partner violence is mind-bogglingly stupid. But even worse, in my eyes, it's incredibly sexist.
Because the only way to make that connection is to go:
Joke about drowning: Man hurt woman; Domestic Violence: Man hurt Woman, okay, yeah, same thing.
It is not the same thing; and implying that just because he has a cock and balls and she has tits, him joking to drown her is in any way related to a husband raping, hitting or verbally abusing his wife is disgusting, and if you think it does, you disgust me. I do not abide by sexism, and that is what this is.

But I'm not actually done, that alone was not what annoyed me. When I first heard that someone made a joke and people got offended, I just said "they're being silly" - because they are, Whilst the joke is rude, it's not offensive to me. It should be offensive to Caroline Wilson - because it was intended that way (it was rude) - but I don't see the need to be offended on her behalf, and in fact she has already responded, this is done in my opinion.
She came out to say that she expected an apology, and revealed that he was clearly vitriolic because she wrote a column saying he should implement a succession plan, because he said he considered leaving as President of Collingwood Football Club (after losing to Carlton one match), but she felt like he hadn't actually considered how the club would be run without him. In response, he made these cutting remarks.
This seems to confirm my suspicions that he does not know how to express his emotions in a positive way, showing a lack of professionalism, and he should apologize . . . and that's it, apologize, and maybe people should consider whether he knows how to conduct himself within the football organization, if he can't retort to a colleague suggesting he doesn't know when to quit.

So, problem solved, no drama . . . Eddie is still a dick, and Wilson clearly seems to be dealing with some office politics, but it's not a big deal.

Then . . . oh, and then, we're getting closer to the main event . . .
There is a commentator on television, his name is Steve Price. Now, Steve Price is also a bit of a dick, but I think he is good worth for television. And, he is good worth because whilst he is often pig-headed and brash, even seen as a bit of a shock jock on the radio presentation job which is his main profession, this isn't "Fox News". He is a media personality known for being conservative, opinionated, loud and decisive, but he is not unintelligent and he is not always wrong. In fact, his more conservative approach to some political issues is sometimes better than the alternative. Not always, not even the majority of the time, but sometimes he hits the nail on the head whilst the others are floundering around political correctness - for that reason, his input is valuable.
Now, he appeared on a show called Q&A [short for Questions and Answers, an interesting political program where any audience member can ask a Question, and a select panel of political, cultural and social celebrities; including politicians, scientists & experts (which rotates each week) give an Answer to those questions - it's an apt title. (and the presenter is well-versed at reigning in political waffling and shit-slinging, so it's good television)].
Now, during a recent episode of this show, broadcast on the 11th of July, an audience member referenced the aforementioned Eddie McGuire incident, and asked how politicians planned on addressing the cultural issues which allow domestic violence to happen.

Now, there are two things you need to know before we get into the meat of why I am so annoyed. Firstly, Steve responded to this question, much like I did. In a nutshell, he said: These people are wrong, all that was said was wrong and people defending what was said was wrong, they should have apologized and they did apologize. That being said, the media is sensationalizing this into a more than it is, it really was just some stupid blokes joking around on a football show, this has little to nothing to do with domestic violence.
So, I am biased towards him in this instance, because he agrees with my opinion. I don't agree with all of his views, I even feel that he wrongly said they apologized right away which is not the case, but on the face of what he said, I would have to agree.

Secondly, you need to know that the question itself was incredibly biased and in many ways emotionally loaded. I watched the episode in full, and rewatched the scene many times. The questioner was named Tarang Chawla, and his exact question was this:
  "Sam Newman has caused controversy yet again for defending Eddie McGuire who joked about drowning Caroline Wilson. I work as an ambassador for Our Watch, White Ribbon and The Safe Steps Family Violence Response Centre. Male violence is the leading cause of death and disability for women under 45 in Australia.
My sister Nikita was stabbed to death by her partner in January last year with a meat cleaver. She was 23.
How will politicians in the media play a better role in bringing about long overdue cultural shifts so tragedies like what happened to my family are not normalized?"

If I need to explain why this question was incredibly loaded, then I don't think you understand what that means.

In response, Steve answered as he did "this is overblown", but then a fellow panelist named Van Badham replied saying that Steve Price and his ilk were part of the problem, that by diminishing this issue down to "just a joke" they perpetuate the very culture that the questioner would seek to shift.
Steve responded to her saying that she was putting words in his mouth, told her she should retract her statement saying he was as bad as Eddie McGuire as he would never make such a joke.
When she reiterated that he was indeed part of the problem, and told him that he should have used this opportunity to speak out against domestic violence, rather than defend the speaker considering that he had just given an example of his sister being the victim of domestiv violence, he responded to her by saying that just because she was a woman, that didn't mean she was the only person upset by this.
To this, the audience gasped, because apparently this was an episode of Will & Grace, and I wasn't made aware of that fact . . .
She continued by saying that the issue was multi-faceted, and we needed to address the dichotomy between genders, and the negative stereotypes and presuppositions made of them.
To this, Steve said she was being hysterical.

I am a feminist, I believe in equality, I hate bigotry and sexism . . . but I 100% agree with Steve Price. Allow me to explain why . . .

That question, in itself, is a complicated little nugget, how do we bring about cultural shifts to avoid partner-on-partner violence?
But, it's based upon a faulty premise . . . the premise that this "drown my co-worker" situation is a part of a misogynistic culture. Now, do I think we are part of a Complicit Culture? Yes. (Complicit culture is a broader more fundamental, less confrontational notion of Rape Culture . . . I wrote a blog about it, read it at your leisure).
But, was Eddie McGuire's joke a part of Complicit Culture?
Well, no; to start with, I feel that Eddie's comments were not misogynistic. Whilst I can see that his comments could be indicative of a discriminatory mindset (he could joke about this with his male friends, but didn't address his female co-worker directly), and at a stretch could be seen as desensitizing people towards violence against women; I feel that our culture already responded. The media, commentators and the public (on social media) responded to this incident with a uniting "No Fucking Way, That's Not Okay".
Job Done. Drop it. Leave it alone. He was a dick, we told him to apologize . . . he did (some think it's not enough, but it's not their issue, it's Ms Wilson's). That's job done. Pack your bags, go home. Because our reaction to this issue was the right one. So, this situation was not indicative of that culture; in fact it represented a growing counterculture. Unfortunately, it represented it very poorly, because whilst it is good to respond to perceived implicit othering within the workplace, especially of the male dominated realm of football, we doused a matchstick with an ocean.

So, the question referencing this incident and saying "how do we stop this from happening in the future?" Well, we already did. We responded with overwhelming negativity to this incident, perhaps even too much, but this incident cannot be said to cause any domestic violence. If we encourage people to analyze their comments, and apologize when they are deliberately offensive, we create a self-conscious culture that will more readily analyze potential complicity in discriminatory attitudes. That is, in fact, the better answer to the question - that's how politicians should deal with it, by encouraging people to voice their disapproval for publicly displayed discrimination and gender-related offence.

Then why the severe reaction from the crowd? Well, because they'd been emotionally primed. I know this sounds insensitive, but that's because it is and it's a harsh fact, but that doesn't change the fact that is is indeed, a fact:
The hacking death of Nikita Chawla does not matter in regards to this question. That may seem heartless, but to be fair neither does the cancer-related death of David Bowie; the suicide of Robin Williams or the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.
See, these people are already dead. I am sorry that she died, I wish someone could have helped her before things got out of hand, and I wish someone could have helped her husband to deal with the mental and emotional issues that would lead him to violence, before anyone got hurt. But, we didn't . . . that's sad, but it doesn't really change the content of either the question or its answer.
Not only that, but I think that Nikita Chawla should be more than just a bullet-point in a question on a television show, used to guilt the panelists into feeling sorry for women. She's not just a horror story, she was a daughter, a sister and a friend, and I think it is disrespectful for her death to be used in that way.

Unfortunately, that seems to be Tarang's only schtick, since after the incident, he once again brought up his sister in an article claiming that Price had the option of either choosing to feel upset for those being demonized for telling sexist jokes, or he could be upset for victims, like his sister, of male-on-female violence. To this, I have only one thing to say:
Utilizing the death of a family member as a tool for you to feel more determined in your crusade is deeply disrespectful. Nikita never asked to be a martyr, and it's wrong to idolize her as one.

But the worst part? I'm still not done. That's not what infuriated me to the point of writing this article. Do you know what was? After all of this, Steve Price showed up on a low-quality tabloid news program called The Project where some of his coworkers asked for him to respond to the backlash against him on the Q&A program. On this program, he was able to reiterate his position without the need for panel discussion - he was the guest, the focus of the panel, so he was centre stage to present his point of view.
In that medium, he reiterated his points more considerately, saying that he in no way condoned the joke, he was not defending the person, and made it clear that he is an advocate for support of victims of domestic violence, and his statement that "men can be just as upset" was in regards to domestic violence as a whole, because of the implication and context of the response. This, I feel, was a great response. In the heat of the moment, it may have appeared that he was attacking Van Badham's gender, but he made it clear that he was not, he was merely trying to express his opinion. Steve Price is not a man known for being tactful, but this gave him the opportunity to clear up misunderstandings from that evening.

But then, oh and then, he was harassed by the panelists of The Project. They explained that because of the history of the word "hysterical" that his comment of her being hysterical was deeply sexist. Hysteria dose indeed come from the Greek hysterikós which meant "suffering in the womb", which was believed to be a mental affliction of women, wherein they became irrational and emotional because their uterus was unsettled.
His response was merely (and, I'm paraphrasing) "I don't know the historical context of that word. I'd refer to anyone - man or woman acting that way as hysterical".
This was the response he got, also paraphrased because I haven't managed to find video of this incident online:
"Steve, because of the historical context of that word, you can't use that word to speak out against women."
And because of that statement, I am VERY annoyed . . . Why?

It's not just because that is the most sexist thing I've heard all year.

I am a feminist because I believe in gender equality, we are equal in what we deserve, politically, economically, ethically and socially. Society, culture and language are all integrated, and whilst the content of words may refer to separate genders, there's no context for words to be used exclusively by either gender.
Are we segregating words, now? Giving words different definitions depending on whether men or women say them, or whom they say them about? Context is one thing, but this isn't context, it's discrimination, saying that a word cannot be used by men, despite the meaning of the word having evolved over time?

And it's not just because it lacked any sense of self-awareness.

Because, it is 100% clear that hysteria is exactly what is going on here. In this instance, Mass Hysteria, as the media is making a great deal out of what is essentially a football commentator being a moron, and the public has responded appropriately. I have included the definition, hysteria is exactly the response causing all this drama in the first place. That's why this is the word of the day, because the issue here is that everyone is acting hysterically - emotionally and irrationally - towards a controversial issue. And whilst I don't agree with the joke that was said, any rational person can tell that a simple apology is all that is required in this instance.

No, it's not those things, what bothered me was the bigotry.

I believe in Freedom of Speech. Because without the freedom to speak, it means some forms of speech (i.e. styles, forms, meanings or kinds of words), some forms of speaker (i.e. creeds, races, genders, classes or nations of people)  or some speaking forms (i.e. mediums, means, types or forums of idea) must be discriminated against; it means that they (unlike other forms of speech) are not given freedom. Whether we are witholding words, people or ideas; in order to do so, we must first judge which words, people or ideas are less deserving. In my experience, no one is qualified to be the judge of free speech. And because no one is qualified, any means to silence speech gives both the "preferred" speakers and the "unpreferred" speakers the ability to silence others.
But worse than that, is that I don't think anybody is unworthy of being heard. You don't know what a person is going to say until they say it, and even if a person is known for being stupid, they may say something smart (for example, Steve Price. Whilst he is often wrong, he is also occasionally right in ways other people would not as easily come up with). And, even if they say something stupid or wrong, that's no reason not to hear their words. Children, students and curious adults all say things which are wrong, but we don't disallow them from speaking, instead we just tell them why they are wrong. The only reason not to listen to someone is if they are saying the exact same wrong thing twice, but even then it doesn't mean they don't deserve to speak, just that they do deserve to listen. Because most of the time, when someone say something which is wrong twice, it is because someone saying why they were wrong was in some way silenced.
For a fantastic example, just see this: Famously, Bill Nye once debated Ken Ham on the subject of whether Creationism was a viable scientific model. In this conversation, Mr Ham did not learn much, and we know why, because he admitted that nothing could change his mind because he was "a Christian", he was deliberately not listening because he had an irrational belief which no rational belief could unseat. But through allowing open discourse on the subject, at the end of that debate, people were more educated. On an Evangelist news site Christian Today, 92% of the audience agreed with Bill Nye's position. Open and honest debate is good for everyone. Even when the speaker is admittedly bigoted and wrong, by allowing open discourse, you create a better culture.

But by going on and on and on, we actually come full circle. Because, by whining and whining and whining about it, the problem doesn't get any bigger, but the "solution" does, and when the solution becomes bigger than the problem, people start seeing the solution as the problem. Silencing people who are engaging in open conversation; labelling people as bigots unduly; complaining about the style rather than the substance of discussion & acting hysterical every time something bad happens.
This is the reason why so many people oppose feminism in the first place. It has become so bloated and aggressive and reactionary that people have started to counter it with their bullshit, as I've mentioned before.
But through all this, I remain a feminist. Firstly, because I still believe in quality. And secondly . . . well, I'll cover that in an upcoming post.

I'm the Absurd Word Nerd, and I hope you've learned something from this post. But if you haven't, or even if you disagree, the worst thing you could do is tell others they're not allowed to read it.