... get accused of “playing the victim card.” We get accused of making up the marginalization, or exaggerating it, or going out of our way to look for it, or twisting innocent events to frame them in this narrative of victimhood, or trying to manipulate people into giving us our way by scoring sympathy points we haven’t earned.If wish I could just agree and move on. Here's the part I do agree with. Yes, it's risky complaining about sexism. You can have a completely well-founded complaint, yet find things just getting worse if you complain. I've had this dilemma myself. Recently I was at a philosophy seminar and a male participant did something to me I considered sexist*. I thought about discussing the incident here or elsewhere, but complaining does tend to elicit skepticism. Are you sure you read that right? Are you being overly touchy? Complaining about sexism also seems to trigger outbursts of sexist rage in some quarters -- I'm talking about the secular blogosphere now. So you have to weigh your options before you complain. Sometimes you can't raise consciousness or rectify anything by complaining. Sad but true, and yes, that's frustrating.
Here's why I can't just agree with Greta Christina and move on. But first--a tad more expression of solidarity. Women need to stand up for each other at least in the sense of jointly acknowledging that there are still major problems for women in all sorts of contexts. There's something to the old lefty rule that you don't cross a picket line. Questioning Greta Christina here is a bit like crossing the feminist picket line...
But I have to do it. While it's frustrating that complaints are sometimes greeted with excessive skepticism and even sexist rage, it's certainly not true that everyone should take every complaint at face value. Sometimes people actually do exaggerate, misread situations, judge them by inappropriate standards, etc. Sometimes it's ambiguous or debatable what qualifies as appropriate behavior in a certain situation. If I had talked about the incident in the seminar room at this blog, it wouldn't have been fair to expect universal assent. Right? Right!
If you read the rest of her post, you'll see Greta Christina is trying to use the Catch-22 theory to defuse criticism (from people the likes of me, in fact). That just doesn't work. Though it's generally true that complaints about sexism elicit excessive skepticism and criticism, any specific complaint does have to hold up under critical scrutiny. You can't write off your critics as just putting you under a frustrating Catch-22.
Bet you're curious about the incident in the seminar room! If I talk about it publicly I'm going to do it here. I'd urge women in the secular community to create a similar forum. It's a great way to amass a lot of data, and stop individual women from having to endure the sexist rage backlash. That's clearly a reality (if you follow these things, you'll know that's true), and nobody's exaggerating about it.
* I should clarify, to protect the innocent: the guilty party was not a member of my own department.