Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Why I Don't Look to Win Net Arguments

This is a guest post from Sparky, of Spark in Darkness.  Many of you are  familiar with him from Livejournal, as well as from his insightful and often hilarious commentary here. Each Tuesday, Womanist Musings will be featuring a post from Sparky.

There are a large number of people on the internet who believe they have won lots of social justice arguments against me – especially when it comes to homophobia.

And this surprises Beloved, it does, for he has yet to outmanoeuvre me when I blame him for, well, absolutely everything I can :) (because that's loooove). He will even lament about how I will even replay past arguments in case I feel he hasn't been hailed my rightness sufficiently.

This is because tormenting Beloved is a fun sport of which I am an international gold medal holder.

So why on the net are there all these victorious arguers? Well, because I don't really argue on the net. Most of the times when someone drops prejudiced bigot shit on my screen I wince, make a note to treat that space accordingly and tread carefully should I ever go back there. Occasionally I'm invested enough in a space or person – or it's my space – to engage the fail and resist it. Sometimes it's just vile and I feel I have to comment because if I don't I feel I've endorsed or accepted what has been said. So I comment.
And there's a response, usually as bad or worse. In naïve hope I respond and try again. Usually it's pretty clear that I'm just repeating myself, giving myself a massive headache and generally achieving nothing so...

I just leave.

I have a limited amount of time, energy and mental strength. If a conversation isn't going anywhere, if I can see nothing productive coming of it then I stop trying and leave. If I'm just swimming around in the cesspit with no real hope of cleaning it then I get out. There's no benefit at all in my continuing to swim in shit. There's no advantage to my bashing my head against a brick wall. If I want to do that I have relatives and work colleagues who would be more than happy to oblige – and with them I have a much stronger reason to dive into THAT cesspit since I have to deal with these people on a regular basis.

I have to deal with them –  so why would I seek out extra online? Or prolong a “conversation”  past the time it has reached that point? I can do that with my nearest and not-so-dearest, I don't have to seek extra headaches, really, I have enough.

And of course, they think they've won – because they've got the last word and driven me off. Which says a lot about why they were arguing in the first place – because it was a game, it was about winning, not about whether someone is hurt or not, or whether something

But I do wonder why these people do argue, sometimes. Because I am amazed, truly amazed, at the time and effort people will put in to defend prejudice and bigotry or to be able to perpetuate it. Even simple things like the use of a slur, or insisting that it's ok to call me something I've expressly asked them not to – such little things, such simple things – but you still have to fight for them, still have to argue them.

And I wonder sometimes, when these people crow about their victories, or decide they need to spend a solid 10 minutes in RL or hours online to justify any bigotry –  ANYTHING, no matter how simple or severe – do they realise how much it costs? How much it hurts? The effort and energy this causes? But they expect us to argue? And they're smug because we finally refuse to throw more energy and pain down the pit? We owe them this and for what? Their entertainment? Their amusement?

Nope, I'm not going to stay and fight – because while they may crow about winning, there is no victory here for me. My 'victory' is greater awareness of prejudice and a lessening of bigotry – and there's such a lot of it out there I rarely see it – and I'm certainly not seeing that in a long, painful argument where someone claims “victory” because I “run away” or block them.