Diversity Kills Inclusion

6 Jan

Diversity Kills Inclusion

Obviously, a lot of people are going to disagree,  Usual commenting rules apply.

This is a bit of a ramble, but bear with me a little.

What do men (and women) want from marriage?

The simplest answer is sex, but – sooner or later – sex palls.  The more accurate answer is that men (and women) want to be comfortable.  They want to come home to a safe place – a safe space – where they are accepted for what they are, where they don’t have to keep their shields up and phasers set to stun and so on and so on.  Indeed, if you think about it, most of the stereotypes about bad husbands and wives revolve around people who made their partners uncomfortable (by cheating, by overspending, by being lax or nagging or … (etc)).  People want a safe place and if they don’t get it, they get annoyed and start looking somewhere else.

Now, what does this have to do with fandom?

One of the best explanations of fandom is that it is a ‘safe space’ for people who weren’t very popular anywhere else.  The nerds, the geeks, the people who played D&D when the [insert long rant about jocks and mean girls here] were marginalised everywhere else, so they built fandom so they’d have a place of their own.  Like all such communities, it grew in ways its creators – insofar as it had creators – didn’t anticipate.  Now, science-fiction and fantasy fandom can be divided into two separate factions, as outlined by this post:

First, a faction that prioritises acceptance over politeness.

Second, a faction that prioritises politeness over acceptance.

At their extremes, both factions are dangerous.  The first faction finds itself defending the undefendable, such as Walter Breen, and – in doing so – sacrifices its moral authority.  The second faction finds itself punishing the socially inept, often over more socially adapt wrongdoers who are either capable of presenting themselves in a good light or possessing attributes that make it harder to conceptualise opposition (such as Requires Hate).  In doing do, it sacrifices its moral authority too.  Thus we have the first faction branded as witting hosts to racists (etc) and the second faction branded as humourless wokescolds who just won’t stop nagging and shut up.

Both factions have a tendency to make people uncomfortable, but the second is considerably worse.  Why?  Because the definition of something that needs to be punished – i.e. impoliteness – keeps changing.

I may be socially awkward, but even I know there are some things that give offense … and quite reasonably too.  No one will fault someone for complaining they were called a n***** or a b**** or h**** or whatever.  If someone goes to a convention, gets wildly drunk, gropes everyone within reach and generally makes a complete ass of himself, I wouldn’t fault the convention for not inviting him back.  And I wouldn’t fault other conventions for taking note of his behaviour and saying ‘no, we’re not taking a chance on him.’ 

The problem with the second faction, however, is that it’s hard to know what’s considered offensive ahead of time.

What started this train of thought was skimming through lists of links I’d saved over the last year, including a number concerning the incidents prior to Worldcon 76.  (There are links here, here and here, plus plenty more – fair warning, most of them have an axe or two to grind.)

The basic facts of the first incident, or at least the ones everyone seems to agree on, are that non-binary writer and editor Bogi Takács was given the wrong pronoun by the convention staff.  Takács uses e/em/eir/emself  – or singular they – for his pronouns.  And what struck me, the first time I heard of the affair, was that I’d never heard of anyone using such pronouns until now.  As a couple of other commenters pointed out, it’s quite likely that the convention staff copied the bio, ran a spell check when they’d finished compiling the document and changed the pronouns without realising they weren’t a spelling mistake.  (My MS Word seems to think that em/eir/emself is wrong.)

Now, this is the kind of error that creeps in all the time.  I’ve had my name misspelled quite a few times.  I don’t blame Takács for being annoyed.  But it’s also the sort of error that can be corrected with a simple email.  People tend to respond better to a polite request to change things than they do to public humiliation.  If you lash out at someone, particularly for a mistake others can make easily, you run the risk of making yourself look bad and/or unreasonable.  On the other hand, if you give someone a chance to fix their error, you make yourself look reasonable (and if they refuse to fix the mistake, you can – reasonably – make a fuss about it.)

So, you ask, what’s the point?

The problem with diversity sensitivity training is that it draws attention to differences between people.  It draws lines between groups of people.  Worse, it puts you in the wrong for offending someone from a different group, even when you honestly never meant to offend them.  There are, for example, words in UK English that are quite offensive in US English.  I’ve had editors point them out to me.  But if someone took offense, they’d be taking offense at something I never meant to do.  I’d see them as the villains.  I’d have stepped on a landmine I didn’t know existed until it was too late.

Going back to the two fandom factions, the first faction understands that it’s easy to make a faux pas.  The second faction, however, has no such understanding.  It demands punishment and is merciless to anyone who argues for simple human decency.  And that makes people scared to step out of line.  If they don’t know what’s likely to cause a tempest in a teapot, how can they keep from starting one?  And this, in turn, tends to poison people against inclusion.  They’re scared to be inclusive because, the more people they include, the greater the chance of stepping on one of those landmines.   They are not comfortable.

Indeed, this attitude can be seen everywhere these days.  From one point of view, this is outrageous.  From another, it’s simple self-defence.  When you think your fellows don’t have your back, when you think you won’t get a fair trial if you make a minor faux pas, you cover yourself as much as possible.  And if this means not opening up your community, well … so what?  You want to be comfortable.

The more diverse a community becomes, be it fandom or something larger, the more tolerant people need to become.   There must be an understanding that people make mistakes.  There must be steps taken to prove that someone acted out of malice, rather than simple ignorance or being pressed for time or something along those lines.  And if relatively minor mistakes are fatal, there’s a strong incentive right there to refuse to admit fault and change.  A great many problems, these days, exist because someone could not afford to admit they were wrong. 

And if we don’t find a way to live together, we’ll wind up tearing ourselves apart.

13 Responses to “Diversity Kills Inclusion”

  1. Bill SULLIVAN January 6, 2020 at 8:29 pm #

    I couldn’t agree more. Today we all are in fear of saying the wrong thing unintentionally and being branded a hater. Common sense is long gone and to many people look for hidden meanings or deeper thoughts than what is simply said or written. Sometimes the simplest explanation is the correct one.

  2. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard January 6, 2020 at 8:52 pm #

    Worse IMO is the growing mind-set of “if you do something unacceptable years ago” (even if it was OK at the time) you have committed an Unforgiveable Offense and must be banned.

    Heck, even the accusation is enough. IE No need to find out what the person actually said or did.

    Of course, in some cases the “offense” is imaginary or based on the accusers mistaken on the facts. IE The accused “said/wrote” something that the accuser thinks is racist but the accused has the “facts on his/her side”.

    But then there was the YA author who made the mistake of having slavery in her imaginary society but the slaves weren’t Black and the slavers weren’t White. IE Only Blacks were enslaved and Only Whites enslave people (in the minds of the accusers).

    • TINLA January 8, 2020 at 8:31 pm #

      I don’t know of a lot of instances where a behavior used to be more acceptable, the accused apologized and changed their behavior, but they were still canceled. Unless sexual assault used to be OK??? Not in my view, but maybe others feel differently.

      One instance though, that I think illustrates what you are talking about is the director of Guardians of the Galaxy being let go over inflammatory tweets despite apologizing and also having changed his behavior for years and years already. Are there other examples you can think of?

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard January 8, 2020 at 8:49 pm #

        There was a case recently where a writer was accused of writing a “racist” book years ago.

        The problem was that the book wasn’t apparently racist then and even now there’s questions about “how racist” it actually is.

        Of course, while sexual assault has never been Good, I suspect it would be easy to take out of context a conversation between two friends (male & female) that would be considered “sexual harassment” now.

        IE Something that the woman in question never took seriously could be used to bash the man in question.

        For that matter, we had a man accused of attempted rape while in High School with no supporting evidence and no evidence of committing “sexual assault” (or even “sexual harassment”) as an adult and people were calling him a dangerous Sexual Predator.

        On the other hand, that case could be seen as a Political Attack. Nothing more nothing less.

  3. Bob January 6, 2020 at 9:25 pm #

    When did society become a “Guilty unless proven innocent “ one??

  4. PhilippeO January 7, 2020 at 4:01 am #

    I think the problem is There Are No More Authority.

    In the past, if people make sin, they go to priest, make confession, make restitution, punished by something, usually have to make pilgrimage, then their apology got accepted.

    People can be in disfavor or in favor of the King in Royal Court

    . in many places there “Boss”, “Big Men”, or “Grand Damme” , formal and informal, who can decide if someone is in favor, disgraced, or be accepted back in polite society.

    in modern society, especially in Internet, there are no one “in charge”, “having clout” or powerful enough to make their will be known and accepted. Even Author can be rejected by their own fandom.

    ” Because the definition of something that needs to be punished – i.e. impoliteness – keeps changing.”

    These always True. Look at story of Medieval and Renaissance Court. Look at fashion of “polite society” in Victorian/Georgian era. Look at modern high school.

    People can be condemned for “inappropriate behaviour” for something minor, While other people not condemned despite Scandal. definition of “slutty” dress or behaviour keep changing. Respectable Fashion constantly changing. What can be considered “pious” change depend on times.

    Major differences in modern era is not on what behaviour demanded, but in the past there always group of powerful men in hereditary families who can control who “in” and “out”. In modern era, no one is in charge.

    Without Elite, there can be only mob.

  5. Scott Osmond January 7, 2020 at 2:39 pm #

    Our chosen pronoun is lord and master and we are to be addressed in the third person. Most people who do this sort of thing are using this as a trap so they can cause outrage. When I was young prepubescent I was mistaken on the phone to be my mum. Being normal I corrected the person, she apologised and we moved on. If you set out to be an arsehole don’t be surprised when you are treated as such. Inclusiveness means as long as you agree with us, like the things and people we like and hate the things and people we hate you are included. Stray even one little bit and the knives come out. Romance writers of America over the last couple of weeks is a prime example. Keywords like inclusive, diverse and chosen pronouns are all warning signs of a sick organisation or company.

  6. Conrad C Bassett Jr. January 8, 2020 at 12:56 pm #

    The basic problem isn’t diversity. It is a fundamental failure to accept reality. We have always had diversity. The issues of oppression and the white washing of the truth creates the dynamics of today. This creates the two major factions under discussion. In this discussion that is a fallacious argument because you have lumped people into us versus them ignoring the people in the middle.

  7. gbarbay00 January 10, 2020 at 7:00 am #

    You got it right in one, as usual, Chris. My only further comment on this topic is apologies and a big tip of the hat to John Cleese, Terry Gilliam and the rest of the gang…

    We apologize to the woke individuals whose feelings were hurt. Those responsible have been sacked.

    We apologize again for those woke individuals who were triggered and had their feelings hurt by having been exposed to seeing the other woke individuals having their feelings hurt. Those responsible for sacking the people who have just been sacked have also been sacked.

    The directors of the firm hired to provide safe spaces for woke individuals who were feeling offended because their feelings were hurt after the other people had been sacked, wish it to be known that they have just been sacked.

    • Robert Kaliski January 10, 2020 at 10:25 pm #

      We need a modified Miranda warning for anyone who thinks about speaking out in public.

      You have a right to remain silent about your opinion.

      If you do speak anything can and will be used in the court of public opinion against you.

      You have no right to an attorney. Only guilty people need lawyers.

      If you are still stupid enough to insist on one, a totally inept attorney will be provided to ensure your rapid conviction.

      • Bob January 10, 2020 at 11:46 pm #

        But everyone is presumed guilty until proven innocent..What kind of attorney do they get??

  8. Guy Marc GAGNÉ January 11, 2020 at 12:58 am #

    Ultimately we are confronted by the perpetual debate over what is morally/ethically/socially correct or not according to ever changing conventions!
    Where it gets completely maddening is how some miscreants have the temerity to unearth a scribble from eons ago and castigate its author using the flavour of the day as yardstick!
    Personally, I abhor the current political correctness overkill, I am all for not being offensive when avoidable, but really, one’s damn near compelled to carry a lexicon to try and figure out how to address he she it, or whatnot! That is in my humble opinion nonsensical.
    I strive to adhere to a few motos and a couple of maxims.

    KISS : Keep It Simple Stupid
    KYS : Know Your S..t
    CYA : Cover Your A..

    Cogito Ergo Sum & Honi Soit Qui Mal Y Pense

    The first uttered by a French philosopher & the latter by an English King

    I have no illusions as to my ” godliness ”, as I remain terribly flawed.
    I do however tend to place greater emphasis upon intellect than flavour of the day fashions!

    That said, marriage is for many a social contract necessary to fulfill a evolutionary need, genetic replication/propagation is an overpowering componction for many. Quite aside from the age old social/religious obligations relating to descendance and inheritance.

    As we are all agreed, linear thought is ill adapted to our modern multicultural world view.
    So go forth one and all, do your damned best and deal with the thought challenged plebes in as stoically possible a way you can manage!

  9. dspring January 13, 2020 at 4:29 pm #

    Going to approach this differently. Every society has a social code that is generally invisible to the members of that society, but that code exists and is enforced by social rules, manners and customs. Ask any traveler from a different part of the world and they can always tell you interesting things about “your” social rules.

    I think we are hardwired to do this — and because of that hard-wiring it usually works pretty well. At least in smaller groups like small communities, companies, extended families or local fan groups.

    Today is different. So much social interaction is tangential. You have multiple idependent social groups, each around a theme/activity/venue/location. For most of them, there is not time to establish common social rules because your interaction is episodic and focused around a narrow theme.

    Take Chris’s example – a convention. A lot of the people in a convention are very familiar with each other. They attend multiple years and have well established relationships with others who attend the convention. But a lot of people are occasional visitors or visitors from other parts of the country/world. They have a common relationship with “fandom”, but are not in a familiar social relationship with most of the other people at the con. But because of that shared fandom, everybody feels at home and better enjoys the experience.

    Now if this was a international conference that brought strangers together, everybody would know that the social rules are not set. Most people would bend over backwards to avoid offense or show tolerance simply because there is not a common social rule. You suspend judgement consciously.

    But with a Con, everybody enters in feeling that they have a common shared social connection — fandom. There is a host of commonly shared social experiences and often a shared culture to fans. Everybody, at least unconsciously, feels that they share that common understanding of how we interact with each other. This is “their” social group.

    But that is as much illusion as fact. So you get situations like Chris described where someone blows up that they were treated in X way — because in “their” social circles, “X” is a serious social offense. So they act to enforce the social bonds – and things blow up into controversy. Because the fans at the convention “as a whole” do not share this person’s social rules. And what is a normal or reasonable action to enforce the social code in one group becomes horrible behavior in another.

    Which just is another way of backing up Chris’ statement that the larger the setting, the more tolerance is needed.

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