About 'Alpha+Good'

Alpha+Good (sort of a bad wordplay on Orwell and machismo) is a side project that belongs to 'Onklare taal' ('Unclear language'), the umbrella of several of my literary projects in Dutch. This section is almost exclusively in English and comprises my ongoing thoughts on progress, gender, politics and various other social themes. Are you a little lost? This link will take you right back to my home page.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

The dreaded tone argument

A privilege that I have in the ongoing struggle for a more egalitarian society is that I already belong to a group that is steeped in invisible privilege (the only thing I lack to be entirely part of that group is more money). While I am angry about the injustice that women and minorities often put up with on a day to day basis, I do not experience this injustice directly, which affords me the luxury of approaching many debates about progress and equality dispassionately.

Conversely, opponents of any sort of progressive movement have used the dreaded 'tone argument' to dismiss legitimate criticism of society. Feminists and progressives are all too aware of this. The word 'hysteria' was invented to dismiss female anger, just like Barack Obama avowedly avoided the 'angry black man' stereotype not to lose votes among white Americans.

It sucks. Black Americans have every right to be angry. I'm surprised that women are not angrier often about the swirl of media that exists to justify violence against them, or pigeonholes them into categories straight out of the 1950s. Indeed, I do believe that we do not ought to protest on the tone or in the way that the establishment deems acceptable.

However.

While it's perfectly all right to be outraged, I have a problem with unproductive outrage. I've seen anger destroy debates where initially all participants appeared willing to listen and learn. I also grow tired of facing that anger - including my own - time and again when there's another news story in the sad and long line of gender stereotyping, objectification and destructive male privilege. For some, it seems to up the ante to appear more and more outraged and disgusted, drowning out productive or reasoned opinions and simultaneously attracting people who are legitimately mentally ill and use progressive movements as a cover to garner attention or spew bile.

Anger definitely has a place as a catalyst for action, but if it eclipses all the rest, it might achieve the exact opposite of the injustice it wants to fight. I realise that this veers closely to the tone argument (which is why I brought it up in the beginning, all my privilege included!), but there is a subtle difference. Screaming in all caps that something is terrible or disgusting is not protest, and frankly, not much better than what the hatemongers do who populate online comment sections - no matter how much I might agree with the sentiment.