The Internet, Hostility and the Implied Wrongness of Women

Jef Rouner set the Internet world on fire with his article No, It’s Not Your Opinion. You’re Just Wrong.

In the article, Rouner explained that while having an opinion is great, it doesn’t shield you from criticism for believing something that’s wrong, or refusing to be informed about an issue before having an opinion on it.

Too often, as the article implies, the word opinion and the word belief are just the same idea wearing a different hat.

You can believe (or have the opinion) that vaccines cause autism, for instance. That doesn’t mean that it’s true, and it doesn’t mean you can’t be criticized for it; the prevailing opinion that the sun revolved around the earth doesn’t make it actually true.

There was a lot of backlash against this article, because it was on the Internet and outrage is the Internet’s stock in trade.

What Rouner found odd, though, was how many people made the assumption that he was actually a woman because they disagreed with him and were looking for a reason to discredit the article.

Attack Gender When You Don’t Have A Leg To Stand On

Rouner felt that the mistake may have been made because the article originally featured an image of a woman giving a lecture. Despite that picture, though, Jef isn’t exactly a name people associate with a woman.

So, besides, laziness and an innate hostility to all non-conforming opinions, what’s up with the girl hate?

 

A recent study may shed some light on what happened. The study found that low-skill video game players were more likely to throw sexist remarks and abusive language at female players (or, one would assume, players they at least thought were female).

Players who were skilled at the game, however, treated all other gamers the same.

What does that have to do with what happened to Rouner?

Well, Rouner found that only condescending, rude, or aggressive comments used gendered language.

Commenters who used logic, or who wanted to provide constructive criticism (such as correcting a comment in the article that water was the only liquid that expands when it freezes) didn’t see the need to bring his gender into it. In fact, the more thoughtful replies who were engaging the actual substance of the article rarely misgendered Rouner.

The Lessons Learned

First and foremost, we shouldn’t assume that an image in an article is that the author, and that we should probably check the byline.

The second lesson, if we can’t get away with something in the debate club, maybe we shouldn’t sling it onto a comments section. Attacking a piece like this by labeling it “typical white liberal feminist logic” doesn’t actually refute anything presented any more than calling Rouner “a hysterical, overreacting woman” makes him one.

Lastly, we really need to examine why the standard, default setting for a woman expressing an opinion is to attack the opinion by attacking her gender.

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