Hey activists…

Wondering what you think of this post about four different styles of activism.

I really like it. It covers the problem I’d been trying to express for a while. I see activists who say, “My way is the only way,” and arguing the merits of being a Nuker vs an Appeaser, or Logic Bomber vs Emoter. I’m delighted to see an argument for _all_ of these styles being useful in different places and times.

Short summary:

Nuker=Satire, rants, biting wit, clever trolling, griefer trolling, bluntness, calling out
Appeaser=Negotiation, peacemaking, calming, soothing hurt feelings, passive resistance, leading by peaceful example
Logic Bomber=Debate, fallacy calls, logical dissection of arguments, rationalist application of factual knowledge, scientific knowledge dropping, information overload
Emoter=Emotional arguments/manipulation, appeals to empathy, personal narrative, analogies to the pain of others, emotional overload, sympathy accumulation.

It will probably not surprise you to know that I’m definitely an Appeaser and an Emoter (more the former than the latter). I have _huge_ respect for the people who are Nukers, because that takes serious courage and strength. I’m also amazed by the Logic Bombers who build airtight arguments with irrefutable facts, which I think is very effective on some people.

Of course I can (and do) use the other styles, but my activism matches my personality. I’m best at one-on-one personal conversations. I’m good at listening to people and helping change minds in small groups. I’m okay with people asking me “stupid” questions about race, gender, and so on–as long as they show evidence of listening and learning. Usually I can figure out whether they’re actually asking me a question, or just trying to make a point.

Advantages to my style: a) some people are more receptive to gentle challenging of their ideas than in-your-face argument–which, as I said earlier, is also a valid method of doing this, b) it’s good for fixing misunderstandings, and c) I feel that it leads to longer-lasting and more permanent change when people use diplomacy rather than aggression.

As stated in the article, the big drawbacks to this style is that: a) you waste a lot of time on people who aren’t listening, b) it’s easy to ignore gentle activists, and c) it’s easy for the activist to slide into complacency and selling out. To solve the first, I just use my intuition. Hard to say how often I’m right, but I know for a fact I’ve changed people’s opinions on things like RaceFail and sexual harassment at cons. These changes mostly happened in one-on-one or small-group conversation. Could I have done more if I’d wanted? Probably. But I’m happy about what I do, and how I do it. It suits my strengths.

I’d like to pay special attention to the tone argument here. It goes like this: “Why can’t you [insert group here] people be nicer? More people would listen to you.” Well, in some cases, gentle and kind words _are_ more effective, which is where people like me come in. But in many, many cases–it doesn’t matter if people are nice or not, because the other person isn’t really listening anyway.

Furthermore, it is inherently privileged to insist that the marginalized person must be nice when explaining how you’ve hurt them. Why should they, when you don’t have to be nice to them? Not to mention the fact that while this issue might be new to you, they’ve probably had to explain it 100 times and they’re tired of it. Anyone with a food allergy understands this; you’re probably sick to death of telling curious people “what happens when I eat this food.”

So when someone takes the time to explain something to you, like racism, sexism, homophobia, or whatever–they are doing you a favor. They are going above and beyond the call of duty. If you genuinely want to know things, and you find someone who’s okay with teaching it–please thank them when you’re done. This is a lot more work for them than it may seem like to you.

Lastly, back to the four types of activism–this article was a good reminder for me. It’s easy to get complacent when I’m practicing diplomacy and nonviolence. I will strive to hold onto my principles even when the going gets rough. Once again, I will say that I’m grateful to those who get in people’s faces and won’t back down. I hope you’re able to value my work too.

[edited to fix a typo]

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