I am grouchy today.
I woke up on the wrong side of the bed, staggered out into the cruel light of day blinking like an owl, and proceeded to bite Mr. Lee Hales’s head off and then feel bad about it, apologize and feel even more miserable. Things have continued in much the same vein. Woo!
So, in my supreme ultra-grouchy state of mind (exacerbated by the fucking snow. Fuck you, snow!) I’ve decided to talk about something that annoys me. Exceedingly.
No, it’s not when people say “poisonous spider” when they mean “venomous spider” (poison you eat or otherwise ingest via skin or mucous membrane contact, venom is delivered by an animal, so unless you’ve just eaten a venomous spider, poisonous is wrong wrong wrongity wrong please for the love of god spread the word. It’s my biggest language/biology peeve. Yay derail!), although that ranks high on my list of linguistic and basic understanding of how things work boondoggles.
No, it’s when people make bullshit “both sides” equivalencies, also wrapped up with “the truth lies somewhere in the middle.”
Look, sometimes, there are two sides, and both sides are equally valid. This is true whenever an argument of taste occurs. This is also true when people are arguing their personal bodily experiences. Say two women are pro-choice, and one is arguing that abortion is no big deal because she was able to make a snap decision, had no regrets and it was all fine. The other argues that while she wants all abortion to be safe and legal, it wasn’t an easy choice for her, she did struggle with it, but still, it needs to be available to everyone. Both sides are equally valid.
You know where both sides become not equally valid? When people are privileging homophobic bullshit that ruins years of other people short lives on the earth. Say, like this.
Yeah, I’m going to go out on a god damned limb here and say– there are not two equally valid sides when these conditions exist:
a. one side hates the other and wants to marginalize and oppress them.
b. the side receiving all of the hate presents no verifiable threat to society
Mild discomfort with a slight loss of privilege does not in fact count as a verifiable threat to society. Being squicked out by the idea of what someone may or may not get up to in their bedroom, does not count as a verifiable threat to society. Non-adherence to rigid gender norms does not count as a verifiable threat to society.
These are issues that do not have two equally valid sides. The answer is no, you really aren’t entitled to go around spewing your bigoted hateful opinion consequence free, if your opinion is causing great suffering. Srsly. I’m playing the worlds tiniest fucking violin for you.
These are also issues where the golden mean is not a useful tool for resolving things. You can’t insist that gay people be a little more straight (because diety-of-your-choice knows, straight homphobes aren’t going to relax about it and act a little less straight), you can’t demand that people of color just whiten up, or that women just you know, get less liberated. And also that everyone conform to a clear and never discomfiting set of gender norms.
The insistence that things would be fine (for the kyriarchy) if we would just do this, is bullshit. Nope, sorry, kyriarchy-bob, it just won’t work for people to deny their identities, you know, just a little bit, just enough so that you feel comfortable.
This is also why I have a problem equivocating conservative and progressive perspectives. One tent has room for everybody, and is cool with everybody privately doing what makes them happy so long as it doesn’t harm other people, and one tent does not. These tents are not the same.
People love the both sides fallacy. LOVE IT. I think it’s because it gives the both sides arguer a sense of objective distance from whatever the fray is. It makes them feel wise and rational, floating on a cloud of disinterest high above it all.
Except that no-one is objective, no-one is distant, and being disinterested is only a choice so long as you have the privilege to make that choice. There are some arguments that neutrality is a perfectly acceptable stance for– blue versus purple, ritz versus saltine, any kind of bullshit music argument. And some that you just can’t, because neutrality isn’t really possible. Neutrality, in these cases, is just a really cowardly way of supporting the powerful. There are some cases where the golden mean is probably a reasonable solution, where meeting in the middle makes sense, like, say, housework or other shared labor responsibilities.
But then, there are issues where the price of compromise is someones life and identity and safety and agency and self determination– you know, their right to pursue happiness unimpeded. Little piddly shit like that. These are not issues upon which we can compromise. So lets just stop letting people get away with this conciliation and compromise (but only if it’s in my favor) bullshit.
Lets stop acting as if batshit crazy is a valid counterpoint, as if “buttsex makes me feel funny and WILL RUIN THE WORLD!” is a valid argument in response to “people who love each other should have the right to get married and experience all of the attendant privileges of marriage.”
Lets stop acting as though “bitches be falsely reporting!” is a valid point against “we really need to do something about the low number of rape cases which are reported and prosecuted.”
Seriously. We can’t stop the damn media from engaging in this, but we can call it out when we see it, and we can certainly use our collective clout to logic-shame people into taking their bullshit and slinging it around where the rest of us don’t have to hear about it.
And then I’ll be all: