A week or so ago, I posted my prediction on how a recently Fetlife accusation was going to play out in terms of comments, reactions and writings. I am happy(?) to report it went as I expected.
This behavior online always gives me pause. I never understand really why people think it is not going to play out as it does. I never understand why people get upset later that people reacted as they did – that friendships ended up being lost as battle lines are drawn and sides are guarded.
I don’t just see it on Fetlife. I see it on Facebook. I see it on Twitter. I have seen it happen on blogs. The same responses – just a different topic. It can be about kink. It can be about politics. It doesn’t matter the topic. I just goes south fast.
I came across a post on Facebook that a friend of mine commented on that drew me in. “The Rise of Victimhood Culture” was the title of the article. The article itself was one man’s response to a paper written in 2014 by two Sociologists who used microagressions (or unintended discrimination) to track the moral culture in the US.
Microaggressions, from what I have read, are interesting because they are statements people may make verbally or written that, to a person in a marginalized group, may see as racist, sexist, etc. Examples I have read are things like asking a non-white person “where they are from” could be heard as “you aren’t a true American because you aren’t white”. These are statements and such that people make innocently – not realizing they could be interpreted negatively.
What these two sociologists found is that in the past, these microaggressions would have been dealt with very differently. In an honor culture, someone committing such an act would have resulted in a duel at sundown. In dignity cultures, microaggressions could cause offense, but never destroyed someone’s reputation, for say, bravery. The response instead was mostly non-violent response which could include things like avoiding that person, seeing the offense as a distruption in the relationship & seek to restore harmony through 1-on-1 discussion. People would consult close acquaintance and family to choose a private response. Escalation into a more public realm only happened if there was a crime committed, breach of contract occurred, etc.
While the dignity culture was the one we all most often respond with, the Victimhood Culture is on a huge rise. The author describes it this way by using a college example – but one that is similar to my example a bit ago about what will happen on Fetlife. In the college one, it went like this:
An email was sent by a white boy to a Latino girl acknowledging that there is an interesting event supporting Latino culture week on campus, but asked if she was planning not to attend, would she be interested in playing one the futball team tonight.
She was offended – so responded that she didn’t need his white male permission to attend an event about her people. She took offense to the fact he used the word “futball” as he cannot hijack her language for his own use. Then took him to task that if the event was so interesting, why is he not going.
She published the email and her response to a college website.
Of course, the boy took offense and responded claiming, indirectly, that he was a victim of her discrimination – that his god family who he was very close to was from Costa Rico. For him “futball” is what it is called in his family. HOW DARE YOU ASSUME YOU KNOW WHERE I COME FROM?!?
And it continued to play out with everyone adding fuel and their own personal offense to the discussion to a point where there are only victims pleading their case as to why they are the harmed party by what someone said. Instead of handling it 1-on-1 and assume someone spoke without intended harm, it was instead assumed they are toxic people who must be publicly judged to a point where their reputations are on the line. Doing that causes the other person to do it, then causes new people to jump in with their own offended reasons – and boom! It’s a fucking free-for-all of where everyone is trying to be the victim of something.
The sociologists gave a few factors that seem to create the environment in which Victimhood Culture arises. Obviously self-help through dueling is not available. There is the presence of social superiors that are readily available to 3rd parties. It happens in “atomized environments” or micro-cultures like college campuses and other types of culture where people cannot rely on their family to automatically take their side. And this is the one that I liked because, when I examine situations where I see this happening repeatedly, this seems to be true —
“…victimhood culture is likeliest to arise in settings where there is some diversity and inequality, but whose members are almost equal, since “a morality that privileges equality and condemns oppression is most likely to arise precisely in settings that already have relatively high degrees of equality.”
I think that is why all of this crap bugs me. While everyone is racing to prove that THEY are the TRUE victim – for whatever reason – the larger issues that still exist are ignored because people are in the weeds. Issues of racism or sexism or homophobia or consent or whatever are lost because the noise is around “the pronoun used” or “what must have been implied by the word choice” or whatever. In the end, no one wins. The idea that people can make mistakes, learn from them, and grow from them is also lost as it is clear no one wants to grow and learn and evolve forward – but stay the same.
I guess that’s why I feel like these types of discussions are traps. They suck people in – people who know better – people who are better and are working towards bigger things. And next thing you know, someone you trust is being accused of shit they would never do simply because they misspoke in a comment or on a status update. That moment of error turns into a reputation damaging event.
This is also why I won’t comment on many Facebook social & political fueled posts of friends and family. It is why I won’t comment on posts very often on Fetlife. It’s why I won’t often “like” something that follows this trend because, it feels wrong – it feels like feeding the bears. A like or a comment will make them come back like feeding bears will do. More will have to be said – more will have to be done. The fight must continue!!