Previous Entry Share Next Entry
Don't quit your group because of *-Fail
Bar Harbor
alexx_kay
A lot of people I know are concerned because their social circle (or subculture, or industry) has suffered from an increasing number of scandals due to systemic sexism and racism and other types of Fail in recent years. People fear that their group is somehow degenerating.

In the examples I am closely familiar with, what's going on is exactly the opposite of degenerating, though things appear bad on the surface. The truth is that the institutional Fail has been there all along. What's changed is the context the Fail happens in. On a broad level, societal mores are changing (if not as quickly as we would like). On a more personal level, many fewer victims are willing to quietly accept it when tribal elders mistreat them. More people are willing to speak up, and patterns of abuse in specific individuals become more apparent. Moreover, many people who would have formerly stood by and shrugged their shoulders when seeing only rare instances of abuse, convert to active allies when they are made aware of its actual extent.

I hear people say things like "Why should I stay part of a group that has such vile members in it?"

I'll tell you why. Because *every* group of human beings (larger than about three) contains some assholes, at least at first formation. If you have groups which *don't* contain assholes, then it's because people have done the work to make it clear to the assholes that they are Not Welcome. Such things do not occur on their own.

I'm not saying that you are morally obligated to reform every group that exists, far from it. But if you think a group sounds like a neat place to be, if only it wasn't for the assholes -- then at least consider whether it's worth your while to try and push the assholes out. It's more possible than you might think, and gets easier every time it happens.
Tags:

  • 1
It gets easier each time only if the membership stays. Otherwise not.

I see I was insufficiently clear. I claim that the task gets easier every time a group -- *any* group -- successfully, publicly does this. Which is happening regularly now. Examples show that it is possible and desirable (and may even point out useful implementation details).

Good post.

In further discussions of the matter you might want to find a phrase other than "push the assholes out".

It produced an image which diverted my attention from the message.

On the one hand, I completely agree with you. It's worth it to work for change from the inside, even if some of the people you have to work with are patting you on the head patronizingly.

On the other hand, it's just so damned dispiriting (and discouraging).

(Deleted comment)
"...then at least consider whether it's worth your while to try and push the assholes out."

On the other hand, a wise man once said, "Let he (or she) who is without sin cast the first stone."

Not that I personally suffer assholes lightly. But the logic behind, "We are right, you are wrong, so we get to shove you around," is deeply flawed, and has caused more injustice in human history than just about anything else, has it not?

Expulsion from The Body is, at best, the NIMBY of social engineering. It does not fix the problem, but moves it around, so that someone else has to deal with that. At worst, well, it is the logic of the pogrom and the witch hunt. On a personal social scale, that means Drama.

The question you have to ask is whether the act of expulsion is really better for you and your group than finding some other way to deal with them, within the context of the group.



Edited at 2013-06-15 04:29 pm (UTC)

Education and redemption are better outcomes than expulsion and exile, and I agree that they should, ideally, be tried first. But there are (at least) two big caveats...

1) While I am optimistic about the vast majority of people being fundamentally good, a small but significant minority just aren't. Ostracizing them is (usually) better than killing them.

2) Asking to be educated is often used as a derailing tactic by the privileged. Indeed, it shows up as topic #1 in Derailing For Dummies. Whether a given individual is *actually* capable of (and worthy of) being educated is very much a judgment call. As an individual, you *can't* educate everyone, so you have to choose where to spend your spoons.

"Expulsion from The Body is, at best, the NIMBY of social engineering. It does not fix the problem, but moves it around, so that someone else has to deal with that."

Depends how you define "the problem". I'm a big believer in personal autonomy and free speech. I don't want to prevent people from having vile thoughts, expressing them, or from associating with others similarly vile. I don't consider any of that a problem. Or, at any rate, to the extent that it is a problem, it's not *my* problem, nor my responsibility.

When such people behave vile-ly within the context of a group I am part of, I feel it *is* my problem. Historically, most people have responded by doing nothing, or trying to act quietly, to avoid "making a scene". In recent years, it is becoming more common to speak out and censure such behavior. On a personal level, one can (should) say "I do not support that". On an organizational level, rules may be enacted, saying "Collectively, we as a group, do not support this, and if you persist in such behavior, you are not welcome here." Such rules need to be enacted and enforced with care, as any number of examples can show, but I believe that they are a good and necessary thing.

"Education and redemption are better outcomes than expulsion and exile, and I agree that they should, ideally, be tried first. But there are (at least) two big caveats..."

Well, how on this good Earth do you know that the person is "not fundamentally good" or derailing unless you try to deal with them otherwise first?

That's the main problem with the OP. Your base suggestion for those tho have to deal with assholes is "push them out!" That is your FIRST suggestion, which I find to be problematic. No talk of other techniques to manage, change, or otherwise deal with them. Nor do you discuss how you might determine if they are in your case 1 or 2, above. Just "push them out!"

Now, you shift slightly to "ostracize", which is somewhat less aggressive, I admit, but it is still a shift.

"Or, at any rate, to the extent that it is a problem, it's not *my* problem, nor my responsibility."

Yes. Exactly. NIMBY - Not In My Back Yard. It has to exist, but I insist it be someone else's problem. You think this is somehow more constructive with people than it is with landfills and power plants?


"Well, how on this good Earth do you know that the person is "not fundamentally good" or derailing unless you try to deal with them otherwise first?"

You don't *know*. You make the best judgment you can. Sometimes you're wrong. *shrug*

"That is your FIRST suggestion, which I find to be problematic. No talk of other techniques to manage, change, or otherwise deal with them."

Did I say anywhere that this was a carefully worked out philosophy that covers all possible edge cases and should be taken as gospel in all situations? No, I'm pointing out a particular set of situations/possibilities that I think people are missing. I did not, and do not, claim that they are the *only* possibilities.

"You think this is somehow more constructive with people than it is with landfills and power plants?"

Landfills and power plants have no moral agency. I am stating that:
A) It is not my responsibility to be the friend of, or rehabilitate Vile Person X.
B) If Vile Person X feels that he has too few friends, that is *his* problem.

"It has to exist,"

No, actually, Vile Person X doesn't *have* to associate with *any* group. Hermits exist.

The question you have to ask is whether the act of expulsion is really better for you and your group than finding some other way to deal with them, within the context of the group.

While there's much merit to what you say, you take for granted the proposition that trying to change how someone thinks so it conforms to group norms is morally superior to requiring their conduct conform to group norms as a condition of membership.

Sometimes it is superior, but also sometimes it very much is not, and there is no hard and fast rule I can see as to which way to err, because it is not obvious which condition is more prevalent.

There is no one size fits all solution.

I think "find some other way to deal with them" is rather broad. I intended it to be broad, specifically because there's no one-size-fits-all solution.

I don't see how you find it to be limited to, "change how they think."

Wow.

Never mind. If that's to be the tenor of conversation, I don't want to be part of it.

I have sometimes been annoyed by siderea being short with me. In the significant majority of cases, I eventually came to realize that she was in the right, and that I was holding onto my original point of view out of stubbornness and an unwillingness to do the work to unpack the implications of her statements. When I eventually *was* mentally able to do that work, I found her words insightful and valuable to me.

YMMV, of course.

And here I thought this was such a wonderful chance to address exactly what this thread was about. Someone left because of the unpleasant behavior of another (whether that unpleasant person was right or wrong is pretty much irrelevant), while the person in authority put up with it, rather than addressing it, leading to a general reduction in the community.

"Someone left because of the unpleasant behavior of another (whether that unpleasant person was right or wrong is pretty much irrelevant)"

I disagree with your parenthetical in the strongest possible terms. Politeness does *not*, and should not, trump correctness. And since this is my space, I'm not going to censure someone for being blunt but honest.

Yes, Siderea's tone was harsh. I believe that that's intended to make the recipient pay more attention than they have been doing. "Try harder" means* that Siderea thinks that Umbran *is* capable of understanding the logical conclusions she has drawn without her having to explain them at length, should he choose to put in the effort. And I agree.

*My interpretation, of course.

Nope.

Umbran asked "I don't see how you find it to be limited to..."

That is a question about Siderea's knowledge and opinion, not anything Umbran can *ever* infer.

Politeness-Fail. So I am trying your suggested solution. Doesn't look like it is working.

That is a question about Siderea's knowledge and opinion

Questions are things that end in question-marks. That's how you can tell they are questions.

Umbran got precisely as much courtesy as he showed. If you cannot tell how Umbran is being rude, you are probably regularly offending people the same way.

Edited at 2013-06-22 12:22 am (UTC)

I hear people say things like "Why should I stay part of a group that has such vile members in it?"

There is a difference, I think, between "Why should I stay part of a group that has such vile members in it?" and "Why should I stay part of a group that has such vile people in positions of authority?"

In any of the cases you are familiar with, are people (considering) leaving because peers are vile, or because leaders are vile?

I don't know of any cases where vileness in mere peers has caused any scandals, so I should like to know if you do.

The problem with vile people being in positions of authority is that, well, they're in positions of authority. Sometimes that means that their presence in those positions is endorsed by the membership, and signifies that the group as a whole has a culture-wide failiness problem. Sometimes that means they can make participating in the group sufficiently hard or dangerous for some members that leaving is necessary or advisable.

Also, I do think that voting with one's feet can be a legitimate form of protest (especially when one make public why one is leaving.) Similarly, members who confer legitimacy by their membership need to think twice about allowing an organization they have lost faith with enjoy their presence. A group of prominent members of an org I had belonged to just publicly disassociated themselves from the org when it came to light that management had conducted and gave every indication that it would continue conducting itself unethically, in ways that endangered the membership. One of those people astutely observed that his close connection to the group was widely taken as an endorsement by someone very concerned with ethics, and he dare not allow that unspoken message to go out any more.

"In any of the cases you are familiar with, are people (considering) leaving because peers are vile, or because leaders are vile?"

Hrm. Interesting question. In a couple of them (SFWA sexism, last year's Readercon), all of the *primary* vileness was on a peer level, but the scandals didn't really explode until there was (perceived or actual) complicity by leaders.

On the other hand, one of the groups that concerns me directly is "gamers". It's an amorphous enough group that it doesn't seem to *have* leaders in any meaningful sense. But it definitely has a lot of vile peer problems.

Your last two paragraphs are well said. As with individuals, so also on a group level, one must sometimes decide "this one isn't worth my time to fix".

Hrm. Interesting question. In a couple of them (SFWA sexism, last year's Readercon), all of the *primary* vileness was on a peer level, but the scandals didn't really explode until there was (perceived or actual) complicity by leaders.

Yeah, the behavior of peers wasn't the scandal. The scandal was the behavior of leadership, or other parties with authority to either intervene or not, or to grant or withhold resources.

Because most people know deeply and agree that "assholes happen". The question is what does the larger entity do about it.

This gets, very fast, to the core of what civilization is: how can a group of humans collaborate on their advancement of their private wellbeings? Answering that question means answering the question of "how does the group handle defectors?" (in the Prisoner's Dilemma sense of "defector".)

On the other hand, one of the groups that concerns me directly is "gamers". It's an amorphous enough group that it doesn't seem to *have* leaders in any meaningful sense. But it definitely has a lot of vile peer problems.

You noticed people saying they won't be gamers any more because of vile peer problems? Or just that they wouldn't play in the guilds or games where there were vile peer players?

There's always structures. Even when there aren't structures, there are structures.

Good points. IIRC, you yourself linked to some articles on interesting experiments by creators of specific games to modify their implicit structures in such a way as to reduce/reform vile peer players.

Thought:

When I as a member of a group find that some other member(s) of the group are taking advantage of the opportunity of our joint membership to advance their own wellbeing at the expense of my wellbeing, I have four choices:

1) Tolerate it. Maybe I determine the net benefit (after accounting for the hit to my wellbeing) to me is worth it.

2) Leave the group. Remove the opportunity for the others to decrease my wellbeing.

3) Defend myself. (Directly, without intermediation.) Utilize defensive and/or offensive methods to make the others less (or not) willing or able to diminish my well being.

4) Enlist the group's mechanisms, if any, to end or ameliorate the diminishment of my well being. This, obviously, depends on the group and what mechanisms for handling defectors it has. In some groups, it means rounding up a posse to give someone a beating. In others, it means pressing charges. In others, it means passing word to the senior aunt to have words with the culprit's mother. In others it means suing for weregild or petitioning for qisas. In others it means making a formal complaint to HR. Etc, etc, etc.



Edited at 2013-06-16 01:41 am (UTC)

4b) In a group that has no* mechanisms for handling defectors, attempt to get the group to create such mechanisms.

* Your earlier point about "there are always structures" obviously applies here as well. But such mechanisms as exist may be unclear, unknown, poorly enforced, or broken in other ways that render them moot.

This actually reminds me of a point I make about SCA households fairly often.

One of the few *true* FAQs in the SCA (as opposed to the questions that the club wishes people would ask) is, "How do I create a household?" To which the answer is basically that you just declare it into existence, but I have learned to add an important caveat: membership rules are by *far* the most important, contentious and dangerous subject, and you should start figuring them out early. Indeed, whether you *can* agree on them is often a good indicator of whether the household is likely to survive.

Figuring out how people are going to be included (and excluded) from any group will define that group in all sorts of ways, many of them subtler than you realize at first. And disagreement over this topic is, as far as I can tell, by far the most common reason for households to founder.

None of which is to disagree with you, mind -- I think your (4b) is often the best course of action -- but simply to point out that the likelihood of unintended consequences is high...

+1. Being involved in a lot of semi-disparate organizations/subcultures over the years (notably including Freemasrony) has made me pretty skeptical about claims that Group X is much better/worse than average in most ways. People are, by and large, people...

A riddle for you: I think the sentiment People in my group are better people on average is always true.

  • 1
?

Log in

No account? Create an account