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Post by reboot on Wed Nov 26, 2014 5:05 pm

This is coming from a place of frustration and I am not in the mood to pick apart whether one of us was right, so please do not debate any of the views expressed.

I just had lunch with a friend who is a big player in the Afghan feminist movement. I like her and admire her greatly, but when we get on the topic of men, never the twain shall meet. The thing is, I completely understand why she believes what she does, but fundamentally disagree with her beliefs, but have no evidence or examples to back up my own beliefs since I am basing them on gut instinct.

Her stance is that men, as a gender, are fundamentally wired to behave as they do in Afghanistan and the only reason they behave differently elsewhere is because laws and tradition dictate against it. Remove those controls, though, and men in our society would behave as they do in hers. I disagree. I think any group that is given the degree of power and control men are in Afghan society would behave similarly. It is not a gender thing, it is a people thing, and women would be equally tyrannical if given the same power (although it might manifest in different ways).

The frustrating thing is she has so many examples backing her stance. Shit, even her university educated, Communist father and university educated brothers, uncles, etc. honor killed her sister and married her to a man against her will to pay a debt (who luckily is in the early stages of dementia so she can do her work unhindered). I mean, I get it. She can also find many examples in our society where all signs indicate that if it was up to men, they would treat women in the manner she grew up in.

She does not have many positive male interactions to draw on and those that exist she can chalk up to social and legal control. I, on the other hand, have no examples of women dominated societies oppressing men or men I can point to as examples of people who would not be like that even in the absence of social and legal control. I just have this gut instinct that she is not right. I am basing my arguments more on faith and belief than evidence, so they are easily toppled.

Top it off, gender issues are not a topic we can avoid since we work together so much on these issues. She is this incredibly brave, incredibly strong, wonderful person who does amazing work in Taliban controlled parts of Afghanistsn despite having a bounty on her head. She is a no shit Social Justice Warrior fighting deep in the trenches. I really like her, except when we butt heads on this.

to;dr GRRRRRR!
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Post by azazel on Wed Nov 26, 2014 5:59 pm

Personally, with such a topic I just close it down fast with let's agree to disagree.

My personal viewpoint on such matters that nurture will trump nature in most cases. Haven't got any evidence for that yet, except that all papers claiming nature trumps nurture are being disproved one by one. If nature was all it took and nurture hadn't played a significant role, I would've guessed it would've been easier to prove so.

But as I said, it's really really hard to prove it either way, because nurture is so insidious, which makes debating it very much pointless and very explosive.

I'm glad you stood up for my gender, but since it frustrates you debating such things with her I'd just say the next time it comes up "You know, we disagree and we're not going to convince the other person otherwise, can we discuss something else"?

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Post by BasedBuzzed on Wed Nov 26, 2014 6:28 pm

The world is wide enough that you can dig up studies and anecdata on either point and view yourself as wholly correct. The question is what kind of practical effect the viewpoints have on her happiness and her activism. Does she distrust men to a degree that it impacts her emotional wellbeing? Does her stance on dudes get in the way of building bridges or does it make her campaign for draconian measures that will never be accepted whereas a milder version would have? If not, the discussion doesn't seem worth it if it frustrates you this much.

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Post by The Wisp on Wed Nov 26, 2014 6:33 pm

Her point of view arguably reinforces the patriarchy, because others can say "they can't help it, it's natural", rather than viewing it as a choice they made to behave that way.
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Post by kleenestar on Wed Nov 26, 2014 7:07 pm

It sounds like your friend might be partly using her beliefs to deal with her grief and anger at her family. When you have to talk to her about it, could you try listening to her beliefs as being about her desire to understand her family's behavior, rather than as having anything to do with her ability to accurately describe the world?

(For what it's worth, I think you're both right - it's not inherently a male thing, but in the world we actually live in, the extreme manifestations she experiences in her culture are present in basically every other culture in more or less explicit ways.)
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Post by Dan_Brodribb on Wed Nov 26, 2014 7:49 pm

I want to understand better.

Is your frustration that someone you really admire otherwise and who is doing such heroic work also holds opinions that feel uncomfortable? Is if frustrating that you can't find evidence to back up your arguments so you feel like you're the one being irrational/unscientific? Are you frustrated because her evidence leaves doubting in your mind what you believe to be true--that you're afraid she might be right, because if she is that's a horrible thing to contemplate?

....

This next part is a bit advicey. You didn't ask for advice and I also don't know what you've already tried, but if the situation is still your mind once your initial frustration is past, I've found the stuff below food for reflection.

Kleenestar touched on something that I've noticed myself. Often our beliefs say more about us and our own experiences than whether or not the belief is true. So regardless of whether it's true or not, how might such a belief protect/help/motivate her? How might a person come to such a belief? If you wanted to take it a step further you could ask yourself how holding the belief YOU have helps you in your life and what brought you there.

Also, it sounds like she has a personal experience with violence at the hands of men, and I think most of us here have seen what happens when we try to argue with someone's lived experience...or have someone try to argue with ours, regardless of what facts are on whose side. So if the issue is important enough that both of you want to keep talking about it...maybe there's a different way to have the conversation.

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Post by reboot on Wed Nov 26, 2014 7:55 pm

BasedBuzzed wrote:The world is wide enough that you can dig up studies and anecdata on either point and view yourself as wholly correct. The question is what kind of practical effect the viewpoints have on her happiness and her activism. Does she distrust men to a degree that it impacts her emotional wellbeing? Does her stance on dudes get in the way of building bridges or does it make her campaign for draconian measures that will never be accepted whereas a milder version would have? If not, the discussion doesn't seem worth it if it frustrates you this much.  

She is living and operating in Taliban held territory 95% of the time, so not many bridges to be built. As for draconian measures, for that society, yes.

The Wisp wrote:Her point of view arguably reinforces the patriarchy, because others can say "they can't help it, it's natural", rather than viewing it as a choice they made to behave that way.

True, but I get why she feels that way. It makes sense that she sees men as the enemy because, frankly, in her experience, they are. Remember, she is not working here, but over there.

kleenestar wrote:It sounds like your friend might be partly using her beliefs to deal with her grief and anger at her family. When you have to talk to her about it, could you try listening to her beliefs as being about her desire to understand her family's behavior, rather than as having anything to do with her ability to accurately describe the world?

(For what it's worth, I think you're both right - it's not inherently a male thing, but in the world we actually live in, the extreme manifestations she experiences in her culture are present in basically every other culture in more or less explicit ways.)

Actually, since she is born and bred Pashtun, her grief at her family is minimal, as that is the code. She understands it perfectly. Hates it, but understands it. This is not a surprising betrayal but more what men do to women. She is definitely an angry woman, but her anger has cause, lots of cause, personal and professional. God the people she has lost in her work.

Azazel had good advice but I need to get better at catching it before we get on that track. The thing is, I agree with a lot of what she says, but think that it is more a humans+power not a men+power thing.
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Post by azazel on Wed Nov 26, 2014 8:39 pm

reboot wrote:
Azazel had good advice but I need to get better at catching it before we get on that track. The thing is, I agree with a lot of what she says, but think that it is more a humans+power not a men+power thing.

It comes natural after a few times cutting the conversation off very awkwardly, at least in the cases where I had to employ this technique.
More you do it with one person, the more you both learn to steer away from the convo early too.

For the sake of honesty though, I'm being a total hypocrite and not following my own advice right now, since I'm now butting heads with a Red Pill friend about nature vs. nurture and I still try to get him over to the nurture side. But that's because he would actually benefit from changing his mind (he's being a recluse, otherwise I would also have attempted it for the benefit of society), while your friend is already doing great work and might even get some comfort from the idea that people don't choose to be evil but they're just born that way.

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Post by reboot on Wed Nov 26, 2014 8:42 pm

Dan_Brodribb wrote:I want to understand better.

Is your frustration that someone you really admire otherwise and who is doing such heroic work also holds opinions that feel uncomfortable? Is if frustrating that you can't find evidence to back up your arguments so you feel like you're the one being irrational/unscientific? Are you frustrated because her evidence leaves doubting in your mind what you believe to be true--that you're afraid she might be right, because if she is that's a horrible thing to contemplate?

Nailed it. I believe I am right but can not point to what makes me right. I hope I am right because the alternative is hideous. But I am right.

(I think)

....

This next part is a bit advicey. You didn't ask for advice and I also don't know what you've already tried, but if the situation is still your mind once your initial frustration is past, I've found the stuff below food for reflection.

Kleenestar touched on something that I've noticed myself. Often our beliefs say more about us and our own experiences than whether or not the belief is true. So regardless of whether it's true or not, how might such a belief protect/help/motivate her? How might a person come to such a belief? If you wanted to take it a step further you could ask yourself how holding the belief YOU have helps you in your life and what brought you there.

Also, it sounds like she has a personal experience with violence at the hands of men, and I think most of us here have seen what happens when we try to argue with someone's lived experience...or have someone try to argue with ours, regardless of what facts are on whose side. So if the issue is important enough that both of you want to keep talking about it...maybe there's a different way to have the conversation.

Good food for thought. It is an issue we have to talk about because it affects us personally and professionally. And you are right. I am arguing against her lived experience, the experiences that have cost her dearly and the experiences she witnesses which are.....bad. Really bad.

Maybe the best course is to let her words wash over me and not fight because it only turns into #notallmen (on my part) when I try to counter blanket statements she comes up with when she relates very specific events. Maybe I should just take it as a vent and not argue, since her "Men are evil!" usually follows the story of friends being executed or burned alive for teaching girls to read or trying to help women slated for honor killings.
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Post by azazel on Wed Nov 26, 2014 9:16 pm

reboot wrote:
Maybe the best course is to let her words wash over me and not fight because it only turns into #notallmen (on my part) when I try to counter blanket statements she comes up with when she relates very specific events. Maybe I should just take it as a vent and not argue, since her "Men are evil!" usually follows the story of friends being executed or burned alive for teaching girls to read or trying to help women slated for honor killings.

I think this is actually indeed the best course of action. If the situation ever improves to a level that her attitude of all men are evil is going to be even a bit of a problem, I'm assuming there will hopefully be male allies by then which will probably have changed her mind already by, you know, simply not being evil.

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Post by reboot on Wed Nov 26, 2014 9:32 pm

azazel wrote:
reboot wrote:
Maybe the best course is to let her words wash over me and not fight because it only turns into #notallmen (on my part) when I try to counter blanket statements she comes up with when she relates very specific events. Maybe I should just take it as a vent and not argue, since her "Men are evil!" usually follows the story of friends being executed or burned alive for teaching girls to read or trying to help women slated for honor killings.

I think this is actually indeed the best course of action. If the situation ever improves to a level that her attitude of all men are evil is going to be even a bit of a problem, I'm assuming there will hopefully be male allies by then which will probably have changed her mind already by, you know, simply not being evil.

Yeah, given her territory the probability of male allies is much lower than the probability of people figuring out her husband is not all there, he will not come back on them because he is getting sketchy on their relationship and tends to think she is a servant, and her opposition shooting her. Which means in the interim, I should probably lay off brawling with her.

This all reminds me of a book, Mughal Buffet. One of the main characters is a Pakistani police detective sent to Peshawar to investigate a crime. It gets tied to feminists so he starts studying women's issues and realizes that every woman in Pakistan has a reason to want to kill men, so he asks his wife, mother, and their friend to confirm that they killed none of the victims so that he can move on to the other 987 million suspects.
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Post by Lemminkainen on Wed Nov 26, 2014 9:39 pm

There are a few flaws in your friend's argument:

For one, she's weirdly self-orientalizing. People in Afghanistan aren't living in a state of nature-- they have cultural and customary norms just like any other group of humans. They're not any more atavistic or closer to a state of nature than anybody else-- even people living in tribes have customs, tradition, and cultures which shape their viewpoints and behavior, because all humans who live in the company of other humans do. So the worst men in Afghanistan don't represent what humans are "naturally" like any more than any other group of men do.

It's also worth noting that when women become really powerful, they have the same sort of variety of temperaments as their male counterparts. Take a look at the twentieth century's major female leaders: Some of them, like Margaret Thatcher and Indira Ghandi were cruel tyrants. Benazir Bhutto was brave and strong, but deeply corrupt. Hasina Wajed and Khaleda Zia nearly tore Bangladesh apart with their feuding. Megawati Sukarnoputri and Aung San Suu Kyi are heroes who tried to bring democracy to their countries, the first successfully, the second unsuccessfully. Dilma Roussef has been an excellent steward of her country, continuing her predecessor's effective and popular policies. Angela Merkel is a ruthless, unprincipled Bismarckian political pragmatist who has made her country an object of worldwide admiration. Michelle Bachelet is a kindly humanitarian. Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner is relentlessly corrupt and authoritarian. Like their male counterparts, female leaders wield power in a variety of different ways-- sometimes for the good of all, sometimes for personal gain, sometimes with bloody violence.


Of course, it seems likely that you might not be able to convince your friend-- lived experiences are much more convincing than information about far-away people, and confirmation bias tends to keep us set in our beliefs. You might need to find some more emotive demonstration if you want to convince her.

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Post by reboot on Fri Nov 28, 2014 1:48 pm

Lemminkainen wrote:There are a few flaws in your friend's argument:

For one, she's weirdly self-orientalizing.  People in Afghanistan aren't living in a state of nature-- they have cultural and customary norms just like any other group of humans.  They're not any more atavistic or closer to a state of nature than anybody else-- even people living in tribes have customs, tradition, and cultures which shape their viewpoints and behavior, because all humans who live in the company of other humans do.  So the worst men in Afghanistan don't represent what humans are "naturally" like any more than any other group of men do.

It's also worth noting that when women become really powerful, they have the same sort of variety of temperaments as their male counterparts.  Take a look at the twentieth century's major female leaders: Some of them, like Margaret Thatcher and Indira Ghandi were cruel tyrants.  Benazir Bhutto was brave and strong, but deeply corrupt.  Hasina Wajed and Khaleda Zia nearly tore Bangladesh apart with their feuding.  Megawati Sukarnoputri and Aung San Suu Kyi are heroes who tried to bring democracy to their countries, the first successfully, the second unsuccessfully.  Dilma Roussef has been an excellent steward of her country, continuing her predecessor's effective and popular policies.  Angela Merkel is a ruthless, unprincipled Bismarckian political pragmatist who has made her country an object of worldwide admiration.  Michelle Bachelet is a kindly humanitarian.  Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner is relentlessly corrupt and authoritarian.  Like their male counterparts, female leaders wield power in a variety of different ways-- sometimes for the good of all, sometimes for personal gain, sometimes with bloody violence.


Of course, it seems likely that you might not be able to convince your friend-- lived experiences are much more convincing than information about far-away people, and confirmation bias tends to keep us set in our beliefs.  You might need to find some more emotive demonstration if you want to convince her.

You also have to remember she is Pashtun and only works in Afghanistan, so the norms she is butting up against are intimately familiar and (as she sees it) men shaped the culture and customs (and reinterpret or reinvent them in their favor) because they have ultimate control and can do whatever they want. And what they want is to subordinate, subjugate, and abuse women. It is a tough mindset for me to wrap my thoughts around because I am not Pashto and can not really conceptualize what it is like to grow up in and then fight against such a system. She also was a bit naïve in the early days and trusted some men to assist and support her work and it ended very badly.

As for other female leaders, bringing them up as examples does not help much because none of them totally revamped their societies to systematically oppress men, so they actually bolster her argument. All that power, yet they did not use it as it is used against women in her homeland.

Anyway, I am over my frustration. I think I need to work on my timing for #notallmen statements and be more attuned to context. If the statements on her part are in the context of recent experiences, rather than general musing (which we do not do much of), I might need to let them slide as expressions of pain, anger, sadness, fear, etc. and not argue with her, even if I disagree. After all, she is fighting a battle that she is more than likely going to lose, that is likely to cost her and many others their lives,and feels (and is) besieged. This is probably not a state of mind that is open to weighing alternate viewpoints.
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