Metaphors and Derailing

Some people specifically like to relate similar experiences as a way of understanding things that are unknown to them. These may differ in type or in scale from the experience being discussed, but they provide a necessary bridge in a person’s understanding from things they have experienced to things they have not.

Many online forums are particularly hostile to this. I’ve seen it most often when there’s an issue of specific interest/import to a group of people (women, black people, gay people, etc) and someone who isn’t in that group attempts to relate their experiences to the situation under discussion.

If you’re lucky, you get scolded for “derailing”, and perhaps a few pointed “we don’t do 101” comments. If you’re unlucky, you’ll just get run off the site via comments personally attacking everything that keeps you out of the group in question, followed by generalizations of why all non-subgroup people are horrible derailers constantly trying to silence the subgroup.

On a site that is obviously presented as catering to that subgroup and makes no attempts at inclusion, this is really to be expected: They don’t care if you’re a troll or genuinely interested, they just want you gone, and they’d simply block all non-subgroup people from the site if that was feasible. But this issue is particularly problematic on community sites with no particular mandate towards that subgroup, where there’s no reason to expect everyone to be a member or expert.

Which instead gives the impression that feminists barge in and expect men to get the fuck out, because there’s no place for men anywhere that feminism is. Ditto for white people and any kind of anti-racism; non-parents and parenting; cisgender straight people in QUILTBAG discussions, etc. Want to learn about it and maybe be an ally? Fuck you, Mighty Whitey! If you shut up and lurk we might drop some buzzwords you can Google. Maybe.

While I’m sure they’re driving off a few trolls this way, I think perhaps it is not the best way to effect long-term, overarching societal change in attitudes.


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