Yes, an invitation. Get your party clothes ready, because here it is.
I’m inviting some lucky guy to do a dialogue with me, which I will publish as an article here at B&W in the articles section. The dialogue will be on sexist epithets.
Are they a bad thing, or are they a good thing? How bad are they, are some worse than others, if they are bad then in what way are they bad, does it really matter, is it reasonable to think they are a bad thing, if so why?
We’ve been told lately that “we’ve been getting totally unnuanced discussions of insults like ‘twat’” and that “not everything is the same, and it’s possible to tease out the distinctions analytically and dispassionately.” We’ve been told that
the idea it isn’t possible to look at why everything isn’t the same, the idea it isn’t possible to take a different view about how a word such as “twat” functions, without being immediately dismissed as a misogynist by a mob is ridiculous (and the antithesis of anything that could be considered free enquiry).
So ok, let’s try it. Let’s have that nuanced discussion. Let’s tease out the distinctions analytically and dispassionately. I’ll take my side, and the invitation is for someone to take the other side.
The idea is to do a back and forth, say about 300 words each. It won’t go on until the end of time, but I think I won’t declare a limit now.
There are some conditions. You’ll have noticed I said a guy. I want a guy, for the same reason I would want a white if the discussion were about racist epithets as opposed to sexist ones.
It has to be under a real name.
It has to be somebody with something at stake – reputation, friends, standing as a liberal; that kind of thing. That narrows the field a lot, but it can’t be helped. It means I don’t really want someone who is already known as a proud reactionary or anti-feminist. I might settle for that if no one else takes up the offer, but I would much prefer people who don’t fit that description, because they’re the people who have been surprising those of us on the “what, are you kidding, of course sexist epithets aren’t ok” side of this disagreement. We want to understand what they’re thinking, and this will be the way to find out.
Another condition: I have editorial control. However I won’t do anything the other party disagrees with. If there’s something we can’t agree on and we can’t start over or move to a new entry, I’ll just end the exchange at that point. (I also don’t plan to edit the other party’s entries. I plan not to. I just want to make it clear that I have that option but also that I won’t abuse it; either we agree on an edit or the discussion shifts or ends.)
So there you are. Sound like fun? Email me if you have my address, use the contact form if you don’t.
I should say I doubt that anyone will take up the offer. I think the conditions will make the offer too unattractive. And that, frankly, is part of my point.
So go ahead, prove me wrong!
Update: here is that discussion.