Kansas Progress Institute

Ad Astra Per Aspera ~ To the Stars Through Difficulties

Pitfalls of Shaming as Political Practice

Posted on December 14, 2016

By David Burress

“Mansplaining” and “whitesplaining” and the like are effective terms of invective and shaming.
1. They are based on a real phenomenon: the tendency of privileged group members to talk down to members of an oppressed group.
2. They are essentially impossible to refute, since the main evidence depends on the perception of an oppressed audience, not the perception of a privileged speaker.
3. They cannot easily be turned around to be used against a speaker from an oppressed group.

 

However, there is a downside.
1. Since these charges are irrefutable, they can be used with abandon or even recklessly.
2. It is generally the case that some members of any oppressed group harbor deep resentment of all members of the corresponding privileged class, leading them to use these terms more freely than they should.
3. Even in the absence of resentment, it is quite common for people to feel patronized when their ideas are criticized, sometimes even when the criticism is entirely even-handed.
4. Therefore it is likely that these charges will sometimes be used unfairly.
5. At the receiving end, these charges are felt most keenly by sympathetic allies among the privileged class rather than by dedicated enemies.

 

The net result is that this kind of invective can be used, and sometimes is used, to enforce an unwarranted and rigid discipline on the part of allies. That disempowers allies from offering any independent ideas, let alone legitimate criticism.
There are some parallel terms of invective that can be used to unfairly enforce internal ideological discipline within an oppressed group: e.g. oreo, apple.

 

The net result of these rhetorical practices can be a dumbing down and rigidifying of the movement.

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