Disclaimer: This piece isn’t so much centered on Laci as it is the concept of debates these days. I respect Laci, and in this situation, I felt compelled to respond mainly because I’m concerned about the platform she is advocating. She argues for civil debates in her videos, so I am hoping this will be considered as such (if she ever reads this!).
So a bit of background information: Youtube feminist and sex-educator Laci Green uploaded a video talking about how she’s been discussing topics with Youtubers who brand themselves as “anti-SJWs” (anti-Social Justice Warriors). For individuals following Laci’s videos, this came off as a surprise and understandably so. From videos titled Trumpocalpyse to others denouncing insensitive jokes, Laci has went from a “feminist hero” to “oppressive”. She has been decried by both sides of the aisle, including by the publication Everyday Feminism. To top matters off, Laci confirmed she was dating anti-SJWer Chris Ray Gun. This was before her “Red Pill” video had been released, but needless to say, the Youtube community hasn’t been too pleased.
I’m not going to discuss Laci’s personal life more than I’ve done so, mainly because it’s not relevant to her role as an educator. I also don’t want to discuss whether I agree with Laci on everything she says because 1) I’ve only met her for a minute and 2) We’ve never had a full fledged conversation on everything we’re interested in discussing.
Rather, I do want to examine this concept of civilized debate more.
The left, especially, has been accused of shutting down dissenting opinion and refusing to hear other sides out. Two conservative journalists who I follow, Guy Benson and Mary Katharine Ham, wrote a book on this titled End of Discussion, which I hope to read soon. But from the snippets I’ve examined, the argument established is that whether it be shutting down humor or encouraging public shaming, the left refuses to consider a viewpoint other than their own. This argument has been re-surfacing, especially given the 2016 election, with individuals claiming they voted for Trump under that premise.
Laci, specifically, has been aiming to introduce different opinions on her channel and have conversations. Recently, she tweeted the following:
gmorning internets! ☀️to folks who feel there are only 2 genders, could you help me understand your view?
tweets+short vids+email welcome
— Laci Green (@gogreen18) May 12, 2017
I truly believe in debating. I think it is essential for anything, whether it be a project-based organization or public policy. But in debating whether two genders exist or not, varying opinions shut down the existence of genderqueer and genderfluid individuals, even though gender queerness has been proven via studies. As someone who’s taken biology classes and intends to study medicine, I recommend reading this response to individuals claiming gender is biological; that argument dismisses intersex individuals, individuals that have different hormone levels, etc. When discussions such as whether transgenderism is a mental disorder or not arise, lives are at stake. Transgender individuals currently have a life expectancy of 30–32 years olddue to the violence they face. Debating these topics enable both protections for trans. communities to be revoked and politicians to espouse bigotry.
Accepting alternative viewpoints of provided facts legitimizes these platforms as opinions instead of bigotry. And that’s when debating becomes more harmful than constructive.
We need to debate solutions and interventions, not whether an issue exists. Here are examples of questions that aren’t up for debate because the answers have been proven via data:
- Does racism still exist? Yes (The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander. Try 13th on Netflix if you’re not into books)
- Is gender a social construct? Yes
- What is consent? An affirmative yes (Laci Green’s video for this is quite on point)
- Does conversion therapy work? No, and this has been proven.
- Does climate change exist? …. Yes. Yes it does.
And last but not least….
- Do multiple genders exist? Yes
These aren’t cries of “liberal hysteria”, they’re facts. They have been proven in multiple studies, they have been research quite thoroughly, and they do not merit further discussion.
Gasp! I know. But before anyone accuses me of being a lefty SJW who detests conversation, allow me to present another case. Here are examples of scenarios which I believe merit discussion:
- Is a gas tax an effective solution to fix deteriorating roads? Why/why not?
- How do we make education accessible for everyone?
- How can we make health care more affordable for individuals?
Notice the general pattern with these question.
- They’re open-ended.
- They acknowledge the existence of an issue
- All responses will contain nuance of some sort. None of these questions have black and white arguments, as everything comes at a cost.
Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s important to view all sides, especially with respect to public policy. I am not going to discount narratives of individuals’ premiums increasing when healthcare is debated. Similarly, I am not going to dismiss individuals’ financial concerns regarding gas taxes.
But with that same logic, I am not going to ignore individuals who are scared to walk outside after having suffered from police brutality.
My Interaction with Laci
I did want to hear what Laci thought about this though, so I asked her in her ask.fm :
One of the leading points surrounding this discussion about debates is that if you’re not affected by it, you don’t have a right to talk about it (e.g. racism, sexism, etc.). How do you consider privilege while trying to have a conversation?
imo this tenet of identity politics is anti-intellectual at its core. it argues that truth and right to speech depend on WHO is saying it, not the merits of what is being said. i think the experiences of people directly affected by an issue should be given volume & honest, deep consideration. people not affected by them need to be self aware about how their lack of personal experience might affect their perception and do a better job of listening — they should not be flippant or dismissive. but if we elevate the weight of experience so far as to imply certain topics can’t even be discussed, what’s the point of science and data? this implies the death of expertise generally, and degrades the value of scientific inquiry on social issues.
I found this response thorough and sound, and I’m grateful this exchange occurred. I do think, though, this also opens up another aspect of conversation that merits another article: how can we ensure marginalized communities (who typically don’t have a voice in research or politics) are adequately represented with respect to these topics? Not acknowledging that facet of the situation is ignorance in so many regards; it’s essentially dismissing imbalances in power.
The Internet as a Public Forum
All being said, I do whole-heartedly support one of the Laci’s points she makes, which is the toxicity of the Internet when it comes to debating. It certainly offers advantages but overall builds a mentally-unhealthy environment. I’ve found myself withdrawing from social media networks for this reason, but I still try to use them to search for information. After reading So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson, I’ve had a distasteful opinion of online public shaming; the exception being if the person in question holds a public office.
The Internet might be a useful source of finding studies, experiences, and papers, but it isn’t the best space to have a conversation.
Being a pacifist is still a source of conflict for me: on one hand, it’s a useful approach for learning and gauging arguments, but at the same time, it’s inherently oppressive. It is something I still grapple with and will continue to do so, regardless of the scene at Capitol Hill.
And the reality is that this article isn’t going to change anyone’s opinions. My hope, though, is that individuals think about employing this technique when having debates. But given the current scene in Congress, it will most likely take more than a Medium post.
Also, this article is in no way comprehensive of all my thoughts on the subject. This is more of a response to how we debate as opposed to “white feminism”. I have more thoughts on that, but that will be its own piece