Pat Gunn (dachte) wrote,
Pat Gunn

Trolls and Progress

A puzzling problem:How do we try to understand society (and to shape it) in the presence of trolls?

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If people/groups make a special effort to be represented in a community, possibly to be overrepresented through sockpuppets, pen names, and similar, how can we accurately judge social progress? This is not just an online concern - in the town halls over healthcare this last year, a number of trolls took measures to disrupt and control social gatherings, in many cases showing up in many meetings distant from where they lived. If we're seeking consensus, discussion, and a fair read on what most people think beyond the yes/no nature of voting, this is a problem.

Having a better handle on this would be helpful to approach a question that's been on my mind - "What is the state of feminism in the United States" - we could use wages as one metric for today's generation or studies on youth for the next, but when we look at public dialogue, it's dominated by trolls, activists, and a few other groups. Sufficiently careful polls could probably get past some of this when we're talking pure information-gathering, but if we want more than questions? I think it'd be interesting to do essay polling (but I suspect that most people don't like to write as much as I do) - if we could get random samples of people to write essays on gender roles in society/the workplace/the home, we'd really be getting something interesting (although analysis would not be easy).

On some level, I don't think the work of feminist movements will be over until subcultures that value women and men differently (or relegate them to different social roles, or ask one gender to be subservient to another) are changed or ended. Likewise, shifts in the organisation of public and private institutions so as to not to disadvantage either gender (particularly schools) is a goal. Those are longer-term targets - closer are pay and privilege equality between the genders, legal/structural equality (we know we're not there in the military), and public norms that encourage equality.

I suspect that gender relations are harder than race relations - the differences between races are generally negligible, and as races continue to mix and clear lines fall away, those standing in the way of an end to racism will eventually find their task impossible (anti-Irish racism was often rooted in class and religious difference, but there was a race elenent there as well, now vanished). The end to Anti-Miscegenation laws put the kibosh on racism (at least in the long-term). Sex differences are in our genes - while they're often overblown by sexists, there are real differences and so there will always be fuel for sexism - the challenge is to learn not to use it and respond rationally and in a limited way to what differences there are.

Practically, as people committed to gender equality, is there anything left to do but wait for changes already in the pipe to roll out, for at least the easier metric above? What are the remaining tasks of feminism, is conservativism a credible threat (this is not a yes-no question, but rather something that needs a careful analysis that handles national, regional, and factional differences), and is there anything that can be done to ensure/speed the process of increased gender-equality?

Tags: politics
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