Purely a figment of your imagination

What amuses, annoys, concerns or otherwise interests me – Noodlemaz



The same people
Who say “Stop whining, women have it worse elsewhere”
Are the same people
Call me
I have struggled.”

Not like millions have.
We are privileged
We can improve
These are not mutually exclusive things.

I wrote this when I realised that this happened frequently. Whataboutery (or whataboutism) is a common ‘argument’ put forward when we try to discuss problems in our lives that stem from bigotry and discrimination.

It goes:

“I find this gendered clothing in the supermarkets ridiculous. Why are the girls’ shorts so short and everything is pink? I have to buy from the boys’ section! Why can’t they just do “-kids’-” clothes?”

Enter whatabouter stage left

“Oh my god, really? That’s so trivial. A non-issue. What about muslim women who are forced to wear burkhas in Saudi, they’re not even allowed to drive!! That’s a REAL problem. Why don’t you care about that?”

It’s actually a fallacy (of the tu quoque variety), rather than a fair argument. Its purpose is to get people to shut up, stop talking about the thing making that person uncomfortable and angry.

It achieves nothing and it rails against progress. Apparently it’s also a favourite of Trump’s.

Saying things like this does not increase the sympathy or care of the person you’re doing it to. It shows only that yours is limited. People can care about many things at once, and indeed should. You can bet that people using this argument do very little in terms of activism themselves, especially on the topic they’re using to derail. Men telling me I shouldn’t care about women’s rights in developed countries are never the ones doing anything for women’s rights anywhere.

Trying to fix small problems is part of fixing bigger ones – our scope will always be limited in terms of action – by location, funding, ability, time, understanding and more. Discussion is vital. Stop shutting it down with this basic nonsense.

Just don’t do this. Don’t ever say to women or anyone else discussing their oppression or even mild irritations in life, ‘Don’t forget those people over there who are way worse off, you should be grateful‘.

Do not.


Author: noodlemaz

I prefer to think of myself as a realist rather than a pessimist, but perhaps that's just optimistic. Honest, atheist, scientist, feminist.

2 thoughts on “Whataboutery

  1. Yes absolutely. The flip side of being overly ready to recognise our privilege (which I think is such an important part of acknowledging who has experience of important issues and when to sit down and listen to those people!) is it can be easy to get into this whole all or nothing sort of cycle. I see it when it comes to making ethical choices – for example, I eat veggie two thirds of the time. For various reasons I have made a conscious decision that at this point in my life I can’t or choose not to go the whole way to vegetarianism. But that doesn’t mean I can’t make ethical choices about when, how and how often I consume meat. It’s not perfect, but it’s a lot better than nothing.

    The all or nothing idea is so pervasive, you see it everywhere and it almost always leads to people feeling not enough (or too much)…and it also cons us into making no positive steps because we aren’t able to make the *most* positive step. I think there’s an awful lot to be said for “good enough”.

    As you say, that people “have it worse” should never undermine another person’s difficulties. Sure, it’s important to acknowledge but it shouldn’t hold us back from making positive changes where we can.

  2. Pingback: “Misandry”? Fantasy. | Purely a figment of your imagination

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