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Misogyny and the Just World Fallacy: Together Again!

by Sierra on February 23, 2010 · 42 comments

in Uncategorized

This is a guest post from the lovely Sara Amis, a woman possessed of a mind both bright and sharp. I would not want to cross her in a dark alley – or a women’s studies seminar. She was sufficiently motivated by the commenters on my US Airways post to write a lengthy response. I’m making my flight home today, and am delighted to cede the stage to her while traveling. Have fun all! ~ Sierra

I’m always shocked when people show their asses, God knows why. It’s not like I’ve never interacted with humans or been on the Internet before. Let’s get this straight before we go on:  I am not Sierra. I am her guest-poster, Sara.  There is more difference between us than a few letters in our names; for one thing, I am a lot meaner than she is, also considerably more Southern. On the other hand we do share a few things: motherhood (though my one agreeable and charming teenager is ten years older than her oldest, I can still remember Toddler Hell quite vividly), a certain mystical viewpoint on life, and, apparently, eternal optimism about humanity in the face of overwhelming contradictory evidence.

Thanks, y’all, for providing a reality check there.  I intend to return the favor.

Here’s the scene:  A woman attempts to travel cross-country with her two young children.  In our jet-setting age, this is hardly an unusual occurrence.  I daresay it happens every day, multiple times per day. Hold on to that thought; it becomes important later on.

She encounters problems, in the form of the airline attempting to seat her far from her five- and two-year-olds; then representatives of said airline flatly refuse to solve the problem in a rational way and in fact try to shove the responsibility off on the other passengers.  She gets back on the ground and is irked.  She hath a blog; she bloggeth. Many, many people chime in with comments of support or of “Me too!”  The day is done.

Then the other comments start coming in. Coulda, shoulda, blah blah blah. Why didn’t she! How dare she! Who does she think she is, a free citizen and a customer? There was vitriol, viciousness, 20/20 hindsight, projection, reading comprehension fail, kid-hate, victim-blaming and mansplaining.  And that perennial favorite, she must be LYING!

We, as customers, expect the airline to provide everything from safety equipment to on-board entertainment to peanuts and booze, and we get them.  But thinking of a way to make sure that parents and children under ten sit together is somehow beyond them?  This is unreasonable? Are you serious?

If they can assign seats in the first place, they can pay a programmer to make sure that when tickets for adults and children under ten are purchased together, they get seated together.  This wouldn’t even be a very fancy bit of code. There you go, airlines: Problem solved.  You’re welcome. I can be available as a consultant for all your problem-solving needs at the rate of $150/hr, but that one’s a freebie.

I am tempted to relate this situation to the other indignities visited upon us all by the airline industry and the TSA, which in my opinion are both broken, but I will refrain. My objective here is an even bigger issue.

Sierra wasn’t describing anything wildly out of countenance; indeed, as the comments showed, it is a dishearteningly common occurrence.  Extrapolation of numbers and the existence of a (bad) written  policy both suggest that it happens many, many times per day. USAirways is a corporate entity in the business of providing transportation; she and her daughters were their customers. Sierra, who doesn’t fly very often, might not reasonably expect that anything so crazy as being separated from her two and five year old might happen; but the airline surely did know. The responsibility here was clearly theirs. Nonetheless her veracity, character, intelligence and fitness as a parent were quickly called into question. Part of this is sheer authoritarian thinking:  the airline was in charge, therefore the airline must be right.  But part of it is something else, albeit a related something else. She is guilty until proven innocent. She is a woman.  This is not, I will patiently explain, a coincidence.

There is a concept called the Just World Fallacy.  It  presumes that the world is essentially just and all problems are preventable; this means that whenever something bad happens to you, such as an illness, profiling, job discrimination, an earthquake or some other injustice or misfortune, someone will start talking about how you should have eaten better, dressed differently, picked a different employer, or not practiced Vodou. It should be noted that it is indeed a fallacy; that is, a failure of logical thought. It is often found in tandem with the aforementioned authoritarian viewpoint, because if the people in charge are always right, the world must be as well.

People who have privilege of some variety (maleness, white skin, heteronormativity) are particularly prone to both authoritarianism (as long as the powers that be are enough like them) and the Just World Fallacy. That is because the world actually does treat them relatively fairly; on top of that, our culture tells men and white folks that they are logical and the natural people who should be in charge, and that  women and brown people are prone to flights of irrationality and unreliability, if not outright deceit. (Non-straight people are just plain wrong.) This leads the male and/or white person  to 1) have a skewed view of the world to begin with, 2) not check assumptions, and 3) not be very responsive when told flat out (s)he is wrong. Thus is born the Privilege-Damaged Internet Jackass, or PDIJ.

Full disclosure: I am, in the quaint and antiquated caste system of our society, designated as “white.” I have probably made an ass of myself in this manner at some point or another.  I, however, pulled up my big girl panties and tried to do better. You can too.

Let me zero in on the gender politics of this for a moment.  There’s a reason why this ain’t funny, and is about more than being an Internet fool. The reason is contained in the “Men Who Explain Things” article I linked to.  Rebecca Solnit says, “Credibility is a basic survival tool” and goes on to tell a story:  a woman who ran out of her house in the middle of the night, screaming that her husband was trying to kill her, was presumed to be crazy rather than in danger of her life. Likewise with every rape victim ever in the history of the world who dares to speak up: The bitch is obviously lying.

Women lie.  Everyone knows it. It’s embedded in our culture, in our stories (Garden of Eden, anybody?), in our movies and TV shows, in our casual language. Women don’t get presumption of good faith. Add to that the Just World Fallacy, authoritarianism, and the weirdly Freudian hostility towards mothers in particular (which warrants a whole other post) and you get a perfect shitstorm of vitriol and idiocy. As we have seen.

Is being called names on the Internet comparable to assault, abuse, or rape? No, of course not.  Are they connected? Does the prompt willingness to go there, to undermine and attack any woman’s veracity and character for the most trivial points exist on a spectrum with the way that people will undermine and attack the victims of serious crimes?  Does it have to do with how women are seen, are depicted and described, are spoken of, are “known” to be? Yes.

Yes.

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  • amadea

    Part of what has fascinated me about the US Airways discussion has been observing what various observers do with a single presented set of facts. Some people have been attempting to work with the facts at hand (“given what it says here, I still don't understand…”); some people have been trying to find out more information about the story (“no, you can't actually book seats together in advance on this kind of flight”) and some people have been making things up in order to make the story make sense (“she must be lying!”) I have to say that I feel like this post falls into the latter category.

    There are many possible reasons for the hostility that some people brought to their comments on the post: maybe they are non-parents who don't like children; maybe, as one commenter suggested, they are disgruntled service employees who don't like complaining customers; maybe they are people who spend their lives attending to small details and feel hostility towards those who don't. I haven't seen any evidence in these comments that would suggest that they were motivated by Sierra's being a woman above all of these other factors. Or that they are part of an attempt to discredit women, unless you believe that any attempt to question the account of a female speaker is an attempt to discredit all women. Unfortunately, I think this post does more to detract from the credibility of the blog, by making assertions about why things are the way they are without a whole lot of evidence.

    Also, what on earth makes the gendered epithet “mansplaining” more acceptable in this context than saying “women lie”? It's an attempt to systematically delegitimatize someone's speech on the basis of their gender, which is what I thought the post was arguing AGAINST.

    [Reply]

  • Sara Amis

    Dislike of children is misogyny at its core. And, if you read the comments, surely you noticed that the people who were quickest to undermine Sierra's credibility were male, and/or they attacked her on the basis of being a “bad mother”….that is, insufficiently feminine/not a good enough woman. That is, the attacks were gender-based.

    Women, by and large, do not have the social power that men do that lends weight to their ill-considered opinions. When a woman explains something to a man that the man already knows, she doesn't have a whole culture behind her saying that she is logical and knowledgeable and he is emotional and childish. It simply doesn't have the same power to silence and shame. Nor is it as common a pattern of behavior. Hence, mansplaining.

    That those patterns exist is not some kind of wild-eyed assertion. I am absolutely not going to justify the whole discipline of women's studies or the last two hundred years of feminist thought to you. Go read a book.

    [Reply]

    John Reply:

    A feminist deconstruction of ‘mansplaining’ makes it seem questionable as a feminist idea. Judith Butler’s work (among others) has inspired people to observe how the conventional notion of gender con-fuses a collection of ways that people can differ (e.g., anatomy, genetics, childbearing, aggression, privilege) into a seemingly monolithic trait. Though many of these traits do have causal or correlative relationships with each other, the heteronormative gender concept assumes a tangle of specifically normative connections, which contruct gender in a way that consistently privileges male over female.

    ‘Mansplaining’ seems like another conflation of several ideas, such as assuming that someone is making a crude, ignorant point without seriously considering whether they may be making a subtle and educated one, using a privileged interlocutory position to stifle discourse, and making assumptions about someone’s intelligence/informedness/character based on which side of a division they’re on. Oh, and also penises.

    There’s a certain dramatic irony in the way this response demonstrates that while maleness might be correlated with such behaviors, it’s certainly not necessary. Conversely, when I’ve acted like a dick I find it more helpful to be called on that to be denigrated for having one. Disparaging a person who disagrees with you by telling them to go read a book is similarly rude and hostile. Also, in this particular case, if the person you’d insulted didn’t have a good-natured, forgiving streak almost as wide as her intellect and education are deep, it would have been an excellent way to get your ass handed to you on a plate.

    [Reply]

  • GimliGirl

    Your post rocked my whole world today. Way to go, Sara and I especially love that last paragraph above in your reply.

    [Reply]

  • amadea

    You are conflating a lot of different themes and forces (childrearing, motherhood, femininity, womanhood) that are certainly related to each other, but do not map perfectly onto each other, nor do they relate to each other in the same way in all circumstances. Just as womanhood is related to, but not equivalent to, child-making (there is a great deal more to each than the other), disliking children is not equivalent to misogyny. There are other reasons to dislike children besides the fact that they came out of mothers.

    Just because patterns of systematic oppression exist, and co-exist in patterned, often recurring ways (as a great deal of work in women's studies has in fact documented), they do not always operate the same ways in every context (as this literature has also documented). This is why it is important not to jump to conclusions based on assumptions about other people's background and motivations, but to look closely at how these patterns are actually operating in given situations. Observing these patterns at work is critically important; extrapolating from them that you know more than you know only muddies the waters.

    Speaking of which, I found your advice to “go read a book” to be insulting, condescending, and an example of just the kind of assumption-making, name-calling and conclusion-jumping that characterized your original post. I do disagree with you about many things, but that's due to the content of your argument, not due to my own illiteracy. I agree with you that these are crucially important issues to discuss, but I'm less willing to do so when one party believes they have a monopoly on truth and the full support of what is in fact a large and diverse body of literature.

    [Reply]

    Sara Amis Reply:

    I’m so sorry I was operating under the assumption that you were insufficiently informed, and that education would help you. I see now that I was mistaken. The mental gymnastics required to acknowledge that *those patterns do exist* but that *this incident can’t possibly be an example of it,* and to go on to characterize my opinion that it is indeed an example of those patterns as an assertion of global monopoly on truth…why, that is extraordinary. I cannot comprehend it. I can only marvel at it.

    [Reply]

    Sierra Reply:

    Something weird is going on with my comments – I’m not getting them e-mailed to me, and some are getting trapped in moderation while others slide through. No idea why.

    So I’m sorry this got delayed in posting, I approved it as soon as I saw it. But I only approved it because you’re responding to a critique of something you wrote here. If someone were this rude to another commenter on one of my posts, I’d delete the comment.

    [Reply]

  • http://www.suburbanfarm.com/ Gretchen

    This is very well written and compelling, not to mention makes a good point. All things a guest post should be.

    [Reply]

    Sara Amis Reply:

    Why, thank you :)

    [Reply]

  • WLB

    Perhaps I’m misreading you, but it seems like you are saying that the airline did something wrong, something that they could easily have fixed. However, at the same time assuming that Sierra could have done anything to fix her own problem is an authoritarian and sexist assumption (Just World Fallacy). And assuming that things would turn out for the best is also an authoritarian and sexist assumption. So isn’t it sexist and authoritarian to assume that the airline is a just airline in a just world and should help its passengers? Is the world simply disempowering to women and men and there’s not a damn thing we can do about it?

    [Reply]

    Sara Amis Reply:

    No.

    [Reply]

  • Kai

    I thought the post was interesting, but the responses below got more questionable.
    “Dislike of children is misogyny at its core.”
    Seriously? That to dislike children is to hate (dislike) women? Where do you get this from?
    Sure, I will agree that there are some people who dislike children, or forms of child-rearing as an attack on the women doing it, but there are many reasons to dislike children while respecting and supporting their mothers and all women..

    [Reply]

    Sara Amis Reply:

    Actually, there is only ONE reason to dislike children as a category of person, as opposed to individual children. It is the same reason one might dislike any other category of person as such: that is, because one is a bigot.

    However, the fact is that anti-woman, anti-life and anti-child sentiment are all connected conceptually and historically. Perhaps I *should* have said dislike of children at its core is anti-life. It is certainly a moral flaw.

    [Reply]

  • http://motive-nuance.livejournal.com/ John

    A feminist deconstruction of 'mansplaining' makes it seem questionable as a feminist idea. Judith Butler's work (among others) has inspired people to observe how the conventional notion of gender con-fuses a collection of ways that people can differ (e.g., anatomy, genetics, childbearing, aggression, privilege) into a seemingly monolithic trait. Though many of these traits do have causal or correlative relationships with each other, the heteronormative gender concept assumes a tangle of specifically normative connections, which contruct gender in a way that consistently privileges male over female.

    'Mansplaining' seems like another conflation of several ideas, such as assuming that someone is making a crude, ignorant point without seriously considering whether they may be making a subtle and educated one, using a privileged interlocutory position to stifle discourse, and making assumptions about someone's intelligence/informedness/character based on which side of a division they're on. Oh, and also penises.

    There's a certain dramatic irony in the way this response demonstrates that while maleness might be correlated with such behaviors, it's certainly not necessary. Conversely, when I've acted like a dick I find it more helpful to be called on that to be denigrated for having one. Disparaging a person who disagrees with you by telling them to go read a book is similarly hostile and condescending. Also, in this particular case, if the person you'd insulted didn't have a good-natured, forgiving streak almost as wide as her intellect and education are deep, it would have been an excellent way to get your ass handed to you on a plate.

    [Reply]

  • Rich Wilson

    I disagree with this part: “If they can assign seats in the first place, they can pay a programmer to make sure that when tickets for adults and children under ten are purchased together, they get seated together. This wouldn’t even be a very fancy bit of code.”

    It's easy to ask rhetorically “how hard can that be? those morons don't have any common sense!”. It's impossible for any of us who don't know the underlying system to know how doable something will be. I've had users ask for trivial things “if it's not too hard”, and then turn around and expect something very complex to be a piece of cake.

    I think the deeper problem is the move to allowing people to lock in a seat when they buy it. If they just told people that all seats are provisional, then the gate staff would be able to move people around. Or code (fancy or not) could be written allow people to be moved. Somebody might not like it, but hey, I didn't complain about getting frisked just because I'm wearing cargo shorts.

    [Reply]

    Sara Amis Reply:

    You appear to assume I don’t know anything about programming and am just pulling that out of my butt; I’m not. I first programmed a computer in 1978. “Shopping cart” setups on websites are often written in XML, and I’ve taken a graduate-level course in XML. Now, the focus of that class was digital archiving, not commerce, but people who know more about the commercial applications than I do seem to agree with me.

    [Reply]

  • amadea

    Gracefully put. I think the reason why this conversation has caught and held my attention so hard is that it shows how easy it is to get caught up in unintentionally replicating the same patterns that we are seeking to critique.

    As for me, I don't so much mind being told to read a book – I'd be in the wrong line of work if I did! – as much as I am unsettled by the implication that they all say the same thing.

    [Reply]

  • http://childwild.com Sierra

    I appreciate your comment. Though I think seating kids with parents should be a priority for airlines for a lot of reasons, I can't claim to know how easy or hard it would be. I was wildly amused, though, at the programmer who commented on my original post with two lines of code that he claimed could roughly fix the problem. At least techie thinks it would be easy. :)

    [Reply]

  • http://childwild.com Sierra

    I am finally back at my desk where I can reply to this! Yay!

    Amadea, I very much hope that I've established my own voice and ethics strongly enough on this blog that one contentious guest post isn't going to damage my credibility. :)

    Sara's not me, as she pointed out. If I'd written a long post on the gender issues that came up in the great US Airways Comment Fest, it would have been a different post. But I had a lot of other things on my plate this week, and was grateful that Sara was willing to step up and do it.

    I'm interested in your breakdown of the comments on the US Airways posts into groups. I also saw them as being in groups, maybe on a spectrum:

    - too supportive – there were people who reacted like I'd been the victim of a human rights violation. Dude. I got shitty customer service on an airplane. That's annoying, and they richly deserved the spanking the Internet delivered them when it decided my rant about it was The Link To Forward To Your Friends. But the kids and I are just fine.

    - reasoned and supportive – this was, actually, by far the majority of the response, in both comments and private e-mail. People who said, that sucks! Many of these folks told a story about their own travel experience, or gave me some gentle advice on how to have more control over mine in the future. A few took the clever step of thinking about how customer unrest about this could be transformed into industry reform. You know I heart that stuff, in my little revolutionary soul.

    - reasoned and critical – this was the second largest group: people who, in terms ranging from polite to dismissive, took issue with my behavior, my planning skills or my angry tone in my blog post. I learned a lot about air travel from these folks. I don't agree with everything they said – and some of what they said was just factually wrong – but they made points on which reasonable people can disagree.

    - nasty – at the far end of the spectrum were people who were unreasonably cruel and vitriolic in their comments. Many of these never made it to the blog, so you'll just have to trust me that you and Sara only saw the mildly offensive stuff.

    Nearly every comment in that fourth category was made by a man (maybe all of them? hard to tell about a few with the use of pseudonyms). Most directly insulted me and/or my kids based on gender. Calling me a “breeder” or an “uptight bitch” is misogynist no matter the gender of the speaker. Nearly all the commenters who came to my defense against the meanies were women. Only one man took the gender issues head on.

    Even if, as you suggest, the nastiness isn't motivated by my being a woman “above all other” factors, my gender was consistently on the table as an acceptable weapon to use against me in attacking my presumed credibility, temperament, parenting skills and intelligence.

    That is, to my thinking, sort of the essence of sexism – it is seen as socially acceptable to attack a person for being a woman. I also think it suggests that anger about gender and/or mothers is at the core of those nasty comments. Many people were able to express criticism of my post without devolving into personal attacks and misogyny. A few went there. Why? I don't buy that's it's just about their protective feelings for the customer service industry.

    Several people asked why all the nasty comments were being made by men, and I think it's an important question to explore.

    [Reply]

  • amadea

    I totally agree with you that gender – both yours, and the commentators – is a huge, important factor here, that's playing out in all sorts of ways. What I take exception to is the idea that it is possible to make sweeping statements about the motivations and beliefs of male versus female commentators – I worry that this will shut down, rather than facilitate, a discussion of the gender dynamics shaping the conversation. Suggesting that anger about gender/mothers may be at the core of many nasty comments, as you do above, is very different from proclaiming that you *know* that it is, and that this says something universally true about people of [x] race or gender.

    For example, I've seen many, many online discussions – regardless of topic – in which men speak more aggressively and critically than women. This is, to my mind, an issue of gender socialization, but it's not an example of misogyny. And furthermore, as John points out in his comment, speaking in a way that collapses that communication style onto the male gender forecloses possibilities for exploration and change. It is important to look at patterns, but also to look at particularities and exceptions, especially if we are trying to open up a space to examine and change those patterns.

    As for my comment about credibility, of course you have established your own voice and ethics to anyone who is familiar with your writing on this blog! And I hope everyone takes the time to look back at it. It just frustrated me to see you work so hard during that whole comment thread to respond in a factual, thoughtful way to the whole range of commentators, only to hand your new enormous audience, and the handling of a controversial question, over to someone who didn't seem as committed to that same level of civility.

    [Reply]

  • http://childwild.com Sierra

    First: Thank you for not allowing the comments on this blog to become an echo chamber.

    I'd agree that in general – not just on-line – men are more aggressive than women in their communication. I suspect part of why I get called a bitch is because I cross that line, as does Sara.

    To me the most interesting aspect of the gendered stuff was around the child-hating aspect, 'cause I do most of my critical thinking about motherhood. I kind of said what I had to say on that, in my closing post on the whole saga: kids are not an expensive hobby.

    The idea that they are comes from both men and women. Regardless of the gender of the speaker, I think its an attitude that reflects and reinforces sexism.

    I've only ever seen it come up in situations where people holding traditionally male privileges – money, high-placed professional jobs, large amounts of personal agency and freedom of movement – are expressing resentment of people in the traditionally female role of caring for young children.

    While there's a lot of room for argument about the motivations behind this argument, there are real consequences for women. The same attitude/argument that people employed to say I was a lazy, selfish, terrible mother who shouldn't expect the airline or other passengers to “bend over” for me gets used to argue against paid family leave for new parents, flexible work schedules for mothers in professional careers, space/time to breastfeed or pump milk at work, publically subsidized childcare, etc.

    In conjunction with the ongoing disparity between men's and women's salaries, and the social forces that push women towards lower paying careers, this attitude and the policies it helps shape create a lack of support for families that pushes many middle-class women out of the workforce and essentially imprisons them in stay-at-home-motherhood whether they will or no.

    For poorer women, those same policies push them towards poverty and create a culture of shame around them and their children.

    Plenty of women choose not to have children, and many dislike children. Hell – I find children annoying at times. But the privilege to assume that any problems or needs related to children are the sole responsibility of the child's primary carer, and that it's acceptable to cruelly denigrate someone who requires help meeting the needs of her children in a stressful situation – that privilege is rooted in patriarchy, and reinforces it.

    [Reply]

  • amadea

    I was pretty horrified as well as fascinated by that very pervasive theme in the comments: the denigration of childhood and child-rearing. To me, that idea boils down to the notion that it is fundamentally somewhat selfish to bring a needy creature into the world. It's rugged American individualism and competition run amok. Why on earth would anyone create a little thing that can't fend for itself? It horrified me in part because it resonated with me so deeply – I think a large part of what is standing between me and child-making is this ingrained notion that needing help is a moral affront to others, and that the creation of more need in the world is counter to my purpose on earth. I think this denigration of childbearing is an expression of misogyny in that much of caring for others has traditionally been and is still women's work – but I also think it's misanthropy, in the sense of contempt for the human condition, in a really pervasive and frightening form. As you said it so well, we're all going to need our ass wiped someday.

    OK, now I am going to get OFF THE INTERNET and write my dissertation.

    [Reply]

  • http://motive-nuance.livejournal.com/ John

    Yay for duplicate comments. (Sierra, please feel free to remove the extraneous copy.)

    [Reply]

  • wlb

    I would agree that that comment turned me off–particularly since I thought it was overstated. At its core, misogyny is dislike of women. And there are many reasons to dislike children on airplanes that have nothing to do with children in other situations. I remember one very turbulent flight with two kids who had never flown before. I was terrified at every bump and these kids kept shouting with glee with just emphasized how much the plane was shaking. I wished their father would shut them up–yes I hated them even though they were with their father, not their mother.

    [Reply]

  • http://motive-nuance.livejournal.com/ John

    People who aren't afraid often serve as a focus for what would otherwise be free-floating fear and rage.

    [Reply]

  • amadea

    *curtsies*

    [Reply]

  • http://childwild.com Sierra

    gah – I totally forgot to make my main point, which is that knowing the motivations of the commenters is not useful. They can believe that their reaction to me has nothing to do with gender AND be wrong about that. Sexism, like any bigotry, is insidious and affects good people with good intentions.

    [Reply]

  • Rich Wilson

    @Siera

    I finally found that comment, and Chip did say “(highly speculative)”. Which it is.

    @Sara

    Please don't equate my disagreement with a single point out of your long post to mean that I think you're talking out of your butt.

    I have made the mistake of thinking that something will be easy in MY OWN program, only to dig deeper and realize that some dumb assumption I made a year ago makes the current change exponentially more difficult.

    The shopping cart on the website is most likely not difficult, but there's a lot more to it than that. I could be wrong, maybe it is trivial, but I honestly don't think you, or I, or Chip, are in a position to know. I do know that when you go digging around in systems that have their origins 50+ years ago, you're bound to find some ugly.

    Having said that, there is a piece of evidence that lends itself to your point. When Sierra asked about a “person with special needs and you would bend over backwards to ensure she was seated with a caregiver on your flight.”

    And she got the reply:

    “It’s the law, we’re required to.”

    So if they CAN keep a special needs person and a caregiver together, then I don't see any reason why they can't treat a child as a special needs person, and a parent as a caregiver. I mean, that is what we are, right?

    [Reply]

  • Pingback: A Feminist Take on the US Airways Commenters — ChildWild

  • Sara Amis

    Precisely. I was just saying that my opinion on the subject was based on some knowledge of programming, not just a flight of “how hard can it be?”

    I think this is also a good argument for why regulation of industry is necessary: they will do exactly what they are *required* to do, and no more, even if it makes no sense and is in fact dangerous. I think that if there have been no incidents as a result of this kind of policy (and it makes me suspicious about how situations where families have gotten kicked off flights because of “out of control” children really went down, frankly), that that is pure luck.

    [Reply]

  • amadea

    But I think it's useful to know that they are wrong about that! I think someone believing their reaction has nothing to do with gender and being wrong is a really important phenomenon to call attention to. Both because (ideally) then knowing that will help inform our responses to them and to others, AND because it can give us information about how sexism is functioning in that situation.
    But also, I think we owe it to people we are in a conversation with, especially those who have entered into the conversation in good faith instead of out of an intent to be abusive, to take their intents into consideration when conversing with them. Saying to someone “I'm sorry, but you really mean X” while silencing their subjective experience of their own speech is ALSO an insidious misuse of power, in my opinion.

    [Reply]

  • Sara Amis

    Someone who enters a conversation openly questioning the credibility of the other person cannot rationally be described as entering it in good faith.

    [Reply]

  • Jesse

    I just wanted to add a little tidbit to your excellent article that, if you are a woman who is overweight or who happens to not be beautiful or if you speak with any kind of an accent, the flack 'doubles' and it doesn't matter what color you are.

    [Reply]

  • http://childwild.com Sierra

    Ouch. You are so right. Thanks for shining a light into one of my own
    privileged blind spots.

    [Reply]

  • Sara Amis

    *nodnod* Preach it. It's always been astonishing to me how my IQ and credibility apparently drop lower the farther away from Georgia I get. I've also had weight fluctuations with attendant variations in visibility and credibility.

    [Reply]

  • Jesse

    I just wanted to add a little tidbit to your excellent article that, if you are a woman who is overweight or who happens to not be beautiful or if you speak with any kind of an accent, the flack 'doubles' and it doesn't matter what color you are.

    [Reply]

  • http://childwild.com Sierra

    Ouch. You are so right. Thanks for shining a light into one of my own
    privileged blind spots.

    [Reply]

  • Sara Amis

    *nodnod* Preach it. It's always been astonishing to me how my IQ and credibility apparently drop lower the farther away from Georgia I get. I've also had weight fluctuations with attendant variations in visibility and credibility.

    [Reply]

  • http://profile.typepad.com/6p00d83460a85153ef jokeefe

    As I test computer software, I certainly laugh when people suggest that something should be easy to code without knowing more about the underlying code.

    That said, US Airways has been around since 1979 and is the 5th largest airline in the US. I would think that they could have added the ability to flag seats where the parents are not next to their children or make sure that parents sit with their children. This shouldn't be a new problem to them since people have been booking tickets over the internet for over ten years.

    Seems to me to be a clear example of poor design and poor customer service.

    [Reply]

  • http://profile.typepad.com/6p00d83460a85153ef jokeefe

    Thanks for the post, Sara, and the interesting comments from all. May your next flight be a better one for you and your family, Sierra.

    [Reply]

  • http://profile.typepad.com/6p00d83460a85153ef James O'Keefe

    As I test computer software, I certainly laugh when people suggest that something should be easy to code without knowing more about the underlying code.

    That said, US Airways has been around since 1979 and is the 5th largest airline in the US. I would think that they could have added the ability to flag seats where the parents are not next to their children or make sure that parents sit with their children. This shouldn't be a new problem to them since people have been booking tickets over the internet for over ten years.

    Seems to me to be a clear example of poor design and poor customer service.

    [Reply]

  • http://profile.typepad.com/6p00d83460a85153ef James O'Keefe

    Thanks for the post, Sara, and the interesting comments from all. May your next flight be a better one for you and your family, Sierra.

    [Reply]

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