Hedge Yourself Before They Wreck Yourself

Although I have touched on facets of this topic before — in articles I encourage you to read before continuing partly to have a bit of background to frame my subsequent words with, partly because I still feel quite proud of how well they turned out, but mostly because I still stand behind those sentiments — I have put off writing this for quite some time, for a whole host of reasons. After listening to last week’s episode of the Accidental Tech Podcast, however, where John, Marco, and Casey discussed sexism and the best ways in which to respond to accusations of unsavory bias towards the “wrong” side of politically-charged topics, I decided it was high-time I put my two-cents out there for everyone to tear apart as they see fit. Throughout the rest of that day, I spent every spare moment tapping nearly eight hundred words into a first draft; after a bit of editing and some minor corrections, this is the end result.

The thing I take issue with in regards to many of today’s social movements is that these marginalized groups have made their problems universal to the entire population. Whether the (often self-selecting) crowd is advocating for gender equality, recognition of the legitimacy of their sexuality, or prayer in schools, they speak out often and with enough volume to permeate the collective discourse to such an extent that it no longer becomes acceptable to refer to a member of the female gender as a “girl” due to some perceived connotations that word carries over “woman”, for example, when in reality I merely needed a word to say she was a female and ought not use the bathroom on the left. These self-proclaimed activists speak so vociferously that I have to carefully monitor every gesture I make as a heterosexual male so as not to unintentionally signal any dislike or otherwise condemnatory sentiment towards someone of another sexual orientation. Because of these battle lines, I no longer have the option of remaining neutral or ambivalent; I have to come down as either strictly and wholeheartedly for a particular mantra, or perish in the face of it. My own opinions on these topics are wholly irrelevant, and are completely outside of the scope of this piece; my annoyance is universal, and applies to every hot-button issue on the seemingly rotating docket of inflammatory subjects news outlets, among others, select topics from. The way I respond to these groups and the causes they advocate for, however, does not come down to a question of personal belief, but that of basic decency.

I absolutely do not condone gender discrimination — some of the best technically-minded individuals I have ever met were females, in fact — nor do I support discrimination based upon who you decide to marry, nor the abolition or promotion of prayer by fiat. At the risk of sounding repetitive, I feel the need to make this important point one more time: these three reactions are not necessarily resultant of my own opinions towards these movements, but rather stem from a desire to behave decently and humanely towards the appropriate individuals. As has been said by many in the past, I don’t hold the door open for you because you are a lady; I hold it open for you because that’s who I am, and it has nothing to do with you whatsoever. Back to the topic at hand though, my problem with these movements, then, is that those of us who have never done anything but try to teach girls everything we know with the same fervor that we teach their brothers, and have never called anyone a queer, and have never either encouraged or discouraged someone from praying in school, have to carefully monitor and hedge every single thing we say. The best of us, the non-discriminatory, have to phrase everything we write and utter with the perfect combination of nouns and verbs while giving equal attention to every interest group involved for fear of one of their armchair activists jumping down our throats after a misplaced comma in an old book turns “And on that day I felt gay, boy” to “And on that day I felt gay boy” and ignites a week of controversy that mires everyone involved in nuanced arguments before dissipating as fast as it erupted, to leave nothing changed but the victim of their backlash scared and afraid to ever say anything publicly again.

Not to throw gun control into the mix, but its inclusion will lend credence to my ultimate point. Criminals will not get rid of their guns if possessing them becomes illegal. I guarantee that I could walk a mile in any direction from my college campus in Youngstown, Ohio, and find enough firepower to occupy Wall Street for real. Upstanding citizens will get rid of their guns, though, because that’s the “right” — and I use scare quotes here because the definition of the morally good course of action will vary from legislator to legislator depending on their particular values — thing to do, meanwhile I will only have to walk a mile and a half in any direction off of my campus to find the same number, quality, and power of firearms as before. This restriction would not — does not — penalize the right people, and the same thing could be said for forcing all the upstanding internet denizens to tread on egg shells whenever putting forth anything for public consumption: the people that will care, the ones who will take the time to respond to you, apologize, and rewrite their blog post, are not the problem. At the end you will have only served to affect the right change in the wrong part of the non-problem. The ones we need to crack down on in order to affect any meaningful change are those who will merely shell out a small surcharge to purchase their weapons after a hypothetical law outlaws them, not the ones who will willingly cease purchasing them or hand them over altogether; I’ll leave the corollary to the broader topic at hand for you to form yourself.

This isn’t a long article, because I feel no need to rant, and I have no desire to wax on endlessly. I don’t necessarily disagree with these causes, just their methods. As is the case in most areas of my life, I was tempted to brush this dissatisfaction aside with the age-old adage proclaiming that the ends — in this case, equality and moral reparation across the board — justify the means. But in the end, crucifying a thousand innocents without addressing the real problem solely for the sake of feeling as if something has been done is no solution at all. In fact, I might even go so far as to say that this haphazard approach is worse than the problems it attempts to rectify in the first place.

And there I go hedging again.