Vagina Invalidation Argument

10 November 2011

I've been holding onto this post for a while, so that the people I interact with both in the meatspace and virtually, wouldn't think it was directed specifically at them. You know how it is: someone does something that tweaks you, and they're far from the first, but if you rant about it elsewhere, they'll assume it was ALL ABOUT THEM.

I kept waiting for a lull, so that I could post this without someone taking it personally. But each time I thought enough time had passed, I'd be damned if it didn't happen again.

So fuck it. I'm posting it.

I would like to talk to you today about a tool that's often used against people of one group to invalidate their argument. Since it's used against me as regards to my being a woman, I shall name it thusly:

The Vagina Invalidation Argument

It goes like this:

Me: [argument about how women are treated]

Other: Well, I know a woman who's okay with it, so... it must be okay.

Me: [dropped jaw]

It's a simple tool, and an incredibly annoying one. I've seen it used against women, men, people of various races and sexual orientations, and, well, just about anything that can be labelled.

Here's the truth of the matter: every group is sprinkled with people who, for whatever reason, don't fight the status quo of oppression. Maybe they think rules can't change. Maybe they've bought into the arguments of the other side. Or, maybe they've gained under this unbalanced system, and to fight it would mean to lose those gains. Who knows?I do know something, though: there's quite a few of them.

As a woman, I've fought them all my life. They came not only from TV and movies, which I could ignore, but from my own family and friends. They didn't do it out of malice, which only made it harder to fight. I was told never to show off that I was smart. I was told to be quiet and demure. I was told that computer club was a waste of my time (omiGOD did you see the NERDS in there?!). I was told wanting to play hockey would mean I would be labeled a *gasp* lesbian. I was told never to tell a man he was wrong, but to be coy and gently nudge him to my way of thinking. Oh, and if he takes credit for my idea as his own? *haha* Oh, MEN. Baby, that's just how it works, okay?

I was told all that crap by women. Not just women: the ones closest to me. But I managed to block them out, though I was punished, ostracisized, and put down in innumerable petty ways. I survived, and I made it in an industry that's mostly male. I thought I had put them behind me.

Now here we are, having a discussion, and you've tossed another one at me. They don't even have to be in spitting distance to annoy me. FFS.

Just because you know someone who agrees with you, doesn't mean you get to use them as a proxy for an argument. Mob rule is not the same as logic and debate. If you've reached the point of trolling through your brain for people who think the same as you do, you have essentially lost the argument. Just. Stop. Walk away. Maybe you'll come up with some better arguments later. If it was a rational discussion, hell, you might even be able to present them. If you ended with 'The lurkers agree with me in email,' you've just shown you don't deserve a second chance.

So stop using it. Seriously.


Related tags: women


1 Sequoia McDowell says...

PREACH! This is definitely getting bookmarked for future reference. I typically craft my arguments online VERY carefully in order to preclude such a rebuttal, or add a caveat to address it directly. See the asterisk on my comment here:

I'm so glad you gave this a name, I've been calling it the "Well I'm an X and I don't agree" argument, but VIA is a lot snappier.

Posted at 9:27 p.m. on March 21, 2012

2 Cate says...

Love the way you explain stuff. Beautiful.

Posted at 10:29 p.m. on March 24, 2012

3 Arka says...

On the one hand, I appreciate this entry, because I always seem to be on the receiving end of these "such-and-such a person whom I deem to be equivalent because of arbitrary features of skin color / genitalia / personal history doesn't share your opinion, so your opinion is invalid!"

On the other hand, this comment really bothers me:

"[E]very group is sprinkled with people who, for whatever reason, don't fight the status quo of oppression."

If someone is arguing "Such-and-such a woman feels this way, so you should feel this way," why do you feel that argument reflects on the woman and her willingness to "fight the status quo of oppression"? Isn't it the implication that women should share some kind of hive mind, rather than a particular woman exercising her right to set her personal boundaries, that should earn the brunt of our ire?

(And: I am really, really sorry if this comment goes through multiple times. I tried to post it and got a blank screen, refreshed the page and it doesn't seem to have gone up, so I think the server choked on it the first time. But if you see a sequence of identical comments differing only in the presence of this apologia, you'll know...)

Posted at 4:46 a.m. on April 13, 2012

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