Just Shelley

Hide the sparkle

I was surprised when I wrote the post You are how you write? that no one seemed to notice the irony in the page. In particular the paragraph:

Of course, once I wrote this, I thought of Jonathon’s previous writing on Linguistic Imperialism, and the impact that political correctness is having on what we say.

This all followed my quoting Stavros and Jonathon’s strongly expressed disdain for the new book by William Hannas, where he states that perhaps there is a correlation between character-based written languages as compared to abstract alphabets and scientific achievement. I went along with calling “fie” on Mr. Hannas because it seemed like the thing to do, politically.

Lots of comments on this topic, but my favorite was Mark’s rather quiet comment :

Should I read Hannas, or is the poor man already in the outer darkness?

Of course, this is where the irony enters — without fully reading the book, we’re all ready to jump on Hannas and his politically incorrect words, directly after chatting about how political correctness is damaging the English language.

Not picking on Stavros, or Jonathon. Well, yes I am. But there’s a point to it.

When I wrote the posting Outside even among the Outsiders, there was no greater opportunity to get to know me, the ‘real’ me than with this weblog posting. After all, I was talking about some of my deepest insecurities, particularly as they relate to my experiences in my field. However, rather than using an abstract example to talk about my feelings of alienation among technical discussion groups, I used an actual group; one in which many of you also participate in — or not. Worse, I brought up that ugly “male/female” thing again, which seems to be one of the most taboo subjects I know of in weblogging.

This “male/female” thing in technology is very real, should be discussed rather than hidden, and is something I’ve had to deal with, personally and painfully, for over 20 years. It’s not only just a facet of my life, it’s one of the bigger ones. I could have picked a more ‘politically correct’ way of discussing it, but I don’t think I could have picked a more honest approach. Whether my perceptions are true or not, no matter how uncomfortable, they were and are very real. Should I have kept silent?

This reminds me of Jonathon’s Alibis and consistent lies, which generated so much discomfort in local reading/writing circles. Here Jonathon was, sharing a very real facet of himself by exposing how he writes, and there is this incredible push back because people are perceiving the lies being told to them rather than seeing this as an abstract concept that really doesn’t touch them.

And isn’t this the exact same push back that occurred with Dorothea’s Academic Ivory Tower take down? D wasn’t talking about some abstract field, she was talking about academia and academics in the midst of, well, academics. Academics who pushed back, with more than a hint of “Are you talking about me?”

Are you talking about me?

Frank Paynter (that’s PayntEr), talked strongly about his views on postmodernism recently, which triggered some push back from AKMA. Frank pulled the post, which AKMA regreted because, as he wrote:

Frank pulled his post on this topic, which is a shame. I’m sorry he felt obliged to; I hope he didn’t think I was fishing for that. The topic of postmodernism evokes strong responses across the board, and if a strong disagreement between Frank and me helps clarify what’s at stake in postmodern thought and the responses it engenders.

Do you know, I think AKMA’s got it.

Passionately, eloquently, hurtfully, angrily, scathingly, regretfully, we will break the boundaries of political correctness with each other. Sometimes this will be done deliberately and there will be consequences. There should be. However, most of the time these violations of political correctness are really nothing more than an exposure of yet another facet of ourselves, one that people may not like.

At times we’re going to say things that are going to have our readers, our friends, say, “Are you talking about me?” And the answer could be, you know, I just might be — should I stop? I can turn myself around, hide that facet. After all, I don’t want to hurt or offend people or make them uncomfortable. I don’t want to push people away.

As for the Outsider posting, I apologize to Liz for putting her, unfairly, on the spot. And I apologize to Marius for lumping him in with “stereotypical males”, and appreciate his honest response about this. The same apology extends to other men who felt unfairly classified with my writing. Or the women who felt I unfairly classified them.

And the “male/female” thing? Well, we’ll just turn me about a bit and hide that facet of me. Of course, there’s always the risk that if I turn around enough, there won’t be much left of me to show someday. But then, that’s a bit of okay, too. No sharp edges to get caught on.

The smartest weblogger I know is Happy Tutor. He holds up a mask and says, “Love the mask. Hate the mask.”

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