Yes, you, the one who was linked here in the middle of an online discussion after Arguing By Analogy.
Your analogy privileges are revoked.
Not forever. Arguments by analogy can actually be super useful at helping people to understand where you're coming from, and I'm not about to take them entirely off-limits as a discussion tool. But your analogy privileges are revoked for the next month while you sit very still and think about why your analogy was less about showing another perspective in a discussion and more about trying to "win" with word games and rampant apathy about things that are life-and-death matters to many of the rest of us.
And, yes, I can do this. I have an English degree, and am authorized by the secret English Cabal to pull people over and ticket them for Analogy Abuse. Otherwise, we'd have chaos. So now let's go through why your analogy privileges have been revoked so that you can hopefully avoid being sent here in the future.
1. Analogies are not MadLibs.
Here is what I have seen all day and all week and all month and all year and all my entire fucking life:
Woman: As an X, I react with fear to Y, when Z.
Man: Well, as a Y, I react with fear to Q, when Z. Bam!
And this? No. Just no. No no no.
Words are not interchangeable. Analogies are not about taking a complex sentence that spells out a complex social situation that has been informed by thousands of years of cultural attitudes, changing one or two words in that sentence, and then sitting back pleased at a job well done. That is not how analogies work. It's not how discussion works. It's not how interchange of ideas work.
It's how trolls shut down conversation because the Fail is so strong, you have to write several paragraphs worth just to clarify how much Fail is there. (Which is what I'm doing right now.)
When a woman says "as a woman, I react with fear to men, when I'm alone on the street walking home at night", the correct response to that sentiment is not to turn the whole thing into a MadLibs exercise ("as a NOUN, I react with fear to NOUN, when LOCATION") and then fill in the blanks with random nonsense that is not the same thing. A rebuttal of "oh, yeah, well some white men fear BLACK PEOPLE! Bam!" is as meaningful in this situation as saying that some cats fear elephants whilst on the moon.
Which is to say, it's not. Because:
2. Words are not interchangeable.
In the framing "as a woman, I fear men, when alone on the street at night", you cannot simply sub in new nouns as you please and expect the sentence to mean the same thing. If you take out "as a woman" and substitute in "as a man", you have changed the sentence completely. Because Woman and Man are not the same thing.
Women are not Men. Men are not subject to the same high incident of harassment and danger as Women. Women are less likely to be believed than Men when they report harassment and danger. Women are not possessed of the same social privilege as Men. Women comprise 90% of rape victims. At least one in six women are victims of rape or attempted rape. A disproportionate number of women face street harassment from strangers, often in ways that many men don't realize are endemic and wide-spread.
By treating the words Man and Woman as interchangeable in a statement that is about how women are demonstrably treated differently in society, you are not only attempting to impose false equivalence on the two nouns in question, you are also completely and utterly missing the fucking point. As a man, you do not understand what it's like to be Female In Public. Pretending that it must be a near-identical experience to being Male In Public inappropriately normalizes your privileged experiences as the set to which everything else presumably conforms. News flash: it doesn't.
3. Words are not interchangeable.
In the framing "as a woman, I fear men, when alone on the street at night", you cannot simply rearrange the words into some sort of gotcha statement about racist-or-homophobic white people fearing black people or fearing gay people. I know that deep down inside you really want to, because you get that homophobia and racism are steeped in ignorance and fear, and you really want to smear women who are genuinely concerned about avoiding street harassment and rape after a lifetime of being street harassed and raped as being steeped in nothing more than ignorance and fear, but here's the thing: you can't.
The number of straight white men who have been harassed on the street and explicitly and overtly made to feel genuinely unsafe by black people and/or QUILTBAG persons does not approach 99%. The number of straight white men who have been targeted for rape or attempted rape by black people and/or QUILTBAG persons does not even remotely approach the numbers of women who have been targeted for rape by men.
You know this, otherwise you wouldn't consider this to be some kind of winning Pokemon card in an argument. You know that white fear of black people and straight fear of QUILTBAG people is a load of bullshit steeped in irrational fear and layered in the hatred that is racism and homophobia. You know this because you are really really hoping that this fact will help smear women who speak up about fear of rape and harassment because, bitches be flippin', amiright?
But here is the thing: words are not interchangeable. You don't get to say "women who fear men are like white men who fear black people!" You don't get to say that because you're comparing a fact-based phenomena with a non-fact-based one and pretending that because there is one superficial similarity -- fear -- that they are therefore identical. 99% of rapists are male. 60% of rapists are white. In 2009, 69% of all individuals arrested for alleged crimes were white, while only 28% were black.
None of those statistics tell you how likely that an individual, specific person is likely to commit a crime. But if you honestly can't see the difference between "afraid of being alone with men" and "afraid of being alone with black people" after reading those statistics, then not only are your analogy privileges revoked, but also your discussion privileges entirely because you do not need to be mansplaining any more than you already have.
4. Words are not interchangeable.
Here's the other thing why your WOMEN ARE JUST LIKE RACISTS card isn't the winning hand that you thought it would be when it arrived at your house in the shiny silver foil wrapper: words are still not interchangeable.
Remember when I said that Women aren't Men and you can't swap the words around and have the sentence still make sense? And I said that specifically because Women are marginalized as a group in this country (what with all the rape and harassment and persistent denial that rape and harassment are a thing) and Men are a privileged group in this country (what with being able to continue to deny that rape and harassment are things that need addressing)? Well, similarly, you can't just switch out "men" for "black people" or "QUILTBAG persons" and expect the sentence to convey the same meaning. Because it doesn't.
Men are not disproportionately marginalized in this country, and certainly not by women as a group. Black people and QUILTBAG persons, on the other hand, are most certainly marginalized in this county, very frequently by privileged straight white men. If you turn around a statement that says "as a Marginalized Person, I fear Privileged People" (women, fearing men) and try to make it say "as a Privileged Person, I fear Marginalized People" (straight white men, fearing black people and/or QUILTBAG people), then you are completely misunderstanding everything ever.
5. Words are not interchangeable.
Here's one more thing, because fuck me but this persistent zombie analogy that will not die no matter how many times we kill it with fire irks me so much: words are not interchangeable.
When a woman says she "fears" a man who walks behind her late at night or sits too close to her on the empty public transit or engages in frightening behavior, that "fear" means she is intensely worried for her own safety. She might do something in response, but she might not do something because -- frankly -- she's been heavily socialized not to do anything and whatever she does do will earn her criticism.
But if she does do something in response to her fear, it will almost certainly be something like "get off at the wrong stop so that the stranger on the bus doesn't know where she lives". Or "duck into a brightly lit store so that the stranger following her home will give up and move on". Or "call her friend and ask them to stay on the line so that if she's attacked, someone will know to alert the police right away". Her actions will almost always inconvenience her, not the man she is afraid of.
When a straight white man says he "fears" a black person or a QUILTBAG person who happens to be out in public instead of not existing like the racists and homophobes would like hir to do? Any action taken by the straight white man in response to his fear is almost certainly going to seriously harm the black person or QUILTBAG person. He's going to call the police and have the other person detained for looking suspicious. He's going to stalk the other person in order to 'keep an eye on him'. He's going to confront the other person and murder them, simply because his "fear" made him feel justified in focusing the full blow of his privilege onto this person. We know this is going to happen, because THIS IS A THING THAT HAPPENS.
Women who fear men? Try to remove themselves from the situation as quickly, quietly, and safely as possible. Racists who fear black people? Murder them and then hide behind Stand Your Ground laws that are specifically implemented to protect straight white men but not, for example, marginalized women and black people. THAT is privilege. THAT is why words are not interchangeable. THAT is why you cannot compare a woman's fear of being raped with a racist's fear of black people. THAT is why your analogy privileges were revoked.
And THAT is why, if you are a decent human being, you will STOP FUCKING USING THIS ANALOGY.
Repeat after me:
- A Marginalized Group (Women) cannot be substituted with a Privileged Group (Men) without changing the meaning of the sentence.
- A fact-based fear response (women fearing men because Personal Experience and Statistics) cannot be substituted with a non-fact-based fear response (straight white men fearing black people and/or QUILTBAG people because Racist/Homophobic Narratives and In Spite Of Statistics) without changing the meaning of the sentence.
- A Privileged Group (Men) cannot be substituted with a Marginalized Group (Black People and/or QUILTBAG People) without changing the meaning of the sentence.
- When the word "fear" comprises one set of behaviors in one sentence, it cannot be swapped out for a new set of behaviors in a new sentence without changing the meaning of the sentence.
And if you try to mix and match out privileged groups with marginalized groups and fact-based responses with non-fact-based responses, then you're not making a sensible analogy. You might as well just say something about cats and elephants on the moon. Because that makes as much sense and is less trolly, less likely to perpetuate racist and homophobic narratives, and less likely to smear women as JUST LIKE RACISTS AND HOMOPHOBES for having the fucking audacity to not want to be raped or street harassed by the very people most likely to rape and street harass them in our culture.
Analogies! Handle them with care, or else no one will get to use them anymore.
Thread Note: The first person to say "you can't take away my analogies because Free Speech" will have their comment deleted for derailment and chronically missing the point. Just saying.