Monday, March 9, 2015

Curt Schilling Discovers Internet Misogyny; or, The Limits of Conservative Empathy

CS: I would urge people, especially young women, to check out the local laws in your state for cyber-bullying because I think a lot of times crimes are being committed and people don’t know.
So Curt Schilling, baseball hero, conservative activist, and failed video-game designer, discovered internet misogyny recently when awful sexual comments were directed at his daughter. He first applied a typical patriarchal response, which is to threaten to have them killed, but then decided to use internet shaming instead.

As he details here in his own post, "The World We Live in Man It Has Changed" (more on that title in a second) and in this interview (and elsewhere), he tracked down who some of these people were, where they went to school and worked, and applied his celebrity to getting them fired or expelled. Win one for the good guys?

The world can be a pretty lousy place, and every so often a conservative like Schilling encounters hate in a way that makes it impossible to blame on welfare, or Obama, or reverse racism, or whatever. Here, directed at his daughter, Schilling had a clear target and used the tools at his disposal to exact revenge.

There are issues here - the defense of the white daughter by the powerful father plays deeply into purity culture, but overall good job. I hope Schilling sticks with this issue, and extends his support to women who aren't athletes, who aren't white, who aren't poor, who aren't Republicans.

Here are my questions for Mr. Schilling:

1. Will he now become an anti-GamerGate activist? To my knowledge, despite being in the industry, he said nothing before this last week, with silence speaking volumes.

2. He says use law enforcement, but Brianna Wu (who praised Schilling) has documented how ineffectual law enforcement has been. Wu, at PAX this weekend, pointed out that Schilling used celebrity to shame people, rather than relying on law enforcement. But since we aren't all famous sports heroes, we need universally accessible law enforcement solutions. Will Schilling advocate for other people?

3. Will he extrapolate from this experience to think about broader consequences of misogyny, patriarchy, the sexualization of woman, and rape culture?

My guess is no, maybe, and no, but I'm prepared to be surprised.

What really interests me is the failure of conservative empathy - the ability to try to think hard the experiences of others, to empathize, and to work broadly for change - not just change that benefits you and yours. Every so often, conservatives encounter something in their family that they can't ignore: harassment as happened to Gabby Schilling makes her dad fight internet misogyny. Will Schilling, then, generalize to think about patriarchy and misogyny? Will he fight for equal pay? Equal rights? Transgender rights? Anti-discrimination laws? Sexual abuse of homosexuals. And so forth - will he follow the path from his single experience as Gabby's father to seeing the general pattern and work to correct it?

Signs point to no. Here are two other examples:

When Rob Portman's (Republican Senator from Ohio) son came out as gay, a few years later, Portman began to support gay marriage rights. But has he extrapolated from that to other kinds of discrimination? To other kinds of rights? To using the power of government to fight discrimination? Not to my knowledge - Portman has shifted his views to the extent that it benefits his son and no further. There's no bigger result that would emerge from deeper empathy.

Cathy McMorris-Rodgers (Republican rep from Washington State) has a son with Down syndrome. I've spoken to her press secretary a lot and to other people who know her, liberals and conservatives alike, and I knot that McMorris-Rodgers is genuinely driven to use the government to make this country a better place for her son Cole - and my son Nico too. But she's still voting against universal healthcare. She's still part of a Republican congress that is trying to defund SSDI, under the guise of "good poor vs bad poor," and "good disabled vs bad disabled."

There's no generalization of principles or application of empathy, because to do so would threaten a core epistemology. You'd become a social justice warrior. You'd become a liberal.

So I'm happy Schilling is protecting his daughter. If it moves the needle in terms of online harassment just a little, that will be a good thing. But 1) What took him so long? and 2) How far will he go with his newfound realization?

I suspect not very far, because as you see from the top, he's unaware of how deeply his many privileges inform this successful response. Because when women, especially women of color, go to law enforcement or to the press or to companies employing harassers, they DO NOT get the kind of respect that he gets. And tomorrow, when he's forgotten this issue, the harassment will continue.


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