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Viliam comments on Project Hufflepuff: Planting the Flag - Less Wrong

41 Post author: Raemon 03 April 2017 06:37PM

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Comment author: Viliam 04 April 2017 11:26:29AM *  2 points [-]

There is the "confuses the shepherd dogs by technically being one of the sheep" aspect.

Imagine a situation when e.g. organizers of a huge rationalist meetups realize there are few women, and they decide to work extra hard to make the place friendly to women. And later, there comes one specific woman, let's call her Ms. X, who participates at the event, but also does something quite annoying. Asking her gently to stop doing the annoying thing has no effect. Some men feel annoyed, but they don't know what to do about it: friendly reminders don't work, and they have all precommited to make this a friendly place for women, so they don't want to be too confrontational. (A man with the same behaviour would probably at this moment be told to leave.) The women in the group are too few to create an opposition: let's suppose there are three women, first one actually doesn't mind the behavior, second one is shy and feels threatened by Ms. X's strong personality, and the third one is like "why am I supposed to solve the problem of Ms. X alone?". -- And this is just being annoying; now imagine that Ms. X is also verbally aggressive, or worse. But no man wants to be the one who tells a women to leave the group, after everyone has agreed that gender imbalance in the group is a problem that needs to be taken seriously. (And Ms. X has already complained in her blog about the perceived sexism in the group.)

Perhaps less political, but equally real example from different settings: Imagine an elementary school that makes its utmost priority that teachers are as friendly as possible towards the children. Makes sense, right? Now imagine that one child in a classroom starts bullying a classmate. The teacher tries various nice approaches, but none of them works. Less than nice approaches are explicitly forbidden by the school policy. Attempts to escalate the problem higher in hierarchy fail, because the director says something like "oh, they are just kids, stop exaggerating", or perhaps the director spends 5 minutes talking to the bully, and the bully is very polite to the director and explains that this is all just a big misunderstanding; then the director tells the teacher to stop bothering him with such trivialities anymore. Meanwhile, the victim is getting visibly depressed, stops paying attention in the class, etc.

Both situations have in common that you (in the position of the "shepherd dog") are unable to solve the problem without being pattern-matched to a wolf and most likely attacked by other, well-meaning dogs.

Comment author: Lumifer 04 April 2017 05:04:59PM 4 points [-]

Your example highlights the problems that arise when "this particular person" is replaced with "a representative of this class of people" -- a common thing in our age of identity politics.

The solution should be simple -- don't define sheep by what they look like, define them by what they do. That which spends its time munching grass is a sheep, that which runs around biting everyone is not, even though it may look like a sheep when standing still.