We’re encouraging a discussion of civility on our blog lately, so given some recent ruckus I’m going to share a bit of my thoughts. I have at least two concerns about the notion of civility.
One, I’m suspicious of power, and of how those with more power (and perhaps I am in that category or perhaps I am not, depending on the situation) can use the trump card of civility to shut down others.
Second, if civility means draining our discourse of provocative, well-argued ideas, I’m not interested.
Which brings me to Alana’s piece yesterday, written at Public Discourse and linked to here. It’s a provocative, well-argued piece. I don’t care if you agree with it or not. If you disagree with her points, argue on the merits. But she didn’t point fingers at particular people or name names. Instead, she used powerful metaphors to highlight how women’s bodies are being preyed upon in new ways today. I can’t think of anything more important for us to discuss.
At the moment, our civility policy says to be powerful, be rigorous, be funny, but don’t be mean. Her piece was powerful and rigorous. And it did not name names or point fingers at particular people. Rather, her piece fits in a long, fine tradition of powerful social critique. If you don’t like her argument, combat it with a better argument.
We are interested in civility in this blog. But the day we use “civility” as the excuse to turn into vanilla people pleasers proferring bad writing that won’t offend anybody, I’m out.