Re: Reply to: Re: Reply to: Re: Recent sexism postings

Subject: Re: Reply to: Re: Reply to: Re: Recent sexism postings
From: Bonni Graham <Bonni_Graham_at_Enfin-SD -at- RELAY -dot- PROTEON -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 7 Oct 1993 11:33:00 EST

"Technical Writers List; for all Technical Communication issues" <
From: Tammy Williams <williams -at- OCLC -dot- ORG>
Comments: To: techwr-l -at- osuvm1 -dot- bitnet
SMTP-CCMail translator Ver: acm 2.73 8/18/93
Norm (npArry -at- center -dot- colgate -dot- edu) wrote:

>We have almost nothing to learn from the _victems_ of racism, sexism, abuse,
>discrimination. What are we going to learn from them, why they were
>mistreated? How they were mistreated? How it felt?

>Yes, surely. But we have so much more to learn from racists, sexists,
>abusers, bigots. Can we learn about racism from the victems of the holocaust?
>Yes, perhaps, a little. But if we want to know why it happened, how it was
>done, what caused it, we have to ask the Nazis (pretty difficult to do, since
>the day the War ended, they all magically disappeared - during the war, nothing
>but Nazis, after the war, no Nazis!)

Tammy replied:
>I think if we are discussing gender and racial issues as the apply to
>technical communication, we're fine. I think we have a duty to
>portray people fairly and accurately. If we're discussing them from a
>philosophical area of who's more helpful--the victim or the
>oppressor-- I don't think this is the place.

>I'm an African-American female. I don't need a
>male telling me how it feels to be a woman nor do I need a white
>person demeaning the pain my people suffered at the hands of white
>slave owners by saying that the oppressor's rational for oppressing
>me/mine is more important than how I/we feel/felt.

>**some information deleted***

>I would like to use this list as a tool to help me become a better
>technical writer. I would appreciate it if we could stick to
>technical communication issues that directly affect improving

Tammy and all,

I deeply sympathize with your experiences. That these things still happen in
this day and age is appalling, and leads one to think that reverse evolution
really is possible!

However, it's precisely because the victims don't need to be told how to feel,
that we need to examine the behaviour of the perpetrators more closely. THIS IS
***NOT*** to say sympathize with it -- there is _no_ excuse for the kind of
actions you've experienced!!

And yet I still feel that Norm has a point, and that it is pertinent to
technical communication. What we do is as much related to UNlearning as it is
to learning. It is very difficult to reverse attitudes or any other learned
behaviour with out learning how they came to be. From that standpoint, the
oppressor's rationale IS more important.

In a way, to say that their motive isn't important is to put the onus of change
on the victim -- an outrageous idea. The idea is not that their motive is more
important overall than the victim's, but that _in terms of change_ the victim's
is less important, because the victim shouldn't HAVE to change (we should learn
to "like" it?). I don't think Norm meant that your view or feelings were
unimportant or intrinsically less important.

To go back to the issue of technical communication, we cannot prepare manuals
effectively if we do not know what our users do no understand, and if we do not
understand what "baggage" they bring in with them. From that standpoint,
understanding the oppressor is not only important, it is crucial. Norm's point
is an illustration of "learning what needs to be unlearned," not a blanket
dismissal of the importance of the victim's point of view.

Bonni Graham
(Opinions expressed here are not necessarily those of anyone but me -- and I may
be wrong!)

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