Thursday, March 3, 2011

Fallacious "you don't have it that bad" arguments

"You don't have it that bad" is one of the arguments used against dateless men that really irks me. I recently saw a discussion where someone raised the typical comparison to starving people. Typically implied (or like in this case, directly stated) is that the dateless man is just a crybaby who needs to get over himself. In other words, "man up!"

It is a meaningless comparison, because it can be used to justify silencing any complaint that a person might have with the society that he or she is in. Anyone with a vested interest in the status quo can tell someone being marginalized by it to shut up because they don't know how good they have it.

Moreover, it's a strawman, as dateless men aren't saying that they have it as bad or worse than someone without limbs or food. Who invokes this argument? Usually someone who is losing the rhetorical battle and has to resort to emotional appeals to win people back. In a cinch, it works, with some sufferers erroneously buying into the premise and admitting that they maybe don't have it that bad. Of course, others see this red herring for what it is, and heated attacks then start flying left and right, legitimate discussion disintegrates, and sufferers end up even more self-loathing and frustrated than they were before. In short, they got trolled.

This argument is nothing new, and its continued successful application is a testament to its effectiveness. For instance, it was often used on depressed people before depression was recognized as a psychiatric disorder that could be treated. It goes without saying that the results were often tragic. The same problem is happening now with those suffering from involuntary celibacy and love-shyness. They try to get help, and all people do is tell them to "man up" and that the problem is entirely their own. The sufferers never get a break and keep getting told by uncaring assholes that their problems don't really matter. What the people espousing this nonsense don't realize is that when you tell a person that a serious problem they suffer from does not matter, you're telling them that they don't matter. It doesn't take a genius to see why this doesn't end well.

In the end, this is a shaming tactic, and a deplorable one. Those using it should be treated with as much contempt as someone telling a suicidal person "jump!"

Edited to add: The concept I'm talking about is known as relative deprivation in sociology. There is an interesting Wikipedia article on it.

P.S. The follow-up to the "Controlling vs. Dominant Behavior" post is coming. Stay tuned!