Friday, July 22, 2016

The new terminology wars

I kind of wish you could be unaware of what is going on in the online world of testing in the last few weeks. My summary is that some people got tired of quiet approaches to dealing with negative behaviors and started campaigning to make it more visible. And as with campaigns often, there can be casualties.

If you end up somewhere in the outskirts of this, there seems to be a new vocabulary in play that I wasted to write about - a vocabulary of abuse.

First of all, people will talk about privilege. There's all kinds of privileges, that is, special rights available only to a particular person or group. A great example of privilege is that not everyone gets to talk 1:1 to the so-called community leaders to resolve their conflicts.  Or that there's plenty of experiences white males don't have that people who are not white males do have. And that what doesn't happen to me might (and probably does) happen to others anyway.

We all come with privilege, and it's a great practice to learn to recognize yours. Other people tend to see that better than you.

The other words people have started bringing in are from the world of abuse terminology. I was told in private a few weeks back that a friend of mine is using gaslighting on me. Gaslighting is form of abuse, where the abused is made question their own beliefs and role in the abuse, as in "perhaps I deserved this, perhaps I did something". I don't think that was the case though, but I appreciate being made aware that such terms exist.

Yesterday, I was told I use classic derailing techniques in my attempt to explain that while more people became vocal on this argumentation, it could be that as many or more are stepping out of these discussions and the online media completely. Derailing is a form making someone else's experience about you.

Also, there's sealioning. That's about hogging discussions.

All of this starts from the discussions of bullying. It's one of these concepts where the vocabulary definition helps you see that it has something to do with status (superior strength or influence) for intimidation.

With months of therapy out of a bad experience people using the last word on me some years back (see the post on my thoughts about this 2 years ago) I learned that these words and their definitions don't belong to me. They belong to the victim. And when someone tells me I'm doing any of these, the best I can do is step back and stop doing it. It's not about how the other perceives me. Being called out can be a very destructive experience, and I would advice doing it with care.

The reason I'm writing this blog post is that I feel that now that these words have been found, there is a risk I see that we use them without understanding their power, especially on people like myself. They should have lot of power for the victims, and as such, they can be used as a new form of bullying: overpowering the sensitive ones who are conflict-averse to shy away from discussions or one's with existing triggers on these topics.

My call for action is: let's just try to be kind and considerate. We fail and learn. I hope. There's so much work to do in the field of software that we shouldn't alienate people. You see the new voices joining, but you don't see the ones who never joined or the ones that stepped away.

(Note: in case it was unclear, I do not think lying about these makes these exist. So I choose to start from good faith. And if the other would choose to lie to me, there's no use in me continuing in the discussion anyway.)