Tuesday, November 13, 2007

When Being Nice Doesn't Work.

"Oh, say, Mr. Comics Publisher, I hear you're gonna put out an issue of Wonder Woman where she gets captured by the Spankinator and has her bottom paddled for 18 pages. I think that's offensive and degrading to one of my favorite heroines. Could you stop it, please?"

"Hmmmm. No."

"You misogynistic bastard! How dare you drag a feminist icon through your lurid fetishes! I demand that you turn the character over to respectful creators THIS INSTANT, you pig! Boycott! I'LL BOYCOTT!"

"Hmmmm. No."

Both attempts fail.

"But Anon," you may be about to say, "I thought you were all about the being nice and here you are saying nice doesn't work oh I have you now, hahahaha!"

Well, it occurs to me that some people may not actually know how to be nice effectively.

The goal is persuasion, the changing of minds. In the first example, the language is polite, but all that is said is "this offends me, please stop".

And realistically, that's no reason to do anything. People get "offended" at the drop of a hat. You can't do anything in the public eye without someone being offended. What makes your sense of offense any more important than someone else's?

What you need to do is wrap a valid reason to change up in your nice presentation. What is that reason? Beats me. What you think may be valid is not necessarily what the person you're trying to change thinks of as valid. You may have to do some fishing around, to find out at what root point your opinions diverge, and then begin working on that spot. Then you may have to move on and work on another spot. This is not a game for those without patience.

As for the second example: if you think that is a viable shortcut, I believe you are deluding yourself.


James Meeley said...


This all of this can be boiled down to something I saw said at another blog, written by someone called "mela." They said:

"It's the age-old problem with comic fandom - we're a bunch of bitter junkies, and even though we know the only way to affect change is to stop buying, we will always give them the money and whine our little hearts out instead. It happened pre-Internet, and it will probably only get worse without a letter-page-editor of some sort to keep it relatively sane."

So, I guess we shouldn't expect any attempts rational discourse to change this, no matter how hard we try. You can't reason with people who don't want (or care) to see reason.

Anon, A Mouse said...

I thought about this for a while, and here's what I've decided:

It's free.

If I can spare the time, it's not going to hurt anything to try.

I expect nothing.

If I should get tired of it and give up, that costs me nothing, either.

Jigsaw Forte said...

... in the interest of this being a worthwhile article, would you please post an example where being nice/assertive/whatever actually works?

It seems like your first two examples are just strawmen otherwise...

Anon, A Mouse said...

"in the interest of this being a worthwhile article, would you please post an example where being nice/assertive/whatever actually works?"

If I did, it would be no less of a strawman than the first two approaches. Both are imaginary, although they're based on what my experience tells me would be probable.

The thing of it is, I freely admit that I don't know exactly how you would, in a nice manner, convince Executive X of the rightness of your own point of view. (But I'm pretty sure writing a letter that starts out "Dear Bastard" isn't going to work well.) Besides which, I probably wouldn't personally object to an issue of Wonder Woman meeting the Spankinator, so that's not something I've been thinking about a lot.

The best I can do is give general suggestions regarding which way to go; exactly where you wind up will depend on who you're trying to persuade and what you want to persuade them to do.

But, for the sake of typing more words:

"Dear Sir: I wish you'd reconsider the upcoming "all-Spankinator" issue of Wonder Woman. As a revered classic superheroine, as well as a feminist icon, I believe the character still holds great promise for uplifting the spirits of women everywhere, including young girls looking for their own heroes. If the rumors of this upcoming story are true, I feel it would do a great disservice to all who hold Wonder Woman in high regard and I do not think I will be able to recommend it to my friends, or young children."

Now, this might work, it might not. It depends. Will the executive value "uplifting spirits" over prurient exploitation? Can't say.

But here's what this example does and does not do.

It does not make it a personal attack on the executive.

It does not make the issue a personal affront to the letter-writer: "You've offended ME! Do what *I* say! Stop oppressing ME!"

It brings up past qualities that Wonder Woman is known for. It reminds the executive of the character's iconic nature, and how the character is familiar to children, but does not belabor these points so as to beat the executive over the head with them.

It suggests a boycott but does not angrily threaten one.

In other words, it's appealing to things that might actually matter to an executive.

Again, success will depend on what the executive actually does value (versus what you value), and such a letter or message might also fall on its face and accomplish nothing. But if that's the case, what part of an angry, hateful response do you think would reach such a person, anyway?

Shoestring said...

Feminist fangirls and fanboys will stop ranting and yelling as soon as non-feminist fangirls and fanboys. In other words never.