Friday, October 23, 2009

"I don't like your tone"

Tone argument. Example: "you shouldn't sound so angry when you talk. No one will pay attention to you if you speak in that way." Or "I don't like your tone / how you're talking to me, so I'm going to ignore what you're saying" [even if what you're saying has more validity than what I'm saying even if if you have every right to be angry but seeing as I have the upper hand here I'm going to dismiss you anyway.]

Or you could read this.

I understand that most times, a nice polite tone works a lot better than an angry tone. I like being nice to people myself. It helps keep things all sweet and shiny. Recently, I was very nice and calm to someone who decided to take a shit all over my opinions because he didn't like what I was saying. Did I get through to him? Hell no, but it was in a public forum so I thought I ought to be nice anyway, for the sake of anybody else coming across our argument. I don't think it worked, and that the argument has long been deleted after we had it.

So yes, I agree, being nice and reasonable is nice and reasonable.

But I can't help but wonder if people who trot out the tone argument really believe in the perfection ideal, where we have to be nice all the time and it works.

A long time ago, I had a disagreement with a friend about some semantics and he was right. I didn't realize at the time how he was right, because I had no idea what kind of emotional investment he had in the matter. Years later, when I realized how right he was and how he would have had difficulty explain to me how wrong and ignorant I was, I wondered if he mightn't have gotten through to me better if he'd just yelled at me and pointed out how my wrongness was hurting him.

It doesn't always work, being angry. But we have a right to anger! We have a right to have a space in which to scream and vent our frustration. We have a right to express how hurt we are, inflict our tears on others.

The tone argument doesn't really do much except dismiss that hurt and anger.

And you know what's the worst thing?

A person can be perfectly civil and say the most obnoxious things ever, hurtful things, implicit threats, but because they're saying it in this oh-so-polite and well-mannered way, everyone gives them a free pass. Why?

It's not how you say it, but what you say, that should matter when discussing things of great import, particularly when it discusses stuff in which other people are very invested in - when their quality of their lives depend on this issue, they should be able to discuss it wuthout fear of being told that they're not saying it the right way.

Because chances are, the people implicitly saying "be nice or else" are the ones with privilege who can afford to say not-nice things.... and they would get away with it because everyone else would excuse them - 'they don't know any better'.

What a lot of fucking noise.

1 comment:

  1. Personally considering ow difficult it is to live with an ism, I think that it just another oppressive tactic to state that we should be careful about how we express ourselves. If the oppression was not there in the first place there would be no reason for us to be angry or complain.