Re: virus: Kow?

Dan Plante (
Fri, 21 May 1999 18:44:46 -0700

At 09:47 AM 22/05/99 -0400, psypher wrote:

>...when you misspell my name you are making an intentional attempt to
>redefine my person.

Actually, I was making an intentional attempt to ellicit a negative emotional reaction: annoyance (although I acknowledged the small possibility of anger). I don't care how you or anyone else on this list "defines your person". My goal was to explain to you the effect your intentional choice of words has on other people. My efforts were aimed at targeting the emotions directly, since the attempt to change the emotive stance (that drives your choices) by working indirectly through your intellect and knowledge (memory) met with mixed results. I was trying to instill a visceral understanding of the effect your choice of words has on others, hoping your intellect and memory would then match patterns (the reverse of the process I attempted before) and make the empathic connection. To make a long story short, I was trying to "show" you, rather than "tell" you, what it was like.

>In this forum we are nothing but the symbols we
>use to represent ourselves, the choice and construction of those
>symbols conveys information about the person using the symbol.
>[that's what symbols DO].

I disagree. Symbols are only part of the story; the other part is context. For instance, the simple fact that you decide to use a pseudonyn at all, coupled with the fact that you're using it on a list that acknowledges the effects of memes (like "-myn") on minds and culture, communicates as much or more than your specific choice of alias.

>...hermit chooses to be called hermit, amir chooses Tinker, I choose
>-psypher, all of which tells you atuff about us.
>...when I use the spelling 'humyn' as opposed to the traditional
>'human' [there's no right or wrong with symbolic construction]

Again, this ignores the cultural context in which it is used. There will be an effect. Whether the effect could be described as good or bad depends on a large number of contextual variables, including the particular interpretation of "good" and "bad" in the target culture.

>I am
>doing so to indicate that the traditional symbol has implications
>that do not fit the constructs I wish to discuss. We've gone over
>this before so I'll spare everyone the etymological digressions, but
>the traditional spelling is based on a view of the species that gives
>prominence to one segment of it - the [man] at the end of 'human' and
>'woman' is not just a notice of phoenetic similarity, it's a
>deliberate placement which refers both those terms to the primacy of
>the man in sociopolitical organization.

I understand very well the rationale behind your stated motivations, and I agree with the basic sentiment, as I indicated before. What you don't seem to realise (or what you may be refusing to consider) is the possibility that you are an unwitting host and vector for a particularly virulent and toxic meme. Granted, this evaluation is generated from my personal world view, but that's partly what we're talking about, isn't it? Perhaps the semantic density of metaphor might communicate more with less: have you ever heard of the saying "The road to hell is paved with good intentions."? Of course, this particular metaphor exaggerates the issue, but leaves little room for doubt as to the intended message.

>...I don't think it's at all an extreme position to assert that the
>traditional patriarchy is both unnecessary harmful and exclusionary.

This is the kind of extraordinarily simplistic rhetoric that the cultural stakeholders have historically used as a protective protein sheath and infectious vehicle for the particular virus we're discussing.

>I don't have any expectation that one person or a small group of
>persons performing graphical alterations on text symbols is going to
>alter anyones relation to anyone else.

You do realise, I hope, that you are participating in a forum that has, as its raison d'etre, the intent of doing just that?

>What I do hope is that my
>alteration will be viewed as odd [or even annoying] and that will
>lead - as it has - to a discussion of some sort

...and this has no chance of "alter(ing) anyones relation to anyone else"?

>about how the symbols
>we use both reflect and define the reality we live in.

See current thread on "context". Reality (the context of everything) defines (determines the meaning of) symbology, not the other way around.

>Why is that? Objections have
>> been raised before about the spelling, but you continued to use it.
>...I think I answered this above, but let me try to make sure. My
>alteration is a modification of a traditional symbol with
>exclusionary context built in to it. It is not a personal attack on
>any person or persons.

Are you sure? Are you confident that you haven't missed 95% of the cultural context associated with its use?

>...and while I conceed that the term "attack" is misapplied [but for
>lack of a better word...]

Don't worry about it. I conciously try very hard not to pick nits. I usually endeavour to respond to the obvious intent of the message (Brett-isms notwithstanding).

>your alteration is directed at my person,


>at my individual identity,


which places it in a different class of

Hardly. See above.

>> Wouldn't you call that "deliberate baiting"?
>...I suppose I would have to, wouldn't I.
> I understand you think
>> you are operating from from a platform of social justice. But what
>> makes you think I'm not? Or did this possibility occur to you at
> did not. I'm interested, are you? how so?

Please understand that the problem arises from how your intended audience (of which I am a part) accepts the detail and essence of your communication. From the intended recipient's point of view, the larger inference accompanying the use of the term "humyn" is a perception of the requirement for moral and ethical remediation. The resulting subtext (again, from the recipient's poin of view) is that the reader(s) may harbour misogynistic tendencies (that they may or may not be aware of) - insulting enough in itself, but also that they are such unblinking cultural automatons that the appearance of the term "man", even if the significance of its etymology hadn't been completely erased by a lifetime of use, could have the assumed negative effect. It all has to do with anticipating how your words might be interpreted, and meaning inferred, by the people you're communicating with.

-big snip-

>, then you might stop you're headlong, blinkered rush down the
>> path of righteous social reengineering and ask me why I find it
>> insulting (and dangerous, in a culturally insidious kind of way).
>...I have the germ of an idea why [possibly more than a germ] but I'd
>rather actually [metaphorically]hear it from you than jump to

The cultural issues surrounding this are much too subtle and complex to spend the time and effort I would feel like giving to it in this thread. Do a search on the web, using the term "humyn", "womyn" and "grrrl". You'll get a lot of hits, but at least you will get samples from a number of points of view, including instances of their actual use in a larger textual context from which you may be able to infer more than what other people's stated opinions might afford you.