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confused_puppy

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Hey, I've been a follower the community for years and your post made me want to create an account and leave a thought. Full disclosure: I'm trans FtM from a not-Western country, never been to an EA meetup but have always been curious. I'm listing these characteristic as I think they're directly relevant to what I describe below. Also, I have massive Asperger's (and my English is not perfect), so I want to explicitly note that I 100% value your post, support having a discussion about this, and have no great solutions. Flagging this because the tone of my text may not convey this otherwise.

Some thoughts, ordered from most to least banal:

  1. Punishment for confirmed bad sexual behavior should be swift, harsh, and very likely. Great care must be exercised to make the abused come forward.
  2. Great care must be exercised to thoroughly vet accusations and protect the rights of the accused.
  3. #1 and #2 involve a false positive/negative tradeoff between each other, and I suspect a solution to satisfy a good chunk of people across many backgrounds is likely impossible. This is likely not news to anyone reading this, so I apologize for wasting your time so far.
  4. I think your post adeptly highlights the reason for why EA as a movement will almost inevitably (IMO) collapse or split.

I want to elaborate on the last point most of all. As an observer, I always thought that core point of EA was based in recognizing the fallibility of human emotion in guiding us about priorities, as strong emotional states can cloud our thinking (AFAIK this is not very controversial and is supported by research). This is why Paul Bloom's "Against Empathy" is referenced relatively frequently in the community, right? My not important personal opinion is that this is a partial picture, because emotion can also be used as a driver/inspiration to care about injustices. Of course the difficult question is whether you can get the best parts of emotion into the movement without getting the worst of emotion as well.

But there's something broader that concerns me, and I think spells trouble for the EA movement as a whole. I will start from a story that has to do with my FtM self. When I started hormonal therapy I noticed that some of my basic intuitions started changing, the feelings and views I wasn't even aware of existing. I kind of took them for granted, they were transparent to me. For example, before, I felt a lot of instinctive anger at injustice, and now I still feel it, but it's more detached and principled. "Less emotional" doesn't quite describe it, it's something about the anger becoming more calculating. Like I can be a bit more removed and hypothetical about different problems; I could turn off my empathy a bit (which actually felt scary!) to be more analytical. And to repeat, I assumed my previous emotional responses to be same as everyone's, it didn't even occur to me things could be any other way (I'm sorry if this all sounds like pseudoscience).

Now a lot changed in me that could have resulted in the above, and even though other T people I know have on average followed a similar switch (depending on the direction), I didn't think much of it. So it could be totally useless anecdotally, but it did get me reading on the "gender divide" in Western politics. And to simplify it greatly, it seems like there's pretty convincing argument that the gradual "feminization" of Western cultures in the last several decades drives a lot of the conflict in politics and across institutions, being in a tension with the typical "masculine" culture. And this is rooted partly in that women and men, on average, have different views on things like speech/harm tradeoff: women tend to prefer to limit speech to minimize harm, whereas men lean in the other direction. (Please note that these are average, population-level statements, and the distributions of these traits do overlap a lot!)

These are some of the more notable readings I've read on this divide:

Male students preferred protecting free speech over an inclusive and diverse society by a decisive 61 to 39. Female students took the opposite position, favoring an inclusive, diverse society over free speech by 64 to 35.

Okay, so what's the point of my super-rambley comment? In short, whether my and my T friends' anecdotal experiences are related to this or not, I think centuries of masculinity-type culture have not left us prepared to a world where culture becomes feminized. We are now entering this world, and have to deal with how to strike a balance between these sets of values. And the "Effective Altruism" movement has historically been (to my understanding) a movement that prioritizes asking difficult (even if very offensive) questions and analyzing costs/benefits in a way that increases accuracy (in part, by trying to be less emotional/swayed about the topic of the analysis). It seems to me that as designed, the movement either has to split into two, or just morph into a charity/NGO like many other.

Pessimistically, I do not think there's a way to accommodate these sets of views. Having to some limited extent "experienced both," I don't even know how to feel about them myself, internally, and struggle with this daily. How can we expect an entire movement to align then? Perhaps if the leaders and big thinkers of the movement come together, recognize this as the urgent problem, and figure out a way to approach it, there is some sort of resolution (a Scott Alexander megapost/initiative to organize this?). But again, my prediction is that the unobstructed, calculated, detached, low-anger-type discourse would have to give way as EA becomes more inclusive and accommodating of feminized culture.

 

P.S. You may read this and wonder what this has to do with handling sexual assault, and I just want to clarify that I don't necessarily think much about the masculinized/feminized culture divide affects how well we can handle sexual assault, but I think we do see the difference in how the topic is discussed. And much more broadly than that,  this post made me think of how the divide affects how true EA stays to the principles it was originally founded on (without framing them as "good" or "bad").

 

P.P.S. I'm not a great writer/thinker and I'm sure this comment is rambling/confusing. I just hope there is something useful in it, it seems to me so. If someone can take it and make a more coherent point out of it, please do. If Scott Alexander could write a post tackling the masculinized/feminized culture divide and how it'd affect a movement like EA, I'd be very happy, cause he would be able to research and properly write about this 100000x better than me. I'm not even involved in EA. Thanks for making it so far in my comment!