Women’s Studies present discussion on righteous anger, civility, silencing

‘Just calm down.’ ‘Be civil.’ ‘You don’t deserve my attention unless you are being civilized.’

These are just some of the responses people give when they feel criticized and implicated over controversial issues.

Women’s studies event series presented the discussion “Righteous Anger, Civility and Silencing" earlier this month.

Philosophy professor Alison Reiheld presented the discussion “Righteous Anger, Civility and Silencing: Reponses to Being Criticized for Racism, Sexism, Ableism or Homophobia” earlier this month, corresponding to the women’s studies event series.

Reiheld said often times people who are doing the criticizing are people who had themselves suffered under injustices, so they are understandably quite angry about systems of oppression.

“I am talking about Martin Luther King or Malcolm X who have this intense rhetoric because people will not improve when you ask them nicely,” Reiheld said. “I want students to be able to legitimize their own anger but also not to dismiss other people’s righteous anger when it might be directed to them.”

People using civility silencing uphold civility and social standards as a way to defend against that righteous anger, according to Reiheld.

“‘I don’t have to listen to you until you’re very calm,’ but once they are calm we can ignore them again because they are not noisy,” Reiheld said of how civility silencing works. “That reaction to that anger, even if it is justified anger, is often to find a way to silence. We usually do that in our society.”

As an example, Reiheld used the Ferguson protesters case.

“A lot of whites felt that they had to defend themselves against the implications of this case,” Reiheld said, “and the response to this kind of righteous anger was things like, ‘You don’t deserve my attention unless you are being civilized.’”

Reiheld said in the presentation she tried to reach both groups, people who have been on the receiving end of the silencing and those who might be future silencers.

It is very useful to be able to recognize when we are starting to silence someone with claims of civility instead of listening to the actual cause of the anger, according to Reiheld.



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