Civility Is Clickbait: An Ode To Productive Conversation

You have absolutely blown me away by taking polarizing, hot-button topic as an opportunity to engage in detailed, nuanced discussions on a wide range of related topics. Here are some highlights from your fabulous conversations. We really can have nice things!

Illustration for article titled Civility Is Clickbait: An Ode To Productive Conversation

Astronaut Steven L. Smith waving to a colleague during a Hubble Space Telescope servicing mission. See, we can have nice things! Image credit: ESA/NASA

To start things off on a light note, the Incredulous Hulk shares an illustrated tale of the gender inequality in what we consider "work appropriate" clothing:

Worked in Private Security for awhile, always thought it was a little fishy how the dress code for one company was:

Gentlemen - Wear a suit. No tie. Or dress as job requires (cuffs, spray, baton, etc.)

Ladies - (2 full pages of standards)

I got away with wearing a suit of armor once, even. Full on knight.

Because he loves us, here's the photographic proof to go with that:

Illustration for article titled Civility Is Clickbait: An Ode To Productive Conversation

Smashboozer wins for the shortest poignant summary of a feeling many, many people expressed:

I'm...not outraged at this. Maybe a little disappointed I guess.

On a related note, NeuroticKnight had expressed appreciation being able to share conversation without everyone voicing extreme, polarized opinions:

It was a silly mistake and not a targeted crime. He addressed his mistake and as long as he isn't making anymore. He should be let go. While initially I did feel criticism valid he got more vitriol than deserved. Soon it was either he was a rape apologist or evil feminazis are attacking a scientist. The polarization just left most of us lost.


albatross_Y had a succinct, direct explainer on microaggression:

It wasn't a single straw that broke the camel's back either. That is the nature of microaggressions — they are constant, they accumulate, and individually they are not usually something easily addressed, so stopping them involves addressing the culture that spawns them.

The shirt would not be, as an isolated event, a big deal. But it is not an isolated event — it is a part of an ongoing series of never-ending bullshit mini-events.


serendous s embraces the spirit of io9 by considering how context would change if Godzilla was a rocket scientist:

It's a great shirt and if I had someone make me a shirt featuring Frazetta-style barbarians or classic Godzilla, I would wear the ever-loving fuck out of it and I'd love to give my friend a shout out if I were on TV. But I wouldn't wear it to work especially not if I worked in an office with kaiju (typically under-represented in most fields) or if I knew that my co-workers would be uncomfortable with the bare skin or sexual/violent imagery.


Many people wanted to examine what an example of an inverse situation would be. While we had a nice thread about beefcake patterns, it was a conversation about what would happen if a man showed up to work in a well-fitted, stylish women's blouse, blazer, and pencil skirt with stockings and heels that proved the richest grounds for considering a culturally-loaded inversion. katie_keys opined that while unfair and arbitrary, it would still cause an outcry:

I'm sure in a case like this some people would simply lose their minds, and others would accuse him of derailing the message to make it all about his "fetish". I hate how highly prescriptive professional wear is - for both men and women - but its like that for a reason: to avoid distraction. Therefore I think that it wouldn't be considered work appropriate, despite the fact that its both unfair and arbitrary (in that gender norms are arbitrary.) For cross dressing to meet the purpose of professional wear, there would have to be a major cultural shift in how we view gender norms and who doesn't meet them.


while lurkerbynature popped by with this true story of it being potentially less of a fuss than we thought:

The best EU example I can think of offhand was Swedish train conductors protesting against the "no shorts" dress code by wearing skirts to work during a hot summer. As I recall, reactions were pretty much positive. Sweden, is particularly egalatarian when it comes to gender though.

Cross dressing, on the other hand, probably tends to come up against a lot more stigma, because it's still largely understood to be linked to transvestic fetshism. (And trans people definitely face barriers and prejudice and are likely acutely aware of gender presentation in dress out of necessity.)


99Telep☺dpr☹blems had a downright cheeky take on the importance of context. I'll warn you the whole thread is also deliciously meta in that it's an example of something that is enjoyable but not appropriate to share with kindergarteners. Here's a taster, but click through for the NSFW imagery:

His shirt was inappropriate for a bunch of reasons. We censor ourselves in regards to what we wear and how we present ourselves everyday. This is how society works. Sure, I would like to go to the bank dressed only in a cock ring but this is generally frowned upon by the people where I live.


VictorVonDoom's heartfelt reflection is a sentiment many of you expressed about how the internet refuses to let people learn and move on from their mistakes:

But the internet is sensationalist, and as you said, it never forgives, never forgets. It grinds any piece of sand into a pearl of pure hate, and for that, I feel terrible for the guy.


I'll owe up to enforcing civility by dismissing insulting and harassing comments, but the more of you who joined in politely and enthusiastically, the less I had to intervene. It turns out that civility is a positive feedback loop, and once we built up a critical mass, trolling was no longer as appealing. The result of that, and of your genuine efforts to engage with each other on a person-to-person level of mutual respect, is honestly awe-inspiring. It also had noticeable impact.

The whole discussion section is littered with examples of people disagreeing, arguing, dissecting, converting, and respectfully agreeing to disagree. It's too long to be easily quotable, but this epic thread primarily between Maxiedk and cactusren32 is a glorious example of people engaging in civil extended debate. This kind of conversation is hard work, and it's easy to feel discouraged or that it isn't worth it. Of all the moments of realization and shifting viewpoints that you documented, these two comments stand out as clear examples of the positive impact these discussions can have:

titaniumrabbit came to see things from another perspective:

The thing is, when I watched the original interview I didn't even notice the shirt. That is, the images didn't really resolve in my brain. I saw it, but I didn't see it. It was just a bunch of bright colorful shapes. It wasn't until I read about the controversy that I took another look and suddenly realized the truth. All of which means that, as a guy, I simply don't see things the same way that many women do. I am often blind, and it is good for me to realize this.


And most impressively of all, ILandedATShirtOnAComet created a kinja account entirely to tell us that by wading through our conversation, we made them earnestly think and reflect, ultimately changing their perspective on the situation:

I created this burner account for the sole reason of commending you for your interaction and behavior in the comments section. That tireless, smart and thorough participation won me over.

I started at the end of your article thinking "typical people making mountains out of molehills and taking away from a great moment for humanity by playing social justice crusader in the most stereotypical ways; we don't deserve to send actual people into space because actual people are still thin-skinned, small-minded and petty".

I came out of the other side of the comments thinking "this is actually a varied and nuanced set of topics and problems, and we can both celebrate the scientific achievement while trying to do so in an inclusive way; and no really not all barriers to inclusiveness are outrageous and direct threats to livelihood or personal safety, some of them actually just do look exactly like this".

Well done. You made me consider and think, rather than just wave my hand at Welp, That's Just Internet Bein' Internet.


If that isn't enough, I now have the empirical numbers that a safe space to politely discuss things isn't just fun, but that civility is clickbait. Of all the ways I advertised this article this weekend, from teasing to sympathy to jumping on hashtags, the way that generated literally over an order of magnitude more clicks was by advertising that we were having a high-quality conversation. If you keep this up by rewarding reasonable, civil conversation over shouting insults and artificial dichotomies of splitting everything into polarized pro- and anti- characterizations with your clicks, it might even become a trend!

I am so very impressed and delighted, especially in contrast to the horrid, extremist insult-yelling competitions happening for most of shirtstorm. You are all amazing, and I am so happy that I get to brag about how wonderful you are.


And if you want more? DO read the comments.



These sorts of civil discussions are something I greatly enjoy about io9. The articles are great, of course, but the community here is just a rare, pleasant oasis on the internet. Thanks, everyone.