flames/what i've learned

James Carucci (Carucci@SMTP.LMS.USACE.ARMY.MIL)
Wed, 4 Jan 1995 11:26:09 -0600

hello all--
this is a sort of summary
this is a summary of what i've learned from the rohrlich/fry/gendered
language flame war.
1] i have saved all the messages relating to the flamewar, in a
special folder here in my email program. sadly, i neglected to save
the first fry message [the one i responded to when i said my eyes
glazed over and i stopped reading when fry used the trite, stale,
overused term 'empowerment'... fry, or anyone else, i'd like a copy
of the original forwarded to me for my archive]. if and when i find
another teaching position, and if and when it is appropriate, i plan
to use the rohrlich/fry posts [all of them, from all of you!!] as a
corpus of interesting email messages which illustrate both the
present situation in terms of gender/sexist views in american

2] to wit: rohrlich mentioned in a post that she did not attack fry
until he 'used the sexist term [mankind] a second time'. please,
people, you must NEVER assume that your audience has read the past
post that you have referred to. just think of your own internet
connections--has your node never gone down? has your LAN or email
program never failed? have you never noticed that someone on the
list has mentioned a post that you never saw, read, or deleted, even
though you are 100 percent attentive and have been 'on the list'
during the time it was supposedly posted??

3] to reiterate and summarize point 2 above, there is a time lag
that should be evident to all-- when one writes one's flame, and when
one reads a flame or message, AND WHEN THESE MESSAGES HAPPEN TO BE
this mode of communication is diachronic; you must not/cannot make
any assumptions about your post beyond the fact that it is on YOUR
computer screen, and is legible to YOU.

4] a corollary to point 3 is that you cannot know what sort of email
program or hardware the 700-odd members of anthro-l have, at our
respective ends, and how the idiosyncracies of these various
technical combinations will affect your communication. a related
example-- we've all seen [and they are generally very funny] email
messages sent to the whole list that were apparently intended to be
sent to one individual. lief hendrickson mentioned this--of some of
ruby rohrlich's posts-- were the non-sequitur-like messages from ruby
to the list intended to be open messages or personal?? i, for one,
tend to judge harshly someone who uses a medium [the internet] but
makes a consistent, silly error [sending general messages when
single, personal responses were intended]. i am not suggesting that
rohrlich has been and continues to make this classic error, but i
agree with hendrickson that some messages she sent during this flame
extravaganza have been unintelligible to me... perhaps MY EMAIL
system botched some deliveries??? hmmmmmm.

5] in my archive, i found the concept of 'netiquette' mentioned in
only one post. when i teach my future students using this corpus of
hot, opinion-filled gender arguments, i will point out that we are
generally inclined to invoke a cry for NETIQUETTE!! when things have
gotten rancorous and nasty...[i'd call this the 'PC' argument-- and
it is really the core issue of the rohrlich/fry flamewar-- do YOU
have the right to tell ME how to speak/not speak]. but i personally
believe the power and place of the cry for NETIQUETTE is for the
opposite reason-- all speech should be [more or less] acceptable.
and, interestingly, this point has just been made by yee and a few
others in recent posts. to put it simply, the lesson here is, i am a
member of the anthro-l; i can say what i want; you don't have to like
it, or read it, or respond to it. and... you can become insanely
agitated, and flame me if you want. that is your right.

6] another point i've learned from this flamewar-- and this is
something that perhaps should be added to the anthro-l FAQ [if it is
not already in it]-- but the observation is so simple that i am
surprised i have to make it: the group of us [actually we are a
polythetic set, aren't we??] that make up anthro-l CANNOT BE
CONSIDERED TO REPRESENT anthropology. do any of you out there really
believe what we talk about here is 'average'... that the members of
anthro-l constitute a scietific, random sample of the universe that
is all anthropologists [or even the subuniverse of, say, north
american anthropologists??]. state it up front in the FAQ-- this is
a contentious, hot-headed, hard-typing group which is probably not
representative of anthropologists in general.

7] although not a linguist, a few days ago i came up with an idea
[which may or may not be original-- but i intend no plagerism]
concerning a multigender term for english writing. let's use
s'he... not he/she or she/he or s/he.. but an s followed by an
apostrophe [like a glottal stop], followed by he. S'HE. try it.

8] finally, another time-related factor. as people 'straggle in'
both from vacation and to the 'thread' [god, i hate that term-- why
can't we just say TOPIC????] which is/was gender in our language, you
will find that, instead of dying a quick and kind death, the flame
flickers on. people say..."i just got back from vacation"... or, "i
haven't been following this too closely..." or.... etc.
guess what? you can't change this either. much of the rancor and at
least some of the misplaced name calling was due to the timelag
factor built into this wonderful form of communication.

anyway; be proud; or be embarrassed, because some day i'll be sitting
around a seminar table, or standing at the front of a classroom,
after handing out xeroxes of all of your email observations and
flames [sanatized, of course; no libel here], discussing the great
rohrlich/fry flamewar of 94-95. the lessons are many: do not assume
anything about those that have read your messages, always consider
your own posts to be public, cut people a generous amount of slack
for the timelag factors, and recognize that netiquette not only calls
for us to be nice, but it allows us to be nasty.

jim carucci.
academic wannabe, and voyeur of the anthro-l