Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Dealing With Self-Important Concern Trolls

"I believe that we owe our fellow human beings a certain amount of compassion and courtesy and respect, and to listen to their complaints and grievances. We should ask ourselves whether those complaints and grievances are valid, and whether we can help - and in some cases, ask whether we are the author of those grievances, and if so what can we do to resolve them.
But I also believe that after a certain point, it may become obvious that some people just want to complain, to to be angry, or to be an asshole, or whatever, and that nothing a reasonable person can do will ever make those people happy or satisfied. So you give them a quarter, metaphorically or otherwise, and tell them to call someone who cares. Because you have other things to do. And then you go on doing those things you need to do."
~John Scalzi, from "Here's a Quarter
I know I'm a little behind with reacting to the above quoted piece. I can show you my work calendar some time if you want an explanation. Regardless, I was glad of the serendipity of finally getting a chance to read that blog post from John Scalzi last week, because I really needed that advice. You see, In the Library with the Lead Pipe published the article I wrote with Michelle Millet last Wednesday, and as happens whenever anything about gender and empowerment is published, we had a few "but what about the mens?" type comments. In short, while we were discussing the disparity between the gender breakdown of librarianship as a whole (roughly 80% women and 20% men) and our leadership (roughly 60% women and 40% men), someone was upset that we weren't talking about how librarianship is only 20% men.

There was some discussion, but best response came from one of the Lead Pipe editors:
Even if I'd wanted to discuss numerical disparities, there's only so much one can fit in a short article... especially one in which my coauthor and I specifically stated that we were speaking specifically from our frame of reference. But here's the thing: this happens every time an article on a controversial topic or even a marginally controversial topic comes out. Write an article about the experiences of indigenous people and you'll get some self-important concern troll asking why the author hadn't mentioned the experiences of other people of color. An article about transgender men will inevitably get angry comments about how hard it is to be a cisgendered gay man. Any piece about the problems of existing within Community A gets at least a couple of responses yelling about what a crime that the authors ignored Community B. Of course this happened to us. I was glad that Ian responded, but I barely engaged with the naysayers. It's not that I'm going to quiet myself or try to pretend that I'm a meek woman (can you imagine?), but I only have so much energy for problem solving.

And that brings me back to the quote up at the start of this post. I'm not advocating that you turn the other cheek. Definitely defend yourself if attacked. But remember that some people - like the "what about the mens" concern trolls - aren't ever going to be satisfied. So offer them the proverbial quarter so they can call someone who cares, and then show them the exit.



  1. And your article was about something a little bit different than "where are the mens." If that's what someone's concerned about THEY can write that article!

  2. "I only have so much energy for problem solving"

    Well, said, my friend. I think I shall adopt this as my day to day operational motto.