Social Question

NerdyKeith's avatar

Why is a person's "label" sometimes deemed as a valid dismissal to any argument?

Asked by NerdyKeith (5464points) February 18th, 2016

I’ve noticed this sometimes from some feminists, minorities and other groups. When a discussion about a particular group’s rights is being addressed, especially with opposing or even controversial viewpoints, there have been occasions when those alternative viewpoints have been instantly dismissed on the bases of label or creed.

The argument usually goes on the lines of:

“You are not qualified to have “any” argument here. You don’t know what you are talking about because you are a [insert label]!”

To me this sounds like blatant censorship and quite biased.

What are your thoughts on this?

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15 Answers

cazzie's avatar

I agree. Dismissing arguments based on labels, either self-appointed or given, is a cop-out. Discuss the points raised. Dismissing ‘out of hand’ is not ok. It is perfectly ok to point out what may be a bias based on affiliation, but NOT gender or race. Take nothing for granted. Don’t assume or you make make an ass of yourself. Don’t project. Having a feel for where the argument comes from will only aid you in understanding and drawing out facts and help you counter any points. Labels are for boxes. Not people.

cazzie's avatar

Also, like my dad used to say. Opinions are fine. Everyone has an opinion. They’re like assholes.

NerdyKeith's avatar

“Labels are for boxes. Not people.”

I’ll have to remember that one. Great response @cazzie

Mariah's avatar

You are describing the ad hominem fallacy. It is not a good tactic in debate.

However, it is understandable to me why, for example, women are not huge fans of having panels of old men in control of decisions pertaining to what they can or cannot do with their uteruses. Sometimes it is nice to have yourself represented by the people who understand you.

CWOTUS's avatar

@Mariah beat me to it.

It’s an ad hominem fallacious argument. It’s only going to be considered valid by the poor debater who resorts to it. In no way is it a valid argument – ever. If you speak truth, then it doesn’t matter who you are or what your history is. And if you speak falsely, then it doesn’t matter if you’re an angel, either.

Mariah's avatar

It’s understandable why it happens sometimes though.

Say a man argues that women should find being catcalled a compliment rather than a threat (I’ve seen this argued online before). The fact that he’s a man means that he probably has never been catcalled before. He cannot purport to know how it feels to be in that situation then.

If a woman told this guy to shut up because he doesn’t know what he’s talking about, would she be making a fallacious argument? I’m really curious what you guys think.

In my opinion, she’s telling him to shut up not because he’s a man, but because he has no experience with being catcalled. The fact that he’s never been catcalled is strongly tied to his being a man, but the point remains. It might still be ad hominem, but it’s not as fallacious in my eyes. What do you all think (if OP doesn’t mind me asking this spin off question in his thread)?

NerdyKeith's avatar

@Mariah As someone who is pro-choice I can understand to a certain degree where you are coming from. Yes obviously as a man I’ll never have to deal with this myself, so I’ll never have personal experience. But I do agree, you should be in control of your body and any other choices that affect your life.

With that said, I have to respect freedom of speech (even if I don’t agree with what is being said). After all a lot of the typical pro-life arguments are pretty easy to refute. Its best to allow opponents to speak, but critique them on why we think they are wrong.

For example I’ve heard many fallacious arguments about my sexuality. I’ve literally been told by some people online that, “people are usually only gay because they have been sexually abused.” The fact is, the trolls that claim this, are not qualified to say this, and I think we can all agree with that. But they do have the right to freedom of speech, even if they sound like idiots. Instead of shutting the individual down by telling him, “your argument is invalid”, I instead told him that that is a balsas generalisation, there is no evidence to support a correlation between homosexuality and past child abuse. And I also informed him that as a homosexual, I have never been sexually abused.

canidmajor's avatar

What @Mariah said.
It is not a black and white (no racial reference intended) issue. Very often labeling is done for language efficiency, not to reduce groupings to a simple term or concept.
arguing with people with closed minds, no matter what group they identify with, is fruitless. However, if you are spouting views and opinions to people whom you know know to be fairly open minded and they shut you down like that, you might want to rethink what you think you know.
And I have found white men to be as bad or often worse, as the groups you mention in your first sentence.

Mariah's avatar

@NerdyKeith Agreed! There are far better ways to debate than to just tell someone to shut up.

Coloma's avatar

The biggest problem IMO, when it comes to any argument, discussion, debate, is that ego is so invested in being right, in “winning”, that many don’t possess the listening skills and open mindedness to truly contemplate another POV, let alone, the humility to actually concede and admit someone else might actually have a valid point or a different way of looking at an issue. We can all be guilty of this on occasion but some much more so than others.
I like the saying ” there are many truths” because there are. Sadly many feel they hold the monopoly on ultimate truth.

I’m one that can see many facets to the same issue and often play devils advocate. Certain arguments are best left alone or expressed in the company of peers. The old don’t discuss religion and politics is mostly sound advice. haha

Misspegasister28's avatar

Yep, it’s ad hominem. I agree there are certain biases different groups hold, and different groups have different experiences and privileges than others. But telling someone to “shut up” just because of who they are is ridiculous and makes you pretty closed-minded. It’s important to listen to what others say and listen to their different experiences to become an open minded person.

Everyone deserves freedom of speech, even douchebags. I believe in order to be taken seriously and to be listened to in an argument is so be mature, respectful, and avoiding insulting and using fallacies.

CWOTUS's avatar

@Mariah, a rejoinder that “You don’t know what you’re talking about!” can be a statement of fact, or at least the premise of a valid argument if you think it’s clear that the debate partner does not have empathy for the situation under discussion. However, “You’re a man, so your opinion is invalid,” is a clear ad hom. Same with the somewhat more subtle but still invalid, “You’re a man, what can you know about this?

I’m sure that you don’t need to be educated on the gulf of difference between ”does not have empathy” and “cannot have empathy”.

stanleybmanly's avatar

The problem is there are people with arguments that from the outset leave no room for compromise. When for instance someone tells you that men and dinosaurs walked the earth together, there is no wiggle room on whether or not that is flat out wrong. And though it may merely be my perceptions at fault, it seems to me that issues crucial to all of us fall ever more frequently into categories where one side labors to advocate or defend that which is absurd or indefensible.

As to @Mariah ‘s catcall discussion, the defense of “I meant it as a compliment” is rubbish on its face. Sure there are women who enjoy being hooted at, but there are plenty more justifiably insulted at being taken for one of them.

JLeslie's avatar

As far as @Mariah‘s example, I agree with her, men (I won’t say all, but the majority) have no idea the fear and discomfort it can cause. Not only because it doesn’t happen to them, but also because they are not told since the age of nothing to beware of men, they don’t grow up knowing they are physically at a disadvantage to men, they likely haven’t had an incident of a man touching them when he was not given permission (this happens to a lot of females) so men have no perspective. Is it true most men who catcall think it’s an innocent thing and they are complimenting the girl? Probably. Both things can be true at once, an innocent intention on the guys part, and a perception of possible danger on the woman’s part. It isn’t one or the other necessarily.

However, does a label or how someone is identified, necessarily mean they can’t empathize? No. Some people are better than others at putting themselves in someone else’s place, but I would say for the most part it’s hard to really know what someone is going through. It’s especially hard if your life experience is extremely different than that person. You can have sympathy for them, but true empathy is more difficult.

As far as being pro-choice, I think many men can empathasize. They want control over their bodies too, and over reproduction.

rojo's avatar

It is the literary equivalent to putting your hands over your ears and going “La la la la la la la….”.

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