The reason I thought to write about this one was an on-point tweet about Gamergate by Tauriq Moosa.

It goes something like this:

What I’m accustomed to is natural and is therefor good or neutral.

You want to change that.

You are an ideologue and I am not.

This is a bit like An Appeal to Nature. However, it can be described best as being unaware of base assumptions as Dan Olson explains in an impressive analysis of Gamergate.

In anti-vaxx arguments, this manifests as *When I was a kid, we had chicken pox and measles and we liked it!!* arguments. There is a fear-of-change element to this mode of thinking as well. Anything besides what someone is accustomed to is painted as dangerous and unnecessary even if the evidence points to a profound benefit.

This way of thinking fuels arguments against trans teenagers being provided medical transition, as I talked about earlier. The *do nothing* option is pushed as a NEUTRAL option, even though it is far from it.  The framing of the conversation is not: Which option is going to result in this young person being healthiest and happiest? Instead, the conversation is framed as: How is changing “nature” dangerous and risky? The dangers and risks of allowing the “natural” puberty to continue is simply not considered, even if those dangers and risks are real and demonstrable.

Among anti-feminists, this tendency to prefer the way things are may include good old fashioned distress of the privileged. However, the current situation may also be literally presented as nature itself! To stand against the current normal can then be painted as anti-nature, anti-science, and pure ideology!

An example of this approach is a common repackaged religious argument. Politicians can’t (technically) use religious arguments to enact law. So, they need to repackage GOD as NATURE. When Allen Quist, a Minnesota political candidate, discussed “the natural order of the husband being the head of the wife” he also stated that he believed there was a “genetic predisposition”.

Of course, he just pulled that out of his ass.

What he really meant was: I am comfortable with men being the heads of households, it seems natural to me, and I don’t want it to change. By using pseudoscience to back up his sexist demands on women and families, he protects his ideological argument in a facade of rationality.

So, what to do? How do you counter this?

  1. Find out what the person believes is the natural order or part of the status quo.
  2. Repeat back what they say as a description of the current situation.
  3. Ask if they believe that’s how it should be or needs to be.
  4. If they say that it is unavoidable, ask for evidence of their claim.

For example,

I realize that currently men are often considered the heads of households and afforded final authority in decision making. Do you think that if a woman marries a man that she should be expected to perform that role as prescribed to her? Should she be inclined to accept the decisions that her husband makes on her behalf even if she believes those decisions are wrong or not in her best interest?…Yes, I realize that in many cultures women are expected to be subordinate to men. Is there a reason you believe such an oppressive system is inevitable? 

Essentially, keep mentioning what the current situation is and that it is not, indeed, neutral. Promote introspection by making reality more visible. Explain what the current situation actually is, how it operates, and what the risks are of allowing it to continue without challenge.

The problem is that they are wearing the present like a well-worn shoe.  They need it to be described to them in order for them to even notice it. They will not recognize that their defense of “normal” is an inherently ideological stance if they remain unaware of the unspoken assumptions it is built on.