A unicyclist goes down the street. A passerby says, “Hey, you’re missing a wheel!” It’s a funny joke and the passerby thinks she just said something incredibly clever and original. The unicyclist shakes her head and moves on, because she’s heard it a thousand times before.
Online conversations with men and women often have the same kind of problem. A man says something offensive, and a woman gets angry not only because it was offensive, but also because she’s heard it a thousand times before.
To make matters worse, there’s a pattern at work in online conversation, a collection of ways that men frequently dominate the conversation, minimize women’s concerns, patronize women, and argue when they ought to be listening. Each of these things piss us off, and a big collection of them pisses us off even more.
To make matters even worse, this often starts a general communication breakdown in which women try to explain what’s happening and men argue with the women.
It can be difficult and time-consuming for us to explain what’s going on, because we have gotten angry without necessarily noting each individual thing that was a problem. The human brain is adept at recognizing patterns. Once we’ve learned a pattern, we see the forest but we can forget about the trees. So a woman might see this pattern, get angry, but not necessarily know which trees pissed her off. Meanwhile, it’s common for a man to demand that a woman produce the one tree that’s the problem, then argue with the women about that one tree. No learning occurs, no problems are solved, the conversation derails, and nobody’s happy.
This Bingo card is a way of addressing the problem. Men can use it as a self-education tool, and women can use it as a way to explain the problem without having to go through the hugely frustrating process of explaining each point one by one. Think of it as a diagnosis tool. If squares keep getting marked, there’s a problem. The more squares, the worse it is. Time for an intervention!
There’s also a companion card, a Conversation-Win Bingo Card, here.
If you don’t know what a Bingo card is, do a google search for “feminist Bingo card” or “racist Bingo card” or something like that, and you’ll find one. It’s full of offensive things that people say on a certain topic. Things that have been said a thousand times and piss people off more every time they’re said. If somebody can make Bingo, the conversation is a Fail. If you don’t know what a Fail is, do a google search for the word “racefail.”
Conversation-Fail Bingo Card