Are all generalizations insults?

I was reading a Slashdot post today about the Olympics changing the gymnastics scoring system, when I came across the following by CmdrTaco (one of Slashdot’s primary editors):

Now I’m sure that no Slashdot reader will intentionally watch any “sport” that has judges determine the winner, but their wives/girlfriends might seize control of the remote because they want to know who is the best at that ribbon-twirling thing.

The lesser

(that means jump ahead for the sexism bit)

There’s two things in there that could be construed as insulting; the first I’ll tackle would be the ”sport” air-quote. I fully believe that there is sufficient technical ability required in gymnastics to consider it a sport. These people do train their asses off.

However, it is a judged sport, which does set it slightly apart from an officiated sport. An officiated sport generally has objective rules, which a third party observer can categorically qualify. Ball goes in hoop: 2 points. A judged sport relies on having a very significant amount of knowledge in a panel of people, who then score the performance. Usually, a judged sport agrees on some universally decided perfect technique, and then judges based on the comparative performance.

I do admit that I find myself less interested in judged sports in general. If I watch one of these Dance shows, for example, I am often befuddled by the judges’ comments – a spectacular performance to them is simply mediocre to me, but something I really like, they will stomp on. Why? Because I don’t perceive the same things they do. They clearly agree, at least to some extent, what the ‘perfect mambo’ looks like. I wouldn’t know a mambo from a tango. One of those has roses.

Even sports like MMA (that’s Mixed Marshal Arts) I find lacking. Not because of a lack of action – there’s plenty of it. There’s also lots of action in gymnastics and figure skating, though. It’s because unless there’s an objective Knock Out, the match is judged. I have a bit easier time telling who’s winning as opposed to dance, because usually one guy is pinned. But that’s usually when I flip channels. Sorry, but two dudes wrestling on a mat is not sport to me.

So what is “sport” then? That seems to be subjective itself. However, implying that something’s not a sport, when there are people devoting their lives to what they clearly believe is a sport, does ring of bigot to me. But hey, I’ve said some insensitive stuff myself. Probably on this very blog.

And the greater

The more obvious slur is that about women and their obsession with ribbon-twirling things. I’ll defend this only in saying this: he said it on fucking slashdot. For every joke that even mildly insinuates something remotely negative about women, there’s at least three “but hey, none of us have girlfriends now, do we.” There’s so much self-denigration, regarding gender and overall manliness, that most jests on Slashdot that come off as “macho” in any sense are satirical.

Presuming from here that the crack was satirical, it would certainly be non-obvious. Only knowing the audience and the context of Slashdot in general can you extrapolate that particular nature from that comment. Anywhere else, and it would most definitely be blatant sexism.

With that said, it is very likely generally true that if somebody is changing the channel to gymnastics in the house, and the candidates for doing so are one male and one female, it’s probably the female. I know I can’t get past “So You Think You Can Dance” without my wife saying something. Is it a generalization: yes. Is it mandatory that “Women like watching gymnastics” is an insult? Absolutely not. Just like “Men like watching football” isn’t an insult either. We all know that it’s not universally true, only generally true from one’s perspective. I can accept that.

Here’s the rub, though: a misstep in phrasing can make a generalization sound like an insult.

Though it’s unlikely that a Slashdotter would watch a subjectively judged sport, it’s possible that their partner may be interested in the judging process of gymnastic competition. This article will give you some knowledge in that regard.

There! Now it’s totally bland, and completely not worth the time to read or comment on. You’re welcome, taco.

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