As someone who is not only a feminist but a social activist as well, I often contend with this question of whether to engage or ignore. (And for all you Trekkies out there, I'm not referring to that). Do I engage in a discussion or demonstration against a particular viewpoint or do I simply ignore and not engage?
An example that is often used is in regards to right-wing asshats like Ann Coulter. Ann Coulter spews anti-semitic, homophobic nonsense in both her interviews and her many books. She's a self-identified womyn with a background in law who thinks that womyn shouldn't be allowed to vote. Clearly, the womyn has lost her mind.
Her arguments are blatantly inflammatory but she has a wide audience. Because of her audience, some people who oppose her think that it's necessary to take her on, challenge her and debate her to the death. Others say that you are simply buying into her ways and giving her more publicity. If you just ignored her, she wouldn't have an audience.
In my own life, I think of ardent anti-choicers. I think that the pro-choice / anti-choice has been debated to death and I've found myself ignoring the "abortion debate" on University campuses year after year. I was invited to represent the pro-choice side in a radio debate and refused. Abortion is an issue that I feel has been debated to death and well... nobody's really gonna change their minds anymore. Not the people who come to those debates anyway. They're just there to tear down the other side, find a random loophoole and leave with their arms waving in victory. There's no real dialogue.
But yet when Silent No More holds demonstrations where they posit their "I REGRET MY ABORTION" signs and attempt to encroach on public space, I do engage. I truly believe that they have a right to exist and express their opinions just as I have a right to do the same. But do these demonstrations (which are often impromptu) really do anything besides buy into the antagonism surrounding the issue?
I don't know.
So it all comes down to, can you really debate with extremist organizations and/or individuals? Should you even try?
And the most important question for me is, how do we create meaningful discussions on so-called controversial issues?
I'm a smartass with an opinion on everything but this one still has me stumped.