Whataboutism and Whataboutery are the trending terms currently, but what are they? Whataboutism and Whataboutery refer to changing the topic to something irrelevant or insignificant compared to the ongoing topic to get off the focus from the topic.
Whataboutism and whataboutery can be presumed to be a rare sighting, but it is not, it is artfully hidden in our daily lives, we usually use whataboutism and whataboutery as a defense mechanism. It is always infuturating for the other person, but it gets very problematic when important topics like – feminism, equality, and racism are involved. When someone is talking about something that is an important topic or even if it is not important, but it is just really close to their heart, then using statements like “But what about xyz” can be both hurtful and inappropriate.
We need to start identifying whether the statement we make is necessary or relevant before we speak; this is the only way not to get wrapped up in whataboutery and whataboutism. The other way can be just to listen and analyze before getting all defensive.
Here is what a classic case of whataboutism and whataboutery look like:
● Something tragic happens, and we express our sorrows and thoughts and opinions on social media about it.
● Someone comments on what about XYZ, and takes the conversation in different directions.
● People’s feelings and sentiments get hurt, and there are endless finger-pointing and arguments.
● The focus from the main concern shifts to trying to resolve the arguments or winning the argument.
● Oftentimes the tragic event is left unhealed and is not given the acknowledgment and spotlight it deserves to resolve the event, help the victim, etc.
● The motive of sharing this story or tragic event on social media just stirs more hate instead of a solution, and it all starts with whataboutism and whataboutery.
We are Gen Z, and we need to be responsible and vigilant that no issue gets left behind but trying to snatch away the focus from one important issue to another doesn’t help anyone. An example of whataboutism and whataboutery is:
● #MeToo movement started to create awareness about sexual assault and misconduct.
● A lot of females got the stage to share their stories.
● While others made it a safe place for such stories, a set of people tried to divert the conversation by saying #Notallmen
● This leads to a whole different conversation regarding how not all men are sexual predators, which is irrelevant because we already know that.
● It takes off the focus from the real movement, and they divide the attention between these two.
Another example can be:
● A female talks about how they do not feel safe travelling at night alone in their country.
● Someone comments that women in other South Asian countries have it worst.
● Shifts the focus from the current country to other countries.
● While it is understandable, their struggle might be more, but dismissing the primary topic’s concerns and neglecting it doesn’t solve the problem.
● Just because someone else has it worse doesn’t mean we stop focusing on our problems or issues.
We need to give each issue its stage because every issue is important. When these issues are being discussed, avoid getting a new completely different topic involved or an irrelevant topic. Yes, we understand that you might feel left out when topics like “Black lives matter” are being discussed, and you might feel the need to add “All lives matter” or when Women’s rights are being discussed, feeling the need to add Human rights or Equal Rights. We need to understand that we discuss and fight for causes, humans, and groups because of minority face certain types of discrimination or mistreatment. Supporting them is important because they didn’t get an easy start, unlike most people. Forcing in statements through whataboutism and whataboutery makes you look irrelevant. So, let’s practice empathy, compassion, and support instead of whataboutism and whataboutery.