Brianna Wu & Empathy

Brianna Wu’s talk carried a lot of really important messages, but I think among the most fundamental for people here and on the internet to realize was that Empathy is a learned trait, not something that can and should come naturally to everyone. People have a hard time placing themselves in the shoes of others, wondering about how they might experience things differently, and as a consequence, we tend to treat one another with the expectation that everyone will react the way we do to something, rather than examining their own behavior to figure out how they might feel about it.


This is exactly the sort of dangerous behavior that leads to assumptions being made, and the regular denial of other people’s experiences. If you haven’t experienced racism, then of course you won’t have a strong personal reaction to it, and assuming that, because you aren’t personally bothered by it that other people aren’t or shouldn’t be is a terrible thing to do to your fellow human being.


Empathy provides the solution to this problem. It’s not an easy solution, necessarily, as it requires one to think carefully about the reception of their actions and statements, which can’t always be easy. We can’t account for everything, right? While that is correct, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try our damndest in every interaction to practice our empathy, as that’s the only way to improve it, and as we do so, it of course can only make our lives and interactions even easier.

When discussing issues of misogyny or #Gamergate and the gaming community, I think people are in desperate need of empathy. Being overly concerned with abstract causes and not concerned with the people involved makes it very hard for the conversation to be anything but talking past one another.

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