Monday, January 24, 2011

A "strawman" scarf

strawman scarf 1

I don't know if you have ever heard the term "straw-man argument"? Loosely, it means arguments that are aimed at a problem that doesn't really exist. It's a classic debating technique. You make up an extreme version or caricature of your opponent's argument (the "straw-man") which is all the easier to knock apart.

So, the expression "but you're straw-manning me!" is a fair and useful term in some contexts (I have used it myself). It helps you point out and defend yourself against unfair criticism, and it helps you pass the rhetorical trick right back at your opponent as, by taking aim at the premise of their argument, it can be reasonably hard to think of a come back.

But the term can be overused. Sometimes what looks like a deliberately rhetorically constructed straw-man is simply a misunderstanding. It's accidental. In fact, it might even be the fault of the person claiming they've been straw-manned. If someone doesn't understand your position, maybe you didn't made yourself very clear in the first place?

Closing an argument with a call of "straw-man!" for a bit of oneupmanship in a debating chamber be all part of the fun, but if the aim is mutual understanding, I'm not convinced it's productive. I'd much prefer people took an interest in why they have been misunderstood/ are being misinterpreted. A lack of understanding can be a chance for everyone to learn: a chance to continue debate, not end it.

Having seen the term once too many one evening, I decided to exorcise my grumpiness the best way I know how: knitting.

strawman scarf 1

I thought about knitting a small straw-coloured toy, like the voodoo doll I made in a moment of whimsical annoyance at the structures academic admin a few years back.

But a doll's pretty useless - as much of my annoyance with the term phrase was that it's not productive, it seemed a bit silly. So, instead, I made a small straw-coloured scarf with a man symbol embroidered at one end. The stitch pattern is from My So Called Scarf, which I thought brought out a straw-y texture (see ravelry project page for full details about yarn, etc).

I've now posted it to a friend who was at the receiving end of some particularly unhelpful "you're just straw-manning me" bit of rhetoric last year. Because debate should be about sharing with others, not keeping the prizes for yourself.

strawman scarf 2

15 comments:

katarney said...

Nice idea - love the stitch pattern too :)

Julie said...

what a gorgeous scarf! the texture is amazing, and the embroidery on it is very cool. You did an awesome job.

unravelcat said...

BRILLIANT!! I MUST make one of these.

Custom Patches said...

Nice idea putting on the vodoo doll as an accent to the scarf. It adds beauty into the simple design.

knittingoutloud said...

Beautiful stitch pattern!!!

annmarie said...

I can't speak to the 'straw-man argument', but *your* strawman puts me in mind of a petroglyph! :)

disfrutar del sexo said...

Really worthwhile data, thank you for your post.

www.sevilla-3d.com said...

Well, I don't actually think this is likely to have effect.

Generic Viagra said...

Wow! Its a great idea here.... Really very interesting found.... I enjoyed reading this blog post... Your really having a great collection of pictures. Thanks and keep posting....

Knitting Patterns for Babies said...

I just found your lovely blog this afternoon. Those scarf are absolutely beautiful!

I’m off to take a look around your blog a bit more. Congratulations for the post.

Prediksi Bola said...

Hrmm that was weird, my comment got eaten. Anyway I wanted to say that it's nice to know that someone else also mentioned this as I had trouble finding the same info elsewhere. This was the first place that told me the answer. Thanks. Agent Sbobet Sbobet Ibcbet Sbobet Casino Judi Bola

Agen Judi Online said...

Thank you for posting such a useful website. Your weblog happens to be not just informative but also very stimulating too. There are a limited number of people who are capable of write technical articles that creatively. we are on the lookout for information regarding this topic. We ourselves went through several websites to find knowledge with regard to this.I will keep coming back !! 338A Sbobet Casino Agen Sbobet

Agen Bola said...

I think this is one of the most important information for me. And i am glad reading your article. But want to remark on some general things, The site style is ideal, the articles is really great. Sbobet Casino

yakenzu toby said...

Thanks a lot for sharing this amazing knowledge with us. This site is fantastic. I always find great knowledge from it. agen bola, judi bola

Agen Bola said...

I'm now not sure the place you are getting your information, but good topic. I must spend a while finding out more or understanding more. Thank you for fantastic information I used to be searching for this info for my mission. Agen Sbobet