Okay, so there’s this very excellent post by Paul Tevis over on RPG Talk that talks about Push/Pull in regards to Setting. This is interesting all on it’s own, and I’ll be thinking about it more in future days when my brain has more room to think, but what made me pick up the link and put it here is his later comments about Push and Pull modes of communication:
“Writing for Presentation and Setting are essentially Push techniques. They’re both ways of saying, “Here’s my position. I’m done. Here you go.” Writing for Discussion and Situation are essentially Pull techniques. They’re both about giving the other person room to tell their side, to make what you’ve started into something different and bigger than what you would have done on your own.”
This is one of the things I was trying to get to in my blathery way back when, but put together much more coherently and eloquently, especially once married to Brand’s excellent discussion with him in the comments. It’s something I’m struggling with over on Storygames, as I try, for the first time in a while to not give up on a forum. I generally don’t do so well on forums, (especially RPG ones) because of the exact thing Paul is talking about.
There’s a discussion happening over there, and it’s about gender, and I’ve been cautious to get too far into it because it’s a tarbaby in that context, because, I think that it has everything to do with gender while simultaneously have nothing to do with gender (I also didn’t want to co-opt the very real concern of the person starting the thread with my own issues). I like that Paul has put it back into the Push Pull context, because while Push/Pull were labeled Male/Female (partially my own fault) that’s not the way that I meant them, and I think that though you can make analogies, that they are essentially divorced from a any concept of sex or gender.
Push and Pull communication modes are not gender connected in any essentialist way at all. I know tons of Pull boys and Push girls. Throw a boy in a bubble over here and a girl in a bubble over there and pull them out as adults and neither will push or pull effectively at all. Neither will socialize effectively at all. Gender only has to do with Push and Pull as much as there is a very big difference (historically more so but still very real) between the way that most boys and most girls are socialized, and the way that girls are socialized have more to do with Pull than they do with Push (though exclusively neither) and vice versa with boys and Push.
So: nothing to do with gender, yet everything to do with gender. Boys by nature are no more capable of pushing than girls, or girls more capable of pulling, but many socialization experiences for each actively encourage one and discourage the other.
So gender aside: it is true for me. I was actively sociallized to Pull and actively (strongly) socialized not to Push. So it’s fun and comfortable and energizing for me to engage in activities relying primarily on Pull but difficult and uncomfortable and draining to engage in activities that rely on Push. I find forums maddening because the mode of most discussions are “Here’s my position. I’m done. Here you go.” followed by a series of challenges and defenses: all Push.
Worse than that, many of them masquerade (or honestly start out) as Pulls: “Here’s where I am, where are you, what does that mean?” and this is inviting to me, but once I’m part of them, they quickly move to Push: declaration, challenge, defense. When it happens I can get frustrated, angry, or hurt because I’ve been promised something that feels collaborative and have been given something that feels competetive, and I am there to share and explore, not to debate.
Now that I have words for it, I can identify that that’s why I started Sin Aesthetics, because I wanted to take part in the body of work that’s being built, but it allows me (for the most part, though less successfully in the past than it will be in the future) to pull the topics I am interested in, as well as moderate to control the amount of push in the discussion.
Now, to touch the tarbaby (hopefully with some latex gloves) for one second: If I’m right, and boys are socialized to push more often than pull, and there are disproportionately greater numbers of boys in RPG than girls, that means that there is a disproportionate amount of push in forums and games than pull, and that because of that, Pull mode people (be they boys or girls) will always feel less welcomed, less comfortable and less accepted than Push mode people.
Thanks Paul. 🙂
P.S. If you don’t understand and need to see the difference, go to SG and read two threads: A Very Special Gender and Gaming Conversation and Playing Across Gender Lines. When you read them, pay less attention to what is being said than how it is being said, and how the what changes the engagement level of the people involved. See if you can identify who’s uses Push Mode and who Pull and how that affects the discussion.
It may not be true for all push threads and pull threads, but the results of each of those threads also goes a long way in explaining why pull is fufilling to me and why push is not.