Blog by Sumana Harihareswara, Changeset founder

05 Apr 2017, 17:49 p.m.

The Rumpelstiltskin Fallacy

Hi, reader. I wrote this in 2017 and it's now more than five years old. So it may be very out of date; the world, and I, have changed a lot since I wrote it! I'm keeping this up for historical archive purposes, but the me of today may 100% disagree with what I said then. I rarely edit posts after publishing them, but if I do, I usually leave a note in italics to mark the edit and the reason. If this post is particularly offensive or breaches someone's privacy, please contact me.

I sometimes sum up the lesson of a liberal arts education as: socially constructed things are real, too. And you are not immune from their effects, no matter how smart you are or whether you've noticed that something's a social construction. It's not like Rumpelstiltskin, where once you've named the thing it has no power over you. In fact, approximately zero problems are like that; saying "well this looks like a ____ situation" is insufficient to fix it.

And consequently, socially constructed things are worth studying and working on and using and fixing and spending energy on.