Logical Gal and Straw Man Fallacy

13 Dec

Creating a Straw Man Fallacy comes naturally to us humans. 

We don’t have to be trained and coached.  In fact, this in-bred talent shows itself early in children.

Kids actually have a knack for painting their parents’ position as ogre-like!

(Disclaimer, all examples are fictitious and do not coincide with my life or that of people whom I know.) 

Daughter: Why can’t I go out with Harry on a date? We’re just going to a movie!

Parents: Honey, we think 13 years old is far too young to go out alone with a boy.

Daughter:  You just want me to grow up as a prisoner of this house, become a nun and live out the rest of my days in a monastery!

I’ve been working on reducing this same skill.  It surfaces on the rare occasions that my husband and I flare up with each other.  For that’s what marital arguments seem to be. They are rarely planned out logical arguments with reasons marshalled and well organized.  Emotional intensity tends to inflame a small issue and our attack tendencies go into Straw-Man mode.

Wife: I would really appreciate it if you would take the trash out to the street on Wednesday night ahead of the garbage pick up on Thursdays

Husband:  So you don’t think I’m pulling my weight?

The ‘little-lawyer’ in the wife should exclaim, “Objection, Your Honor, leading!” 

Here’s another version:

Husband: Sweetie, I know you’re busy with a job, the kids and all, but do you think we could have something warm for dinner?

Wife:  So you expect me to be superwoman AND have a svelte figure?


Is the use of a straw man inducive to further conversation?  Not at all.  It’s a purely aggressive attack – meant to shut down the other.  And being such a naturally ‘nice’ person, I’m shocked at how easily harsh words can fly out of my mouth without forethought.

So how can one respond?  I think one has to resist being drawn in by the bait and repeat/rephrase the original statement with a bit more information, but careful to keep a neutral tone.

Mom to daughter – Actually, your father and I think that 16 is a reasonable age to start dating young men.  How does that sound?

Wife to husband – If you take out the garbage the night before, then we won’t be caught off-guard if the garbage men come early.

Husband to wife – How about we buy a new microwave and a crockpot so we can warm up or add to leftovers?

Question:  What’s a memorable Straw Man Fallacy you’ve been slapped with?

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