[Trigger warning: links include discussion of transphobia, mainstream Feminist silencing tactics and more than your recommended daily intake of cis/white women’s tears.]
I think if we’ve learned anything from the internet it’s that when white cis feminists on “mainstream”/large/established blogs commit massive fail, it only gets worse when they try to apologise (admittedly, a large number never get to the apologising stage, so hey, points for effort!)
Thus it is with Julie’s “apology” (yep, scare quoted it) at The Hand Mirror, where those commenters who didn’t get to show their own pantlessness in the original debacle decided to make the most of their second chance.
Let’s start with Scuba Nurse, who is totally sure they don’t allow abusive comments, and then happily conflates “abuse” with “disagreement”:
Offensive comments: As far as I know, we do allow comments as long as they do not personally attack anyone, are abusive or demeaning.
We have allowed several people making some comments I found exceptionally offensive because of my personal viewpoint on their beliefs around abortion, women’s clothing choices, racism etc etc. The trans-phobia discussions are certainly not the first time we have had differing opinions debating.
QoT’s Words of Wisdom: Commenters stating “I refuse to consider calling a specific trans woman a guy transphobic because I don’t think it is” is simultaneously personal, abusive and demeaning! Pretending that “”guy” is just a gender-neutral word!” is a matter of “differing opinions” which exists in a complete vacuum unaffected by cisgender privilege is douchey!
QoT’s Words of Wisdom: This is hardly the first fucking time transphobic shit (not to mention misogyny, rape apologism, abuse apologism or general lack of moderating) has come up on The Hand Mirror. You had your chance to figure this shit out [and as demonstrated below, you’ve got a pretty fucking clear commenting policy which should have provided you all with a damn clue]. Instead you chose personal comfort over calling out a cis woman’s massive disrespect and triggering behaviour of trans women. Do not pass Go, do not collect $200.
George returns! Can you smell the fail already?
Don’t beat yourself up Julie. No one made any personal swipes at anyone, no one defamed anyone…quite frankly I think it was a huge misunderstanding based on the lack of voice intonation and body language on the internet.
TURN UP NEXT TIME EVERYONE! That’s the lesson here. 🙂 If you want a say in the kaupapa of an event, then come along and be part of it.
QoT’s Words of Wisdom: You know what, George? That nice apology I snipped out of the middle of your comment would’ve been marvellous if it weren’t bookended by the above assholery, in which you declared your version of how things occurred (guess what? The women you were an asshat to probably disagree! But gaslighting is so much easier when the thread is conveniently no longer visible …), continued to tone argument people, and finished off with a good ol’ tip of the hat to “if you don’t participate you can’t complain!”
People don’t actually have to show up to events which they find problematic and which because of you they do not feel safe at in order to express their opinions.
Julie clarifies that actually she wasn’t even apologising for the thing she should have been apologising for:
I haven’t addressed it because that wasn’t how I was thinking of it – as a stuff up involving transphobia – I was thinking of it as a stuff up of moderation. However I can see from this discussion that that was a mistake on my part – the stuff up is intrisincally related to the subject matter of the thread. Again, another useful aha moment for me, thanks.
Of course I think I’m not transphobic. I imagine Enoch Powell didn’t think he was racist either. And this has been a case where I’ve been blind to my own ignorance (of trans issues) and blind to my own prejudicies (of assuming cis as the default and not even seeing that I was choosing sides that lined up with cis versus trans until someone pointed it out).
QoT’s Words of Wisdom: Your self-education could also involve a 101 primer on ableist language, Julie! As for Enoch Powell? Probably entirely aware he was racist, actually, just probably didn’t see a problem with it. That’s how a lot of racism works.
I can tell this seems a lot like I’m having a go at Julie. That’s because I am. I really, really struggle with the notion that a person who has been part of one of the oldest, best-established feminist blogs in New Zealand, who is politically aware and internet savvy and has had the issues people have with The Hand Mirror’s moderation brought up to her on multiple occasions, is meant to be given a pass because she’s so busy, she chose to moderate while in a bad mood, she totally didn’t mean to thank people by saying she appreciated their efforts and found their contributions really useful, she thinks she totally moderates blatant transphobia but oops, maybe her definition of blatant is different to others’ because she’s so new at all this.*
Not buying it, sorry.
But the supreme award for fail simply must go to Stef.
I missed the details of this bust up (yet again) but I feel that comments that THM needs to be this that or the other thing fucking obnoxious as I do bitchy comments that it’s only a blog about cupcakes and THM doesn’t do feminism properly. Seems to me part of this (not scar’s comments) is about new bloggers trying to get a rep and followers by picking on one of the big players and THM is so mainstream yada yada that it needs to be taken down a peg or two. Seen it happen in far too many online communities to give it much more thought than that. *yawn*
QoT’s Words of Wisdom: Are you twelve fucking years old, Stef? “They just hate us ’cause we’re so cool, mm-hmm, pass the fruit-scented lip gloss, omg I’m so, like, over this whole thing, right, they’re like, so jealous, omg.” is your actual argument? With bonus passive-aggressive not-naming-names-because-they’re-only-doing-it-for-attention?
For those unable to see the original post, Stef is probably talking about Octavia and Scar. They’re either two Kiwi women with relatively newish blogs who think transphobia is fucking awful and should be called out, and aren’t afraid to go into spaces they perceive as inherently unsafe and call out blatant misgendering and privileging of cis women’s opinions and feelings, and an acknowledged moderation method based on Who Is Annoying Julie Right Now, where it is acknowledged that moderator comments thanked and privileged people who were being silencing and personal and transphobic …
… or they’re just, like, totally ~desperate~ for ~attention~ and can’t handle that The Hand Mirror didn’t invite them to the after-prom party.
I find the latter to be a completely convincing argument.
But it’s their blog, their rules!
A final point a lot of the defenders are bringing up is “HDU tell the Hand Mirror writers how to moderate their blog! They can do what they want!”
And this is a very valid point. God knows I’m a huge fan myself of telling people to fuck off and make their own blogs if they want to do [insert obnoxious behaviour].
But here’s the problem.
The Hand Mirror does not anywhere state, “This is not a safe space for trans* people and gendered language and silencing tactics will not be moderated.”
Their commenting policy does say abusive comments or links to abusive posts will be deleted – yet moderators basically encouraged people to continue posts at their own sites,which was read by at least one commenter as saying “you have to go deal with [commenter who was accused of transphobia] at his own blog where he will probably continue to be transphobic at you but we don’t care about that.”
The commenting policy does say, “Disagreement should be written in a manner that does not demean either party.” But this was clearly not interpreted by anyone at the Hand Mirorr as do not refer to a trans woman as a “tough guy”, nor do not tell trans women that they shouldn’t be offended because “guy” is a totes gender neutral term.
And the explicit stated purpose of their comment policy is:
We want this to be a safe space for women, and indeed for those who are othered in an internet (and political) culture dominated by white heterosexual men of comfortable income and right-wing politics.
Scar and other commenters aren’t actually holding The Hand Mirror to any higher standard than The Hand Mirror’s writers have already set for themselves. If The Hand Mirror team want to clarify that no, they aren’t going to police transphobic language and no, they aren’t going to firmly moderate on any other basis than “I was tired and anyway you’re a troll” then now is their chance to make that clear to everyone.
Going on what has happened, and how they have followed up? It’s pretty clear to me.
*In case I haven’t repeated this slightly key point enough? “Blatant transphobia” apparently doesn’t cover referring to trans women as “internet tough guys” and refusing to accept that others find that offensive!