This post comes to your courtesy of thoughts provoked by this post at Shakesville [trigger warning for sexual assault]. But really, I’m surprised it hasn’t occurred to me previously given, well, the reaction to almost every guest post I’ve ever made at The Standard.
Stop being so angry. You’re hurting the movement.
Stop talking about leftwing men committing sexual harassment/assault. You’re hurting the movement.
Stop criticising Labour, you’re hurting the movement.
Let’s think about that phrase, hurting the movement. What do [usually white straight middle-class cis men who happen to be leftwing] mean by “hurting the movement”?
Making the movement look bad? Scaring people away from the movement?
To refer back to Melissa’s post at Shakesville, I would’ve thought that tolerating, excusing, and ignoring sexual assault hurts the movement in precisely those ways. It certainly makes the movement look bad. It certainly scares some people away from the movement.
Oh, wait. I think I see the problem.
When people talk about making the movement look bad, or scaring people away from the movement, they don’t mean just any old people.
They mean other usually-white middle class hetero cis men who currently aren’t hip to the movement. They mean outsiders who are just like them, so are people they presume will get on board when they realise how awesomely cool that board is.
They don’t, i.e., mean women. They extra specifically don’t mean feminists.
And this is where another of my favourite issues comes up: the entitlement complex of the left.
Because the only way this makes sense to me is if those people who are telling feminists to shut up about fucking sexual assault are assuming that they’re safe in doing so. It’s not like we can stand up and say “well screw you and your thinly-veiled sexism, I’m voting for a party that’s openly misogynist! Haha!” It’s not like we’re all going to flip them the bird and refuse to vote at all in their inherently patriarchal set-up-for-men’s-interests system, right?*
So they feel safe saying “shut up about your silly women’s issues”. Because we have to be on their side. And gods know that they do have a tiny point in that openness about any issues in the Occupy movement will be instantly leapt upon by the media machine as proof that these protesters are just silly/stupid/ignorant/evil/selfish/dysfunctional/doomed to failure.
But it coincidentally also allows them to go on pretending to be amazing revolutionaries sticking it to The Man without questioning their privilege or deep-seated impulse to defend rape culture.
Myself, I’m a fan of professional wrestling (and True Blood, and the occasional trashy romance novel, and South Park) and a ranty feminist blogger. I can cope with the notion of actively critiquing the things I hold dear and admitting they’re not perfect. Dare you to give it a go, dudes.
*Some radfems probably will/do, but I assume the dudebros don’t tend to read their blogs.
[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!
[Trigger warnings: transphobia, misgendering, tone argument, general shittiness and major Nice White Cis Feminist fail]
[On teh criticisms of pseudonymous posting and the big fucking issues with “real names” I recommend this post by Scarlet Sorceress.]
Queer the Night was held this week in Wellington, and by all accounts was considered a success.
And I’m kinda glad that this means that my little rant right here is after the event and thus I can’t be accused of harshing nice baby activists’ squees with my meanie pseudonymous criticism.
Because … wow. Gather round with some stiff damn drinks, kiddies, this is going to be rough, and in case you skipped the top, potentially very triggering.
The Hand Mirror hosted a guest post from the organisers.
Will you please give the organisers a break! Jesus…they are the least transphobic/homophobic/bigoted people on the planet,
Why am I reminded of Donald Trump? Oh right, because “I’m the least” tops even “some of my best friends are” for massive incoming fail warning signs.
So they missed out an academic term for people’s views about binary gender, so frickin what??
I mean come on, they’re only organising a Queer the Night march! They can’t be expected to have even the vaguest fucking understanding of pretty fucking basic terminology!!! What do you mean, this is about people’s fucking identities, nah, it’s just about “views on binary gender”! Not something people live every fucking day!
I’m pretty sure we all agree that gender binary is fake & stupid and hurts trans and non trans people alike.
Fake and stupid. Fake. And. Stupid. Yeah, when I think of the gender binary I definitely reach for “fake and stupid”, not “manufactured” or “coercive” or “harmful”.
heteronormativity implicitly includes a prejudice to 2 binary genders.
Um, if that sentence ended with “to 2 binary genders fucking” you might have a point. But it doesn’t, so you don’t, George, and maybe the fact that you’re arguing with a heterosexual trans woman who just kinda stated that she felt excluded by your language might have provided a clue on that one.
So why make a fuss over a bunch of ordinary people with the best of intentions missing out a specialised academic term…and worse, accuse them of being transphobic.
You see, George et al are just normal people. Unlike the trans woman George is arguing with, one presumes? And their intent is magical. And accusing a person of being transphobic is like nearly as terribly as calling a white person a racist, don’t you know?
But if you though George was already investigating genetic modification for the purposes of finding yet another foot to fit in her mouth …
You want a safe space? Then stop bullying people and being an “internet tough guy” online
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN AND ALL OTHERS IN ATTENDANCE, GEORGE HAS FOUND ANOTHER FOOT.
But it’s all totally okay because hey, George is a woman who just always uses “guy” as a gender neutral term and “tough guy” is just a phrase, dude and tee hee see she can play the “don’t misgender me man, lol” game too, bless, and anyway stop alienating your allies by being such Nazis.
I seriously wish I was making this shit up.
You might think this kind of shit is something that The Hand Mirror team would want to put a lid on,feminist blog and all, multiple trans women pitching in in the comments … but LudditeJourno reckons that actually none of the criticism counts as long as other trans folk turn up at the march and here’s what Julie had to say in closing at time of writing:
Acid Queen, you have been asked to stop commenting on this thread, looks to me like you are deliberately trying to inflame things, as you have done here before. ANY further comments from you on this thread will be deleted. You’ve said you have nothing further to say anyway so that shouldn’t be hard.
George & Kassie, it’s really useful to have the perspective of the main organizers in this discussion. It can’t have been easy to contribute here and I appreciate the effort. I will now be closing comments on this thread.
Yeah, thanks George, for being plainly fucking abusive towards trans women on The Hand Mirror, and thanks, Kassie, for not actually engaging with George’s shit but instead basically implying that you can’t be bothered identifying and educating yourself about transphobia unless the trans women hold your hand. It’s been a nice insight into everyone involved.
ETA: Octavia has a badass post up calling on The Hand Mirror to actually become a safe space for trans* people.
I got into a conversation a few days ago on the topic “what can [privileged people] do to help [unprivileged people] without sounding like they want cookies or are using their privilege to dominate/take over?”
And while tackling this on a variety of spectra (as happens when a gay white man is talking to a straight white woman about privilege), talking about sitting down, listening, remembering it’s Not About You, I had a sudden epiphany.
All privileged people are some analogue of Schrödinger’s Rapist.
When you approach me in public, you are Schrödinger’s Rapist. You may or may not be a man who would commit rape. I won’t know for sure unless you start sexually assaulting me. I can’t see inside your head, and I don’t know your intentions. If you expect me to trust you—to accept you at face value as a nice sort of guy—you are not only failing to respect my reasonable caution, you are being cavalier about my personal safety.
I’m a straight woman with Real Queer Friends. I know I’m a nice person, I know I don’t [consciously] judge people for being not-heterosexual. And after years of friendship, my friends may be working on the assumption that I am not a threat, not a person who is going to suddenly use “gay” as a derogatory term or crack hilarious jokes about buttsex.
Working on the assumption.
Because I am Schrödinger’s Heterosexual: my friends can never truly be certain whether or not I’m homophobic or transphobic or see the world in heteronormative terms until I demonstrate it. Until I fail the test.
And that goes for my race privilege, and my class privilege, and my education privilege.
And there’s no pass condition on this. A privileged person can simply never actually prove with 100% certainty that they will never be a threat or a problem or a trigger to an unprivileged person.
And lords and ladies, we’ve got more than enough extreme-headdesk-worth examples of people who really, really should know better pulling some serious asshattery.* Until now, they might have been Schrödinger’s Mainstream Feminists. Now we’ve opened the box and had a look and it ain’t pretty.
We privileged people do not “deserve” the automatic trust or assumption of good faith or patience of unprivileged people [especially while in the act of fucking up]. And that’s okay, because it’s not about us. And that’s Basic Ally-hood 101.
*Author’s note: I originally went to type that as “people who you would never think would be bigots”. I get to assume these people aren’t bigots, because I’m a straight white lady. That’s privilege.