[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.
So having been told quite a bit recently that no one really cares about abortion as an issue in NZ and why don’t we prochoice women just shut up and get to the back of the manifesto where we belong, wouldn’t you know it but a bunch of awesome Kiwi bloggers managed to put together one hell of a blogswarm for World Health Day, hosted at The Hand Mirror.
And then, would you believe, there was actually an abortion-related vote in Parliament, regarding the Abortion Supervisory Committee, which even got honest-to-goodness mainstream media coverage thanks to Tariana Turia being an antichoice douchewad. Hat tip to Morgan at Maui Street.
No Right Turn does his usual stellar work with the facts and figures on the vote, which split somewhat fascinatingly along almost-clear party lines, with National being the only divided party.
The basic take-home is that 70 MPs are sufficiently pro-choice that they won’t support appointing an avowed antichoicer to the Abortion Supervisory Committee. It’s hardly an overwhelming statement of support of women’s right to make their own health decisions, but it’s also a pretty obvious sign that the majority of MPs, whether for personal or political-sensitivity reasons, will not erode the status quo.
It’s a fucking start.
You know, I think Maia had one tiny point in amongst the letting us all know that blogging about cupcakes is Diluting The Great Feminist Message.
Posting something frivolous to a feminist group or blog does imply/assume that thing is feminist or should be treated as a feminist issue.
Where we disagree* is that she thinks that means we have to explain why that thing is explicitly feminist or refrain from posting it. And I think the very fact of a thing being discussed on a feminist blog puts it in a feminist or wider progressive context.
So just what is a feminist issue?
Are silly boutique clothing stores which cut clothes to fit bigger-busted women a feminist issue?
Of course they fucking are because we live in a patriarchy that demands conformity to an incredibly narrow set of standards of beauty. The fit and fashionableness of clothes have implications for women’s lives from the ability to meet professional or corporate wardrobe standards to being able to feel comfortable in their bodies to presenting a challenge to those beauty standards by the merest fact of being a non-standard body shape wearing edgy, new, well-fitting or fashionable clothes in public.
Are “aesthetics” a feminist issue?
An alternative title for this post was “Because wearing lipstick can be a feminist act”. I just said it a paragraph above: beauty standards. Daring to be visible in public. Add to that gender performativity and people’s choice to challenge norms or desire to blend in to make their lives that little bit easier if they need/want to. Add to that the entire area of human attraction and romance and celebrity crushes or appreciation of the physical form and our ability to challenge those things without scrapping the notion of finding other human beings fucking hot.
Are cupcakes and knitting feminist issues?
Obviously not, I mean, duh, there’s no room for reclamation of traditionally “feminine” roles and crafts. No space for a discussion of the pressures of modern life depriving people of time to really engage with the food they eat or maintain old customs or challenge that big evil capitalist system by taking charge of the means of production even in small home-cooking cottage-industry ways. We definitely don’t want to break down orthorexic messages about “bad foods” and we definitely shouldn’t prop up our mental health and self-esteem defences against the constant criticism of patriarchy by taking pride in creating things.
But what if we don’t spell out why these things are feminist issues?
Plenty of conversations about cupcakes or clothing stores don’t actually involve posts saying “I have baked cupcakes in accordance with my personal desire to bake uninfluenced by notions of proper women’s roles, for a bake sale at my children-who-have-my-surname’s school because my male life-partner was too tired after a hard day’s respecting my reproductive choices.”
Do we seriously fucking have to?**
I am a staunch fucking warrior for the feminist cause, people. I will rant at the drop of a hat or the merest sighting of a Cosmo cover, I will march, I will campaign. But sometimes I have to take a break. Sometimes people who work even harder than me, like Sady Fucking Doyle, need to take a break, and build up our reserves of stamina and anger in order to continue the fight and not burn out.
Sometimes I just want to have a fucking glass of cider with some friends, and talk shit about baking and weddings, and it’s really fucking awesome to be able to do that in a group where I am guaranteed not to encounter casual racism or homophobia or transphobia or classism or any other gratuitous exercise of privilege. It’s really fucking awesome to know I could post on a forum about hating fucking Valentine’s Day and not run the stellarly high risk of having someone fucking bingo me with “oh but you’ll feel different when you’re in a relationship” or “oh you just need to drop your man and find one who’ll treat you right.”***
And I can imagine someone coming across Emma’s, and thinking “who can I share this with without getting a dozen “oh I had that problem but then I tried X diet” or “tee hee I’m so lucky I can just buy straight off the rack at Glassons” or “do you ever try wearing your bra as a hat?”**** responses?”
And maybe they just fucking thought hey, this group of women who I know are all in Wellington and who I can probably assume will all have some understanding of basic feminist critiques of beauty standards and the fashion industry will totally want to know that there are other patriarchy-busting resources out there for those of them with this particular problem.
But fuck, I guess they just weren’t being real feminists.
*And oh my god can you BELIEVE that we might be able to disagree without me declaring Maia has lost 10 Feminist House Points?
**Statement of the fucking obvious: some places have narrow commenting policies. Some places explicitly spell out what qualifies as on- or off-topic. The owners of those places get to make those calls and as always, it’s fucking rude for anyone to declare that those policies must be changed because all feminist conversation must follow a, b, c rules. Which is why I’m a lot less cussy elsewhere and anyone trying to rehash fucking over-cooked topics is getting no linguistic mercy.
****Also true story.
Things this post is not actually about:
- Maia’s “tone” or “the way she brought this up”
- Deep meaningful conversations about “what constitutes feminism”
- Hating your freedoms
… which is not to rule out any of those things as automatically unimportant or “off the table” or taboo.
This is about:
- A group which calls itself “feminist” is formed
- A post is made to said group about a shop catering to a non-standard body type
- A feminist blogger says such posts should not be made because they’re unfeminist, or that such posts have to be phrased in a way she likes, or that the moderators of the page have to justify why it’s feminist because being posted to a feminist group means it must be relevant to feminism
And I think point 3 is a bit shit, for a lot of reasons, and none of them are those bog-standard derailments about “refusing to take criticism” or “taking things personally” or “misrepresenting what Maia said”.
Because I think point 3 sums up what she said pretty well, given that what she said was:
things which I would normally just be ‘eh’ about really agitate me when they’re done in the name of feminism …
posting anything to a feed of a feminist group is to promote that post as a feminist act …
promoting any particular sized or shaped [body/clothing fitting] is problematic from a feminist perspective …
the way clothes are produced in [NZ] is absolutely the opposite of everything I think feminism stands for…
I object to … promoting clothes shopping (particularly at a specific shop) as something that is going to appeal to a group of women who have nothing in common other than they’re young feminists …
To me a core part of that responsibility [as a contributor in a feminist space] is to never suggest that liking the things I happen to like is part of being feminist …
material presented on the feed should be explicitly feminist…
I think this is a real danger … that women can feel that they can’t be a feminist because they don’t look a certain way and aren’t interested in certain things. And I think the easiest way to avoid that is to make aesthetic/lifestyle/survival choices off the table for feminist discussion. In order to create an environment where anyone feels like they can be feminist it needs to be as unacceptable to promote a particular way of say dressing as to diss a particular way of dressing…
I’m anti feminism being linked with a single aesthetic…
I think I’ve articulated in quite some detail why I think having material which isn’t explicitly feminist in feminist spaces is alienating. Particularly in feminist spaces that present themselves as generally as “The [not even ‘a’] Wellington Feminist Collective.”…
I think feminists should orient themselves critically towards those businesses for the reasons I listed…
I think it’s inappropriate for Coley to post it without explicitly making clear why because she is promoting one particular, inaccessible, aesthetic/lifestyle/Survival strategy as feminist, which I think is alienating…
And while I don’t think I did make a demand of the WYFC – I don’t think there’s anything wrong with me doing so. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with making demands with institutions/organisations that you’re supposed to be allied with. In fact, I think it’s an important part of building a social movement.
As to who I am? I’m a feminist who has thought about feminism and is prepared to defend her opinions. I think that gives me a right to talk about what feminism is and isn’t. I think that’s all any of us needs. And I think talking about what feminism is and isn’t is really important…
Issue: “promoting a single aesthetic”
As I said at THM, one post about one shop on a page covered in posts about abortion and misogynist radio contests and debunking stereotypes about Muslim feminists does not “promotion of a single aesthetic” make. I get body issues. I get being fat. I get that sinking sense of disappointment when even stores which are advertised as catering to different body shapes invariably do not carry anything near my size. And I saw the post about Emma’s on WYFC and thought “bet she doesn’t go to a size 18”.
But that hardly fucking invalidates the fact that being a fattie who can’t shop at Glassons is hardly the only form of body-policing or body-discrimination in the world and sometimes the size 12 girls with the E cups might like to know where to find dresses that fucking fit. And those girls are going to totally get feminist critiques of fashion and narrow beauty standards. And until every second post on the page is “oh hai here’s another resource explicitly aimed only at straight-sized busty girls” it’s fucking ludicrous to act like this one post represents the WYFC endorsing a single acceptable body shape.
Issue: “get a Marxist analysis or go home”
I think a lot of Marxist feminist analysis is fucking awesome. I’ve been pretty clear about that. But anyone who’s literally going to say that women can’t plug local businesses [at least without a laboured disclaimer about the evils of capitalism] because all business is capitalist and therefore evil can fuck right off.
We live in a capitalist society, we need fucking clothes, and as a fattie who herself and whose many non-standard-body-type friends have a lot of fucking difficulty finding clothes that fit I am actually not willing to self-flagellate because finally being able to buy cute dresses for only-slightly-above-“straight”-size-prices is Buying Into Corporate Doom.
Also? When you’re having a go at something for not explicitly nailing down what “feminism” is defined as, and you’re also saying “it has to be this and this and this and phrased like this and tick all these boxes”, don’t get fucking precious when people tell you you’ve appointed yourself Lady High Mistress of Feminist Lines in The Sand, because you just really did.
Issue: “well this affected me so your argument is invalid”
Do I have a problem with people raising issues that have affected them? No. Do I think there’s a big fucking difference between “this affected me and here’s why and let’s discuss that” and “this affected me so it should never ever happen against because you’re not real feminists”? Yes. See above.
Issue: “but THE! And R18 VENUES!”
Do I have a problem with disagreement and debate? No. Do I think there’s a big fucking difference between “let’s look at why this post is here and what I find problematic about it” and “let’s look at this post and also I want to explicitly say I’m not a member of this group I’m critiquing and also your name is a lie and also your choice of launch venue is discriminatory*”? Just a tiny bit.
Time for a high school analogy, because I feel pretty safe assuming we’ve all been there.
“Regina, I think that thing you said was mean because you reduced Lindsay Lohan’s character down to her country of origin.”
Is “raising something you found problematic”.
“Regina, I think that thing you said, while wearing those totally out-of-style trainers, was mean, and while I’m pointing that out can we also remember that you stole my trike in kindergarten you bitch?”
Is being vindictive and petty and nasty and refusing to just engage with the topic at hand … which hilariously is what Maia keeps accusing her detractors of.
Issue: “everything posted to the Collective page MUST be explicitly feminist!”
This is a biggie for me. For now? Let’s look at those above points where it’s pretty obvious that “feminist” here means “MY kind of feminism which can only discuss things I am comfortable with and MUST involve analysis from THIS point of view”.
That’s not discussion, it’s not a conversation. It’s an ultimatum from a person who doesn’t even go here,** about how a group she isn’t even involved in*** has to be operated to pass her magical test of feministness or she won’t let them call themselves feminist.
As the sweet old lady said to the Mormons, well in that case you can fuck right off.
But there’s a lot more that’s problematic with that statement and that’s going to have to wait for another post.
And finally some comments on the comments to hopefully avoid the same wank-circle that has devoured the THM post on this.
Issue: “waaaa why can’t feminists all be cuddly hug-buddies waaaaa”
Because obviously feminists do disagree. And that’s fine. But as already established, this isn’t about disagreeing and discussing things, this is about one person declaring that feminism has to be done a specific way or she’ll take away our feminist badges and let everyone know we love Sarah Palin. (No, seriously, that’s the “logical” conclusion drawn.)
Issue: “you just hate Maia and think everything she says is wrong”
Nope. I just think it’s fucking horrible to attack an entire group because one post is Doing Feminism Wrong and You Get To Decide That. Like I just said.
*From the Facebook thread
**For some reason this issue is hitting ALL the Mean Girls buttons.
***Oh but she’s seriously excited, honest, she thinks you guys are just the best even if you are wrong and alienating and evil and kicked her dog.