Smoke, fire and recognising transphobia

It’s not the case that where there’s smoke there’s fire – nonetheless, the two correlate strongly. The more people smell smoke, the wiser it is to investigate; the more you spot, the likelier you are to find something alight, and anyone so fire-agnostic they refuse to make enquiries till presented with a room in flames can reasonably be suspected of anything from ambivalence on fire safety to being a furtive arsonist.

Misogyny has been the great fire of atheism. 2012 saw a pitched fight for smoke detectors to be used at cons, in which, as thick plumes billowed from every window, DJ Grothe said TAM was totally fire-free, no one having caught so much as a whiff of smoke, and women shouldn’t assume too much from the sky high column of it over the building. Later, Reinhardt et al decided piles of soot and ash wherever some male skeptics went didn’t conclusively prove fire damage, and so there was no reason at all to check for any.

People who defend sexism tend to think there are only two ways to handle complaints: either with absolute credulity, treating women’s claims as infallible, or with absolute agnosticism, throwing out anything short of airtight legal proof. Women who file reports are said to want their word taken as law, but complaints are supposed to prompt investigations, not foreclose them. In the first instance, all most plaintiffs want is for their claims to be looked into – something an all-or-nothing epistemology prevents.

The agnostic response to bigotry says we can never know enough to act. If we don’t have all the facts, we have none; if not everything has been proved, nothing can be, and if the curtains haven’t yet caught fire, no amount of smoke is cause for action. Claims with mountains of evidence are dismissed before any can be sought, responsible parties painting requests for them to find things out as demands for unquestioning belief.

I bring this up because of late, I’ve seen Ophelia say similar things.

Make no mistake: I don’t like being at odds with a long time colleague. I don’t enjoy the atmosphere in the hivemind being fraught, or losing friends and readers and income, or giving axe-grinding belligerents a show. Since those things are already happening though, and since I’ve no desire for this site’s enemies to dictate how it works, I think it’s worth discussing this. The Slymepit haven’t won when bloggers here differ over important things – they’ve won when we bite our tongues for fear of entertaining them.

So. That being said.

Last week, in case you live under a rock, Caitlyn Jenner – having some time prior announced her wish to transition – debuted her new name and appearance in Vanity Fair. When one of Jezebel’s writers declared ‘You look great, Caitlyn! Can’t wait to see more’, Ophelia published this post, which numerous readers perceived as trans-antagonistic. After I wrote in Jezebel’s defence, Facebook users mentioned her having linked to and quoted feminists like Julie Bindel, whom Ophelia denied knowing to be transphobic.

‘You know what?’ one of them replied. ‘Once someone points out her transmisogyny to you, congratulations. She is a “known transphobe” to you. You thank them for helping you get yourself together instead of making it about how hurt your feelings are that people pointed out your failure to do due diligence.’ In a post from a week ago, titled ‘If someone says it, then you know it’, Ophelia writes:

I was rewarded for my efforts by [that] staggeringly credulous and illiberal comment . . . Oh right, once someone – anyone, everyone, it doesn’t matter who, and don’t you dare ask how that someone knows, or where that someone got the information – ‘points out her transmisogyny’ to me, then I automatically know what that someone just told me, because there is no possibility whatsoever that that someone is wrong, or biased, or malicious, or passing on a claim passed on by forty thousand other people all of whom had no reason to believe it either. Listen up, atheists and skeptics: when someone tells you something, you know that something, because someone just told you it. Believe what you are told, by anyone, no matter who; it’s the skeptic way.

Honest to fucking christ, what is the matter with people? Why am I supposed to take their word for this kind of shit, especially when they model such godawful epistemic practice themselves? What kind of politics do they think they’re creating, if we’re all just supposed to take everyone’s word for everything?

These arguments make me uncomfortable, because I know where I’ve seen them before. I’ve seen skeptics respond to complaints about famous activists by pleading ignorance – I don’t know, We can’t know, I wouldn’t know – when they could know plenty. I’ve seen women called illiberal for demanding people be credulous and just believe who wanted no such thing, and whose claims when actually heard turned out to have a great deal of support. Ophelia’s worst enemies have all but died on the agnostic hill, as on worse days have I.

Julie Bindel is a public figure. She is paid to have public opinions – opinions seldom further than a Google search away. (Recent examples, having performed one, include that trans women are ‘men with beards and penises’ and being transgender is the same as being transracial.) As a blogger, does being asked to acknowledge these views once notified compel you to renounce all doubt, or just assume willingness to google?

At B&W, there are fifty-two comments on the post accused of ignoring Bindel’s transphobia. About thirteen – a third of those not left by the author – focus on it being relevant, some giving links or details. ‘I don’t know enough about Bindel to discuss it,’ Ophelia replies. ‘I don’t know these facts.’ ‘I don’t know enough about her’. ‘How would you know whom Bindel hates or doesn’t hate? How could anyone know that?’ Then, pressed to find out more: ‘I’m not all that interested in the exact quantity of transphobia contained in Julie Bindel.’

(Please note: this is an abridged summary. I strongly recommend reading the thread in full.)

How long can you plead ignorance before it looks wilful? When people have brought up a famous columnist’s record so many times, isn’t it fair for them to expect it be known to you? At a point, not least after saying you don’t care that much, doesn’t implying you’ve no rational way to know their stance threaten to sound denialist, like you don’t want to know? And is it strange if people interpret your commitment to saying so – instead of saying, more plausibly, that you rate them despite their bigotry – as a sign you might sympathise with it?

If sexism were defended this way, I’m wondering how charitably Ophelia would react. If rather than Bindel, Jane Clare Jones or other transphobes, someone on this network promoted men with antifeminist records – Shermer, Reinhardt, DJ Grothe – would she accept their history wasn’t worth mentioning? Would she let them claim over and over that they didn’t know about it, thus had know way to know except blind faith, thus couldn’t be expected to know? Would she let them rant about the illiberal expectation they know?

Or – going out on a limb – would Ophelia say that once so many people have pointed it out, there’s no excuse not to know about someone’s sexism? Wouldn’t she say that if significant numbers of women kept mentioning it, it was likely to be worth knowing about, and that at some point, claiming ignorance suggested indifference at best, misogyny at worst? That, at some point, a smoke-filled room makes knowing if there’s a fire one’s business?

Because – with one difference – that’s what readers seem to be telling her.

A lot of readers now appear to see B&W as a trans-antagonistic blog. Considering it seems to be somewhere anti-trans activists are cited quite a lot, whose author links to pieces attacking the word ‘TERF’ on sites known for transphobia, which attracts antitrans comments while trans commenters are met with hostility and misgendered without regret, and where Ophelia’s whole first response to Caitlyn Jenner was to complain she’d been told she looked nice… does being agnostic on transphobia make their view seem more or less reasonable?

I’m sincerely sorry if that’s unfair. I’m not saying there’s definitely a fire.

But it does seem an awful lot of smoke.

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Smoke, fire and recognising transphobia

86 thoughts on “Smoke, fire and recognising transphobia

  1. 1

    Logging in to FtB for the first time in well over a year to agree completely. My growing discomfort with what I perceived to be trans-critical status updates lead me to unfriend her a short while ago. I’m glad that this is being discussed out in the open.

  2. 2

    I’m reminded of the argument I refer to as “Objectivity is impossible, therefore you’re wrong”, in honor of this YouTube video which uses it.

    That said, Ophelia’s argument isn’t even as strong as that, because people “pointing out” someone is transphobic do so by pointing at evidence. I don’t have to know who you are to look at where you’re pointing, and I don’t have to believe you to form an opinion based on what you pointed at. And in the case of Bindel specifically, the things people point at are pretty unambiguous. This isn’t one of those cases where people were misquoting someone, or quoting opinions which the person now rejects – what Bindel said in 2004 is unambiguously transphobic, and she has only ever apologized for her “tone”, never for her substance. When Ophelia says she doesn’t “take everyone’s word for everything” in this context, what she really says is that she ignores them completely.

    Now, there’s lots of things that I ignore completely. If someone says shamans are overpowered in World of Warcraft? I don’t care about WoW. If someone says that there is a water main break on a major street in Buenos Aires? I’m not aware of anyone I know living there. If a Fox News commentator attacks a major Democrat? Wake me up when they attack a major Republican. But every one of these acts of indifference has its moral implications – every one of them has implications about how I see the world and what matters within it. And Ophelia ignoring people who tell her, “This person is transphobic” speaks of an indifference to transphobia.

  3. 4

    It doesn’t even matter whether she knew offhand that Bindel is a transphobe or not; Ophelia is responsible for doing her research. I go through this with students all the time–the use the Heritage Foundation or some other really partisan source without knowing it’s partisan. And it’s not using the source that is necessarily a problem…it’s the not knowing your own source material that’s a problem. I don’t think it would be bad for Ophelia to quote Bindel and then, in a parenthetical, say something like (I know that Bindel is known for her abhorrent views on trans issues. While I disagree with her on that, I think she’s right about this subject.) But to not know? It just makes her look incredibly foolish and badly researched. And then doubling down on it, rather than apologizing is just another level of gross.

    It is shit like this that made me stop reading Ophelia. I can deal with her occasionally saying things that I really disagree with. I cannot deal with the lack of rigor, obfuscation, and sulking when someone disagrees with her.

  4. 5

    Ophelia neither attempted to contradict the transphobic commentators, nor signal boosted the trans folk that attempted to argue their case. While their initial behaviour just looks like the typical person of privilege backpeddaling when called out on problematic behaviour, I am mostly going to avoid B&W because its comments section, full of alleged feminists, seems to have no problem spouting off demonstrably false statements with no intention of arguing in good faith.

  5. 6

    This. There is a certain revealing quality to calls that “we have to be able to question and discuss this calmly and rationally without being labelled trans-excluding” when it comes to trans people’s gender and whether some cis people’s theories about how gender works should trump their lived experience. This is way too reminiscent of the well-known calls for a calm and open-ended discussion of women’s bodily autonomy, the influence of skin colour on intelligence, and similar wonderful topics where the basic lived experience of people is suddenly “up for discussion” because some privileged group doesn’t like how it contradicts their ideas.
    In particular, I’m shocked how the same reasoning that was used to demean so-called fake geek girls (“they used to be privileged while we were opressed all along, and now they’re stealing our nice safe spaces and just pretending to be geeks in this wrong, superficial way!”) is suddenly considered a sound argument when applied by feminists to trans women.
    Thank you so very much for writing this, Alex!

  6. 7

    Well, this post sucks.

    A lot of readers now appear to see B&W as a trans-antagonistic blog.

    A lot of people appear to see Jesus as the Risen Lord. I wonder. Does this make it so, or should we seek some evidence of these claims?
    *scratches chin thoughtfully*

    it seems to be somewhere anti-trans activists are cited quite a lot,

    It so seems, does it? I don’t have an encyclopaedia of anti-trans activists handy, so I tested this claim checking for citations of Julie Bindel, since she seems to be the main one you have in mind.

    I found one such citation. One. It quotes Bindel in relation to Islamic misogyny. Nothing in relation to trans people is cited. I’m going to suggest, “anti-trans activists are cited quite a lot” is misleading because it suggests such citations are with respect to actual anti-trans viewpoints.

    I’ll grant you Ophelia also quoted a dodgy New York Times piece by Elinor Burkett that is more relevant to your thesis. About that she later wrote: “I didn’t like or agree with everything in that Elinor Burkett article, and I skipped over most of them — but maybe I should have said I wasn’t endorsing the whole thing.”

    whose author links to pieces attacking the word ‘TERF’ on sites known for transphobia

    Look, I used my best Google-fu; I couldn’t find where she linked to that. It would be nice if you had said where, so we could see the context. I’ll take your word for it, but here’s my guess: She was probably defending herself from being smeared as a TERF by anti-feminists. “Ophelia is a TERF” is a Slymepit meme, you know. At least, I assume you know from hints in the OP.

    which attracts anti-trans comments

    Uh-huh. In other news, Pharyngula attracts anti-feminist comments. You neglected to mention that such anti-trans comments are always met with an equal or greater number of ant-anti-trans comments rebutting them.

    while trans commenters are met with hostility

    The hostility in this case being the words, “I’d much rather you didn’t”. That was in response to a commenter on a post about the misogyny behind the Hobby Lobby decision asking if they can remind everyone that not all women get pregnant and not all people who can get pregnant are women. Fair enough, you might think. But it’s a bit like a commenter on Schrodinger’s Rapist objecting that men can be raped too. Not wrong, but a bit beside the point. Or as Ophelia said at the time, “Yes, transphobia is a thing; what does it have to do with the Hobby Lobby ruling?”.

    and misgendered without regret

    Okay, this one takes the cake. It’s at this point I’m struggling to believe you are even attempting the appearance of fairness. Here’s what actually happened:

    A very belligerent commenter on B&W, HappiestSadist, was almost simultaneously posting on another forum (you know where, Alex) where they called Ophelia, “ableist, racist, transphobic trash”. On this other forum the commenter was using what appeared to be a real name, and that name was one typically used by a woman, in the same sense that “Bob” is typically used by a man. Ophelia pointed out this abuse, and yes, referred to the commenter as “she” assuming they were a woman.

    The commenter complained thusly: “You could try to gender me properly, I mean, you know full well I’m not a woman.”

    And Ophelia responded: “I don’t know what pronoun to use. I have literally no clue if ‘you know full well I’m not a woman’ is sarcasm or literal or… some third thing that I can’t even imagine. I know nothing about HappiestSadist apart from the revolting comments.”

    You see the confusion? Ophelia didn’t understand if this was a trans woman implying Ophelia didn’t recognize trans women as women, or a trans man objecting to being misgendered, or none of the above. Other commenters asked HappiestSadist to clarify their preferred pronoun, without response.

    So “misgendered without regret” could more accurately be described as, “apparently accidentally misgendered with some confusion as to whether there was any actual misgendering”.

    and where Ophelia’s whole first response to Caitlyn Jenner was to complain she’d been told she looked nice

    Oh that was here point, was it? Don’t be so dense. I cannot believe you don’t understand that her point was that women in the media (and elsewhere) are expected to strive for unrealistic and arbitrary beauty standards in order to be validated. You may not agree with her point in this case. In fact, I agree with your take on it. But don’t so blatantly misrepresent the woman. If she just doesn’t like trans people being told they look nice, why in blazes does she post stuff like this? Use your head for crying out loud.

    I’m sincerely sorry if that’s unfair.

    Well, that’s something. Your half-hearted conditional apology might be better directed at the person you’re maligning rather than your readers.

    I’m not saying there’s definitely a fire.

    “Hey, I’m not saying Rebecca Watson is a man-hating harpy bent on the destruction of the atheist/skeptic community, but, gee, a lot people seem to think so, so who knows? I’ll just write a highly prejudicial character assassination piece and let readers make up their own minds.”

    But it does seem an awful lot of smoke.

    You’re telling me. I needed safety goggles and a handkerchief pressed to my face to read this dreck.

  7. 8

    @Silentbob, Your view of the Caitlin post contradicts with what I saw people objecting to. It was not her criticising Jezebel, it was not her criticising women being objectified and only gaining acceptance when they “look pretty”. It was her statement of why do trans women get away with it. The “it” being objectified and not criticised. Boy was that a massive lack of knowledge about terf-ism and the fuck ton of abuse trans women do get and historically have got for conforming to the gender binary. As I commented on the post it is offensive to say that when they are still policed by cis gatekeepers on their “womanhood” as measured by how femme they present before they are allowed treatment. Let alone incredibly ignorant of the long history of trans women being abused over fitting to gender norms of what it looks like to be a woman by prominent feminists. Some of whom Ophelia has linked to approvingly in the past and been criticised. But I do agree Alex’s statement she was criticising her for “looking nice” is not strictly speaking the whole story.

    Standard disclaimer, IMO Ophelia is not a TERF, in that she is not literally excluding of trans people (Not that my opinion should hold much weight, cishet bloke here). She believes trans women are women, full stop. I doubt she’d therefore argue against trans women being allowed into “women’s spaces”, or that the reality of what that means – that there should be cis womens spaces they are not allowed into. Let alone denying them access to women’s shelters and toilets! But TERF has become a catch-all for cis feminists who show a disregard and wilful ignorance of trans issues. They usually turn out to be part of the trans woman =/= woman crew when pressed.

    I’m very glad she apologised for linking approvingly to the NYT piece, some of the others she’s linked to have subtle transphobic dogwhistles etc in them or just written by someone with a history, but that was full on obviously transphobic balls. So it was hard to rationalise her linking to that without a massive disclaimer.

    The worst thing for me has been the reaction of the Ophelia defenders. I’ve done my own fair share of apologia, here and on her blog. But painting trans activists as over sensitive and smearing feminists as terfs for “no reason”, is awful. How they cannot see that is exactly what the anti-feminists do when they say feminists call men misogynist for “no reason”, I don’t know.

  8. 9

    Yes. That claim about the “misgendering without regret” is such a flaming lie.

    I could say a lot more but Silentbob covered it well and I’m short on time. But I wanted to underline the particular outrageousness of that lie.

  9. 10

    Misgendering with regret:

    “Blah blah blah she blah blah blah.”
    “It’s not she.”
    “Oh, sorry.”

    Misgendering without regret:

    “Blah blah blah she blah blah blah.”
    “It’s not she.”
    “Well, how was I supposed to know?”

    I can understand not wanting to apologize to someone that said derogatory things about you, but your being insulted doesn’t change anything. When your first priority upon misgendering someone is to establish that you did nothing wrong, you’re doing something wrong. Apologize for using the wrong pronouns, stop using the wrong pronouns, and move on.

  10. 11

    What Packbat said. Considering, also, that the claim was that Butterflies and Wheelsseems to be somewhere . . . trans commenters are . . . misgendered without regret” – which is a fairly modest statement about the impression I and others are getting – I don’t see that there’s a great deal of room to label it a lie. (How could anyone else know if I’m lying about my own perception?) I accept that impression might be unreasonable or wrong; I haven’t seen anything that makes me think so. I haven’t seen anything in this thread that suggests regret. Am I overlooking something?

    To respond briefly to Silentbob:

    Do you actually think lots of (trans) people with no vested interest in attacking B&W forming the view it’s a trans-antagonistic blog – based on multiple aspects of the author’s behaviour over time – is similar in epistemic terms to lots of people thinking “Jesus is the risen Lord”?

    Do you actually think lots of trans people with no vested interest in attacking B&W forming that view is comparable to lots of committed misogynists forming the view Rebecca Watson is a man-hating harpy bent on destroying their community?

    Would you like someone to compile a list of all the times activists with anti-trans views have been cited at B&W, or elsewhere by Ophelia? Because – with her permission – I’m sure there are people who’d be willing to do that.

    The place she posted this piece was, I’m told, on Facebook. I have a screencap if you’d like it; publishing it in this post seemed invasive.

    Having read my response, you’ll note I do in fact realise this post was about beauty standards. I don’t find that inconsistent with my characterisation above.

    And if you think this was me writing a character assassination… that’s sweet.

  11. 13

    I think the bottom line for me is that Ophelia Benson was warned of Julie Bindel’s transmisogyny/cissexism in a comment thread on her blog back in March and she still claims to be ignorant and/or not convinced of Bindel’s prejudice to this day. Bindel’s prejudice is known far and wide amongst trans people. Plus, it’s not that hard to find the history of Bindel’s prejudice. Just Google the search terms “Julie Bindel” and transphobia . Spend some time reading through, and more importantly, pay close attention to what the trans writers in those search results are saying.

    Also, let’s not forget Bindels’ horrific bi-erasure that was mentioned in the OP on that March blog post. Is it really worth making yourself look so callous by embracing a prolonged ignorance over a public figure who has embraced prejudice against at least two marginalized groups of people?

    Lastly, as a trans woman, I’ve grown so tired of seeing cis feminists use our lives and our experiences as an opportunity to expound upon their concerns regarding gender and sexism. Well meaning, or not, cis feminists drop the ball a lot. They so often miss the nuances in the ways that sexism, gender normativity, and cissexism impact trans people’s lives. Yes trans women are impacted by many of the same forces of patriarchy which cis women are but we’re also impacted by the unique ways in which patriarchy manifests in transphobia and homophobia. We’re also widely impacted by terrible levels of poverty and underemployment. Standard, boilerplate feminism doesn’t even begin to address what’s going on in our lives.

    Plus, given that cis people’s analysis of our lives is, by and far, promoted over our own analysis of our lives, it begins to feel like we’re just a convenient show pony that gets trotted out whenever it’s convenient and then put back into the barn when cis people are done with their monologues about our lives. It makes a person begin to feel like a manipulable object. Please stop doing this. It’s just really tiring. I know that FTB has trans people in its comment threads and several trans bloggers. Host/guest host those folks if you want more precise commentary on trans lives. There are also many trans folks writing about this stuff on the net, many of whom are atheists.

    That doesn’t mean that cis people can’t address trans issues at all. However, it would be nice if cis feminists actually listened to us when we critique your words rather than doubling down. Let actual trans voices take the lead. Don’t prioritize your own perspective first. That’s what I’m asking.

    I don’t believe that Ms. Benson is a TERF. I do think that her priorities are mixed up and that she should try to face up to the fact that she’s run aground on several major errors in her own treatment of trans issues. It’s difficult for most human beings to swallow their pride and practice humbleness in the face of their errors. I get that, but if you are doing injustice to a group of deeply marginalized women and feminism is of paramount concern to you, it’s time to step back and rethink. Really.

    PS: Please don’t argue with us when you misgender us. Just accept our preferred pronouns, apologize, and move on. Gracefully respecting a person’s gender identity shouldn’t be contingent upon weather or not you happen to be in conflict with the person.

  12. 14

    Mr. Gabriel: I don’t care for the smoke/fire analogy. If you’re going to accuse Ms. Benson of transphobia, I think you should step up and do it outright.

  13. 15

    Would someone be willing to explain a couple parts of the controversy to me? If not I understand, many people are tired of explaining things.

    I come at the gender debates from a different place because I have a neurological condition (Tourette’s Syndrome) with a sex bias (~3:1 m:f). The personality characteristics are such that appeals have been made to “hyper-male” or “hyper-masculine” in both male and female people with the condition. Female people with TS have been described as having more gender dysphoria than average. It’s a condition with a large inherited component and here inheritance is not just genes and probably mostly not-genetic (epigenetic inheritance).

    I have been spending a lot of time thinking about gender, sex and inheritance and have agonized over issues related to what I see discussed around here at FTB so that I take into account as many kinds of people as I can. But people who know a lot about brain science have said foolish things on many occasions in this area so I keep people like Dawkins and Harris on my “don’t be like this person” wall and tend to say little about these issues. But I think I might have something useful to say and before I try saying anything anywhere I was hoping someone could give me some impressions about the conflict so I could think for a bit.

    What is the most basic conflict between people on the two sides (I’m hesitant to name sides clearly)? From my reading so far it looks like it has to do with where theory/philosophy and activism intersect. Feminist associated people look like they have positions with respect to woman that is too restrictive for trans activists, and trans associated people have positions with respect to woman that conflicts with what many feminist activists identify with. Is this correct?

  14. 17

    Misgendering without regret:
    “Blah blah blah she blah blah blah.”
    “It’s not she.”
    “Well, how was I supposed to know?”…

    Um.

    You could try to gender me properly, I mean, you know full well I’m not a woman.

    So, what is this commenter’s gender? Male, genderqueer, neither? What is their preferred pronoun? You tell Ophelia, then she’ll know. They haven’t.

    I for one have no idea. They didn’t bother to share. They just accused Ophelia of knowing and deliberately misgendering.

    And according to you, she’s not allowed to object to that framing of the incident and set the record straight.

    Ophelia’s whole first response to Caitlyn Jenner was to complain she’d been told she looked nice…

    Wut? That was not a response to Caitlyn Jenner. That was a response to Jezebel.

    If rather than Bindel, Jane Clare Jones or other transphobes, someone on this network promoted men with antifeminist records – Shermer, Reinhardt, DJ Grothe – would she accept their history wasn’t worth mentioning?

    Reinhardt and Grothe never say anything worth promoting (and anything interesting Shermer might say is bound to have been said better already, by somebody else,) but you do realize that Ophelia and PZ and others do quote Richard Dawkins on those rare occasions he says something sensible, right?

    And they do it without detailing his history of problematic comments on unrelated topics?

    I’m sincerely sorry if that’s unfair.

    I do not believe you.

  15. 18

    I urge readers to take a look at this currently active thread on B&W. You’ll see some trans people describing their experiences, and people recommending they be given guest posts. Peek under the hood for yourself and see the reality behind the alleged den of trans-antagonism that is Butterflies & Wheels.

  16. 19

    The sad thing is, it long predates March of this year, timberwraith.

    Ophelia was given notice about Bindel, so far as I found, in January of 2013.

    This was, incidentally, by HappiestSadist, who had just a few days before been making clear their (they prefer they/them pronouns) admiration for Ophelia, for anybody who wants to say that they just clearly had it out for Ophelia the whole time.

    Ophelia has had literal years to figure out better on this subject. HappiestSadist was a commenter at B&W for years (per a simple Google search), and has (so far as I know) been openly nonbinary the whole time. (This is more relevant to the fact that Ophelia clearly knew which Facebook account to link HappiestSadist to, and that Facebook account also happens to clearly list them as nonbinary.)

    There is no excuse for her to be agnostic on either of those topics, and her refusal to say so much as an, “I’m *sorry*, but” on either thing says a great deal. The fact that she has not bothered to tell her commenters that misgendering is actually a really shitty thing to do, and that it is wrong even when they believe that someone is an asshole, says a great deal as well.

    The fact that her posts have recently prompted sylvania, who showed up on Pharyngula to defend “gender-critical feminism”, to show up in her thread and celebrate what sylvania perceived to be Ophelia’s acceptance of her TERF position, does not help with that perception. It’s not just a matter of trans people seeing Ophelia positing “gender-critical” bigotry and calling her out on it; by this point at least one TERF clearly thinks (or, at least, thought) that Ophelia has joined the ranks as well.

    There’s definitely smoke. The least that she could do is look to see if a few embers are creating way more smoke than they should and stomp them out, but instead she’s decided to hole up with a mask on and say that she can breathe fine.

  17. 20

    Or – going out on a limb – would Ophelia say that once so many people have pointed it out, there’s no excuse not to know about someone’s sexism? Wouldn’t she say that if significant numbers of women kept mentioning it, it was likely to be worth knowing about, and that at some point, claiming ignorance suggested indifference at best, misogyny at worst? That, at some point, a smoke-filled room makes knowing if there’s a fire one’s business?

    1) Hm. I’ve been interacting with Ophelia for several years now. The suggestion that her actions in this context are incongruous isn’t really sustainable, in my experience. Her pattern, other than in the most egregious or obvious of cases, seems always to have been to a) try to understand the perspective of the person who’s said or done sexist/racist/homophobic/transphobic things; b) treat them as if that’s one part of their general personality or view, not especially relevant to other areas; c) give them a chance to speak their minds in open debate, and assume that through discussion and debate minds can be changed; and d) give them the benefit of the doubt.

    Over the years, I’ve had strong disagreements with Ophelia on several of these fronts, and still do. But I recognize that it’s not a sexist/racist/homophobic/transphobic blog. The question is whether you’re comfortable with her editorial/commenting policy. I don’t think there’s a generic right or wrong answer to that.

    2) *A-FUCKING-HEM*

  18. 21

    Useless. Fucking. Drama. She-said-he-said of someone who is quoted to have previously said something bad about that other person that wrote about that one person. Therefore, run after the smoke(person) as if it were something that could burn the village down. If your wrong, you can just pretend that you were being skeptical. It’s not like we are talking about actual people, right?

  19. 22

    @SilentBob, you link to a thread where a “gender critical” feminist kicks off? Probably not the best example, I’d suggest her linking to Zinnia’s post and the reaction to Vanity Fairs cover of trans people making their own covers as better examples of Ophelia being trans inclusive.

    Ophelia apologised for the “nail polish” post, which was more than trans antagonist, it was out and out obviously transphobic (The post she linked to and quoted that is). For me it was great she apologised for that post, it did hurt people she apparently admires. However it also hurt all trans people as it was spreading bigotry, but she went out of her way to not apologise to the trans people who she considers assholes. That was less good. The comment section of that post had comment after comment with no one pointing out how transphobic the linked article is. I personally just facepalmed and moved on past. But apparently all us criticising Ophelia hate her and are not doing so to lead to less facepalm worthy material about trans people on her blog. Not sure why you continue to assume everyone criticising her thinks she is an unreconstructed bigot (As Josh put it on Facebook)?

    This is Ophelia’s “It’s a guy thing/ Oestrogen vibe” equivalent, she has made transphobic missteps, small ones. But the doubling down, refusal to apologise (Until recently) and painting all her detractors as conducting a witch hunt is so like those two examples of sexist missteps she pursued as to be painful to watch.

  20. 23

    Gertrud, being informed of Bindel’s rotten attitudes toward trans people two years ago and still claiming ignorance is pretty bad… plus the background you provided regarding HappiestSadist… Ugh.

    Ophelia’s behavior is starting to sound a lot like grade A stonewalling.

    Not the first time I’ve seen this kind of dishonest behavior from someone who has been confronted for supporting prejudicial people or for supporting questionable perspectives. I’m getting pretty tired of seeing cis feminists do this very same pattern of deny, deny, obscure when confronted on issues surrounding cissexism and transphobia.

  21. AMM
    24

    It’s not just trans issues.

    I’m afraid I got turned off to Ophelia because of her posts on issues and events relating to Muslims. It wasn’t so much that she didn’t have a point, it was that she wasn’t willing to consider that those who she disagreed with and those whom she condemned had any points or perspective worth considering. Just like with her posts on trans issues, it seems like when her principles and her theories conflict with how people actually are, she’d rather sacrifice the people who don’t fit. Being right is more important than empathy or treating people humanely. Unfortunately, there seem to be a lot of people in the atheist movement who are like that.

  22. 25

    AMM said:

    It’s not just trans issues.

    I’m afraid I got turned off to Ophelia because of her posts on issues and events relating to Muslims.

    Yes, I’ve noticed that, too. And honestly, I’ve kept my distance from her blog for that very reason. The trans stuff is just another layer of disappointment.

    Being right is more important than empathy or treating people humanely. Unfortunately, there seem to be a lot of people in the atheist movement who are like that.

    Sadly, that does seem to be the case. 🙁

  23. 26

    RE: Lady Mondegreen @ 17

    I think there is a significant difference in this comparison. Mainly, when Ophelia and PZ quote Dawkins about something, they’re already clearly on the record for criticizing the (some of, at least) awful stuff Dawkins has said.
    I don’t think people would be nearly as irked with Ophelia about, say, quoting Julie Bindel if Ophelia were also regularly criticizing Julie’s transphobic writing.

  24. 27

    Lady Mondegreen @17: I’m not saying that Ophelia should have known HappiestSadist’s proper pronouns. From gertrud’s information @19 and from what they said in-thread, I can see why HappiestSadist thought Ophelia should know their pronouns, but I’ve forgotten a lot of pronouns of people I’m equally acquainted with, so that part doesn’t bother me. What bothers me is that Ophelia never apologized for using the wrong pronouns.

    She could have apologized without saying that she could have known.

    She could have apologized without agreeing with HappiestSadist’s characterization of herself and her commenting community.

    She could have apologized without expressing any fondness, or even basic respect, for HappiestSadiest themself.

    The reason you apologize for misgendering is because misgendering is a hurt – it is the single most prevalent form of microaggression that trans/*/nb people suffer. You apologize because misgendering does nothing but hurt – it does not inform, it does not edify, it does not correct wrongdoing, it does not right injustices. You apologize because trans/*/nb people as a group deserve the same respect that cis people are granted as a matter of course.

    An apology for using the wrong pronouns is the least I would expect from any decent person in the twenty-first century. If Ophelia is not willing to apologize? That says something about her.

  25. 28

    Well, looks like I got sidetracked and didn’t properly preview my last comment. I have not figured out the quoting tags at all well. My quote didn’t go through.
    My previous comment is my response to this quote from #17:

    “Reinhardt and Grothe never say anything worth promoting (and anything interesting Shermer might say is bound to have been said better already, by somebody else,) but you do realize that Ophelia and PZ and others do quote Richard Dawkins on those rare occasions he says something sensible, right?

    And they do it without detailing his history of problematic comments on unrelated topics?”

  26. 29

    @ 22 oolon

    SilentBob, you link to a thread where a “gender critical” feminist kicks off? Probably not the best example

    That’s right, but I hope you made it past comment #1! That commenter is immediately challenged. (Including by me, though I was a bit oblique about it because I didn’t want to pull a Ron Lindsay and lecture feminists on how to do feminism.)

    I wasn’t aiming for propaganda, or a whitewash, but to show the reality. Can you find borderline TERFy comments on B&W? Yes, you can. But they don’t characterize the site. In that thread trans people are commenting and far from being met with the fabled hostility Alex suggests they can expect, their contributions are welcomed. That was the point.

    I’d suggest her linking to Zinnia’s post and the reaction to Vanity Fairs cover of trans people making their own covers as better examples of Ophelia being trans inclusive.

    I already linked to that! At least, the link to covers was in the long post @7. But you’re right. While rebutting the claim that “anti-trans activists are cited quite a lot” at B&W, I could have mentioned that trans activists like Zinnia Jones are cited (not just linked), and actually in relation to trans issues. In fact Ophelia called Zinnia’s post “terrific” and “brilliant”, which I think is more than she ever said of Julie Bindel, or Elinor Burkett, or whoever. And that makes Alex’s narrative look even more prejudiced and wobbly. So thanks for bringing it up.

  27. 30

    @Silentbob
    “that makes Alex’s narrative look even more prejudiced and wobbly. ”

    Or it shows Ophelia doing how Ophelia always does. Say a bunch of shitty things, get indignant when called on it, claim she was misinterpreted without giving details, and then – days later – make a CYA followup post where she acknowledges none of her faults and claims that what she always meant (and everyone should have understood) is exactly the same as something sensible said by a member of the group she was shitting on in the first place.

    The problem isn’t that she makes missteps – everyone does that – the problem is that when her missteps are pointed out (however diplomatically) she pouts like a sullen child who’s been told she needs to rewash the dishes because she left some sauce on some of them the first time.

    @Alex –

    Thanks a lot for making this post and for having the courage to call out Ophelia by name. I appreciated the posts by certain other FTB writers rebutting her more pernicious points, but was disappointing that they weren’t willing to say who they were responding to (I’m not going to name them out of respect for their apparent desire to not let this get personal.)

  28. 31

    @SilentBob, you seemed to miss the last part of my comment…. I was saying, yes Ophelia has posted lots of positive stuff, yes she has expressed no opinions herself that are near full-on TERF level. However it is perfectly reasonable for people to be side-eyeing her given, by her own admission, at least one of her posts have hurt trans people due to the transphobia. That is Alex’s point, therefore you and I pointing out she has posted lots of positive trans stuff isn’t quite the gotcha you seem to think it is.

    Did you think the NYT “nail polish” post was OK? I assume not, that is Alex’s point … So his “narrative”, which you insist on framing as some sort of effort to call her a bigot, is your invention.

    Have you also noticed that a lot of the trans people who you cited as having a good conversation in the post you linked to, have criticised Ophelia on the same basis as Alex? This seems to be slipping past you and the rest of the crew claiming Alex is just being nasty for no reason – I’ve not seen many trans people standing up for Ophelia in quite the same way as her cis allies. Have you?

    … I didn’t want to pull a Ron Lindsay and lecture feminists on how to do feminism

    Well I agree with you there. I really like Ophelia’s writing, less so on Islam etc, but she’s a brilliant writer on feminism. I like Ophelia personally as well, she comes across as someone who takes no shit from anyone. So it’s been painful for me to see nearly all the trans people I know and respect criticise her. Not just on FTB, Twitter and Facebook too, while cis allies deny their criticism and paint it as over-sensitive assholes out to get her, for reasons unknown. This smacks me of cis people telling trans people what is and is not harming them. Much like good old Ron and feminism.

    This has put those trans people off her blog, that is a shame IMO. I’d like to see her change and them feel they have another ally on FTB. What about that is indicative of any dislike or hate of Ophelia?

  29. 34

    @ ^

    *rolls eyes*

    No, your eventual banning by Ophelia for serial obnoxiousness while defending the word “twat” is not an example of the inability to “take shit” to which dysomniak refers.

  30. 36

    @Silentbob, 34: You seem to have seen some things that aren’t there.

    For instance: what gave you the impression I was responding directly to dysomniak? I didn’t address them at all, merely posted at a later time than they did (7 days later…). My post in no way follows on from theirs. If it had, I’d have addressed them, as I have addressed you.

    What gave you the impression I was defending the use of that word? I should have thought that my post – especially the last line – was clear in its condemnation of the toxic and hypocritical culture of tabloids in the UK that leads to the disingenuous asterisking that was the subject of Ophelia’s stated bafflement… a bafflement persisted in expressing in spite of multiple people pointing out the facts. It *is* a rude word, but the fact remains that it’s not equivalent in severity to the other word we’d rather not use. If anyone needs evidence, they can look to the BBC’s list of words (url reduced to remove offensive words): http://tinyurl.com/7rnspa (an encouraging finding from that survey is that the two biggest differences between the 1998 findings and the 2000 findings was that two terms of racist abuse had become apparently much less acceptable in just two years – progress!).

    Persisting in expressing ignorance in the teeth of repeated polite explanations from people who are On Your Side, and when the explanation is a five second google search away, is the pattern I’m referring to. And if you’re doing that, those explanations – even from people On Your Side – may come across as obnoxious. /shrug/

  31. 39

    zOMG!!! It gets worse!

    You could demand of me, “Are women equal to men? Yes or no.” I would refuse to answer the question in that form.

    She’s also a secret MRA trying to maintain “plausible deniability”!

    (/sarcasm)

    Beanheads.

  32. 41

    PZ make a some comments recently pertinent to this thread that I think are worth reproducing. (I’m doing so without permission, so if either PZ or Alex object, then Alex please feel free to delete.)

    … what I’m seeing is an incestuous reinforcement of assumptions, where reading between the lines becomes a statement of unimpeachable fact.

    Ophelia is not a TERF. Not even close. Sorry, [previous commenter], that link is not evidence that Ophelia denies personhood to trans individuals: it’s evidence that Ophelia really, really detests being pushed around by leading questions. But it is a really good example of how people are translating one uncharitable reading of a comment about one thing into a whole string of ugly inferences about something else. And now a whole bunch of you are utterly convinced that it has been unambiguously demonstrated that Ophelia is a TERF.

    Nope. Double nope. Triple nope.

    Show me an example of Ophelia denying that trans women are women. You can’t. The best you’ll be able to do is show that she’s getting increasingly pissed off at a mob accusing her of something she has not said and does not believe.

    I suggest that you back off and instead of building a tottering edifice of circumstantial stories, you try to reach out in a less hostile and argumentative way — you might just find that in the absence of the kind of assertively preconceived, self-reinforcing claims made here, she’s actually far more enlightened than you think. But she’s also not going to sit demurely while getting railroaded.

    Maybe you haven’t noticed this about her before, but she does not take kindly to being told how to think.

    And I’ve had direct, non-antagonistic private conversations with Ophelia that convince me she’s not a TERF. So what we’ve got is a lot of innuendo and anecdotes and uncharitable interpretations flying around, all tailored to turn her into The Enemy.

  33. 43

    Bob, I don’t WANT to prove Ophelia is a TERF. I would much prefer to prove the reverse. Two days and a dozen posts instead of just saying “Yes, of course.” or even “Yes, of course! How dare you even presume to ask!” is not looking good. Nor the support for Elizabeth Hungerford. Nor the participation in that ‘gender critical’ group – doubly so going to them for ‘nuance’. Nor the similar events surrounding the several previous times she was fantastically insensitive and/or rude about trans people and their issues. See, for example, the OP right here.

  34. 44

    This conversation is emblematic of the whole problem, SilentBob cites cis man to explain to trans people that a white cis woman they are criticising isn’t transphobic. Because cis woman went to other cis women to ask them to help her explain to trans women why they are not absolutely unequivocally women.

    And yes Bob that is denying they are women, OB specifically went to a group of TERFs to help her demolish my statement that trans women are unequivocally, without any need for nuance, women. She liked a comment that layed it out even clearer, said outright they are not women.

    But I see you think I’m poisoning the well now, not that my comment on Pharyngula was me being utterly shocked and horrified at that TERF thread.

  35. 45

    oolon:

    This conversation is emblematic of the whole problem, SilentBob cites cis man to explain to trans people that a white cis woman they are criticising isn’t transphobic.

    Apparently, self-referential irony escapes you.

  36. 47

    Really John? Ophelia is citing every hyperbolic thing she can find cis allies saying about her to “defend” against the accusations she is trans antagonistic at best … Totally ignoring what the multitude of trans people are saying.
    https://twitter.com/ZJemptv/status/625360815500173317 (Start there, but the whole series is on her timeline)

    So much for listen to what women say and believe them. Add that deadly “trans” modifier and the hyperskepticism flows through the FTB “SJ” crew.

  37. 51

    SHUT. THE FUCK. UP.

    Not exactly Hegelian dialectic, is it?

    Also I read the scare quotes around the S and the J as sarcastically drawing attention to specific people’s hypocritical selectivity (social justice for all… except those people. They have cooties.) rather than the concept of social justice per se.

    This comment based on the assumption you were criticising oolon for scare-quoting SJ because you think he’s ridiculing ALL of SJ activism, rather than a very specific few people. If this assumption is invalid:
    1. so sorry.
    2. your point might have been clearer if made with more than a single word.

  38. 53

    Indeed, the “SJ” was to denote that this subset will say listen to women. But then not when pretty much all trans women say something is the case. I say “pretty” much, but I’ve not seen anyone who is trans say OB wasn’t being transphobic. So I don’t know how I’m supposed to come to any other conclusion.

    But since SC is here to explain why all these trans women are wrong, I’ll shut up. Over to you!

  39. 54

    Another Twitter monologue worth quoting on this, by @jaythenerdkid (I’m excerpting the first couple tweets here):

    “are trans women really women?”

    yes. unequivocally. no qualifiers needed. no exceptions or fine print.

    what I’ve found is that many so-called progressives answer yes to this, but in their minds, they add a little asterisk. it goes like this:

    “* yes, trans women are women, but they’re not women the same way I’M a woman.” which, let me just tell you, is bullshit of the first order.

    this asterisk lets “progressives” get away with all kinds of mental gymnastics, like not including trans women in women’s spaces.

    the asterisk means that while “progressives” talk a good game, in their mind there’s very much an us vs them situation going on.

    this mindset is toxic. it drips poison into every interaction trans people have with “progressives” and taints any progress they make.

    When Pharyngula says, “Ophelia Benson is not a TERF”, that’s really a distraction from the core of the concern: does OB put that asterisk on ‘woman’ in her mind whenever she talks about trans women? Or does OB assume that, when she talks about women, she is talking about both cis women and trans women? I mean, one would hope OB is aware that some nonzero fraction of women are gay, bisexual, asexual, demisexual, etc.; one would hope that OB is aware that some nonzero fraction of women are black, Hispanic, south Asian, east Asian, native American, etc.; one would hope that OB is aware that some nonzero fraction of women are over 6 feet tall, under 5 feet tall, over 300 pounds, under 100 pounds, etc., etc., etc. Is OB aware in the same way that some women were intersex or assigned male at birth, or does she assume that those people are just women*, not really women?

    There was a comment somewhere that this question to Ophelia Benson, “Do you believe that trans women are women?”, was similar to asking a prominent candidate for public office, “Do you believe that human activity is driving global warming?” Anthropogenic climate change is a fact, people who refuse to acknowledge this fact – who act in opposition to this truth – are doing a lot of damage in the process, and that makes it pretty darn important to know if someone with a platform that gives them a lot of influence over the climate is willing to face facts squarely and act on them. Likewise, Ophelia Benson’s platform has a lot of influence over the social climate – large realms of which are poisoned by a lot of transphobic attitudes. She is in a position to mitigate some of that with her words. Will she?

  40. 55

    All you cis women telling cis men to “listen to women” when they are repeating what they have heard from trans women?

    I see you. Your unspoken premises are not unheard.

  41. 56

    This comment based on the assumption you were criticising oolon for scare-quoting SJ because you think he’s ridiculing ALL of SJ activism, rather than a very specific few people.

    Your assumption is incorrect. My objection is to oolon claiming the social-justice mantle for himself, and trying to make this about social-justice bona fides, when it’s really largely about a group of people, intoxicated with self-righteousness, acting like prosecutorial assholes and trying to silence Ophelia.* (Am I misremembering, or was oolon’s first appearance at Pharyngula as a defender of the pit?)

    * Claiming to be defending some women is an interesting and useful justification for telling other women to shut up.

  42. 57

    I’m pretty sure the reason why “listen to women” is a rule is (a) women tend to notice misogyny that other people often overlook and (b) our society teaches everyone to ignore what women are saying most of the time.

    Trans people tend to notice transphobia that other people overlook. Our society teaches everyone to ignore what trans people are saying most of the time.

    1. 57.1

      Agreed completely, packbat, but the unspoken premises is that trans women aren’t women. After all, otherwise it wouldn’t be necessary to tell men to “listen to women” when they already clearly are doing so. It’s true that they’re a subcategory of women (as are white women, poor women, brown-haired women, autistic women, et cetera), but they are still women, and saying that men who are listening to trans women are not listening to women is extremely telling.

  43. 58

    saying that men who are listening to trans women are not listening to women is extremely telling.

    FFS, this has reached such a level of stupidity I have to believe people aren’t even trying for intellectual honesty or good faith at this point. But in case there are some who genuinely believe that Ophelia was suggesting that trans women aren’t “real” women rather than refusing to bow to the demand that she accept unproblematically a gender binary with whatever associated qualities anyone might attach to it, I’ll link to her post.

    And now I’ll leave you to your nonsense. PZ put an end to it at his blog, but there are still plenty of places for you to imitate the pitters.

  44. 59

    @gertrud #58: I agree completely too! I was mostly replying to SC’s #49 and #56, in which she seems to assume that “listen to women” is a universal rule that must always be followed, not a corrective to one form of bigotry that can (and must) be generalized to others.

  45. 60

    I think that this post provides a nice refutation to the whole, “Well, she certainly said a thing, and that absolves her of responsibility from twisting and whining and pretending to have never understood what the question even meant.”

    Because the truth is that no, the shibboleth (since they’ve all been discussing it that way) isn’t enough. Doing everything you can to avoid answering a simple question without qualifying the answer entirely to hell and insulting the people who had the temerity to ask in the first place doesn’t suddenly evaporate once you say, “Fine, you twisted my arm, so here’s the answer you clearly want for some unfathomable reason.” It doesn’t erase months and years of deleting comments by trans people who question her on these issues or gently let her know that hey, the person she’s supporting here has a history of transphobia. It doesn’t undo the fact that she deleted at least one post that she made and multiple comments and then taunted people about not having screenshots of these things (because they assumed she was in good faith up until that point, and so didn’t feel the need to document), then turned around and accused people of stalking her when they began to perform the scrupulous documentation that she mocked them for not performing before.

    It certainly doesn’t undo the fact that her go-to response about this kind of thing has been doxxing people and then pretending as though it’s all square if she deletes the personal parts. The fact that she continues to make this all about how mean cis people are attacking her (while doxxing trans people and ignoring the fact that a significant chunk of criticism has come either from trans people or from cis people who know those trans people) colors her grudging recognition of the validity of transgender identities.

    It could be a starting point if she chooses to actually learn and think about these things, but spending this much time breaking people’s trust isn’t undone by a shibboleth. That doesn’t look as though it is going to be the case, though.

    For the record? I don’t personally give a damn what’s in Ophelia Benson’s heart of hearts. That is unknowable and none of my damn business, or anyone else’s. However, I am also not generally in the business of asking people what their position is when their actions have made their position clear. When that position is garbled or is clearly antithetical to doing the least harm, though, I don’t believe it to be unfair to ask for clarification because that is as close as we can get. Ultimately, though, it’s not really about what she says. It’s about what she does, and her actions on this issue thus far have been weaselly and gross. Even if she really does believe that trans women are women, she has done a piss poor job of demonstrating it thus far, and her actions after this are going to be much more useful in determining where she actually stands than seeing whether or not she knows what the right words are to say.

  46. 61

    @Salty Current (#59): Including trans women in your definition of women doesn’t require you to ‘accept unproblematically a gender binary with whatever associated qualities anyone might attach to it’. And if you think the people arguing with you in this thread sound like members of the SlymePit, you’re not paying attention.

  47. 63

    #59: That’s pure, unmitigated bullshit. I asked the original question and I know damn well why I did. ‘Silencing’ Ophelia wasn’t the point – finding out whether it was safe to listen to her was.

    Did you see the Rachel Dolezal comment from her, or does that just count as jolly japes?

  48. 64

    sonofrojblake @63, and… Ophelia is a woman too.

    Were I exhorting people to listen to women and believe what they say, I’d feel embarrassed did I not do so myself.

  49. 65

    And were I oolon, who was doing the exhorting, your comment would have made sense.

    But OK, I’ll bite, I’ll listen to the latest thing OB has said. And I quote:

    I’ll talk about other things as soon as people let me.

    OK, I hear her. Just who is stopping her talking about other things? And more crucially, how? She’s not been chucked off FtB, nobody’s come round and unplugged her keyboard, she can say whatever she likes, however she likes, on her blog, or in this or any other thread or on Facebook or… and so on.

    This entire shitstorm blew up because she made the point forcefully that she would not, NOT be told how to communicate, but now apparently somehow “people” won’t let her talk about anything else…. and that works, now?

  50. 66

    @SC., Hey, I’m the poisoner of wells, don’t steal my schtick!

    …was oolon’s first appearance at Pharyngula as a defender of the pit?

    No, but shortly after, I was intrigued by the level of hate I saw and got sucked into respectability politics. Also the idea that the “reasonable” pitters were not “evil” people. No one was saying they were “evil”, they were and are propping up harmful behaviour and bigotry. Many most likely are totally oblivious to this and are all around nice people in all other aspects of their lives. Some parallels there I think.

    When I was blasted by PZ as a “pitter”, or as bad as, I felt terrible. People were criticising me, I retreated to my blog to write a post about what a horrible asshole PZ was. I felt better, but I was not any more right. Fortunately Aratina came along and talked me around and I admitted I was wrong and apologised. If I’d seen him as a poisoner and someone out for my scalp, I might be doing a double act with Damion Reindhart and crew, professionally minimising the bigotry from the pit (shudder). Maybe there is a lesson in that somewhere too.

    No one who was making comments about what a terrible asshole I was held it against me when I apologised for the things I’d got wrong (OK, so maybe you are now!). Y’no posting on a TERF hate group that you want to argue against “trans women are women” and joining in with TERFs ridiculing a trans woman with a beard is really not on. Someone should apologise, maybe not all will forgive but it would go along way. Believe me, I’ve been there*, thanks for reminding me.

    * Obviously I’m using your “well poisoning” comment to make a laboured point. But I should point out the vitriol I got was nothing in comparison, but I still remember how awful I felt.

  51. 67

    sonofrojblake:

    And were I oolon, who was doing the exhorting, your comment would have made sense.

    You indicated bemusement towards SC’s retort @51, adducing an assumption which made it so, and @52 I noted a different interpretation, the which did not include that assumption. You subsequently queried what I meant by it, and I responded.

    OK, I hear her. Just who is stopping her talking about other things? And more crucially, how?

    Ahem. To quote oolon again: “So much for listen to what women say and believe them.”

    Notice the two conjunct clauses?

    This entire shitstorm blew up because she made the point forcefully that she would not, NOT be told how to communicate, but now apparently somehow “people” won’t let her talk about anything else…. and that works, now?

    I get it: you don’t believe her.

  52. 68

    oolon, your own opinion of your virtuosity is informative.

    Since you brought it up:

    People were criticising me, I retreated to my blog to write a post about what a horrible asshole PZ was. I felt better, but I was not any more right. Fortunately Aratina came along and talked me around and I admitted I was wrong and apologised.

    It was only a few months ago that Aratina essayed becoming a denizen of the Slymepit, no?

    (He tried, I give him that. The results were predictable)

  53. 69

    @John Morales, 68.

    I did not “indicate bemusement”. I criticised the unconstructive nature of a post whose entire content was an exhortation to shut. The fuck. Up. The phrase is “Listen to women and believe them”, not “listen to women and obey their commands uncritically”.

    And you are in error – I do believe OB is being stopped from talking about anything else. How could I not? As well as her statement that this is so, the evidence of her actions corroborates it. I just queried the who and the how, given that it appears nobody has been able to so control her output in the past.

  54. 70

    Also: I have a specific and strong opinion on the “Clouds on the horizon” post, but I’m not going to share it. I’m not going to criticise it further. There’s no point. The entire narrative here has shifted to how very embattled OB is by these horrible critics and so on. In a hole and still digging. I’m not engaging any more, and in the incredibly unlikely event anyone gives a monkey’s what I think, I’d exhort anyone else to stop too.

  55. 71

    sonofrojblake:

    I did not “indicate bemusement”.

    Fine. You relied on an unnecessary ad hoc assumption, included a conditional apology with request for clarity, but you weren’t bemused.

    And you are in error – I do believe OB is being stopped from talking about anything else. How could I not?

    So you believe OB is being stopped from talking about anything else, but you still require an explanation for that belief.

    Anyway. Now that you have clarified that, I am in a position to answer the three questions you posed me:

    OK, I hear her. [1] Just who is stopping her talking about other things? [2] And more crucially, how? She’s not been chucked off FtB, nobody’s come round and unplugged her keyboard, she can say whatever she likes, however she likes, on her blog, or in this or any other thread or on Facebook or… and so on.

    This entire shitstorm blew up because she made the point forcefully that she would not, NOT be told how to communicate, but now apparently somehow “people” won’t let her talk about anything else…. [3] and that works, now?

    1. At least one person.
    2. Obviously, somehow. See #3, below.
    3. Yes, as you have now stated: “I do believe OB is being stopped from talking about anything else”

  56. 72

    Alex:

    @Salty Current (#59): Including trans women in your definition of women doesn’t require you to ‘accept unproblematically a gender binary with whatever associated qualities anyone might attach to it’.

    If you’ve been experiencing the oppressive aspects of the category “woman” and its associated beliefs for your entire life, writing for years prior questioning and challenging the category and its definitions, and (in Ophelia’s case) feeling very ambivalent about what it means to identify yourself in those categorical terms, it does. I’m really very angry about what looks like a total dismissal of our very real interest, as people harmed by these categories, in continuing to question and challenge them – in continuing to want to talk about gender in a critical way; like not immediately ceasing that aspect of our fight against oppression because some people demand it is done to exclude trans people from the great benefits of womanhood. People’s refusing to acknowledge the difference between this continued questioning and challenging of gender categories, in form and substance, and denying people’s rights, including the rights to self-identify and to have that identification be recognized and respected, is troubling. There is a difference between saying “I accept these categories and belong to one, and I won’t allow those people into it” and “I recognize and respect everyone’s self-identification and rights, but I want to continue to challenge the received categories which I and others have experienced as oppressive,” and it’s essential that it be recognized.

    oolon:

    Maybe there is a lesson in that somewhere too.

    I think there is, and it’s a lesson for you. Your history suggests that you seem to have a very individualistic focus and to be less adept at recognizing harmful or evil social dynamics. IIRC, you had far less experience with the pit than did those to whom you were insistently defending them, and I told you that more than once at the time. The point, as we tried to explain to you, wasn’t that their individual motives – the site and the collective behavior was harmful (which isn’t to excuse any of them individually, and many were and are capable of individual evil acts).

    What’s happening now with Ophelia is very similar in form to the pitters’ actions against her then. Again, people’s individual motives aren’t the point: some are willfully malicious towards her, some are trying to sow divisiveness among social-justice atheists, some hate FTB and everything associated with it, and many believe they’re defenders of trans people and fighting the good fight. The practices, though, are familiar: setting yourselves up as a group to prosecute an individual, quote-mining, misrepresenting, projecting things into their statements or actions, spreading and repeating rumors and false stories without links, uncritically accepting claims about the person’s alleged bad behavior from questionable sources, looking for guilt by association, monitoring them closely on social media and compiling public dossiers to present your case to the jury (who are yourselves), encouraging others to join in, personalizing arguments and instead of reading arguments as arguments mining them for clues of bad intent, reading in the most uncharitable fashion possible, gathering on whatever sites will host you (if one blogger puts an end to it, you can always go to another) to endlessly rehearse their supposed misdeeds, providing threads for others to talk about their suspicions, ignoring or abiding some of the nastier tweets and comments, denying that there’s any such dynamic going on, dismissing the person’s feeling collectively attacked or besieged, presenting their statements and responses as though they weren’t made in that hostile context,…

    I know many of you don’t see it this way and think you’re on the side of the angels, but it’s evil and harmful and cruel collective behavior that gets us nowhere. But for the lack of caricatures and derisive nicknames, much of what you’ve been doing is indistinguishable from the pit’s targeted attacks. I hope you’ll think about that. I don’t think any of you would want to be subjected to this yourselves.

  57. 74

    @Salty Current (#73)

    Me:

    Including trans women in your definition of women doesn’t require you to ‘accept unproblematically a gender binary with whatever associated qualities anyone might attach to it’.

    You:

    If you’ve been experiencing the oppressive aspects of the category ‘woman’ and its associated beliefs for your entire life, writing for years prior questioning and challenging the category and its definitions, and (in Ophelia’s case) feeling very ambivalent about what it means to identify yourself in those categorical terms, it does.

    No: clearly gender isn’t binary, and trans women being women doesn’t change that any more than cis women being women. Many of the people attacking Ophelia’s stance here are nonbinary, and many are AFABs with just the experience you describe. Of course womanhood means different things for different people, but acknowledging anyone as a woman who identifies as one doesn’t alter that – it allows ‘woman’ a wider range of meanings.

    It’s quite noticeable how trans-exclusionary feminists knock people who think trans women are women both for making womanhood a blunt, singular category (as you allege) and for ‘struggling to define “woman”‘ in a narrow enough way. (I’ve seen Ophelia like/retweet comments suggesting both.) Because you also say you recognise and respect how people identify, your stance seems contradictory to me, but if you’re arguing trans women must not or need not be considered women, you are the person imposing one definition of that category on everyone.

    The practices, though, are familiar: setting yourselves up as a group to prosecute an individual, quote-mining, misrepresenting, projecting things into their statements or actions, spreading and repeating rumors and false stories without links, uncritically accepting claims about the person’s alleged bad behavior from questionable sources, looking for guilt by association, monitoring them closely on social media and compiling public dossiers to present your case to the jury (who are yourselves), encouraging others to join in, personalizing arguments and instead of reading arguments as arguments mining them for clues of bad intent, reading in the most uncharitable fashion possible, gathering on whatever sites will host you (if one blogger puts an end to it, you can always go to another) to endlessly rehearse their supposed misdeeds, providing threads for others to talk about their suspicions, ignoring or abiding some of the nastier tweets and comments, denying that there’s any such dynamic going on, dismissing the person’s feeling collectively attacked or besieged, presenting their statements and responses as though they weren’t made in that hostile context

    By way of translation, I certainly accept Ophelia’s critics have variously…

    • …constituted a group;
    • …drawn inferences from things she’s said and done;
    • …mentioned these things without links and screen grabs and been called liars;
    • …provided and compiled links and screen grabs and been called stalkers;
    • …observed her attitudes on networks she uses to publicise them;
    • …failed to do all this in secret so no one else would notice;
    • …refused to assume good faith unconditionally and forever;
    • …refused to police the responses of trans women/NBs who feel dehumanised;
    • …refused to prioritise her feelings over theirs, and, most outrageously of all,
    • …refused to leave the Internet altogether.

    Personally, I can live with that. The SlymePit can’t.

    Don’t bother commenting again. If ‘including trans women in your definition of women’ is something you want to argue against, there are other blogs for you as well – one of them, anyway.

  58. 75

    Alex to SC:

    Personally, I can live with that. The SlymePit can’t.

    You haven’t adduced the basis for your certitude regarding teh Slymepit.

    Contrary to your opinion, I reckon it can.

    (Need I adduce a basis for my opinion?)

    Don’t bother commenting again.

    Are you expressing a demand that she not challenge your narrative on your own blog, or merely a predilection?

    (The difference matters)

  59. 78

    Quote-mining? Questionable sources? Too little documentation. Too much documentation.

    Do you think Jason is a stalker? James, who originally stood up for her, do you think he’s out for “scalps”? Do you think Heina is after her too? Do you think Joe should have been publicly shamed and his words twisted for being upset? Do you think FB messages about someone’s medical condition are fair-game if they happen to mention Ophelia?

    However shit the slymepit is and however shit some of the petty assholes who obsess about FtB are – her interactions with them has shown that publicly insulting and shaming people who say nasty things about her is how she deals with conflict – just sort of unfortunate that she doesn’t skip a beat when she’s questioned or criticized by people who she claims to support. At least she’s consistent.

    For the record Jade and I contributed to a batch of screen caps because OB ridiculed people for not having screen caps of the things she said – and her insistence that people were just making shit up. Do you need a link showing where she said that? https://scontent-ord1-1.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-xpf1/v/t1.0-9/11009871_920107168047087_8662921057461891690_n.jpg?oh=efcef33bce3fc84e622265138119f5d7&oe=56111960

    There was a time when saying that this was a safety issue might have been hyperbolic and unfair – but then she commiserated with the head of an anti-trans hate group that has literally put the lives of people I know at risk. (And please do NOT assume that I’m exaggerating because I’m “the worst” and part of a hate mob of over-sensitive outrage monkeys or whatever the hell). https://twitter.com/MAMelby/status/626123379242725376

    Can you consider that people’s lives are more important than if someone said a nasty thing on their own damn facebook page and not enough people condemned it for her liking? https://twitter.com/ZJemptv/status/625363126393942016

    When I confronted her with all of this directly – all she could do was ask why I was obsessed with her. https://twitter.com/OpheliaBenson/status/626194571181985792

    For god’s sakes I’m not obsessed with HER – I hardly know HER – I’m angry and I”m concerned about my FRIENDS.

    I’m also committed to the feminist spaces that I inhabit to dis-include the necessity for trans women to tolerate ridicule https://twitter.com/MAMelby/status/626117336941076480 or get an ear of bullshit about how “Trans ideology comes perilously close to naturalizing the oppression of women”. https://sinmantyx.wordpress.com/2015/07/27/we-need-to-talk-about-something-you-never-said/

    Combating that bullshit is what I’ve been doing for the last couple years: http://www.transadvocate.com/marian-aanerud

    Consider that you making counter-accusations and minimizing valid concerns of others (because someone they might not even know was particularly rude) is not actually helping to patch-it-all-up and make-it-all-better.

    k? Nobody is enjoying this.

  60. 79

    FYI people coming here from Ophelia’s latest post, check out my comment here.
    http://freethoughtblogs.com/godlessness/2015/06/11/smoke-fire-and-recognising-transphobia/#comment-17182

    IMO Ophelia is not a TERF, in that she is not literally excluding of trans people (Not that my opinion should hold much weight, cishet bloke here). She believes trans women are women, full stop. I doubt she’d therefore argue against trans women being allowed into “women’s spaces”, or that the reality of what that means – that there should be cis womens spaces they are not allowed into. Let alone denying them access to women’s shelters and toilets! But TERF has become a catch-all for cis feminists who show a disregard and wilful ignorance of trans issues. They usually turn out to be part of the trans woman =/= woman crew when pressed.
    I’m very glad she apologised for linking approvingly to the NYT piece, some of the others she’s linked to have subtle transphobic dogwhistles etc in them or just written by someone with a history, but that was full on obviously transphobic balls. So it was hard to rationalise her linking to that without a massive disclaimer.

    Hm, I linked that to show I was defending her, but now I’m also wondering if this whole thing was orchestrated by me as that’s some scary precognition. O_O

  61. 80

    this argument that any of this is about people trying to prevent Ophelia from interrogating the category “woman” is raging nonsense.

    1)Nobody’s criticizing Ophelia for interrogating the category itself; she is being criticized for excluding trans individuals who identify as women from that category by comparing them to Dolezal and throwing a multi-day shitfit when put on the spot about that joke.

    2)Ophelia has in fact defended her own nuance-free use of the category “woman”, e.g. snippily telling someone “I’d much rather you didn’t”, when they pointed out that that abortion restrictions don’t simply affect “women, but rather all women, NBs, and men with working uteruses because cishet patriarchy lumps them into the category “woman” regardless of whether they are or not.

    tl;dr: defending uncritical ciscentric use of “women” but then dissolving into a wibbly wbbly gendery wendery mess when it comes to trans-inclusive definitions is just trans-exclusion, not nuance.

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