How do I know he's a witch-hunter? He is dressed as one!

Oh, how like a slimer I am in aspect and in character! How viscous my thoughts, how stalker-like my attempts at forming them in context of evidence! I have committed a grievous sin, which I will admit here and hope for papal dispensation from the gatekeepers of intersectionality: I have looked at the Likes on a post on Facebook, on a post that I felt aggrieved people with whom I feel the need to side with in a particular fight.

Ophelia Benson, with whom I have stood shoulder and shoulder in a great many fights against awful human beings bent on destroying feminists for being feminists on the internet, has decreed that I am anathema, that I am like a slimepitter; I am a terrible person and very much creepy and stalkerish for my actions in deciding to disagree with her that the question of whether trans women are women is not an easy one and in my methodology in catching up in the matter. By my picking now, while she feels under assault, to disagree with her specific tack and her specific argumentation about trans women making awful terrible demands of her like asking yes/no questions for clarification, I am of course disingenuous, not legitimately asking but rather just trying to tear her down. I am “joining the mob”. And I am even indistinguishable — despite our history — from that mob.

Let’s get the housekeeping out of the way first — the backstory that moves me to post so floridly once more, despite my prolonged absence.

Ophelia has recently, ostensibly inadvertently, angered the online trans community, with whom FtB is generally friendly, after some rather tone-deaf commentary on the performance of beauty by Caitlyn Jenner. This brought to the minds of a number of trans folk hereabouts a post from a year ago about Hobby Lobby, when she both dismissed a request to acknowledge that Planned Parenthood actually also benefits trans men who still require OB/GYN services, and subsequently misgendered a trans person who claims to have given their preferred pronouns — they were understandably wary of her and evidently viewed Jenner post as trans-antagonistic. This sparked a large fight, during which time Ophelia acted as though — if you’ll pardon my interpreting her feelings here — that she was under siege by a number of dishonest interlocutors.

After this fight simmered for a month plus (while I’ve been preoccupied with my own life nonsense and could not be moved to post even silly videos about turtles or about the latest video game that I’m obsessed with), things came to a renewed head recently, when a trans person asked her point blank whether trans women are actually women, and demanded a yes or no answer.

Sensing this as a trap, she has posted about how awful this tactic is, how holding her hostage to a yes or no answer is abridging freethought and demanding dogmatic adherence to a specific ideology. The trans community was, in my estimation rightly, incensed by this refusal to acknowledge their requested validation of trans women’s womanhood.

Ophelia’s reaction seems odd to me because the question has a very obvious answer that, as long as you recognize gender for the social construct that it is and are not trying to police what “counts” as womanhood while also demanding that we be critical of the gender binary, works entirely logically and equally with every other adjective you might add to “woman”. The phrase “are trans women actually women”, when you replace the adjective with another like “white”, or when you remove it altogether, has an obvious answer.

“Are white women actually women?”

“Yes — the ‘white’ part is not a modifier per se of the word ‘woman’, thus you are asking ‘are women actually women’, and thus the answer is yes.”

“Are women actually women?”

“Of course they are. That’s a tautology.”*

It’s for that reason that I can without hesitation answer the question of ‘are trans women actually women’ with an unequivocal yes, with no qualifiers or asterisks.

Whether “womanhood” as a construct is valid is a separate question, and one I think Benson with her “gender-critical” views (as evidenced by her reaction to Caitlyn Jenner coming out as trans, and the backlash thereabouts) has been attempting to undertake herself, and she clearly sees being sideswiped by the question of whether or not a trans woman “counts” as a woman as a monkey wrench in the gears she’s trying to build to grind gender away into nothingness.

I’ll happily talk more about gender as a construct and a performance, and the nexus of the expected performance vs the actually performed one, at a later juncture if anyone’s interested, but it’s not particularly important here. The short form of my argument, though, is that since classification as “woman” has no bearing on whether you have certain physiological needs e.g. trans men also need OB/GYN services, what is left is the societal construct only, and thus denying the desired gender role of the trans person just because of physiological concerns like “has penis” is every bit as gatekeeping and gross and gender-prescriptive as denying womanhood because of somehow insufficiently womanly performance.

What’s important now, though, is that there was a conversation between some people I consider friends and allies on Twitter this morning, which I think was going in completely the wrong direction because of a certain specific recalcitrance to recognize that trans folk might actually have found Ophelia Benson’s arguing against the full womanhood of trans women to be damaging and might actually have been coming to that position through a rational examination of the evidence at hand. Even if that wasn’t her intent — even if her painting the entire exercise of asking for clarification because she’s been unclear to that point as pure McCarthyism (“Are you now or have you ever been”) was entirely out of fear of being painted into a binary yes/no question on a situation she thought was more complex, it’s clear that the correct answer was “yes” at the specific resolution in which it was being asked, and any “buts” actually come as nuance to the argument about the gender role, and not about the desire for that gender role by the trans person. Being unable to simply give the “yes” and then add whatever clarification was necessary, that act itself hurt those trans folks who posed the question.

My interjection into the Twitter conversation was explicitly about the potential of interpreting Benson’s response of the “trans women are women” question as having a qualifier that makes the womanhood of these trans women somehow questionable, that the use of the adjective somehow changed “women” in a way that “white” does not, and how her liking the responses that evinced that position might lead someone outside the argument to genuinely interpret Benson’s position as anti-trans. My argument was that judging Benson’s position as being anti-trans was actually fairly reasonable based on the evidence at hand.

I will note now that it is well possible to hold a nuanced view about gender as being a malleable and mostly-societally-prescribed construct without denying access to the desired gender role to the person who feels, thanks to nature or nurture, more comfortable in one over another. Given that we all get boxed into specific roles, and those specific roles might chafe (as I’m sure the specific roles Benson is saddled with chafe her in myriad ways, as she’s railed against them severally over the years), especially in context of society mistaking physical sex organs for appropriate classifying criteria for the otherwise malleable gender roles. It therefore seems only just and right to rally to assist those of us who would be more comfortable in another role, especially where our support of them comes at absolutely zero cost to us except to our own prior unexamined programming with regard to gender roles.

In fact, if the goal is the deconstruction of gender, it seems apposite to cause people to rethink how others might like to perform gender in their own ways regardless of the apparent discrepancies in their physiology, seeing as how the correlation between said physiology and their desired gender is entirely a shim between a fact and a societal construct. So, calling trans women women, saying yes to the dread question — if indeed “trans” alters the fact of “woman” in any way more proximately than “white” might, which I actually expressly deny — would thus aid in the deconstruction of the gender binary that so chafes at Benson and, frankly, us all.

Strangely enough, when I felt the need to catch up on this specific fight and interject in a conversation between these friends and allies on Twitter, apparently my simple act of reading a public Facebook thread where Benson asked for support against these arguments that were being made against her, and noticing that she’d liked some comments that apparently interpreted her position as something approximating “trans women shouldn’t need the adjective if they were actual full-stop women” (comments that I found particularly repulsive and moved me to see who liked them), was somehow creepy and stalkerish and Slimepitter-like. While this strikes me as a particularly vast overreach by someone who feels themselves under siege, I empathize with the thought processes that led to it, even if I disagree strenuously.

Being pointed to a thread, seeing who agreed with a repulsive comment, and noting that Benson herself did so, is not in fact equivalent to following her around social media for years and itemizing and indexing her every comment, like, edit, and all the rest of the social media equivalent of rifling through her garbage. Noting her public endorsement of a repugnant thing is not, actually, somehow thought-policing her. I have lost a number of friends — Benson included — over daring to suggest that Benson’s actions in this regard are actually relevant in determining Benson’s own views on trans folk, despite the fact that this collecting and parsing of evidence is only necessary since she’s so recalcitrant to give a simple yes or no when asked. Make no mistake that I have been burned for making this stand. But, I do not claim the victim mantle for that; anyone who’d burn me for these actions isn’t someone I’m wont to associate with anyway. I prefer people who can take a complicated and close topic like this and give it the nuanced treatment it deserves.

To be honest, I could not give you a link to the specific Facebook post now (since I’m not, you know, actually stalking her, committing URLs to my eidetic memory or copying them to my How-To-Burn-Ophelia file), nor do I care to put the full scope of how she’s behaved on trial (since I’m not trying to have her excommunicated or drummed out of anything or set on fire as a witch, despite her protestations). I am speaking only for myself, how I reacted to how I saw her behave and what I saw her endorse, and I am merely disagreeing with the whole vector this conversation and her repeated doubling-down against what should be a simple concession, much as she once disagreed with Michael Shermer for atheism being “kind of a guy thing” over his and fanboys’ howls of being witch-hunted. If you consider me a dishonest narrator, so be it. Since I can’t offer proof of what I saw or how I reacted, that’s your call.

I sincerely doubt that the mere action of looking at the Likes on a particularly gross post on Facebook and discovering the person you’re in the process of collecting data on is anything approaching the years-long, patently unfair and grossly fixated harassment campaign she amongst others hereabouts has endured at the hands of the numerous antifeminist atheists who inhabit the slime pit. And yet, a number of long-term commenters at Freethought Blogs, who should know who I am and what I’m about, evidently feel strongly enough that my noticing her liking comments that I find repugnant is somehow a literal witch-hunt that, despite the innumerable fights we’ve had over criticism vs McCarthyism, they agree that I am somehow dredging the annals of Benson’s history of associations to find some few words to hang her by like some Cardinal Richelieu.

Except, that is patently not my intent here. I disagree with the specifics of why Benson refused the yes or no question. I do not think she should be excommunicated or excoriated or burned at the stake or drummed out of the movement or drummed out of the blog network or defriended or block-botted or what-have-you, except I do not deny that people who’ve been hurt might feel otherwise. That people have reacted genuinely to being hurt and feeling betrayed by her is not particularly invalid, nor am I one to judge those cries and those blocks and those friendships thrown on the pyre. But in the meantime, I absolutely refuse to believe — despite her feeling under siege presently — that anyone should hold off on nuanced criticism.

I absolutely empathise with her reaction, though. It’s surely difficult to recognize valid criticism when you feel you’re under siege from all parties. I’ve seen so many of us go siege mentality. I’ve done it myself. I get what it feels like to be attacked, and for such a length of time. I’ve seen it in others where no valid criticism ever gets through to you, being drowned out by the rage and the howling. I’ve even seen how she’s reacted to others acting exactly as she’s doing now — when others deny there’s anything valid there, she holds them to account even despite the defense and the protests of witch-hunts.

Except honestly, much — maybe even most — of the criticism she’s receiving is, indeed, valid. What I’m seeing is a lot of valid, stretched out over time, peppered with a little overreach. Admittedly, I’m not the locus, but I’m certainly seeing a good deal of legitimate criticism of the calibre that you didn’t see with Rebecca Watson or Anita Sarkeesian.

Even if you CAN find me tons of examples of overreach, of attacking her directly, of attacking her for specious connections and tenuous arguments bolstered only by rumours and insinuation (none of which I can deny because it is in the very nature of a dogpile to contain overreach like this), a good deal of the criticism she is facing is actually valid. There are honest interlocutors genuinely hurt by things she’s said and done, that they can point to, that are still extant on the internet and not grossly misinterpreted; and these honest interlocutors are demanding a genuine and contrite apology and improvement in behaviour in the future. That is to say, nothing that would cost her a damn thing except a moment’s introspection.

When she’s ready to hear these requests, they’ll still be said. These people will still be here. The arguments will continue to exist, despite their various handwaving dismissals by Benson and supporters. And they’ll be provided by the people whose axe to grind is against their own oppression, not against Benson as a person, not against dishonest pilers-on from places slimey and antifeminist and only interested in taking down another strong feminist to the end of their holy war against feminists on the internet. Mind you, the longer she grabs at the victim mantle and paints all criticism equally, the more likely she’s doing damage to herself, and the more exasperated the honest interlocutors will get. The more likely it is, over time, that many of these people will have left, tired of waiting for Benson to catch up.

In the meantime, I side unequivocally with the trans folks who are hurt by this whole incident. Not out of spite of Benson, nor malice, nor attempting to drive traffic or steal traffic or popularity or “drama blogging” or whatever other excuse one might pull from the Grab Bag of I Don’t Wanna Deal With My Criticism. Let’s be honest — I barely blog any more. I can barely find it in me to do any sort of activism, given how high a price you pay when you dare disagree with people within your own community. I am only moved to fight the most proximate of injustices, and I harbor no pretenses that I’ll actually impact on them. Given I have two orders of magnitude lower traffic than Benson at the moment, I suspect only she will really see this (and only then thanks to the two links back to her posts in this one, thus the trackbacks). I further suspect only a select few very close to this issue or motivated to defend her against all attacks might comment. But if she does see this, and makes it to the end of this post without ragequitting half way through, good on her. She should hopefully know I have no “grudge” against her, no “beef”. Maybe the whole story laid out like this will bring her to realize this isn’t an attack, it’s a genuine request for dialogue.

I’m not kidding myself, though. Probably not.

*”Are blue candies actually candies?”

“OBVIOUSLY NOT. YOU WOULDN’T NEED TO QUALIFY THEM AS BLUE UNLESS THAT MEANT SOMETHING SPECIAL IN TERMS OF THE CANDY LABEL.”

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How do I know he's a witch-hunter? He is dressed as one!

250 thoughts on “How do I know he's a witch-hunter? He is dressed as one!

  1. 201

    “Discussions based on the assumption that gender=identification, or that physiological sex or socially perceived gender doesn’t make you a woman (as it did for me). Discussions that equate woman=feminine=female.”

    These discussion are so poisoned by the distortions of the TERF ideological camp that they end up being nearly impossible. I mean, when your PREMISE is that “trans ideology” dictates this complete fantasy – of course it’s going to cause problems.

    I mean – WHO – specifically has said that “woman=feminine=female”? Specifically. Who has done that?

    I mean you do realize there is such a person as a butch lesbian trans woman right? Those people exist. Feminine trans men exist.

    One of Ophelia’s latest blogs quotes highly an article that equates gender presentation non-conformity with trans experience – this is CENTER to the ideology that many in the “gender crit” FB book have. They have this asinine notion that trans women claim womanhood because they are feminine men, not because they are women. IF ONLY – they think – we break down gender that these trans “women” could proudly be men who don’t fit the male stereotype….blah de blah blah.

    And the heart of the problem is exactly as you said: “…physiological sex or socially perceived gender doesn’t make you a woman (as it did for me).”

    If I’m reading you right, you’re saying because your body looked “female” and you are perceived to be a woman that you are a women. But you are not trans man or have a nonbinary gender. There is something fundamental about you that caused you to be cis.

    Since the trans experience is so foreign to you – you latch onto a concept you DO understand – which is gender presentation. But they aren’t the same. At all.

    In the same vein, having dysphoria is not the same as having the desire for cosmetic plastic surgery. At all.

    These things are conflated ALL. THE. TIME. by many cis feminists – specifically the cis feminists that Ophelia has decided to promote on her blog.

    Early on, when Ophelia was still talking to me, I linked this: http://www.transadvocate.com/gender-orientation_n_8267.htm

    And yeah – it’s jargon. Sometimes you need better terms to be able to talk about subject accurately. That’s the world.

  2. 202

    @198, M. A. Melby:

    These discussion are so poisoned by the distortions of the TERF ideological camp that they end up being nearly impossible.

    I already acknowledged that. I feel like I’m repeating myself here. From my comment 168:

    “If you tell me that trans people are a uniquely vulnerable group, and that the casual exclusion of some people as belonging to a certain gender simply isn’t OK when that group is trans, because it’s too hard to distinguish from transphobia or because trans people already get more exclusion than they can handle everywhere, I’d get it.”

    “I know that it’s customary when dealing with issues of social justice to prioritize marginalized groups above privileged groups, both because marginalized groups are believed to have a better understanding of prejudice, and to compensate for how the situation is reversed in the rest of the world. It’s a useful rule of thump, but in my experience, it’s not unusual for it to be taken as gospel. This creates its own set of problems, which are then exacerbated by outside attacks (e.g. trolls), to a point where I’ve often given up expressing disagreement, even when I’m part of the marginalized group.”

    I mean, when your PREMISE is that “trans ideology” dictates this complete fantasy – of course it’s going to cause problems.

    Please, tell me more about my premise./sarcasm

    I mean – WHO – specifically has said that “woman=feminine=female”? Specifically. Who has done that?

    No one specifically here, at least not in a while, which I why I didn’t make a specific accusation. But here’s from my comment 158:

    “On one of the comment thread at B&W a trans woman said that when saying she was a woman she meant that her internal gender was set to woman, female, feminine, or whatever you wanted to call it. Completely reasonable, but also completely unrelatable to me. Not just the idea of having an internal (and not internalized) gender, but also that woman, female, and feminine were somehow interchangeable and occupied the same slot on what had to be a binary.

    Based on her definition of what it means to be a woman, I’m not a woman (which, as I’ve said earlier, is fine by me as long as I get some other way to categorize myself). Maybe we can agree that being a woman means something different to all of us (again, fine by me), but the logical consequence of this is that there are multiple definitions of ‘woman/female/feminine’ and that different people mean different things when they talk about being a woman. In which case not all definitions of being a woman will include all women, or there are different subcategories of ‘woman’ (kind of like how there’s a difference between an ethnic Jew and a practicing Jew), which I have been told is explicitly wrong and transphobic.”

    While she didn’t specify that they were identical, she did group them and added “or whatever” to it, as if it didn’t matter to her. Which I’m sure it didn’t, and which I’m completely OK with. It happens to matter a lot to me, but I don’t need it to matter to everyone else, just as internal identification doesn’t matter to me, but I’m OK with it mattering to others.

    And the heart of the problem is exactly as you said: “…physiological sex or socially perceived gender doesn’t make you a woman (as it did for me).”

    If I’m reading you right, you’re saying because your body looked “female” and you are perceived to be a woman that you are a women. But you are not trans man or have a nonbinary gender. There is something fundamental about you that caused you to be cis.

    How on earth to do you know that? Maybe there’s something fundamental lacking in me, like a strong internal gender compass, which caused me to be cis. Again, I’ve already explained this repeatedly, such in comment 152:

    “I considered for a while that I was probably a boy, because of all the things I had in common with boys. When I expressed this, I was corrected and told I was silly, and it hurt for a while, but I grudgingly accepted it, because I never had this burning certainty about my gender identity that trans people describe, quite the opposite. I questioned, explored, hung out with boys, and felt a lot of ‘female’ culture was alien to me. I’ve seen trans people say that this is just cis privilege, and that without it, I would immediately realize that I felt female deep down inside, but I can’t see how they would know, since they’ve never been me.

    And the thing is, I’m pretty sure I’m also not gender-queer or non-gendered. It took a while, but I settled for being female relatively early and unproblematically (except for almost everything that went with it of standards and expectations), accepted that for good or bad, this was the group I was born into, and this was the framework people would use to interact with me and judge me on. ‘Woman’ to me is a combination of my biological type, and my cultural role and experiences growing up female. I identify it the gender I belong to in the same way as my nationality and my family. I might not have identified with it if I hadn’t been born into it, but since I was born into it, I’ve come to relate to it and see it as the group I belong to.

    I urge you actually read my posts and keep track of what I’m saying, because I’m getting exhausted having to explain it again and again.

    Since the trans experience is so foreign to you – you latch onto a concept you DO understand – which is gender presentation. But they aren’t the same. At all.

    In the same vein, having dysphoria is not the same as having the desire for cosmetic plastic surgery. At all.

    These things are conflated ALL. THE. TIME. by many cis feminists – specifically the cis feminists that Ophelia has decided to promote on her blog.

    I KNOW they’re not the same! Seriously, have you even been listening to me? You sound like you’re just skimming, picking up a couple of phrases, squeeze them into a framework you understand – the ignorant cis woman who needs to be lectured about how her view of gender is informed by ignorance and privilege.

    Do you have any idea how arrogant it sounds, when I tell you that the reason I identify as a woman is that I was identified that way by others and don’t care to try to figure out if this is really my destiny, to just blithely jump in and go “You’re just latching on to what you know, but let me tell you how things really are”?

    Try to let go of that narrow and rigid view which you somehow have convinced yourself is inclusive (since everyone who try to tell you otherwise can be conveniently dismissed as transphobes), and try to imagine that instead of people being cis or trans, people were either externally or internally gendered. Some cis and (probably) all trans people are internally gendered, feeling a sense of belonging to one gender or another (or possible both/none), but some people are externally gendered, and adjusts to the gender they’re identified as or shift based on convenience without any trauma or sense of dysphoria. And a lot of people are in between, not necessarily programmed by birth to be a particular gender, but internalizing their gender identity over time and unlikely to switch afterwards, or maybe with only a vague sense of a particular gender identity which can sometimes be overruled by the surrounding culture, because gender is complicated

    Of course, I have no idea if this is actually the case, just as you have no idea if there is something fundamental about me which caused me to be cis (and if there is, if it wouldn’t have caused me to become a cis man if I’d had different genitals instead). But at least I’m not trying to cram my definition of gender down your throat the way you do with mine. So yes, because my body looked “female” and I am perceived to be a woman, I am a woman. End of story. I don’t need you to lecture me about how that’s not a true basis for being a woman.

    Either you accept my definition of why I am a woman and what being a woman means to me as legitimate, or you can insist that I would definitely have been trans if I’d been born with different genitals and that I’m just in denial due to my cis privilege, or simply tell me that I can’t be a woman because I don’t identify enough (or in the correct way) with being one. But in the latter cases, at least have the decency to admit that you don’t actually accept all people’s self-described gender identity.

  3. 203

    Freja, here is the bottom line:

    I have seen nobody tell you that you cannot be what you identify as, or that you are wrong to identify a certain way, or that you are not who you say you are. Literally the only thing anyone has said is that you do not get to impose your own gendered self-identification upon others who use different markers. Others getting to self-identify does not invalidate your own identity or reasons for it. All it does is mean that they get to have their own reasons. Saying that others’ reasons for identification interfere with your own identification is like straight married couples saying that queer marriages invalidate their own. It’s nonsensical.

  4. 204

    Freja
    I don’t see how “women are people who identify as such” excludes you. Obviously, for reasons, you identify as a woman.
    “Women are people who identify as such” isn’t the end of the discussion, it’s the start. The difficult work starts from here.

    If one is a woman, that is surely not all one is; the term fails to be exhaustive, not because a pregendered person transcends the specific paraphernalia of gender, but because gender is not always constituted coherently or consistently in different historical contexts, and because gender intersects with racial, class, ethnic, sexual, and regional modalities of discursively constituted identities. As a result, it becomes impossible to separate out gender from the political and cultural intersection in which it is invariably produced and maintained.

    That’S Judith Butler in Gender Trouble, who has laid much of the groundwork of current gender analysis. If we follow de Beauvoir’s proclaimation “one is not born a woman, one is made a woman”, how does this process work?
    It means that there’s a multitudes of differently contructed forms of “womanhood” depending on place, time, race, gender assigned at birth, class, religion…
    It means exactly that we cannot know what is exactly meant by “woman” in any specific moment, but need to carefully look behind the word and yes, that we need to specify who is interpellated by a specific use of the word.
    Nobody says you cannot identify as woman because that’s what people assigned you at birth and you don’t have string feelings either way. It’s rather interesting to ask “why do some people have a strong gender identity and why do some people have a weak one?”

  5. 205

    @200, gertrud

    I know that’s all anybody here has ever said, that’s exactly the problem. Every time anyone who loudly and proudly proclaims themselves a trans ally is criticized or questioned about anything gender related that hasn’t got to do with their treatment of trans people, they reflectively say “You can identify as whatever you want to, just don’t tell others what to identify as” and stop debating. They’ll still attack and criticize, and demand answers and apologies, but they just wont consider your point anymore unless you identify as trans.

    Getrud, here is the bottom line:

    1: Anybody who uses a phrase like “A woman is someone who identifies as a woman” implicitly excludes me from their definition and could be said to invalidate my gender identity.

    2: The trans people who have told me that I and all cis women would identify as women regardless of culture, and that the only reason we don’t “feel” our gender is cis privilege (and yes, this has happened), are explicitly invalidating my gender identity.

    3: I have never seen a trans person or outspoken trans ally who, when talking about gender as identification, makes sure to include “I realize that this is a generalization, and for some people, gender is a social/biological category instead”, but it seems to be routine to avoid talking about gender explicitly as a social/biological category without including “I realize that this is a generalization, and that some men have vaginas and some women penises”, and to correct or attack people who don’t.

    4: When M. A. Melby declares my definition of what gender means to me to be “the heart of the problem” (even though I have repeatedly said that I don’t think my definition needs to be the only one, and I fully accept that gender means something different to different people), they’re going much further than just saying I can’t impose my self-identification on others.

    5: The same goes for telling me that my reason for saying I’m a woman is simply due to not understanding the trans (I guess therefore real?) experience and instead latching onto a concept I do understand.

    It’s actually quite simple. If someone tells you that for them, gender is like race and nationality, something they’re born into, but not necessarily something they feel a strong internal connection to or any need to express, how about you just accept it? How about you don’t immediately start lecturing them about how they’re not allowed to impose their definition of others when they’ve done no such thing? Or claim it’s just because they don’t understand gender better? Or claim that their definition is somehow problematic?

    And the next time you want to boil the concept of “woman” down to “identifies as a woman”, how about you take half a second to acknowledge that it’s not a complete definition, and subsequently, when others use a definition like “has a uterus” or “is identified as a woman by society”, it’s not automatically an example of transphobia but might just be another incomplete definition instead? And if you feel that this is too much work and that non-trans people don’t really need it, how about you acknowledge that what you’re doing is putting the needs of the most vulnerable group first (which I’ve also repeatedly said I have no problem with), and not being equally inclusive to everyone? Why it this so freaking hard?

  6. 206

    @201, Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-:

    I don’t see how “women are people who identify as such” excludes you. Obviously, for reasons, you identify as a woman.

    Because “identifying as a woman” implies that it’s something I do. But to me, it was something that was done to me without my consent, and I just stopped fighting it. It doesn’t mean it’s who I am, and it doesn’t mean I chose it. In fact, I often resent being put in this category. I am not a woman because I say I am, I am a woman because society says I am.

    But the result is that among mainstream society, which is sexist as well as transphobic, I get to be a woman and experience all the downsides, but in social justice spaces, I no longer count as a woman unless I internalize my socially imposed gender (make “woman” into part of my identity), and thus get all the downsides of being told I need to shut up and listen to women, and have to constantly modify the way I talk about gender, because talking about “woman” as a social category (which is what it is for me) is transphobic.

    And as I said earlier, I used to brush it aside by telling myself that some people had it worse than me and needed to be validated more than me, that the constant clarifications and caveats where a small price to pay, that the way gender was talked about could also include me if I just tweaked it a little, etc. But after a while, I realized I just didn’t have the spoons.

  7. 207

    freja

    Because “identifying as a woman” implies that it’s something I do. But to me, it was something that was done to me without my consent, and I just stopped fighting it. It doesn’t mean it’s who I am, and it doesn’t mean I chose it. In fact, I often resent being put in this category. I am not a woman because I say I am, I am a woman because society says I am.

    I think we’Re finally getting somewhere. So to you, “woman” is not a self-identification, but merely the political category in which you get put because of your gender performance.* Let’s be clear: the world doesn’t interact with us in a certain way because we have certain genitals or because we have certain chromosomes. Usually nobody sees our genitals and most people don’t know their chromosomes themselves.
    So you’re completely right that you’ll be treated as a member of the group “women” whether you actually self-identify as a woman or not. I’d recommend taking a look at Heina’s writing. They are non-binary, but present in a way that reads “female”. For certain interactions, they get treated as a member of the group “women” and it is really something that needs to be debated and analyzed.
    If I asked you “are you a woman”, would you answer “yes”? Would it make you feel included if we phrased the definition not as “self-identifies as a woman” but as “answers yes to the question “are you a woman”?

    Now, the question for me is: If you do not self-identify as a woman, but are merely treated as one in context of society, why does the definition of “woman is somebody who identifies as such” exclude you if you do not want to belong into the category in the first place. We can still discuss, debate, deconstruct how we’re being treated on the basis of aour perceived womanhood, and how certain meassures targeted “at women” by people who firmly believe in the gender binary affect us for the better or the worse.

    *Which is not something you can choose not to do in a world that has been constructed around the binary.

  8. 208

    freja:

    I wasn’t making myself very clear, and I apologize.

    I started talking to you directly and then sort of drifted into addressing other people. For example, I have no evidence that you would conflate a desire for plastic surgery with dysphoria. That’s something that Sarah Ditum has done, for example, so I was talking about “cis feminists” to include her, not YOU.

    Ophelia has shared authors that confuse gender nonconformity with trans experience, and state that “trans ideology” supports the idea that feminine = female and masculine = male. Many of the people on the gender crit group that she is a part of will call trans women “feminized males” and rebuke them for using the term “woman” to describe themselves.

    To that crew: Nobody has an internal “gender compass” (as you called it) – only personal quirks that are either socially coded as male or female. They think that a trans woman is a “male” who simply “acted like a girl” according to society and therefor felt the need to transition in order to conform to social standards not because there was “gender identity” that caused them to seek transition.

    This ideology, and the voices that repeat it and how, is something I’ve been sorting out for a long time. I wasn’t suggesting that YOU personal thought like them, but suspected that your impressions of what *trans activists say* was influenced by them indirectly through Ophelia’s blog. I simply have not witnessed anyone suggest that “feminine = woman” – in the sense of “acting in ways that are coded feminine” = “being a woman”. In short: You played with dolls =/= woman.

    I’m sorry you’ve had the experiences you’ve had with people questioning your gender indifference. Unfortunately, part of the “code” of the TERF-crew is that they insist that they don’t *identify* as women, they *are women* – that since they don’t FEEL gender (like trans women do) they don’t identify as a gender.

    And yes – I think it’s completely appropriate to point out that their idea of gender appears to be: Since my shoes fit, I am not wearing shoes.

    I sorry if I implied that was your personal experience when I said there was some aspect of the self (whether that is lack of something or something) that caused you NOT to come to the realization that you were a trans man (for example). The reason I said this is because you said you were a woman because of two things that you have in common with many trans men – which implies that trans men are women – since they fit the same criteria.

    I know you suggested shifting criteria, but I’m unsure how that works communication-wise. I’m accustomed to discussing those more complicated issues in terms of various “aspects” not labels with shifting criteria.

    Sorry, again, that I made my point badly. I should know better than to use someone else as a personal example.

  9. 210

    Jason Thibeault @164

    and it speaks to her paranoia

    A little late, but please don’t diagnose people over the internet. Alternatively, please don’t use psychological disorders as a synonym for behavior you don’t like.

  10. 211

    I am not diagnosing Ophelia with clinical paranoia. I am saying she is falsely seeing people (like Olivia and Heina and, though you’d strain to believe me, myself) as attackers when they might be talking about the issues surrounding the fight without talking about Ophelia herself. The mere fact that they unqualifiedly say “trans women are women” is enough to set off Ophelia’s Attacker Alarm Bells and results in screencaps and posts on her blog about how vicious all of us are, when frankly, Heina was trying to stay out of it but still support her trans friends, and Olivia was likely only aware that there was a fight INVOLVING the phrase.

    If there is a better word than “paranoid” for “sees attackers where there are none”, please give me it. As far as I know, the word does not equate to diagnosis of the mental illness.

  11. 212

    If you want to say that Ophelia Benson is wrong about people’s motives, say that. If you think she’s responding to criticism badly, say that. You were able to say both of those things for quite a while before using the word “paranoid.” It’s one thing to say that it’s wrong for people to allow a privileged person’s pain at being criticized to overshadow marginalized voices criticizing that person’s behavior. Example. It’s another to pathologize that pain.

    As for whether a word denoting mental illness can be used for other meanings, this Brute Reason post explains better than I can, though the discussion about the use of the phrase “paranoid” is nuanced.

    Meanwhile, if you’re someone who uses mental illness terms to describe states of mind that you do not feel are mental illnesses, I’d encourage you to take advantage of the richness of the English language (or whichever language you speak, which I’m sure is also rich) and not do that.

  12. 213

    @Jason
    You may not know me, as I’m only an occasional reader here and I don’t think I’ve commented much. I consider you to be a thoughtful and reasonable person. I value both you and Ophelia, and am really saddened by the fact the two of you cannot communicate on this.

    I am cross-posting to ask you to consider the points I made on the other thread. (I don’t want to reignite this thread, so I won’t link or reiterate them here.)
    I really hope this whole thing can somehow be resolved, without anyone leaving.

  13. 214

    There is a saying I think pertinent to this situation.

    When one of your circle tells you ‘you’re an asshole’, they are probably having a bad day or misinterpreting something.
    When two of your circle tell you ‘you’re an asshole’, you might want to consider that you did something that came off a little wrong and find some way to clarify or correct.
    When half of your circle is telling you ‘you’re an asshole’, then one of two things is generally true – you are in the wrong circle, or you are actually an asshole.

    Then, I guess you have a choice. You get to consider if this is the circle you actually want to be part of, or if you prefer the other circle. Or you can acknowledge that you acted like an asshole, and attempt to correct the situation.

    I’ve looked at both the circles involved. I know I don’t want to be part of the circle that includes the likes of Brennan.

  14. 216

    John Morales, choosing which social circle to be a part of is not guilt by association. Nor is determining whether or not you are actually an asshole based on the amount of your social circle calling you an asshole. You fucking suck at pedantry, as always.

  15. 217

    So… Given what has transpired and where things stand, are there any suggestions for how to move forward and through this morass?

    Ophelia Benson and Professor Myers seem to be mischaracterizing legitimate thoughtful criticism from friends readers and fans as being some kind of attack designed to drive her out of FtB. In that climate it seems that having an actual discussion is not possible. If they are seeing everything through that lens then everything will come out looking distorted to them.

    Now threads are being shut down and communication has broken down on a macro level. So now what? We all just pretend this ugly incident never happened? Is that how we are supposed to do social justice and skepticism?

    Please if you have any forward facing suggestions for what’s next or how to respond in a healthy way please share them. This is all a bit distressing seeing two of the most respected and widely followed bloggers acting this way. They are trained in the art of spotting this kind of BS in others FFS.

  16. 218

    We Are Plethora:
    For actually remedying the situation: I don’t think it is going to happen any time soon. And I think, at this point, the only power we have left is for all of us to get up and leave in protest. That’s about all we can do without moving on and ignoring it, being complicit in this incredible mistreatment and injustice, or continuing to fight, which will only further their mischaracterization of us all as aggressive bullies.

    I don’t know if that is even a good idea.
    But I was also thinking we should all congregate somehow, somewhere. Which also might not be a good idea.

    I wonder if Tony, in addition to hosting the new Lounge, would also be willing to create a haven for us all to talk about this without using Facebook and Twitter?

    Currently Jadehawk has a mini community regarding this all (due to screenshot collection) but it is on Facebook.
    M.A. Melby has been integral to all of this and going to her site would be cool (except she likes sparring with pitters, which will be annoying for those of us who are sick of them).
    oolon has a website but it appears to be empty.

    The alternative is that we could continue here on blogs like Jason’s, at FTB. But that might like life hell for them. We would want to make sure that it was someone who is confident that doing so wouldn’t turn their name to mud at the network. Heina is too new and was, imo, mistreated by Ophelia and I wouldn’t want her to bear the burden (especially since she didn’t even really criticize Ophelia but still got tackled). I don’t really know how much Zinnia wants to be involved in this and really said much on the subject since her initial comments, that weren’t even explicitly directed at Ophelia. Jason and Alex have already had to deal with a lot of venom for their involvement in this, and are given special contempt because they are men allegedly telling Ophelia how to do Feminism (because that is not a dishonest way at all to phrase criticism regarding transphobia).

    I don’t know. Those are some vague ideas about limitations and options.

  17. 219

    We Are Plethora: I don’t know. I have tried everything. I have even let it lie, until Ophelia wrote her next attacking post about me (where I made my damnedest effort defending myself in comments but deferred when a trans person told me I was talking over them). At this point, I know there’s literally no effort to push Ophelia to acknowledge any of her “jokes” about trans (Dolezal, “too last week”) were problematic or damaging generally to trans folk, and no picking out the legitimate grievances over behaviour, that will not be characterized as a witchhunt or an effort to drive Ophelia out of the network by PZ and Ophelia’s defenders.

    It is literally impossible to both keep her here, as is my wish, and actually get through to her that how she’s behaving is hurting a large number of people. At this point, me included.

    I’m weighing my own options right now.

  18. 220

    And for the record, I only tackled Ophelia in self-defense. In my view, she attacked first. Because by gods my tweets defending her against overreach were CREEPY AND SLIMEPITTER LIKE.

  19. 221

    Jason, it is certainly noted. They have been as unfair to you as they claim others have been to Ophelia. Which is really just part of a consistent pattern of obvious, blatant hypocrisy.

  20. 222

    @211 John Morales

    Um… no.

    For the record, the saying ‘The standard you walk past is the standard you accept’ is not guilt by association either.

    Guilt by association would be saying ‘anteprepro commented on the same blog thread as John Morales, a known asshole, therefore anteprepro is also an asshole’ (note: I don’t consider anteprepro an asshole). Saying ‘wow, a lot of folks in my community think I’m being an asshole, I should either examine my behavior or consider the notion that I don’t belong in this group’ is an entirely different situation. It’s also something you should do, being that here are yet more people in your ‘community’ pointing out that you are being an asshole.

    Also, for the record, saying ‘I don’t want to associate with ______ ‘ is also not guilt by association. It’s saying ______ is an asshole, and I’ve got better things to do than deal with assholes. Which is why I’m using the handy little bit of code on my browser to skip over your posts from this point on.

  21. 223

    Also, for the record, ‘guilt by association’ isn’t necessarily a bad thing either.

    If you are hanging out and having a good, agreeable time with Beck, Palin, Trump, and Cheney, it really isn’t all that out of line to assume you are probably also an asshole.

  22. 224

    Mmm. If you hang out on The Slymepit, which proclaims itself open to all views, in order to hang out with certain people, laugh at their funny funny jokes, and occasionally to get help arguing against a certain line of argumentation that is stymying you otherwise, people do in fact have good cause to interrogate why you’re willing to put up with all the horrid and vile bullshit that happens there and maybe, MAYBE, judge you for it.

  23. 225

    I think a lot of people need to take a step back, and they’d do a good job to remember this key part of Heina’s post:

    Treat people based on who they are rather than how I feel about what they said in this particular instance.

    In particular, I’d suggest that Ophelia’s defenders take a step back and look at the who and how of the criticisms. It’s not a who’s-who of Slymepitters, it’s a whole lot of people who’ve been interacting positively with Ophelia and participating in her blog comments for years, as well as a number of trans individuals outside the larger FTBosphere. While PZ’s inbox might have tons of people calling for her expulsion without providing any reason, the prominent posts have identified specific quotations, screenshots, and individuals, explained why they’re problematic, and have mostly asked for acknowledgement and apology. If they want to allege conspiracy and hidden motivations, then provide some evidence for it, explain what one-time friends and colleagues of Ophelia gain by turning on her and unfairly painting her as a transphobe, if that’s what you think people are doing. Ophelia’s defenders have dismissed critics as having no evidence to back up their accusations, so they need to be consistent. If you’re convinced that there’s a trans cabal or a group of disingenuous cis allies looking for cookies by drumming Ophelia out of FtB, show your work.

    To the critics, I think it’s a good idea to read some of Giliell’s posts outlining the difference between “transphobe” and “TERF,” and to stop conflating the two terms. Hyperbolic and imprecise language doesn’t help anyone on either side of this divide (which includes using phrases like “giving aid and comfort to,” which in borrowing the legalistic language of treason comes uncomfortably close to phrases like “gender traitor” that ‘pitters made hay of for years).

    Obviously I’m biased, since I’m in the critics camp, but I think the evidence is clear that Ophelia has said some problematic things and made some problematic associations. I’ve looked at things in context, and I don’t see how it’s any better than as screenshots in a vacuum.

    And this is kind of the problem with those on the defense: why is it that I feel like I have to admit bias against Ophelia? I’ve been commenting there for years! I have no idea how many of my comments she’s made into guest posts. If anything, I should be biased the other direction, and the same goes for a lot of her other critics. I wish that meant something to the people crying witch hunt, but if they’re going to do so, I’d at least like to know what they think is my hidden motivation.

  24. 226

    Jason @220, you’re clearly convinced of Ophelia’s mala fides and ideological iniquity by virtue of her associations and their inferred basis.

    (Why beat around the bush?)

  25. 227

    Tom Foss:

    Obviously I’m biased, since I’m in the critics camp, but I think the evidence is clear that Ophelia has said some problematic things and made some problematic associations.

    And therefore, should she not justify herself to your satisfaction… what?

    You will make a firm determination, not just consider her stance problematic?

    (I didn’t think you too would be mealy-mouthed)

  26. 228

    There’s guilt by association, which is largely based on broad characteristics people cannot influence easily. THat’S when you treat all muslims as potential terrorists, or all catholics as child rapists, or all young black men as criminal drug dealers.
    And there’s guilt by associating, which means you fucking choose to include yourself in a group with really horrible people. Also known as “making your own bed”.
    As for what can be done now? Pretty little I think. Waiting. Keeping the discussions about sex, gender, identity and trans issues open.
    Ophelia Benson has decided that everyone is out for her, PZ has decided that everyone is out for her, there’s no use in trying to convince them otherwise because apparently everybody critical is just a liar with an agenda.

  27. 229

    …PZ has decided that everyone is out for her…

    And that’s not even hyperbole. In his finishing post in this thread, he literally claims that all critics want Ophelia gone and anyone who says otherwise is lying.

  28. 230

    And that’s not even hyperbole. In his finishing post in this thread, he literally claims that all critics want Ophelia gone and anyone who says otherwise is lying.

    And you can probably imagine how deeply frustrating and yes, hurtful that is to people like me.

  29. 231

    @We Are Plethora #213:

    Now threads are being shut down and communication has broken down on a macro level. So now what? We all just pretend this ugly incident never happened?

     
    @anteprepro #214:

    And I think, at this point, the only power we have left is for all of us to get up and leave in protest. That’s about all we can do without moving on and ignoring it, being complicit in this incredible mistreatment and injustice, or continuing to fight, which will only further their mischaracterization of us all as aggressive bullies.

     
    Naive question: Wouldn’t a pattern of problematic behavior become increasingly obvious as time adds new examples?
     
    If it’s not the incident itself that matters, you’re not limited to arguing over what she’s said so far. If the problem is (unexamined) principles underlying her remarks, she’ll make new statements to re-expose them to scrutiny.
     
    And if the immediate barrier to correction is siege mentality… armistice?

  30. 233

    If it’s not the incident itself that matters, you’re not limited to arguing over what she’s said so far. If the problem is (unexamined) principles underlying her remarks, she’ll make new statements to re-expose them to scrutiny.

    Let’s say she does make such new statements. What do we do? If we point to them, we’ll be accused of grasping at straws and refusing to let go of this issue. If we don’t address them in the moment, but do so after enough incidents have accumulated, we’ll be accused of digging through everything to make her look bad.

    We know that that’s what’ll happen because that’s what’s happening right now: People have pointed to one statement and been told that isn’t enough and they’re just biased. Then they pointed to other statements in the past, to show a pattern, and were told that they were creepy stalkers, going through her trash.

    I’m not sure what’s going to change that situation, but I’m pretty sure it’s not just more statements by Ophelia. If that could do the trick it already would have.

    And if the immediate barrier to correction is siege mentality… armistice?

    But how? Since apparently any criticism, no matter how it’s expressed, is considered an attack, what does “armistice” mean? Are we to just be silent and hope that things will change? And if they don’t, then what? How long do we wait?

  31. 235

    @LykeX #229:
    I was naive and optimistic that, if the current situation was not salvageable, some temporary factors impeding persuasion – at least of onlookers, if not Ophelia herself – would wear off.   : /
     

    Are we to just be silent and hope that things will change? And if they don’t, then what?

    If they don’t: If she keeps saying equally awful things and you’re correct that no quantity will ever be convincing?   : /
     
    I’ve seen some of Melby’s tweets, this thread, and the divorce thread.
     
    I don’t have any new insight and probably shouldn’t have posted the clutter. Sorry.

  32. 236

    @CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain
    No worries. I certainly hope that I’m wrong in my evaluation. I’m just not very optimistic about it.

  33. 238

    Here is part of what Professor Myers wrote in his last comment closing the thread:

    … you’re pissed off, you’re looking to score points, and hoping to drive Ophelia off this network altogether. Every time you claim you aren’t, I just have to roll my eyes.

    This is some offensive and hurtful bull shit. Never would have expected to see this coming from Professor Myers is all. Gaslighting at its finest. Stubbornly insisting that he knows what is in the minds of so many people and worse that it’s all based on some kind of nefarious intent or designs to drive Ophelia Benson away.

    Hoping that cooler heads will prevail once everyone has benefit of space and time but now worried that may be a naive hope.

    In the same comment, Professor Myers also wrote:

    You’re all sounding like Michael Nugent, the Mouth of the Slymepit: according to him, I’m a homicidal monster who connived to railroad an innocent young woman who threatened to accuse me of rape, which apparently, according to a mob on twitter, I’m guilty of.

    Unfortunately Professor Myers seems to be misinterpreting or mischaracterizing what Michael Nugent said as badly as he is doing to people who have been critical of Ophelia Benson. We hate to be put in any position to defend Michael Nugent but regardless if anyone agrees with him or not we should all be able to agree that nobody ought to misinterpret or mischaracterize what he’s actually said. As skeptics we all ought to be able to at least understand the point he’s trying to make and be able to characterize it in a fair and accurate way even even if we vehemently disagree with it or him. To us this is a pretty low bar in terms of rational discourse and if we can’t get over it that means there is a much larger problem festering under the surface.

    Again to be clear we are not defending Michael Nugent or espousing his views. Rather this is just an attempt to clear up the misinterpretation or mischaracterization quoted above.

    The idea that he thinks Professor Myers is “a homicidal monster who connived to railroad an innocent young woman” is just as much a misinterpretation or mischaracterization as are Professor Myers’s claims that all these people secretly have it out for Ophelia Benson. In point of fact Michael Nugent explicitly stated multiple times that he did not believe Professor Myers did anything untoward in terms of how he handled the situation and that he was explicitly not condemning Professor Myers for it.

    His whole point was merely that IF we were to judge Professor Myers’s actions using the same standard [as perceived by Michael Nugent] that he uses to judge other people, THEN it would be fair to conclude that he had done something wrong. In other words Michael Nugent believes that Professor Myers takes uncharitable interpretations of other people’s words and actions, and that if we were all to follow suit take an uncharitable view of how Professor Myers handled the student’s false allegation then we would all end up condemning him for it. It was an if then conjecture and a condemnation of uncharitable views and of double standards. It was most definitely not a condemnation for Professor Myers actually railroading anyone.

    Nugent wrote that he prefers we all take more charitable views and that he does not believe that Professor Myers should be condemned for how he handled things. He wrote this explicitly multiple times. What he wrote on this point boils down to: IF we were to take an uncharitable view of what happened THEN it could be said that Professor Myers railroaded the student BUT we all ought not take such uncharitable views.

    Here are some quotes from Michael Nugent explaining his view.

    I don’t believe that PZ Myers is sexist. I believe that PZ supports equality for women, and that in his own mind he is trying to advance that aim, using methods that I believe are unjust and hurtful and counterproductive to feminism, equality and social justice.

    But what would happen if PZ and his colleagues applied the same level of judgment about sexism to PZ’s own behaviour over the years, as they do to behaviour by other people, the most recent example being the shirt worn by Rosetta scientist Matt Taylor?
    I know that PZ and his colleagues can justify the above behaviour by reference to context, humour, intent, or charitable interpretation. And in many cases I agree with their justifications. I am not condemning PZ for any of this behaviour. I am asking him and his colleagues to act ethically consistently when judging others.
    If you judge PZ charitably for his behaviour, then please judge other people equally charitably for theirs.
    If you judge other people harshly for their behaviour, then please judge PZ equally harshly for his.
    My preference would be for everybody to judge everybody else equally charitably for their behaviour.

    I am not condemning PZ for this behaviour. I am asking him and his colleagues to act ethically consistently when judging others.

    Sorry but we just don’t see how anyone can go from this to “I’m a homicidal monster who connived to railroad an innocent young woman…” Seems like a gross misinterpretation or mischaracterization of what Michael Nugent actually wrote.

    We are now beginning to wonder if this is part of a larger pattern of misinterpreting and mischaracterizing what critics have said. As opposed to this being an isolated incident caused or exacerbated by siege mentality. Maybe that’s just the depressive cynic in us talking but not sure how else to make sense of what’s happening.

  34. 239

    @John Morales:

    And therefore, should she not justify herself to your satisfaction… what?

    If you think this string of words conveyed any intelligible meaning, you are mistaken.

    You will make a firm determination, not just consider her stance problematic?

    Sure, and I’ve said as much in other places, and agree with the statements of others. I don’t feel the need to reiterate all my points in every venue. But since you’re being obtuse:

    * Being flippant about “identifying as” and treating a trans woman “identifying as” female as though it’s precisely as unreasonable/fanciful/flighty as otherkin or Rachel Dolezal or wanting magical powers, is transphobic. It is the trans equivalent of Rick Santorum’s comparisons of homosexuality to bestiality. It is literally the same kind of nonsense Mike Huckabee was saying a month ago. Those kinds of jokes are transphobic whether or not the people saying them are running for the GOP nomination.

    * Joining a group run by TERFs that is full of really awful transphobic commentary isn’t, in and of itself, transphobic. Liking, agreeing with, and joining in on the transphobic commentary is. Approaching the group to ask for ammunition to argue against the notion that trans women are women, if nothing else, gives the impression that you prioritize their opinions over those of trans people. Ophelia’s justifications and defenses for being part of that group, participating in their transphobic threads, and seeking out their opinion, have been laughably transparent, and are the same kind of “it’s not all bad”/”I don’t agree with everything they say” nonsense that we’ve heard from Slymepit defenders for years.

    * Meanwhile, the hypocrisy on that front from Ophelia and her defenders has been deafening. She’s been afforded a degree of hair-splitting that we don’t offer to anyone else in similar circumstances. PZ wouldn’t hesitate to call Michael Nugent a Slymepitter, whether or not Nugent participates in the forum, because Nugent’s blog is overrun with them and he listens to what they have to say. Meanwhile, Ophelia is actually seeking out the opinions of TERFs on a forum she’s been a member of for months, and she’s sharing/liking/repeating their transphobic comments, but we’re supposed to act like she’s terflon and the toxicity doesn’t stick to her. If someone went to the Slymepit to ask for ammunition to argue against the question “do you believe that conventions should have anti-harassment policies, yes or no?” we’d recognize that as the problem it is—and as far as I’m aware, Abbie Smith has never petitioned the United Nations to remove the human rights of FtBullies. We need to be consistent on that front.

    * Ophelia has been, at best, willfully ignorant about the TERFs she’s been interacting with and promoting. She claims not to know that they’re TERFs, even when people tell her specifically, and at some point that excuse wears pretty thin. Especially when you’re willing to condemn and block friends and colleagues, but accept sympathy from toxic bigots like Cathy Brennan. She has apparently had enough time and impetus to look into Gia Milinovich’s history and thinks it’s “terrible” how she’s been targeted. Not that she posts the kind of gender-essentialist pseudoscience bullshit that you’d think these “gender critical” people would decry, not that she frequently says transphobic things, but that she’s been targeted by the trans cabal. Maybe Ophelia was just being incredibly polite to thank Brennan and sympathize with Milinovich, but at some point the standard you walk past is the standard you accept. And walking past Brennan means you’re accepting the worst of the goddamn worst.

    * Finally, the response to criticism has been unbelievable. For someone who doesn’t want to be tarred by her association with bigots, Ophelia is willing to compare people like Jason to the Slymepit for the flimsiest of reasons. The insults have outweighed the substantive responses—Oolon is a “slimy” “poisoner,” MA Melby is “a horror” and “the worst.” Everyone else is a creepy McCarthyist witch hunter or a member of the cult-like trans activist movement or just trying to earn ally/SJW cookiepoints. It’s amazing to see people who criticized this kind of hyperbole, in many cases word-for-word identical or find-replaced “feminist” with “trans,” when it was coming from Tim Hunt’s supporters not two months ago. It starts to look like the argument wasn’t about principles, that comparing oneself to some Salem colonist or blackballed Hollywood resident for being criticized online is totally all right as long as it’s your friend doing it. I don’t care for double-standards.

    * In the same vein, a white person claiming that another white person “wants scalps” because they criticized you online is exactly as racist a statement as when white people claim to be the target of a “lynch mob” for the same reason. I’m pretty sure Ophelia was among those pointing out the sexism of men claiming to be the targets of “witch hunts” when they were criticized online (since witch hunts were generally a way to terrorize and control women), and this is no different.

    These are problems. They are a number of different kinds of problems. I don’t really know what the solution could be, but apologizing while continuing the problematic behaviors isn’t one. Actions speak louder than words, and “I’m sorry” rings hollow when preceded by “these creeps are just out to get me.”

    @LykeX #225:

    And that’s not even hyperbole. In his finishing post in this thread, he literally claims that all critics want Ophelia gone and anyone who says otherwise is lying.

    I’m reminded of the apologetic that says atheists truly believe in god but are lying about it. It’s great because it’s completely unfalsifiable.

    @We Are Plethora: I think the “murderous” bit comes from Nugent’s claim that PZ “has joked about Rebecca Watson shanking Phil Mason in the kidneys, and about himself stabbing Christians and throwing people off a pier.” If Nugent really wanted people to read charitably, he wouldn’t have done the opposite in his initial screeds against PZ. Nugent set himself up as the defender of poor unfairly accused Michael Shermer and has bought and resold every twisted Slymepit meme he could find about PZ. I don’t think the situations are analogous.

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    There’s one constructive thing I can do in the immediate aftermath of this. On rereading this thread, I’ve decided to put John Morales in moderation. In the event he can provide his points directly, clearly, and sans the smug pedantry, his dissent is more than welcome. Otherwise, his sniping at language without actually arguing anything is just an unsophisticated tier of trolling and a waste of everyone’s time.

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    Tom Foss @235,
    Well said, you summarized many of the key concerns very nicely.

    If Nugent really wanted people to read charitably, he wouldn’t have done the opposite in his initial screeds against PZ. Nugent set himself up as the defender of poor unfairly accused Michael Shermer and has bought and resold every twisted Slymepit meme he could find about PZ. I don’t think the situations are analogous.

    To be clear, we are not suggesting that Nugent was right or that he was actually reading Professor Myers charitably or that he didn’t “set himself up as the defender of poor unfairly accused Michael Shermer…”

    All we are saying is that he in no way shape or form suggested that Professor Myers is “a homicidal monster who connived to railroad an innocent young woman.” All we are saying is that characterization by Professor Myers is way off the mark. It’s so far off the mark as to be about 180 degrees opposite of what Nugent actual wrote.

    In the same way Professor Myers has misinterpreted or mischaracterized criticism of Ophelia Benson as being the work of people out to get her and drive her away it seems he has done the same sort of misinterpretation of mischaracterization of some of Michael Nugent’s actual points.

    That Nugent is ultimately wrong doesn’t justify or excuse this kind of treatment in any way. His views should be characterized fairly and accurately, and then refuted soundly. Relying on misinterpretations or resorting to blatant mischaracterizations is a real problem even when it’s done to people with whom we vehemently disagree or dislike.

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    Yesterday I tried to give Ophelia Benson the benefit of the doubt, and asked for the context behind a snapshot of one particular FB conversation (this: http://i.imgur.com/7Z7DeBf.png) that was being thrown around, because I thought that it looked bad but it might have been unfair to Ophelia (ie. out of context or snipped). She replied that she didn’t know what the context was, and that it was horrible for strangers to be analyzing her FB comments in the first place. That’s fair enough, I thought, so I apologized for asking.

    My next comment after that was on a different post, in which I stated that Elizabeth Hungerford is indeed a trans exclusive radical feminist (because there was a comment before me indicating that the word “TERF” was being thrown around too easily as a silencer). I linked to this article: http://bitchmagazine.org/post/the-long-history-of-transgender-exclusion-from-feminism

    And then…I got banned for it, my comment was deleted, and the very next comment was by Elizabeth Hungerford herself.

    Ah well, I find that disappointing. I wish Ophelia all the best, but I guess I won’t be following her blog anymore. This experience has been enough to convince me not to.

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    Tom:

    @John Morales:

    And therefore, should she not justify herself to your satisfaction… what?

    I read this as meaning, there should be consequences if she does not justify her actions to our satisfaction.

    I delineated the consequences in my VICIOUS ATTACKING ORIGINAL POST thusly:

    There are honest interlocutors genuinely hurt by things she’s said and done, that they can point to, that are still extant on the internet and not grossly misinterpreted; and these honest interlocutors are demanding a genuine and contrite apology and improvement in behaviour in the future. That is to say, nothing that would cost her a damn thing except a moment’s introspection.

    And I said that if that contrite apology and improvement in behaviour didn’t happen:

    When she’s ready to hear these requests, they’ll still be said. These people will still be here. The arguments will continue to exist, despite their various handwaving dismissals by Benson and supporters. And they’ll be provided by the people whose axe to grind is against their own oppression, not against Benson as a person, not against dishonest pilers-on from places slimey and antifeminist and only interested in taking down another strong feminist to the end of their holy war against feminists on the internet.

    As in, this isn’t going to go away by ignoring it, by pretending the issues never happened or the actions never taken. We’ll still be here. She’ll hopefully still be here. People will likely avoid her place as long as it gives berth to people like Hungerford and as long as the reflex is to dig in and defend one’s self instead of acknowledge that said “defense” is actually Llap-Goch — as in, mostly preemptive attack pretending to be defense.

    I recognize that the criticism will not penetrate this preemptive-attack pattern of defense at the moment. I’m really just hoping that eventually, once cooler heads prevail, apologies will be made.

    But not by me — I have done, in my estimation, absolutely zero wrong; have lied zero times; have given as charitable of reads of positions as I can, and have only advocated for the positions of those who feel directly aggressed by what they perceive to be micro or macroaggressions by Ophelia.

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    Incidentally, I absolutely need to write a post about this marked increase of calling someone a liar or someone’s statement a lie without actually proving either a) that it is false or b) that it is KNOWINGLY false. It is a politician’s game to call everything lies and smear tactics; it is transparent especially when there’s evidence of these things actually happening.

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    @Jason:

    I read this as meaning, there should be consequences if she does not justify her actions to our satisfaction.

    That’s the closest I got to understanding it too, but it’s nonsensical. I was addressing the fact that there are people who continue to deny that Ophelia did or said anything wrong. The evidence is pretty clear that she did. Aside from “my account was hacked several months ago and I’ve been in a cabin in the woods this whole time so I didn’t know” or “I’ve been replaced by my evil doppelganger from the mirror universe,” there’s no justification to be made. It’s the mistake that douchebros who say that their rape jokes or misogyny are “just satire” make: joking is not a justification for bigotry.

    The “consequence” of repeatedly saying bigoted things without making any substantive effort to make amends is that people will perceive you to be a bigot. Ophelia’s defenders, PZ especially, seem to think that criticism necessarily implies the desire for censure or expulsion, and I don’t think that’s the case. What criticism implies is the desire for change, or at least acknowledgement.

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