Trans-ient amnesia

LofU2DdS
I spent quite a while trying to find the offending Ophelia Benson post. I had assumed it was a post, anyway, as I’ve seen a number of bloggers go down that hole. My partner glares at the computer screen, purses her lips, and writes a few bitter tweets about cis people once again just not getting it. That’s the sort of thing she usually does when somebody we once implicitly respected decides they want to tackle the topic of transgender people as though nobody’s done it before.

Somebody asked a straightforward question about whether a trans person is their gender and suddenly the questioned no longer understands what “gender” is.

Make no mistake: It’s been done. It’s been done and done and done and done and done. It’s been getting done a lot more recently than it used to be since the rise to fame of Janet Mock and Laverne Cox and the coming out of Caitlyn Jenner, but it’s definitely been done before.

Bigotry is nothing new and it almost always takes the same forms, but I’ll stick to comparing apples to apples. There’s a certain kind of bigot who likes to pretend they’re supporting the group they’re oppressing and that they’re simply intellectually curious philosophers in search of the meaning of being human. In the queer community alone, as we’ve historically asserted our sexual and romantic attractions, heterosexual people responded over and over that attraction is a strange and mysterious thing and perhaps we don’t understand it. As we asserted our desires to marry and have families, we were met with completely frankly fucking irrelevant questions about gender modeling for children and whether government should ever have involved itself in marriage to begin with. Whatever it is, it’s always the same: culturally established simple, broad concepts suddenly become completely absurd once queer people want a piece.

One thing they are sure of, though, even as concepts like “woman” and “love” flitter away from them like ephemeral butterflies, never to return until all the queers are out of the room: they’re DEFINITELY not bigoted. As I groaned through post after post after post on Benson’s blog, I watched as she asserted firmly again and again that the words “yes” and “no” are too simple for great thinkers like herself, but:

It has, and that’s one thing that some feminists feel uneasy about. It’s not transphobic or trans-excluding to say that.”

This whole thing is just riddled with tensions, and it’s not transphobic to try to think about them.”

And when it’s uncertain and/or new which pronoun is preferred then there’s the option of using names. I don’t think that should be considered transphobic.”

She sure has transphobia nailed down! Is Caitlyn Jenner a woman? Who knows? What even is gender? But is Benson transphobic? Ask and suddenly she’s remembered how to answer yes or no questions.

I never found the offending post, because it turned out not to be a post. It turned out to be a question that was posed to her off of the blog, the oblivious non-answer to which she wrote several posts to defend. I’ve heard @oolon waded through the miasma of proud ignorance and maybe has a more comprehensive list than anything I could come up with, but as my Skype window boops and boops with more links from my purse-lipped research assistant, I’ve had enough.

But because I’m feeling nice, I’m going to help Ophelia out a little. Ophelia, somebody posed the question “is a trans woman a woman? Yes or no.” They weren’t asking you what gender is. They didn’t care what you think gender is. What they were asking was: shouldn’t trans people be allowed the same degree of self-determination as cis people? And in spite of your oblivious insistence otherwise, you answered with a loud and resounding “No.”


Heather McNamara writes about indie literature, politics, and civil rights at HeatherMcNamara.net.

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Trans-ient amnesia

103 thoughts on “Trans-ient amnesia

  1. 1

    Ah, ok. I thought the correct answer was yes, and if any caveats were to be added, the only one would be “this isn’t a question for me, that’s for the trans women to answer. Um and as far as I can tell most of them say yes they are and what a silly question.”

    I mean if OB had wanted to emphasize that gender isn’t binary or even strongly defined, she could’ve just said that, because I’m pretty sure she thinks that the vague area of the spectrum we call “women” includes trans women (and white women, black women, queer women, cis women… etc.)

    Anyway thanks for the post. Relearn something old every day.

  2. 2

    What they were asking was: shouldn’t trans people be allowed the same degree of self-determination as cis people? And in spite of your oblivious insistence otherwise, you answered with a loud and resounding “No.”

    You cannot be serious. In the land of reality, she actually said the exact fucking opposite:

    Do you mean, will I take trans people’s word for it? Will I use their right names and pronouns? Of course I will. Do I want to make them jump through hoops to prove something to me? Of course not.

  3. 3

    The issue was much broader than just dodging the question. After ridiculing a group of trans people who decided not to book drag acts at a small alternative pride event, she made a joke about how Trans women being angry about Drag Queens was like Dolezal being angry about black-face. If I remember correctly, that the issue that precipitated asking the question in the first place.

    While she was dodging the question, she went onto the gender-crit FB group that was started by Hungerford (who used to be a close associate of C. Br3nnan and is sort of the go-to pseudo-scientists of the “gender crit” crew) – which in and of itself isn’t damning – I know activists who have gone on there to challenge their ideas. However, she went on there to ask their advice on how to essentially combat the question that was posed to her. She also implied that the adjective “trans” was evidence that trans women were not women unequivocally. She also participated in another thread where they were discussing a trans woman who had decided to keep her beard – ridiculing her for not identifying as a man. Asked why the women didn’t identify as a man – Ophelia responded, “Too late week?”

    Her blog has heavily quoted articles written about how supposedly trans activists were silencing “terfs” and “trans ideology” was in congruent with feminist thought. Some of the comments that she allowed on her blog without challenge were extremely transphobic – such as someone commenting about the over-sensitivity of trans activists or recommending “Gender Hurts”.

    She RT’s and associates with many feminists on twitter who have trans antagonistic views – which people have realized for a while and attempted to point this out to her. She generally just got angry that anyone would dare bring this up to her. I agree with her that policing of associations can be a boundary issue and I understand why she got defensive about that. However, well, this happened: https://twitter.com/MAMelby/status/625592620350328832

    She’s floating the story that her trans antagonism is all just fantasy and myth and part of a “witch hunt” and has responded to criticism and people being angry (sometimes saying not-do-nice things on their own FB walls) by posting those unkind comments on her blog – which as resulted, at least in one case, of a vulnerable person being targeted with slurs (possibly by false-flags but whatever). One of the screen shots she shared was a private FB post (friends only, no acquaintances) that included medical information – OB took down the screen shot when the privacy setting were mentioned and de-identified the transcript of it. However, many people are wondering why she had it in the first place or felt the need to share it at all.

    That’s what’s happening.

  4. 5

    Thank you for this post, Heather (and M. A. Melby, you’re doing the Lard’s Own Work these past few… weeks? months? Thank you for keeping track, and for keeping people honest).

  5. 6

    There’s a certain kind of bigot who likes to pretend they’re supporting the group they’re oppressing and that they’re simply intellectually curious philosophers in search of the meaning of being human.

    and the frustrating thing is that she KNOWS that this form of bigotry exists and is bullshit; she participated in the #UpForDebate thing that criticized exactly this kind of hyperskeptic philosophizing of marginalized people’s lives.

  6. 8

    I’m really finding it hard to take away anything from this except that a person who says “this is *my* gender* and another saying “gender must burn!” can’t really be friends, even if they’ve got the same enemies.

  7. 9

    Actually, I posed it in a comment ON her blog. She threw an absolute wobbler, deleted all of my posts and put me in moderation so the terror of being asked something could no longer be visited on her, and posted three complaint posts before oolon had even emailed her.

  8. 10

    I feel like the “The Land of Ambiguity” post is a step in the right direction, but only taken after a LOT of steps in the wrong one, and even then is unnecessarily riddled with bafflegab and, well, ambiguity. Claiming, for example, that ‘is’ is ambiguous, but ‘it’ without a referent is perfectly clear is difficult to follow and remains unnecessarily twisty. And after all the REST of it, I don’t think she’s earned a maximally charitable reading.

    #3: Yes, the posting of the ‘joke’ comparing trans women to Rachel Dolezal is indeed what made me ask her point blank.

  9. 11

    sawells

    We’re currently in a situation where people are being told not to think and say things about _their own_ gender identity because LOOK A TERF. This isn’t helpful.

    Where exactly is that happening?
    And yes, I read the “Land of Ambiguity” post.
    It happened after a lot of handwringing, after declaring the question itself to be a form of McCarthyism and it was immediately followed by more accusations. Why should people only look at that post and not at everything that surrounds it?
    Please, question gender, question how it is constructed, performed, policed.
    Question sex, how it is constructed, how it has been naturalised.
    Question your own assumptions about what it means to be a man/woman/non-binary person.
    This is all completely possible without shitting on trans people. And even if you accidentially DO shit on trans people, try to learn and do better the next time instead of declaring yourself to be the victim of a McCarthyist scalp hunt (what a horrible, horrible thing to say).

    +++
    I will also say that it is completely possible to follow and retweet TERFs accidentially. Because quite often they say sensible things you agree with and you only notice once they say something about trans people. But that’s not the high profile people, just your run off the mill person. I know it happened to me more than once. Same with “White Feminists”. As a white woman I often found myself nodding along until I either noticed or until WoC gently yelled in my general direction (or in the general direction of that White Feminist). AFAIK neither trans people nor WoC “excommunicated” me for that sin, but should they decide theyw ant nothing to do with me cause they don’t think I’m safe because of that, that’s their perjorative.

  10. 12

    I was one of the raft of defenders who were saying no she is not trans antagonistic, at least not on purpose. It’s just missteps, that has been going on for the last year or more. Now when I saw her posting on a “gender critical” facebook page with Elizabeth Hungerford and liking transphobic comments. That came crashing down, not that she is “evil” or a “bad person”, more that she has accepted some damaging pseudoscience and the resulting facepalm. She clearly has no ill intentions towards trans people at all. Ironically so many parallels to Tim Hunt, who is also a good person, cares about women in science. He just happens to have some damaging views and reacts badly to criticism.

    I also realised I had been a bit transphobic myself, not listening to quite a few trans people who have been saying she is trans antagonistic at best for years. We are told that when women say X is sexist to listen to them, not believing them is a horrid mix of gaslighting and at worst a route down the “feminazi bullies make up sexism charges to destroy men!!”. Although in this case it is a narrative of “over sensitive” trans activists destroying cis feminists who won’t bend to their demands.

    I really hope Ophelia doesn’t leave FTB, or have any “censure” from this (Pretty sure the trans cabal is not a thing, so I’m not too worried). As she’ll leave in her wake a lot of cis allies who have been taught to think “TERF is a slur”, and to apply hyperskepticism to claims of transphobia from trans people. They’re left thinking there is something to this TERF-lite “gender critical” feminism. That hurts trans people, that’s where the most damage is by far. (I really hope the other bloggers on this network take those aspects apart, not to get at OB, in fact they’d be best to not mention her at all)

    Not linking this to single out the person mentioned, he did just block me on Twitter finally (!), I consider him a friend and this conversation really hurts to watch. A trans woman of colour asking if he believes trans women when they say OB has been transphobic. The “evidence” supplied is never enough, while the strongest evidence is ignored, the very fact that trans people are saying this at all. They are the ones who will lose out from these accusations, nothing to be gained from “false accusations”, does that sound like it has any parallels to you?
    https://twitter.com/abolitiondemocr/status/625690873142054912

    I’m not asking you if you’ll “listen”, I’m asking do you believe us trans people telling you that Ophelia was being transphobic?
    If you don’t believe X has a problem w/trans people, you necessarily don’t believe trans people saying X does.

    Go follow her on Twitter, and block me!

  11. 13

    When Ideas are deemed not to be up for debate, civilisation commits the gravest sin. A concept which it is considered morally wrong to question is simply dogma.

      1. She is simply using the #upfordebate meme to mock ideas she disapproves of. Mockery is not the same as rebuttal, and many of the ideas she mentions are ideas about which there is and should be debate.

    1. 13.2

      When Ideas are deemed not to be up for debate, civilisation commits the gravest sin.

      Really? Closing debate on settled issues the greatest sin? Not genocide or slavery or other state-sanctioned oppression or violence?

      oolon and Giliell have already responded perfectly to this, but I feel I have to add my $0.02.

      Declaring settled issues up for debate is not the sign of an uber-skeptic, but of an ignorant person. If you go to a physics conference declaring we should open up debate about geocentrism, you will be told to fuck off and go read a book before spouting off. That’s not because physicists are dogmatic; it’s because nobody has time to rehash old settled arguments for every ignorant noob. This is especially true when the question itself is inherently hurtful. Asking are black people inferior to white people is fucked up not only because it is tiresome to rehash, but it’s fucking offensive as shit to question if a class of people is less valuable or capable than another.

      Finally, the question of whether everything should be up for debate, is itself a settled question that is no longer up for debate.

      1. Alright maybe “gravest” was somewhat hyperbolic, but remember, there was a time when Heliocentrism was a settled issue. The decision of what is or is not settled always falls to those aided by cultural inertia, typically the powerful.

        Declaring certain topics settled is a way of ensuring that those who now wield influence will never have to yield it, entrenching their authority. Do not give too much weight to dominant paradigms, lest you blind yourself to the possibilities of a new reality, or the perspectives of a person generally thought to be beneath concern.

        The idea that mass murders are the primary domain of the mentally ill, for example, has often been treated as a “settled issue” -primarily by sane people- but this view has been challenged by lunatics who believe that it is inaccurate and unfair. Such madmen (yes and madwomen and other mad people) are often dismissed as not being worth listening to.

        1. The decision of what is or is not settled always falls to those aided by cultural inertia, typically the powerful.

          … so really not a relevant concern in this context.

  12. 14

    When Ideas are deemed not to be up for debate, civilisation commits the gravest sin. A concept which it is considered morally wrong to question is simply dogma.

    Great heavens, I’m sick and tired of this pseudo-philosophical wankery.
    Some questions have been settles, and they have been settled with blood.
    Is the earth revolving around the sun?
    Do humans share a common ancestor with modern apes?
    Should black people have equal rights to white people?
    Was the Holocaust bad?
    Why don’t you teach he controversy?
    As a cis woman I’ve had ample experience of these “question everything” debates. They usually involve repro rights or sexual assault and the aim is usually to put me down a peg, to question my humanity, my bodily integrity, to remind me of my inferior position. I suppose that trans people have their very own set of “just questioning”.
    Also, 99.9% of people who are doing the “just questioning” are profoundly lacking the skills, tools and knowledge to do anything useful in that area. They have no idea about how language works on a deeper level, how meaning, representation and discourse are created and recreated. They think that Structuralism is some sort of architecture and that De Saussure probably invented saussages.
    No, people, philosophy and cultural studies are not “people too stupid for science making shit up so I am qualified”.

    1. 14.1

      When did I attack Philosophy or Sociology, you condescending masked elitist?

      I simply sought to caution the pilgrims of cyberspace who happen to visit this specific digital locus of the dangers posed by dogmatic adherence to concepts and paradigms.

  13. 15

    Good article. You are right about bigotry taking the same form. We just had the marriage referendum in Ireland and passed a law that allows transgender people to legal identity with their actual gender and amend their birth cert from their assigned gender to their real gender. So the last two years have been fraught with bigotry and the same pattern emerged over and over again. I see Ophelia doing two of them.

    First, acting as if asking yes and no questions are loaded, “gotcha” questions and refusing to answer. When debating people who were against marriage equality they refused to answer many simple yes and no questions: “Do you think homosexual sex is a sin”, “Do you think homosexuality is a choice”, “Do you think same-sex couples should be allowed to adopt” and so on. Their response was to refuse to give yes-no answer. But refusing to answer No to the first question must mean that you think there is merit or some truth in the idea that homosexual sex is sin, if you didn’t then you would easily answer No. Same with question two, any answer but No must mean you think their is truth in the claim homosexuality is a choice. So this brings us to the question Ophelia refused to answer, are trans-women women? Any answer but yes must mean you think there is merit to No. That there is some caveat or * to a trans-woman’s womanhood.

    Secondly, she is playing the victim. During the marriage equality debate the No campaign got a HUGE amount of criticism, much of it was particularly nasty. Of course they focused on this and used as PR to portray themselves as besieged victims all the while ignoring what LGBT people were actually saying. You can see Ophelia doing this on her blog now, picking out choice comments about her while ignoring Trans people.

      1. Wow. I really screwed the tags up there.

        Lux, hasn’t she indicated that her answer is yes a few times?

        From the Land of Ambiguity

        But politically? Do you mean, will I take trans people’s word for it? Will I use their right names and pronouns? Of course I will.

        Do I want to make them jump through hoops to prove something to me? Of course not.

        Do I get that trans people are severely marginalized, and have to jump through kinds of hoops I have no idea of? Hell yes.

        Then in comment 11 of the same post:

        Should I read that as “Will I take kevinkirkpatrick’s son’s word for it, that he really is a boy?
        Yes.

        And in the comment directly below this one she clearly indicates that she does think “trans people should be allowed the same degree of self-determination as cis people”, and that’s it’s dishonest to claim she said the opposite.

        I mean this honestly, what more do you think she should say?

    1. 17.1

      Benson didn’t let my comment through at her blog, I may have more luck here?

      As per Marians advice I looked up the group and posts that Benson made, frankly the defense that she doesn’t agree 100% with the group is so thin as to be transparent. I would fucking hope not!
      (CN Transmisogyny)
      Asking TERFs for advice, “I want to argue back on this claim” [trans women are women]…
      https://www.facebook.com/groups/genderdiscusssion/permalink/604763966294062/

      The only way I can interpret this is that Benson thought the group was private, so she thought it was “spies” who found her there, in her safe space.
      https://www.facebook.com/groups/genderdiscusssion/permalink/605106352926490/

      Ignoring all the “liking” and commenting there, how could she post to a group with such overt transmisogyny and not tell that group of bigots what they are? As someone does on the thread Marian referenced ridiculing a trans woman with a beard.

      She’s a woman. And you’re a bigot.
      Fine I’m leaving. I’ve had enough of reading this crap. Newsflash: you don’t get to define someone’s gender, they do. Your post is the insult here.

      But Benson comments, “Too last week?”, as in a phase, her identity is a short lived fashion statement?

      Even now all the cis allies are demanding “evidence” and “proof” of Benson’s acceptance of transmisogyny. I think only a video of her punching a trans woman with five eye witnesses statements (cis of course) would be enough for them.

    2. xyz
      17.2

      Nah. I mean, it wasn’t a resounding “no.” It was actually a resounding “How many gender angels can dance on the head of a pin?”

      Look, you’re a long time fave of mine. That’s the only reason I ever bothered to be critical in your comments section, I figured you have a blunt style so you probably appreciate candid responses. This whole to-do is just a travesty to watch. I’m a bit sad this is the path you’ve chosen.

  14. 18

    You said the exact opposite once with words, while saying a great deal otherwise with your actions and with weasel words elsewhere (and, I would argue in the same post that you finally answered the question in).

    You may very well believe that you meant it. Your actions, however, advertise otherwise to a lot of people, and instead of being knee-jerk defensive about how unfair it is that you are suffering under scrutiny for your supposed orthodoxy on the topic, you may want to consider that you have had exactly the same kind of position in regards to skeptical leaders who halfheartedly touted their own support feminism while speaking out the other side of their mouths about Muslimas and the like. I mean, you spoke shibboleth, but the bottom line is that your actions are what provoked the question in the first place and they are continuing to gainsay what you have finally, grudgingly admitted.

    1. 19.1

      No, it’s what she had to say about the summation in the OP.

      What about comments 3 and 12?

      What about all the others, for that matter?

      Seriously, David: you are out of your depth. IMO.

  15. 20

    ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ

  16. 22

    Speaking as a Trans-Native American I can sympathise with my Trans sisters.

    I too asked Ophelia if she thought I was a real Native American but she would not answer.

    Clearly she is Hitler re-incarnated.

  17. 23

    #17 Ophelia:

    No, you didn’t. You did a long-winded and wishy-washy “Well… all right then… if I must” even ENTITLED “The Land of Ambiguity”. And you did it in the middle of a whole series of posts complaining that anyone dared ask you a question at all. Compared being asked “Do you think trans women are women?” to a McCarthy inquest, and generally behaved all across the board like Richard Dawkins being asked about feminism or Islam.

    1. 24.1

      Yeah, the trolls and slimers have descended en-masse onto this kerfuffle. They can mostly be distinguished on FTB blog comments by their sheer inanity, but I guess on twitter and facebook, with short comments and not always being associated with known trolls (or known TERFs for that matter), things really get confusing and antagonistic quickly.

      I still think my comment at #1 is pretty definite: it’s for trans women to explain their gender, the rest of us to accept it. I’ve however really enjoyed many of the previously unsupportive/later supportive trans comments on Ophelia’s blog (as well as directly hostile trans voices): but it also goes to show that trans peoples’ identities are much more complex than a “yes or no, or you’re a TERF!” question.

      1. “(I)t goes to show that trans peoples’ identities are much more complex than a ‘yes or no, or you’re a terf!’ question.”

        Hi! Non binary trans person here (androgynous demi girl to be exact). Yes there are many and varied trans identities and that can get comples HOWEVER whether or not trans women are women is not complex. Trans women are women. Saying so does not in any way take away from my or anybody else’s gender. Saying so does not enforce binarism. Saying so does not erase non binary trans people. Saying so does not erase other complex questions about gender. Stop with this disingenuous “it’s complicated” bullshit. Lots of gender stuff is complicated, whether or not trans women are women is not complicated though.

  18. 26

    I’m not sure where to post my comment. Is there a purpose in vilifying Ophelia Benson? Because I’m just seeing it as a distraction to the important discussion of transgender issues. I also want to ask is Benson opposing progress of transgender issues or telling people not to be transgender? I think the real problem is that her statements have hit a nerve that needs to be talked about. What are the difficulties do transgender people go through? What is triggering about her statement? My point is to keep criticizing statements and ideas. The other question is how do you go about getting allies in your fight for acceptance? Because to me it just looks like a lot of fighting without anything positive coming out of this

    1. 26.1

      I agree that this needs to come back to trans rights and inclusion. Ophelia has explained her position:

      [W]ill I take trans people’s word for it? Will I use their right names and pronouns? Of course I will.

      Do I want to make them jump through hoops to prove something to me? Of course not.

      Do I get that trans people are severely marginalized, and have to jump through kinds of hoops I have no idea of? Hell yes.

      Those are the words of an ally. Her thoughts on gender may not be fully formed or perfect, but fundamentally she is for trans rights and inclusion. She may say or do problematic things at some point, and she should be corrected when/if that happens, but she’s not the enemy.

      1. xyz

        Okay?

        Know what the actions of an ally would be?

        Pipe down for a minute, stop fueling the fire, DO some reading.

        Not post 5+ posts a day firing new shots at individual critics and trying to prove how embattled she is.

        Seriously. This took months to get this bad. The escalation never stopped. Why???

        1. Not post 5+ posts a day firing new shots at individual critics and trying to prove how embattled she is.

          Her defense of herself isn’t a trans issue, even if you think it’s hyperbolic or unfair. Let’s focus on trans rights and inclusion, not just fling shit at each other over how much shit the other side has flung.

          Seriously. This took months to get this bad. The escalation never stopped. Why?

          Actually the escalation did stop. There were a lot of lulls over those months. But, maybe she didn’t take it as seriously as she should have as soon as she should have, but what does that matter now? She for trans rights and inclusion, so lets focus on that and move forward.

          1. xyz

            The truth is that the problematic posts haven’t even stopped. She has guest posts claiming that gender neutral people are erased by trans folks, or something (it’s pretty incoherent stuff), and one chiding trans people and allies for focusing on the wrong things, from today. C’mon.

            As I said: Ally behavior would be to say “Hmm, ok, clearly I need a time out.” It would be stopping, looking and listening. It would be maybe not further destroying progressive community by mounting a full-court press against every single “critic” including a random, friendslocked FB post.

            In short if I go into a kitchen where people are trying to cook, ask them BUT WHAT IS FOOD? YOU CAN’T SAY THIS IS FOOD, SOME PEOPLE ARE ALLERGIC! And then hours later concede that yes some people do eat it, thus it is ambiguously food, but continue to nitpick everyone’s cooking techniques and admonish them for being annoyed by me…

            Am I helping out in the kitchen?

          2. I definitely agree that a time out is warranted all around. You’re totally right that she is not currently acting as a trans ally. She’s acting embattled and defensive because this shit has been going on non-stop. My point is that she does fundamentally support trans rights and inclusion and is therefore a potential ally. Both “sides” should try to focus on and build upon those fundamental agreements. However, most of the discussion is now focused on how the shit this side flung has been waaay worse than the shit that side has flung, and vice versa. There has been hyperbolic shit flinging on both sides, and we should get back to our shared core values, so we can move forward to build a trans welcoming movement.

          3. xyz

            In general I agree.

            My main point is simply that actions matter. If she wants to be known as a trans ally, she needs to deescalate now.

        2. Know what the actions of an ally would be?

          Alliance entails reciprocity; so I think that seeking support from Ophelia whilst simultaneously being inimical towards her is… less than optimal.

      2. An ally doesn’t go to the meeting places of bigots and ask them for advice on how to argue against their targets, and give thumbs-up to their anti-trans comments.
        If this was a guy going to MRA sites asking for help on how to respond to feminists and liking their misogynist comments, none of you would be defending him. But since it’s a cis feminist you’ll happily circle the wagons and tell us we’re being oversensitive. Great allies.

        1. I’m not saying you’re being oversensitive. I’m saying we need to focus on the issues.

          If the guy you describe did that, and then came back and said

          Do I want to make feminists jump through hoops to prove something to me? Of course not.

          Do I get that women are severely marginalized, and have to jump through kinds of hoops I have no idea of? Hell yes.

          And then he repeatedly said that he is a feminist without caveats, then I would accept that he was telling the truth. Once again, I don’t want to deny or delegitimize anyone’s feelings. But we should at some point take a step back and figure out what we really hope to accomplish from all of this. Is it an apology? Some sort of additional explicit statement supporting trans rights and issues? I think we’ve escalated and raised enough awareness at this point, that we should be looking for opportunities to de-escalate and reconcile to the degree possible, iff we all agree on the fundamental values and issues.

          1. [blockquote]If the guy you describe did that, and then came back and said
            (…) And then he repeatedly said that he is a feminist without caveats, then I would accept that he was telling the truth. [/blockquote]

            No. It takes more than a week’s time to rebuild that kind of trust (especially when it’s a week of continued nasty behavior). When someone compares my identity to blackface then no, I cannot trust them even if they write a blog post that says “Of course I’m not transphobic, you witch-hunting inquisitioners!” I will not even be able to begin to conditionally trust them unless they make a genuine apology without all the sniping and backhanded insults thrown in.

            iff we all agree on the fundamental values and issues.

            Except that I don’t believe we do all agree on those. You’re ready to accept that we do just because Ophelia says it’s so, when about a week ago she was chumming around with a hate group and comparing trans to blackface. I am not. Nor am I happy about this. I’ve followed FTB for a while now and I liked Ophelia. It’s frustrating and disappointing to see this happen.

  19. 28

    This is a tough one. I like the idea of everyone taking a break.

    I support community shaming on a general level because of principles and I did with other figures, so I also support the right of people to publicly shame here. Right or wrong on the specifics, there is a place in society for public role-modeling of criticism. But that always has an effect and not everyone handles it the same. It needs morals and ethics. I won’t pretend to know precisely what those should be because we are still figuring out what kinds of different people there are and how they react under pressure.

    One thing is true though, the people who are in someone’s psychological in-group are the ones best positioned to talk with them when they are backed into a corner. That is what is happening. Think about what Ophelia has had to deal with in terms of deception, manipulation, cruelty and other examples of dishonest forms of social conflict (often combined) with no interest in referencing reality at all other than social advantage. What may not look reasonable in terms of textual argument sure as hell looks reasonable in terms of past experience.

    I had no access to the other people being shamed and I hope those people have their own people who can try to talk to them. Because if shaming is to be useful as a tool the people that personally know the person getting shamed have a different role to play than the rest of society. It’s not hypocrisy to act differently with people you personally know in some contexts because ape brains (ethics are all over the place). That seems to be an ethic on multiple levels around here.

    Since I’m a white male who generally identifies as “masculine” and since I’m still I’m working on getting a good grasp of some of this conflict I’ve been taking a different role. I’ve tried to help criticize the more ridiculous, irrational and cruel examples of “criticism” that Ophelia has displayed on her blog posts. I may not know some of this well enough, but I know the forms of awful arguments, irrationality, exaggeration, manipulation, deception, cruelty and substance replaced by shallow emotional impressions. So I’ve tried to take some of the pressure off.

    Trans women are women, and I can see that there is substance to some of the criticism. But someone focused on the abuse they are receiving is not in fact avoiding what you are saying. They are talking about their point, and you are talking about yours. It’s pretty hard for someone to see more than their point when they are receiving a spectrum from reasonable criticism to internet harassment. I suggest a break, and then a social exchange where both parties ritualize being able to explain the other persons points in their own words until the other party says they have the substance right (maybe only a couple). Then talk about disagreement. This is not some childish suggestion either. How may people have you seen on the internet and in real life that could not state what another person actually thought to save their own life? I try to assume I’m little different in outline.

  20. 29

    I think the real problem is that her statements have hit a nerve that needs to be talked about.

    oh, they most certainly have, and we most certainly ARE talking about it. Ophelia on the other hand is doing her utmost to avoid talking about the statements she’s made.

    And for the record, the statements in question were:
    1)On a thread about a pride event making the decision not to book drag acts because drag makes some trans people feel unwelcome: “A friend of mine remarked yesterday that ‘this is like objecting to blackface on the grounds that it makes Rachel Dolezal feel uncomfortable.’ ”

    2)Complaining about the “do you believe trans woman are women, yes or no? “question that was prompted by statement 1) with “But aside from that, how could it be unequivocal or uncontentious or not in need of nuance? Why is the word ‘trans’ there at all if that’s the case?”

    3)Her response to someone asking what the objection is to referring to trans women like the one who chose to keep her beard “as men, abeit men expressing unorthodox gender behaviors?” being “too last week?”

  21. 30

    What is triggering about her statement?</blockquote. yeah, such tricky questions. what could possibly be triggering about comparing women to Dolezal, or joking that transness is a fad.

  22. 31

    She may say or do problematic things at some point, and she should be corrected when/if that happens,

    that’s swell, except when people point problematic things out she goes on the defensive, tells people NOT to point these out, and generally deletes the offending comments.

    1. 31.1

      Yeah, I think that’s basically how this started.
      I know Ophelia doesn’t take well to criticism in general,a nd that she’s been through a lot of shit thanks to slymers and misogynists, but that doesn’t mean that every time somebody criticises her means she’S right and people’s negative reactions just prove how right she is.

    2. xyz
      31.2

      ding ding ding

      She reacted to our uneasiness over the Caitlyn Jenner critique by doubling down over, and over, and over again, using her “guest post” feature to feature comments that agreed with her and spread out the discussion to the point it was impossible to nail down*, and apparently going to that “gender crit” forum for a second opinion rather than taking in what trans people and trans allies were trying to tell her. Plus, as much as she is now complaining about a toxic, cliqueish atmosphere, casually posting at her blog is damn near impossible unless you’re simply saying “Yes, you’re right!” Making mildly critical posts at B&W = full court press of “are you calling us transphobic???” and nitpicking your wording, as you seem a soft target I suppose. Making very critical posts at B&W = people acting like you’re a bully.

      What were people supposed to do? The style of discussion was toxic at its root. If you find a reason to ignore every single critic, guess what? It still doesn’t make you right.

      *for the record, I don’t think she was doing this consciously? But it makes it very difficult to keep track of various posts and statements, many of them made in comments, and it’s now working to her detriment as people are like “but what trans affirming statement?” as they can’t find it and her defenders have to link to it.

  23. 32

    She reacted to our uneasiness over the Caitlyn Jenner critique by doubling down over, and over, and over again

    I asked this elsewhere (can’t remember where – see previous comment re: the hydra of multiple threads) and to my not enormous surprise got no answer:

    Doubling down – when has that EVER worked?

  24. 33

    @John Morales
    It’s not an original idea. But shaming is still a part of what we are. It needs to be understood and used in the least painful and most effective way possible. Shame has always been complicated but thanks to the internet it has new complications. It’s dangerous. But it’s also fast and automatic everywhere I have seen it. It comes naturally to us and I would take a gamble and suggest that it’s innate, but the specifics are mostly culturally determined.

    Figuring out how to use shame properly and spreading that as social custom would be quite compatible with a lot of social justice goals that I have seen, and some other things that I wish the community would pay attention to:

    (I am not pointing at anyone in particular, these are impressions of the last couple of years)
    *Focus on specific definable and describable beliefs and ideas, and actions that are to be shamed. Text and speech are actions. Avoid characterizing the whole person unless you have a confirmed pattern of long term behavior that is personality defining.

    *When using insults and insulting characterizations be prepared to describe the beliefs, ideas and actions that make the insult or insulting characterization appropriate. Practice at this will make people more aware of insulting characterizations that are only being used for emotional effectiveness and strategy and don’t match the person they are being applied to (SJW for example is often used by people who match the supposed definition much better). Asshole, racist, sexist, ablist, transphobe, homophobe, TERF…

    *Pay attention to your de facto allies who are also shaming and shame them when appropriate. It’s hard because one person’s “hive mind” is another persons “strategic social cohesion”. Most people (from my perspective) on the side of the shamee will not even try to remember that there was reasonable criticism among the abuse and dehumanization. This is why the people who go on about “ethics in gaming journalism” are shit out of luck because of the terroristic misogyny.

    *Let the friends of the person being shamed do their work, and try to privately talk to them if it’s appropriate.

    I’m sure there is more, I certainly won’t have all of the solutions or situational modifications of these things. But I seriously doubt that shaming is going anywhere like hate and other things that come naturally but need to be morally and ethically constrained.

    1. 33.1

      It’s not an original idea. But shaming is still a part of what we are. […] It comes naturally to us and I would take a gamble and suggest that it’s innate, but the specifics are mostly culturally determined.

      Social shaming is not the same thing as personal shaming, any more than social norms are same thing as personal norms. You should distinguish between the two.

      I’m more asocial than not, so if and when I shame someone, I employ my personal norms, whereas others may employ social norms.

      And I’m not the only one.

      (We are called freethinkers)

      It needs to be understood and used in the least painful and most effective way possible. Shame has always been complicated but thanks to the internet it has new complications. It’s dangerous. But it’s also fast and automatic everywhere I have seen it.

      There is a conflict between seeking to understand and use whatever shaming one performs in the least painful and most effective way possible and performing that shaming fast and automatically (instinctively? reflexively?).

      How do you resolve that?

      The rest of your comment reads to me as methodology for deliberately and voluntarily engaging in shaming someone.

    2. 33.2

      But I seriously doubt that shaming is going anywhere like hate and other things that come naturally but need to be morally and ethically constrained.

      Shaming is an action, hate is an emotion (as is shame).

      Comparing elements from different categories is not particularly informative, but I think I get what you meant to express.

      Are you confident you haven’t confused the emotion (shame) for the action (to shame)?

      (Arguably, people sometimes can override their instincts)

  25. 34

    @John Morales

    Social shaming is not the same thing as personal shaming, any more than social norms are same thing as personal norms. You should distinguish between the two.

    I do, I referred to it as “public role-modeling of criticism” above.

    As for norms, related to that is what you said looks like a “methodology for deliberately and voluntary engaging in shaming someone”. I can understand that it might look like that. But it’s not a formula or anything so rote. It’s a set of best methods that work for me in the experiences that I have had over the last three or four years. I still always let the individual situation and it’s context tell me what it is. When shaming just had to happen I paid careful attention to the aftermath.

    There is a conflict between seeking to understand and use whatever shaming one performs in the least painful and most effective way possible and performing that shaming fast and automatically (instinctively? reflexively?).
    How do you resolve that?

    That is a very good question. I can tell you some of it, but this is not something I have tried to articulate often. I will say some, but I might have more tomorrow after thinking about it. I have not had very much opportunity to shame in meat space the way I have online because I am also very asocial. I rarely encounter anything as awful in meat space as I see online, and I am very careful about who I consider friends and only have a few close ones, but I have a few anecdotes if you want to hear them. There are some general categories of information I tend to pay close attention to.

    I make sure of my subject. If I see a behavior that I feel is shame-worthy, lets say someone decides that an article online about someone who was raped was instead an example of “regret sex”, and they give one of those awful black-and-white views “what women are like” as a justification. I’ll go a couple of exchanges with them to make sure I have them right and when I know that they do in fact have that awful belief I will consider that a prime candidate for shaming.

    I assess intent, offensiveness, ask honest questions to assess implications. If they were being an aggressive horrifying ass (let’s say if I was there for the subject from the “Deserving” post at B&W) I work in some rhetoric and disgust. I try not to be thoughtless about it, but in some environments escalation is appropriate because of local norms and getting respect (imageboard community). I don’t become hostile without careful thought, which does not mean I don’t make mistakes, I learn from them. For the un-intentionally offensive I try basic criticism and seeing if I can figure out why they think what they think and I’ll show them something else if I can (that can get complicated in different ways as things progress).

    I pay close attention to what the emotions are and what objects they are connected to. Since most of what I spend my time with is text I can stop and take time to consider the exact words of the person to make sure that I am doing the best to see what the situation is to them, even if I disagree. I will often type up a response and let it sit there in a Word document for a couple of hours and then come back and read it again to make sure. Sometimes I will sleep on it. I did this often when I was a moderator on an imageboard. I’ll save lots of the most intense arguments that I get into so that I can go back and make sure I go it right. It’s a “science” in that I apply some serious analysis and thought into the emotion, the reason and the logic, but it’s an art in that experiments are not moral or ethical. You take the situations as they come and work with those.

    There are very very few times that I have ever accidentally or deliberately allowed myself to truly let go in thoughtless rage. To that I will just say people with Tourette’s Syndrome trigger humor in society with bigoted people for a reason, we can be startling with how intensely we can express it.

    1. 34.1

      Um.

      What you’ve written refers to personal shaming, not to social shaming (“If I see a behavior that I feel is shame-worthy …”).

      Social shaming is a group activity based on the breach of social norms.

      It’s a social enforcement mechanism, not a personal expression.

  26. 35

    @John Morales

    …a conditioned reflex is distinct to an innate reflex.

    I realize that. “system one” of dual process theory would be more comparable.

    Shaming is an action, hate is an emotion (as is shame).

    I realize that as well (hate would be an emotional connection that might drive shaming, but a very potent driver to be used with care).

    Are you confident you haven’t confused the emotion (shame) for the action (to shame)?

    Shaming would be the externalized “public role-modeling of criticism”. Feeling shame is akin to “internalized self-hate” for something you perceive as having done wrong.

    (Arguably, people sometimes can override their instincts)

  27. 37

    @John Morales
    I just realized I might have had something you said wrong and not answered it quite the way you wanted. After you let me know if I had you wrong I might have more to say if you want me to expand or something.

    What you’ve written refers to personal shaming, not to social shaming (“If I see a behavior that I feel is shame-worthy …”).

    Social shaming is a group activity based on the breach of social norms.

    It’s a social enforcement mechanism, not a personal expression.

    Shaming (and many other things) are simultaneously individual and social actions. It is a group phenomena, but all group phenomena are composed of individual actors. The person doing the shaming is individually taking an action with simultaneously individual and group functions.

    How much of the content of the action is directed, or should be directed, at the individual or the group is another complicated thing. I try to take the individual into account as much as possible. Among the things you said looked like a methodology are things meant to take the individual into account so that any shaming is treating them like an individual. Focusing on beliefs, ideas and behaviors is part of how I treat them like an individual. I also try to have a standard of evidence for escalation from “what you did/think/believe is bigoted” to “you are a bigot”. That sort of thing requires longer term interaction with someone I do not know.

    Another thing that I do to respect the individual element is that I always have a copy of precisely what they did. An exact quote at the least. I can’t say that I am perfect but I always try to avoid mere emotional impressions when I am doing the actual shaming. I have to be pointing at the real thing and discriminant why it’s a problem in addition to my emotional impressions of it.

    The content directed at society weighs things like the attitude of the person (probably not really a spectrum but something like horrifying consciously acting bigot to well-meaning person who is doing something harmful), how harmful the action/idea/belief is with respect to what I know about how it relates to social problems and how receptive they are to the harmfulness of what I am thinking of shaming.

    Rhetoric is also different in individual versus social elements. I need to think about that one a bit though.

  28. DTO
    39

    So esper is clearly being a troll, but he brings up a point I have been thinking about for awhile. When the Rachel Dolezal thing broke it was incredibly frustrating to see people all over using it as a way to make fun of trans gender people. But it did get me thinking, and after a lot of consideration, I’m not sure I shouldn’t just accept when Rachel says she’s black and that’s part of her identity. Race and gender are both largely socially constructed and exist on a spectrum. Even how we determine who people consider to be black today is different than it use to be.

    I decided to read a few articles from trans women who were critizing people comparing someone who is trans gender to someone who says they are trans racial, like Dolezal. I didn’t find their arguments as compelling as I thought I would, and when they seemed like they might be onto an interesting point, they didn’t elaborate it or explore it enough in order to make a solid point. The one point that they seemed to think was the strongest (and it was quoted by other people) was “I don’t identify as a women, I am a women”. But this just seems to be a semantic point. Rachel Dolezal could just as easily have said “I am black” (and she has in fact phrased it that way) instead of “I identify as black”. Further more I’ve heard many trans women (and men) use phrases like “I identify as a woman (man)”. There’s a reason we refer to it as someone’s gender identity.

    When I was looking for people’s opinions on this, I did find one interesting opinion article on CNN.com that was in support of Rachel Dolezal being trans racial:
    http://www.cnn.com/2015/06/15/opinions/rich-rachel-dolezal/index.html

    Rachel obviously did some things that were wrong, but I don’t think that alone is enough to ignore the issue.

    “somebody posed the question “is a trans woman a woman? Yes or no.” They weren’t asking you what gender is. They didn’t care what you think gender is. What they were asking was: shouldn’t trans people be allowed the same degree of self-determination as cis people?”
    Is someone like Rachel, who says she’s trans racial, actually black? Shouldn’t she have the same right to self-determination as everyone else?

    I’m not sure if this blog post is the right place for this, but I’d be interested to hear others’ thoughts on this. I have more thoughts/questions on this, but I’m open to being swayed in my opinions. Even after everything that’s happened, Rachel still says she considers herself black, and I’m beginning to feel inclined to simply accept that.
    There are a number of other issues on this that can be considered, but the one I find that is currently giving reservation about Rachel Dolezal, is that are anywhere from hundreds of thousands to millions (I had trouble finding good estimates) of trans gender people in the world. They’ve existed in all sorts of different locations and historical time periods. But Rachel Dolezal is the only person I’ve ever heard claiming to be trans racial.

    (I hesitate to post this because I’m thinking I’ll either be seen as a troll, or it will be used as fodder at the slymepit)

    1. 39.1

      Every human baby has the potential to be any sex at birth, even if they had a specific set of sex chromosomes. A different dash of hormones at a different time could have made anyone a different sex. Everyone has that biological information inside them. Given how loose biological development is, it’s entirely unsurprising that some people are born or grow to be trans. It would be more odd if no one ever was trans.

      Every human baby does not have the potential to be any race outside of their ancestry, a different economic class than their parents, or a car, or a cat, or a dragon, or Napoleon, or any of the other hypotheticals people like to compare to transgender people. It does not hold water because gender identity and sex are traits that any human can have, specific races are not.

  29. DTO
    40

    Rereading part of my post, I think pat of it could come as being antagonistic, and that was not what I intended, I apologize. I’m referring to this part:

    “somebody posed the question “is a trans woman a woman? Yes or no.” They weren’t asking you what gender is. They didn’t care what you think gender is. What they were asking was: shouldn’t trans people be allowed the same degree of self-determination as cis people?”
    Is someone like Rachel, who says she’s trans racial, actually black? Shouldn’t she have the same right to self-determination as everyone else?

    I totally agree with the original point. Yes, trans women are women. And yes they should be be given the same degree of self determination as cis people.
    I was just wondering if this would also extend to people in other areas, such as race. If not, what are the significant factors that make the difference? I understand this is often A touchy subject(because it’s so personal to so many people), and I admit to not being as informed on these issues as many others here, so I’m open to being educated.

  30. DTO
    41

    Oh, one more quick clarification. When I was talking about articles I read from some trans woman arguing against Rachel Dolezal’s claim, and making the point “I don’t identify as a women, I am a woman”, they were saying it in the context of making an argument something along the lines of “Rachel Dolezal says she identifies as black, but I don’t identify as a woman, I am a woman, that’s the difference and the reason why Rachel Dolezal’s claims are ridiculous”

    As I said, this seemed to mostly be a semantic argument to me, but maybe someone clarify.

  31. DTO
    42

    Blah, I wish there was an edit feature. I meant to say:

    “When I was talking about articles I read from some trans *women* ”

    My typo made it sound like I was talking about one specific individual and was referring to her as “some trans woman”, which could come off sounding kinda rude. Sorry.

  32. AMM
    43

    I’m having to take another break from reading Butterflies & Wheels.

    It’s frustrating, because sometimes she posts interesting stuff and has worthwhile things to say.

    But then the topic runs into one of her areas of obstinant ignorance and she starts saying stuff that puts dents in my forehead from the head-desk contact. And there’s no sense in arguing with her because she just gets defensive and doubles down and digs herself in deeper. (Cf.: first rule of holes.) It’s not so much that I feel unsafe as that it’s clear to me that neither OB nor her fans are the least bit interested in listening to anything trans people (or their allies) have to say.

    There were some interesting discussions in the comments threads in some of the earlier posts on transgenderism, which is why I started following her posts again. But they didn’t involve OB or OB’s opinions. Once it started getting to be about OB and her opinions and how trans people are out to get her, it jumped the rails again.

    I notice recently she mentioned moving her blog off of FTB. I’m not sure what that would accomplish. The people who are truly nasty to her (IMHO mostly because she’s daring to Have An Opinion While Female) aren’t doing it on FTB. The stuff I’ve seen on FTB, while strongly disagreeing with her, has been IMHO respectful (esp. by comparison with how OB has been expressing herself.) I haven’t kept up, though, so she may have dropped the idea.

    1. 44.1

      Sorry to see that Abbey, I thought it was all me, the ubiquitous toad! I wonder if at some point she’ll realise it wasn’t the refusal to answer the question that was the key problem, it was…
      -> The transphobic “joke” her “friend” told her about Rachel Dolezal that she thought was fine to recount. No apology or acknowledgement it was awful, which caused you to ask the Q.
      -> Asking TERFs how to argue back on the Q – “trans women are women” on their FB group, where most of those she asks make it clear they think trans women are not women “ontologically” “politically” or any other way she can philosophise up to still not answer the question.

      Not to mention her weeks on that group joining in with naked transphobic bigotry and not saying a word. Still promoting Hungerford to this day who is actively campaigning against life saving healthcare for trans people. All this is fine as long as you “don’t agree with them 100%”… Weird how her, PZ, Chris Clark and the other defenders wouldn’t take that as an argument for a misogynist hate group who target cis women. Make it trans specific and it’s A-OK!

  33. 45

    Abby I am so sorry. I saw that post and I thought to myself, “Does Abby even get a chance to respond? Probably not.” OB is so concerned about no-platforming trans antagonistic authors, but finds no inconsistencies in denying you the chance to be part of a conversation about you.

    That’s the very definition of exclusionary. That’s doing the precise thing she’s claimed time and again she doesn’t do. I’m sorry that you are getting dragged through the mud of someone else’s ego meltdown. I’m really glad you asked the question. It needed to be asked. I actually saw her Dolezhal comment and I thought the same thing you did, only you had the courage to actually ask. Good on you.

    As things are, I have been a long time follower FtB, but bloggers like Zinnia, Jason, and Hemi not withstanding, I am beginning to feel as if I can no longer be part of the FtB community. This makes me sad. I know they won’t loose anything by me not reading or commenting. OB can continue posting as many abusive things as she likes and not be called out for it. She can obfuscate and pontificate till her fingers go numb.

    And it’s her blog. Whatever.

    I just thought FtB stood for more than ego boosts. I was wrong. That’s really disappointing. Heck, I even wrote a poem for her once during one of many Dawkins meltdowns. That the words of that poem could apply to her now in the inverse are not striking her irony meter at all. Unfortunately I cannot find the poem now, since we’re not friends anymore, since I can’t be friends with someone who is that unwilling to employ even an ounce of self reflection.

    She said she was going to leave. Loudly. There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth. PZ begged her to stay. Apparently her right to yell at trans gender folk is more important than their right to feel safe. I thought FtB was intersectional, but it seems some members of the network have many caveats attached to when, what, and how they ally.

    I hope that changes, but that hope becomes smaller with every passing day.

  34. 47

    This whole situation is really depressing. I don’t know why I expected FtB to be better than other communities at calling out transphobia. I really didn’t expect PZ to go along with it, but even as people very cogently listed their concerns and what they want to do to resolve the situation, he still jumped right to hyperbole and compared trans people who are upset at this stuff to the Slymepit’s harrassment. When people wonder why trans people are so paranoid and sensitive, just point them at this clusterfuck. Even in liberal circles we’re still expected to let cis people shit all over us as long as they’re good on other social justice issues.

    To those cis people who didn’t toss us under the bus, like Heina, Alex, Jason, Dana, oolon, M.A, and others, you have my thanks for doing the right thing, and you’ll have my readership for what it’s worth.

    1. 47.2

      To those cis people who didn’t toss us under the bus, like Heina, Alex, Jason, Dana, oolon, M.A, and others, you have my thanks for doing the right thing, and you’ll have my readership for what it’s worth.

      Cosigned. I’m glad people have been continuing to pushback and point out the problematic nature of OB’s posts. They have taught me alot. It’s been sad to see her continue digging/doubling down. PZ’s response to the critics and people hurt by OB’s words has been equally disappointing. It feels like a frustrated parent who’s tired of all the bickering going on in the back seat who wants it all to stop but doesn’t want to acknowledge that one child keeps poking the other who gets upset by being poked. So he tells them both to knock it off. Sending the message that they are both misbehaving equally and that it’s not ok to voice an objection to being poked.

      Now Ed Brayton is leaving, which is a bummer as well. FtB was ahead of the curve, imo, in making it a priority to bring in more trans voices to let them be heard in a society where they are so often silenced. Hell, it led me to start reading and listening and pay attention to and thinking about gender in a way that I never had before. But now many on FtB apparently can’t deal with what those voices are saying or how they are saying it. Which is just sad. But I’m glad the critics are standing up for themselves and their allies and not backing down for the sake of Cis Fragility. It’s inspiring and I can only applaud it.

  35. 48

    PZ’s post closing that thread was a perfect example of the worn-out trope of equating calling someone X (where X can be racism, transphobia, sexism, etc) is just as bad as someone being X. PZ started from the assumption that Benson had made a mistake and any evidence to the contrary was proof of trans maliciousness. I’m also very disappointed in how this has gone down.

  36. 49

    PZ started from the assumption that Benson had made a mistake and any evidence to the contrary was proof of trans maliciousness.

    Or cis would-be allies disingenuously trying to earn points by getting a blogger excommunicated from the network.

    Who’s handing out these points, and how critical posts are supposed to get someone removed from the network are unclear.

  37. 50

    What Sassafrass said at 46.

    And I am deeply, deeply disappointed with PZ. I am done with Pharyngula. His treatment of many, many reasonable critics in that thread was completely disrespectful, disingenuous, and it continued the pattern of gaslighting and dismissal. That and Ophelia’s perpetual doubling down, and fucking EVERYONE comparing everyone not defending Ophelia to the slymepit (and McCarthy, and the Inquisition….)…..I don’t know. FTB may have finally, truly, jumped the shark.

          1. No shit. That’s why pulling this “no heroes” line while placing Ophelia’s behavior as above reproach and employing the same tactics as Dawkins-apologists is hypocritical.

    1. 50.2

      She is his friend. It’s messed up by this whole framing of criticism of bigotry as meaning the person being criticised is “evil”. Someone linked me the fixed state vs process model of allyship post from Shakesville, rather relevant.

      It’s also a shame PZ didn’t listen to trans people trying to give him a clue.
      https://twitter.com/infurioustoo/status/625087503184338944

      Imperiously announcing there was no transphobia in the Drum was bad, at least his kitten post acknowledged that was a mistake to a degree. But then he calls everyone pointing out the evidence he announced didn’t exist to be like Nugent and the pitters! I guess it’s his own internal conflict between liking OB and being a close friend and the idea that she has to be evil to be cluelessly spreading transphobia. Whereas we all do that to a greater or lesser extent. As @infurioustoo also said, “Being transphobic doesn’t make you evil, it makes you like everyone else. How you deal with it is what matters.”

      Interestingly talking to some of the OB “allies” I’ve noticed a distinct reluctance to even look at the evidence. They’ve decided it is all “misunderstanding” and a few people acting in bad faith so they just won’t look. So as each piece showing blatant transphobia is displayed and the “allies” dismiss it, people get angry. Which will fuel the victim and harassment narrative …
      https://twitter.com/MAMelby/status/629004873481195520

  38. 51

    It basically means we all have feet of clay.

    I know, I know, we’re all just well-intentioned humans who occasionally fuck up.
    Apart from the people who criticise Ophelia Benson.
    They are vile liars who just want to hound her off the network.
    +++

    fucking EVERYONE comparing everyone not defending Ophelia to the slymepit (and McCarthy, and the Inquisition….)…..I don’t know.

    Don’t forget scalping. The genocide on Native Americans is just such a totally appropriate image to use. Much more charming than “lynching”. but it’s probably very mean of me and evidence that I’m some malicious slymepitter to point that out.

  39. AMM
    52

    While I’m disappointed in PZ’s judgement on the OB clusterfuck (shouldn’t we have names for clusterfucks, just like we do for hurricanes?), I can’t say that closing down the thread was a bad idea. As far as I can see, the thread includes pretty much everything anyone has had to say on the subject, and I did not have the impression that anyone was changing their mind as a result. Further commentary was likely to be a waste of server storage and eyeball time.
    .
    I can’t even say that I’m particularly “disappointed” in OB, because, as someone once wrote, to be dis-appointed you have to first be appointed. She’s always had certain groups that she likes to take swipes at, Muslims being the one I’ve seen most often recently. (I recall her dumping on the Skepchick crew when they first started up.) The difference is that, in contrast to when she’s picked on Muslims, picking on trans women has gotten her substantial push-back from the FtB commentariat.
    .
    However, I think there’s a larger lesson here. There’s a lot of dumping on, putting down, and despising other folks in atheist circles. The FtB ethos, to the extent there is one, is a response to misogyny (and racism?) in the larger population (I won’t say community) of “confessing” 🙂 atheists. But even on FtB, there are still groups who it seems it’s considered okay to treat as less than human.
    .
    I came up with a saying w.r.t. bigotry and bigoted actions: “if they’ll do it to anyone, they’ll do it to anyone.” That is, if people tolerate a bigot (or group of bigots) bullying any particular group, then in the long run, no one is safe from their bullying. It doesn’t matter how justified you consider their bullying of some group to be.

  40. 53

    #44, #45:

    Thank you, I appreciate it. And now we know that she’d rather throw a huge fit and take her ball and leave than ever admit fault.

    Good old social skepticism, amirite?

  41. 55

    I knew nothing about all this and I caught up on this through this thread.

    I’m really surprised after seeing the screencast of all the shitty Transphobia linked above anyone at Ftb, particularly PZ who has made big statements about being a trans ally in the past could defend her.

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