Okay. This can’t affect the outcome for the individual in question vis a vis the network anymore. Time for some answers. What do you do, as a network-entrenched blogger:
When you see a colleague react to being told they’ve retweeted people who advocate for the exclusion of trans women from radical feminist spaces and women-oriented services (also known as TERFs) with blocking, hostility to being given this information publicly, and discussions on their Facebook page about how “TERF” is a term used by younger feminists to invalidate older feminists?
When you see them tell someone that some people would look at his gender nonconformity and tell him he is trans, however he identifies?
When you see them repeatedly deride feminine-identified clothing, grooming, and verbal expressions?
When you see them publish a post that ambiguously blames either a trans woman or the magazine telling her story for putting pressure on women to perform femininity, then have them argue to you specifically that trans women bear a responsibility not to do this?
When you see them link and quote from a post that says trans women aren’t women because they don’t have a common girlhood with cis women?
When you see them link to a trans person and say, “See? This is what I was saying. Why would you be upset with me”, when it wasn’t what they were saying at all?
When you see them flat-out deny that the people who call them trans-antagonistic or even a TERF in response to posts like those have any history to base this judgment on (despite having seen some of it yourself)?
When you see them continually paint these people as terrible, dishonest people trying to take your colleague down for referring to that history, then have them tell you to “get the fuck off my wall” when you attempt to explain what that history consists of?
When you see them buy into the myth of the trans cabal shutting down the free speech of feminists in that same discussion?
When you see them say, “These allies need to shut up”?
When you post this note on Facebook in support of principles your colleague has been arguing for as feminist principles for years, only to see it recast as an attack on your colleague?
Ever wonder whether the slime pit has managed to get something right, albeit entirely by accident?
Here I was thinking all this anxiety was over finding a new job at short notice. Nope. I’ve gotten all the things I can reasonably do out of the way and already have a first interview tomorrow for a position that is significantly better than the one I just left. I’ll be fine on the job front.
Still deeply anxious. The medication I’m on for migraines means I can’t have a panic attack, but it doesn’t stop this feeling of dread in the guts. And with job stuff out of the way, it’s become more clear what is causing the anxiety. It’s also become clear that the feeling won’t go away until I deal with the problem.
Over the last week or so, I’ve seen people in my friends list and my broader community say appalling things in defense of a colleague who was criticized. When I say “appalling”, I mean these people would feel a vicarious sense of embarrassment for anyone they saw using these arguments to defend Richard Dawkins from people who point out that things he’s said were sexist.
I’ve seen the equivalent of “‘Misogyny’ means hating women, and Dawkins doesn’t hate women”, “It’s okay to dismiss criticism as coming from a woman because they really are just worse at logic”, “My female friend whom I’ll go ahead and speak for is a fan of Dawkins, so he isn’t sexist”, “You have to understand (and tell the world) that his heart is in the right place, (and ignore the effect of his actions)”, “those people need to keep a civil tongue in their heads”, “By calling Dawkins sexist, you’re dismissing/ignoring all the good work he’s done”, “You’re dividing the community”, “‘Cunt’ isn’t a slur in Britain”, “Those people are just complaining to grab power”, “Calling someone ‘sexist’ is a defamatory slur”, “Maybe you should talk to someone who holds some power over this person”, and I’ll stop there because this is just getting more depressing by the second.
Worst of all, I’ve seen outrage that anyone would DARE categorize the behavior of my colleague as problematic by putting a label on it. Not attempts to understand where the criticism they find inexplicable is coming from or to figure out whether there’s a way to better serve and care for a marginalized population in our midst. Just mortification and anger that anyone would *say* this person had screwed up.
So much for “no heroes”. So much for making safer spaces for marginalized populations to be heard.
I’m making this a friends-only post because I don’t feel like letting the pit make hay of this. I still want to believe that the last few years haven’t been about “just tribalism”. There is tribalism in this community, of course, because it’s another one of those biases that’s incredibly hard to shake. But I want to believe that people will wake up shortly with the equivalent of a bad hangover and ask themselves what the hell happened.
Right now, though, I’m finding that very hard.
When your lines of private communication with your colleague are cut off or go without response?
When you see every attempt to defend the people your colleague is claiming are attacking them by giving voice to that history recast as an attempt to smear your colleague?
When you see your colleague spend weeks saying that speculating on her beliefs is an attack without ever clarifying those beliefs, then dismiss a request for clear communication as a trap and another attack?
When you see this?
CAM: Yes. Thank you for acknowledging that. These men [trans women] need to be told over and over again that their femininity is NOT womanhood. They are feminized males. Go forth and be such. Do not claim to be a woman. AND DO NOT CLAIM THAT WE HAVE TO PRETEND THAT YOU ARE A WOMAN.
CAM: What exactly is the objection to these males referring to themselves as men, albeit men expressing unorthodox gender behaviors?
Ophelia Benson: Too last week?
When you see people refuse to look at that because they say they already know who your colleague is?
When you see your colleague claim that their “attackers” would have screen shots if they’d really behaved objectionably, then claim they’re being harassed when people seek out and share what they did say?
When you see your trans friends retreat from the discussion because their disappointment is too gutting, because living with being trans is more than enough to deal with, or because the situation has deteriorated to the point where they very rationally fear being outed as trans in dangerous situations?When the retreat of the trans people in the group is used by white cis men to say that objections to how those people have been berated is just white men doing “anything for ally cookies”?
When you see attempts to show trans friends that they’re not alone derided as merely “performative”?
When you see your trans friends and people with trans family members or close friends derided on a blog for saying privately that they find your colleague’s behavior distressing and unsafe?
When you see your colleague claim that another colleague’s statement of trans solidarity is a personal attack against them?
When you see your colleague and their supporters impugn the honesty of another blogger because of course any blog post containing “trans women are women” is a personal attack, just like these from Bitch Magazine, Everyday Feminism, and Shakesville?
When trying to be strategic in where and how you speak so as to keep from making matters worse does nothing to prevent your colleague from making matters worse?
When you see your colleague
retweet agree with support from this person against “SJWs”? [Edited, as Ophelia says she did not retweet this. My apologies for the error.]
When you see your colleague say that someone has told them privately that the people they’re retweeting have histories of persecuting trans people and ask the general public, instead of the person who respected their wishes by contacting them privately, what that history could be?
When you see your colleague’s talk of leaving the network because it’s so terrible to have other colleagues say your colleague has done something wrong get turned into spaces to talk about how those other colleagues did something wrong?
When the 800-pound gorilla on your network stands up to give voice to the voiced, because staying out of the argument is only for the lesser lights on the network?
When your own relative silence on the matter is used to paint the people giving voice to trans concerns as just men attacking women instead of as a measure of the risk taken in speaking up at all?
When your own relative silence on the matter means someone sends you a fan letter talking about how another blogger who is giving voice to trans concerns is just going too far?
Seriously, what do you do in that situation? Because the answers I’m hearing are that you just shut up for the sake of harmony at your blog network and watch as trans people are once again erroneously painted as bullies targeting heroic feminists who just have questions about gender, a trope used against them any time they advocate for themselves. And that is not an acceptable answer. That isn’t going to happen.
So, people who want this all to just go away, what else do you propose if you think we shouldn’t argue this out? And what form is it acceptable for these arguments to take, if presenting facts to counter damaging assertions isn’t it? Seriously. What?
Note: Of course I’m talking about Ophelia, but a big part of this problem is that people seem to be reacting to their ideas of who Ophelia is lieu of looking at what she’s done. Thus the general case.