Speak Your Mind–Even If Your Voice Shakes

I find myself not knowing quite where to begin, as I don’t imagine everything here will be taken super well. But that’s kind of the problem and the point of the post.

We’ll start with some backstory: Some five years ago, my dad turned me on to the existence of Skepchick, and Teen Skepchick in particular since TS was looking for new bloggers and he figured that might be my jam. I wrote my first ever semi-professional piece, it was published on Teen Skepchick as a guest post, and a couple weeks later I was on the writing team. So began my involvement in the atheist community.

Being a writer on a sister site to something as major as Skepchick was a fantastic opportunity, and it set me on a course to developing an incredibly supportive network of friends and acquaintances made up of my peers. I’m still friends with a handful of my fellow TS bloggers today–actually I do a podcast with one of them.

I met more people at conventions, started writing for Queereka and then FTB (Freethought Blogs), sat on panels and even gave a talk, accruing new friends all the while. Until I found myself in the middle of an amazing, interconnected group of skeptics, atheists, feminists, and progressive thinkers. I’ve known many of these people for years, and have always appreciated how fortunate I am to be among people who accept me (including many of my fellow bloggers here at The Orbit).

As it happens, I also joined the Skepchick network riiiiight around the time Rebecca Watson uttered the phrase, “Guys, don’t do that,” and what had initially appeared to be a unified movement started to thoroughly implode.

It started with online harassment, then people were ripping off Surly Amy’s style and wearing shirts about how they weren’t “skepchicks,” or that they felt safe at TAM (The Amazing Meeting)–an event which was reportedly unsafe for women who didn’t want to be sexually harassed. I didn’t understand the hate and stood fully by the women who were being hurt in our community.

Not a skepchick t-shirt
Front of shirt: I feel safe and welcome at TAM (smiley face) Back of shirt: I’m a skeptic; Not a “skepchick;” Not a “woman skeptic;” Just a skeptic

The splinters kept happening and the rifts deepened. They keep happening still, if there’s even much to be said about a cohesive “atheist movement” at this point. Granted, due to this splintering and the fact that much of the toxicity was coming from within the skeptic community, I moved my focus away from that and onto things that seemed more important in the light of intersectionality. Greta’s words about the impossibility of being inclusive to everyone rang true for me.

I followed where the majority of my friends had gone, because it was the right place to be. I listened to the voices of people oppressed differently than me, and spoke out against injustices to my people. Sociology [and linguistics] fascinates me, so I’m more often interested than annoyed when some seemingly benign aspect of language is revealed to be a piece of the oppressive puzzle. I was properly ashamed of that time I had dreadlocks and that time I had a mohawk, or at least embarrassed in acknowledging what others called cultural appropriation.

And now.. the splinters keep happening. Except it’s not just splintering any more. It seems as though I lucked into this particular social group that, as new things are revealed to be toxic or new allegations pop up, is continuously and meticulously clipping any discoloration in the leaves of our tree. Not to mention the everyday interpersonal conflicts that sometimes force people to choose between friends.

I’m not going to fault people for curating their own social media to their preferences or keeping themselves safe by not affiliating with certain people. Absolutely, protect yourself and your space and your friends. And I also get that there’s burnout, especially for women who dealt with harassment throughout this years-long implosion and even before. This isn’t really about that; I mean, I guess unless the overwhelming majority of people I affiliate with are regularly in burnout or high-privacy-fence mode? Maybe?

There’s a part of me that’s grateful for my tendency to observe before I speak, and speak softly at that. Because lately I’m finding myself increasingly at odds with what the majority of my friends think, and I’m only just realizing what the possible consequences of that are if I’m vocal. Depending on the issue, of course.

Take, for example, election night, when DJT won the race for the office of the Presidency. It was the middle of the night, I was drunk and blubbering along with a friend of mine who is still very much at risk of being deported. In such a state, I posted on Facebook something about wondering what the statistical difference will be in the likelihood that I will be targeted for being an F-slur or a T-slur. I used the words (with a proper CN) because I wanted the raw fear to show through, and because I know those words don’t necessarily apply to me, but they will be the ones shouted at me if the worst should happen.

The next day, two people I don’t know (presumably trans women) informed me that it was improper for me to use the T-slur, seemingly regardless of the context. And they also disregarded that it’s something I actually have been called before, and that it is the slur people would default to if they were inflicting violence on me for being trans. Fun fact: their response to that last bit was that it was unlikely to happen to me, at which point I abandoned the conversation because invectives were flying off my tongue and it seemed like a bad idea to stay involved.

Granted, that was two people I don’t know, who were called in like a cavalry by someone on my friends list who Liked every one of their comments and later unfriended me. If I only lost one acquaintance there, not a huge deal, and several friends backed up my position. But the glaring refusal to acknowledge context and the silencing I’ve experienced as a transmasculine person was a sharp reminder of how the people I’ve surrounded myself with behave on the internet.

Fast forward a few months to February. The internet is exploding over the YouTuber PewDiePie (Felix Kjellberg), whose existence I have always been more or less indifferent to. (It’s relevant, stay with me.) I was following the news mostly because it was everywhere and I want to keep updated on what’s happening in the broader YouTube community, especially if there’s overlap with the other issues I take seriously as an amateur sociologist. In this case, white supremacy and anti-Semitism.

To be clear before we go any further: I don’t stand by Felix; I’m pretty much the same degree of indifferent as I was before. My opinion regarding the videos that came into question is that some of it is blatantly bad, some of it is clearly just poor comedy skills, and some of it kinda does make sense in context. That’s basically all I have to say about it, because I don’t feel qualified and I don’t care about Felix or whether my friends think he’s a garbage person. I do, however, care about his friends.

During this media firestorm, something flitted across my news feed. It was a screencap of fellow YouTuber Markiplier (Mark Fischbach) tweeting a generic form of support to Felix, with a caption about how [half-Korean] Mark is a Nazi sympathizer or an enabler of white supremacy. Shared by someone outside my main network.

Markplier Tweeting PewDiePie

So, here’s where I lost my shit a little bit, and I do own up to that.

For a number of reasons, I object very strongly to putting Mark (and others who affiliate with Felix, namely Jacksepticeye [Seán McLoughlin]) in that pile of garbage people. At the time, I didn’t really have the language capacity to communicate effectively what I wanted to say, and yet I was having an emotional event and Facebook has always been a place where I can vent. Thus, I made a public Facebook post about what I’d just seen.

Like I said, it wasn’t well-worded. The beginning and the end addressed the thing I was concerned about: dragging Felix’s friends through the dirt. In the middle I made a remark to the effect of “I’m pretty sure 80% of people freaking out over this don’t even know the full story.” I’m really not sure how I thought that tied in, but again, mentally ill and not thinking straight. And again, this was a Public post, so it wasn’t directed at anyone specifically.

The reception was not what I expected. Not that I have expectations for responses to what I say, but I did not expect to be so thoroughly misunderstood or to have people fixate on the part in the middle rather than the main point I was trying to make, or side against me about Felix’s friends continuing to be his friends. It’s one thing to see callout culture from the outside and watch people getting blocked and quite another to realize you might end up that person who isn’t progressive enough to warrant keeping in the pack.

This was the first time it struck me that saying the wrong thing could literally sabotage not only individual friendships, but my whole support system and professional networking relationships.

It’s kind of poetical how this all ties together.

I feel strongly about not putting Felix’s friends in the way of crossfire. (And so does Felix, as he has withdrawn from any collaborative works.) To start, both Mark and Seán spoke to Felix privately before publicly showing their support, and they know him more personally than anyone speculating. They are both in a position in which they kind of have to respond publicly because of their fanbase. The three of them share a unique experience of being gaming YouTubers with incredibly large audiences. They are (more “were” now, I suppose) also in a position where sabotaging their friendship with Felix could have colossal professional fallout, as they were all under the same MCN (Multi-Channel Network) until Disney dropped the PewDiePie channel.

In addition, Seán had already recorded all his parts for season 2 of the now-cancelled YouTube Red show Scare PewDiePie. That’s missing time and money for all involved parties.

Here we come to the crux issue, what I feel is the most simple logical thought-train to explain why putting Mark or Seán on blast for continuing to be Felix’s friend is a horrible thing to do.

Mark and Seán are running a model in their heads of what a good person does–what a good friend does. Whether or not they agree with his actions (and Seán was actually rather scathing in a video explicitly saying he doesn’t condone Felix’s actions), they’re doing what a good friend does: stay by their friend when the whole internet AND mainstream media are attacking him personally. They may think his attempts at comedy are misguided–harmful even–but they display understanding, loyalty, and recognition that people can change their behavior when confronted with their shortcomings. Note that neither of the tweets included in this article are messages of support of Felix’s actions, but rather his character.

Jacksepticeye Tweeting PewDiePie

Given all that, it seems to follow pretty simply that if criticism and ire is going to be directed at Mark and Seán for remaining friends with Felix, and particularly for publicly supporting him as a friend, we are advocating for Felix’s good friends and business partners to dump him when he most needs support and people who will tell him he did wrong in a way he can be receptive to. (Which is exactly what happened in private, before public statements were made.) Human psychology dictates that he’s more likely to double-down under the media criticism, but having a friend explain things without vilifying him might actually reach him.

Let me repeat: If we criticize people for standing by their friends, we are advocating that they dump them. And maybe a lot of people I know do think Felix is an irredeemable fuckwad, and that it is appropriate action to cut off ties of years of friendship and professional ventures and collaborative charity work.

I’m not making excuses for unapologetic bigotry or saying it shouldn’t be called out, but merely pointing out that we have all been raised in systems that enforce all kinds of prejudices, and a certain amount of understanding ought to be given to people making honest mistakes, rather than assuming they intended harm. (Just as intent doesn’t erase damage done, neither does damage done imply intent.) Maybe his mistakes are too many and too severe for anyone in my circles to think anything less than punishment by isolation (on top of media-fueled harassment) is appropriate.

Are you seeing how this is coming together?

I wrote a post about not shitting on Mark or Seán for doing what they think is right as Felix’s friends. I worded it poorly and my true message was lost. And then I realized that if Mark is supposedly a white-supremacy-enabler by association, then my continued support of his work could be perceived as tacit approval of Nazi sympathizers.

Which is when it hit me that my place in my social network is extremely tenuous. If I keep talking about Markiplier, will my friends slowly resent my willingness to affiliate myself with him? Will they see me as deviating too far from our social conventions and thus name me unsafe? I wonder how many people have noticed that I’ve withdrawn the majority of my public (including to a friends-only audience) discussions of my personal issues since then.

And think not that this is just a problem I’m having. I can think of at least two people who are well-liked and well-respected in my community (and are big fucking SJWs like me) who have publicly expressed concern over having to be extremely careful with what they say for fear of the consequences from fellow feminists. One of them has, like me, the very real possibility of losing valuable professional relationships as well as friends. For the record, neither of them are men.

Which, while we’re on the topic, none of this has addressed the increased level of hostility I’ve received from fellow feminists since changing my name and having a relatively obscure, difficult to gender profile picture. Meaning, the more often people perceive me as male, the shittier they are to me even though my positions have stayed roughly the same and I’m talking to essentially the same people. I’ve never been so preemptively apologetic every time I participate in a comment thread or post on my own page; I’m walking on eggshells carefully scattered over shards of broken glass.

Ultimately, my point is that we’ve defaulted to a culture of zero-tolerance of dissent, which is counterintuitive for a group of people that purports to be doing activism to change the world we live in. Even in our own community, some issues get a pass when others don’t (such as ableist remarks, which we are doubling-down on but only quite recently). People must be allowed to make mistakes, given time to learn and grow once they’ve been told they’re behaving improperly. Remember that it took months of strife between the community and Ophelia Benson, with her obstinate and continued refusal to acknowledge the potential harm she was doing, before people who were closest friends with her were forced to burn that bridge. Some people still have her on their friends list to keep tabs on her despite her behavior, while others blocked her for their safety or the safety of their loved ones. No one seems to be demonizing those who remain friends with her [or other alleged douchebags] to keep track of her movements, just as I refuse to demonize people who block her for their safety.

It simply isn’t feasible to cut people off for infractions they might not even be aware they committed, and we should well know that as a community where burning bridges can result in loss of professional contacts and the support network that keeps people fed, their medications paid for, and protects them from homelessness.

I’ve been carried by the tide of good fortune from Teen Skepchick all the way to The Orbit, with good friends all around. And I’ve had to watch as we slowly become exactly what people deride us for: Radical leftists who are hostile to people with differing opinions (even if nuanced; I’m not talking about actual bigotry here), who have created an echo chamber by being click-happy about blocking people for slight deviations, and who are hostile and dismissive toward people perceived as male.

We have created an environment where even those of us who are respected and reputable fear losing, quite literally in my case, the entire support network, give or take a handful of people. I’m putting my reputation and many of my friendships on the line by writing this. Which is why I’ve almost entirely withdrawn. I’ve been jarred hard enough to see what I couldn’t see before, and I no longer trust the majority of those who would name themselves “friend.”

“Leave safety behind. Put your body on the line. Stand before the people you fear and speak your mind–even if your voice shakes. When you least expect it, someone may actually listen to what you have to say. Well-aimed slingshots can topple giants.” Maggie Kuhn

Speak Your Mind–Even If Your Voice Shakes

16 thoughts on “Speak Your Mind–Even If Your Voice Shakes

  1. 1

    These are all trends I’ve noticed too.

    I don’t begrudge people the right to set their personal limits wherever they see fit. But people seem too quick to put those limits on others. Not so much “I’m sorry, but I can’t be around you if you are friends with X”. That’s fine. Take care of yourself however you need to. But “You are friends with X, you are therefore total trash”… That’s a problem. It doesn’t happen as often as, say, the alt right thinks it does(and some apparent cases are clumsy wording of the first case), but it certainly happens more than it should.

  2. 2

    Maybe I’d feel different if I had even a billionth of a feeling of obligation or affinity for a community in gaming or some place like reddit, but I’m strongly in favor of nuking friends who cross sufficiently shitty lines. Pew’s line crossings were pretty extreme, I’d definitely lose respect for anyone who stayed in his corner. That depends on how they did it. If they stayed IRL friends, didn’t speak for or against them in particular, yadda yadda, I’d tolerate it. Defending him publicly? Nope.

    You’ve definitely had a long and for rill history with these public communities and different flavors of strife. I don’t have anything comparable to your perspective, don’t have any history of regretting a lost association or friendship. It’s definitely a personal matter deciding where you draw lines and how you treat transgression against those.

    Everything you say, I’m sure it’s valid for you. I just personally wouldn’t advocate making the communities I move in more tolerant. I’ve seen too many cases of tolerance letting in bad shit, or hurting and alienating people I’d rather protect. On my balance, moreso than I’ve seen valuable connections lost over moral schisms.

  3. 3

    Scales falling from your eyes? 😉

    But quite a good post if rather longwinded, and you’re to be commended for your increasing awareness of the problematic aspects of “call-out” “culture” – even if it looks less like a culture than a pitchfork-and-torch mob. But think you hit the nail on the here:

    Ultimately, my point is that we’ve defaulted to a culture of zero-tolerance of dissent, which is counterintuitive for a group of people that purports to be doing activism to change the world we live in. …. And I’ve had to watch as we slowly become exactly what people deride us for: Radical leftists who are hostile to people with differing opinions …, who have created an echo chamber by being click-happy about blocking people for slight deviations, and who are hostile and dismissive toward people perceived as male.

    Indeed – well said. However, one might suggest that, for example, your views on Ophelia Benson – i.e., “with her obstinate and continued refusal to acknowledge the potential harm she was doing” – is predicated on a rather dogmatic refusal to consider that she might well be right, and that you might well be wrong on a number of points, particularly on the “purity test” of “do you believe trans women are women, yes or no?” You might consider that blocking Benson is rather mental (“ableist! ableist!”), even if she’s equally guilty of the same crime; for one thing, she has to make actual eye contact to steal your soul, to coin a phrase. But one might also suggest, or emphasize as your post more or less argues the same point, that that tendency to “echo chambers”, and being “hostile & dismissive” is precisely why you and your “tribe” have been more or less stuck in a rather toxic and debilitating dead end.

    1. 3.1

      I’m actually quite comfortable standing by that “purity test” as you call it. As an honest skeptic, I have to accept the currently available scientific information, and that pool of information includes the fields of psychology and sociology. Those fields, along with anthropology and biology, support the view that gender and sex are distinct concepts and have unique expressions and intersections in various cultures throughout time and space. The only reasonable response to the existence of trans women is to acknowledge their existence as trans women. It’s pretty straightforward. Moreover, Ophelia wasn’t just asking the question of whether trans women were women, she shared private information of a very close friend of mine who was and is particularly vulnerable to the threat of doxxing. She put people directly at risk, whether you agree with the premise or not.

      1. I’m actually willing to concede that, as you say, “gender and sex are distinct concepts”, and that the former might reasonably be construed to exist on a more or less continuous spectrum even if the latter is essentially binary. Although I’m still not sure how much utility the former has, apart from causing unnecessary animosity.

        But as I’ve argued elsewhere, it seems that sex is only one factor among a very large group of other factors that comprise the somewhat intractable complex known as “gender”. And as in the somewhat analogous case of gunpowder (composed as it is of the “factors” of carbon, sulphur, and potassium nitrate), a factor in gender can be binary without that necessitating that the composition itself with many other factors is also binary; entirely possible – quite likely, even – that the composition itself can manifest a range of characteristics that might reasonably be described as a spectrum. But it doesn’t help matters in the slightest – kind of anti-scientific, as a matter of fact – that so many people insist on conflating the factors composing a “compound” (gender) with any particular one (sex) that is part of it, that they insist that transwomen are female.

        And while you might think that “it’s pretty straightforward”, I kind of get the impression that your position is predicated on a studious, if not dogmatic, avoidance of actually defining the term “woman”. Seems the only reasonable starting point is the dictionary definition, i.e., “human female (produces ova)”; you really think that Jenner is capable of that?

        In any case, you might well be right about Ophelia as she does seem to have a tendency to be somewhat careless, at best, about passing on information that could possibly be used to dox someone.

        And, finally, somewhat relative to your later “fears their peers”, while you might now know that Laci Green – SJWist/feminist extraordinaire – is having similar doubts about feminism & gender; quite a good post over at Quillette – Laci Green, The Matrix, and the Future of Free Speech – summarizing the issues, and that you might be interested in.

        1. I’m getting the feeling like we might have had this conversation before. Or you’re just regurgitating the same stuff I’ve heard time and time again. No one owns womanhood and it doesn’t have a specific definition aside from one’s own personal experience in the world. And operating on the definition of female to inform one’s definition of woman is just senseless and is actually where the problem occurs. For example, I have (as far as I know) ovaries, which could theoretically produce eggs (they do not produce eggs because of the testosterone in my body). But I’m not a woman just because I have those organs (as far as I know).

          The dictionary definitions of words change as their usage changes, and it takes a while for the dictionary to catch up in some cases, as with the “official” definition of Marriage a la Merriam-Webster. Sex is predicated on a number of factors, and considering that my ovaries are not producing ova and may very well atrophy and cease to function entirely, along with all of the irreversible changes I’ve had on testosterone, I don’t feel as though any definition of female is applicable to me.

          I have no comment on the “trans women are female” thing because, while I wouldn’t describe my own experience that way if I identified as a man, it’s not my place to tell people what they do or don’t identify with.

          And yeah, I watched Laci’s video a couple hours after it was uploaded. She seems to have been struggling with the same issues I brought up here and I’m fascinated to see if she has an influence on her audience or if it’ll just cause people to show their colors by doubling-down.

  4. 4

    Thanks so much for writing this.

    It speaks to my heart right now, because I’ve been on the receiving end of an overly sensitive call-out-culture just this past weekend for the first time in my life. I completely underestimated the emotional toll it takes – constantly worrying “what if they are right?” “am I turning into an asshole without noticing?” “if I say this, will I get applauded by all the wrong kinds of people?”. It messed me up pretty badly. And that’s even without the additional pressure of potentially losing a support network.

    I think, part of the reason for how we got into this mess is that our minds still default to tribalistic thinking – a person is either a friend or an enemy, either trustworthy or completely untrustworthy. Nuances are lost – but in reality, we all are untrustworthy to some degree, we all mess up sometimes, and the fact that someone talks to another person in a friendly way isn’t *actually* meant as a full endorsement of this person.

    I could rant on, but I don’t think my thoughts are quite as coherent as I would like them to be… having been wounded once, I’m afraid of getting hurt again, and it clouds my reasoning. Cognitive dissonance works against me, because slowly I begin to sort persons as enemies instead of bad allies – which is precisely what I want to avoid!

    The pattern is frightening: So many once well-respected atheists have spoken out against this (often over-the-top, of course) and were shunned. I sincerely hope that you are in a position “inside enough” so that the criticism doesn’t just lead to conflict, but rather to a more empathic view of other humans.

    1. 4.1

      I don’t have anything insightful or particularly supportive to respond with, but I see you and validate your struggle. There are more people than you think who are freaked out about this exact thing.

  5. 5

    I am not in the same position you are by any means, but as someone who’s been following skepchick, freethoughtblogs, and then the orbit since around the same time you reference… There has definitely been a lot of benefit and I’ve learned a lot, but it’s a hard community to get enthused about or really want to spend much time in if you don’t want to agree all the time with everything.
    Every so often I say this and get told off with the full Toolbox of Oppression Language.
    In fact pretty much all the communication I’ve had at all with any of the people I respect, read, and share is for them to tell me to, sometimes literally, fuck off generally in the context of assuming I’m someone who, at least as far as I can tell, I’m not.

  6. 6

    And comments like OaringAbout’s above are the reason I’m in favor of zero tolerance. Why does that name sound like it would be a secondary handle for Steersman?

    Good luck with the comments this article attracts. Though I noticed when you were with Zinnia you folks pretty much ignored your comment sections, which may be just as well for your mental health. With this, I bounce.

    1. 6.1

      I felt like I made a fair attempt to respond to comments relatively often while I was at FTB, but I didn’t blog frequently and have only in the last two years been easing into a place where I respond to comments rather than lurking most of the time. It’s a tough habit to break as an introvert with a history of CPTSD, particularly since I only blog when I have something big to say, things that tend to be fairly divisive.

      Interestingly enough, I’ve had more people come to me (both here in the comments and privately elsewhere) and thank me for pointing out something they’ve been struggling with for a while. I’m not the only self-identified SJW intersectional feminist who is entrenched in the community and yet fears their peers.

  7. 7

    I just personally wouldn’t advocate making the communities I move in more tolerant.

    I think you’ve made that abundantly clear over the years, GAS.
    Ophelia Benson always seemed slightly out of place at FtB, even apart from her TERF/SWERF sympathies. Being late to the internet atheist community, I had assumed that her friendship with PZ (and her hostility to Dawkins, Shermer et al.) was the reason she blogged there.

  8. 8

    “Ultimately, my point is that we’ve defaulted to a culture of zero-tolerance of dissent, which is counterintuitive for a group of people that purports to be doing activism to change the world we live in.”

    This problem isn’t unique to atheism or social justice, either. Most any group of like-minded activists have to resist succumbing to purity tests which become harder and harder to pass over time, as the less hardcore members become marginalized. I read a decent essay about this process in a totally different social context several years ago: lesswrong.com/lw/lr/evaporative_cooling_of_group_beliefs

    1. 8.1

      Interesting analogy and observations there [1], a salient element or two:

      … when a group ejects all its voices of moderation, then all the people encouraging each other, and suppressing dissents, may internally increase in average fanaticism. ….

      My own theory of Internet moderation is that you have to be willing to exclude trolls and spam to get a conversation going. …. A genuinely open conversation on the Internet degenerates fast. It’s the articulate trolls that you should be wary of ejecting, on this theory – they serve the hidden function of legitimizing less extreme disagreements.

      If one kicks out the more rational elements of a group under the mistaken assumption that they’re merely trolls then it shouldn’t be surprising that the average level of fanaticism must perforce increase, even if that looks like gospel truth. Nor should it be surprising that the end result of that process is that the groups wind up getting smaller and smaller until they disappear entirely – disappearing up its own fundament(alism), as they say, or could say.

      But a somewhat more general or maybe more relevant paper on pretty much the same phenomenon: Must Identity Movements Self-Destruct? A Queer Dilemma [2], a salient quote or two therefrom:

      This paper, using internal debates from lesbian and gay politics as illustration, brings to the fore a key dilemma in contemporary identity politics and traces out its implications for social movement theory and research. As I will show in greater detail, in these sorts of debates – which crop up in other communities as well – two different political impulses, and two different forms of organizing, can be seen facing off. The logic and political utility of deconstructing collective categories vie with that of shoring them up; each logic is true, and neither is fully tenable.

      On the one hand, lesbians and gay men have made themselves an effective force in this
      country over the past several decades largely by giving themselves what civil rights movements had: a public collective identity. ….

      Yet this impulse to build a collective identity with distinct group boundaries has been
      met by a directly opposing logic, often contained in queer activism (and in the newly
      anointed “queer theory”): to take apart the identity categories and blur group boundaries.
      This alternative angle, influenced by academic “constructionist” thinking, holds that sexual
      identities are historical and social products, not natural or intrapsychic ones. It is socially produced binaries (gay/straight, man/woman) that are the basis of oppression ….

      Buried in the letters column controversies over a queer parade theme, and over bisexual
      and transsexual involvement in lesbian organizations, are fights not only over who belongs,
      but over the possibility and desirability of clear criteria of belonging. Sexuality-based politics
      thus contains a more general predicament of identity politics, whose workings and implications are not well understood: it is as liberating and sensible to demolish a collective identity as it is to establish one. ….

      Seems to me that while, as the paper suggests, there are substantial benefits in group solidarity (E pluribus unum and all that), creating a group identity, on which to found collective action, that is based on ephemeral or subjective or untenable criteria is rather akin to trying to build a skyscraper in a bog of quicksand. And while there are no doubt “socially produced binaries”, it should be rather clear that not all binaries (or other multiplicities) qualify as such – for examples, matter and energy from physics, odd and even numbers from mathematics, and ova and sperm from human biology.

      1) “_http://lesswrong.com/lw/lr/evaporative_cooling_of_group_beliefs/”;
      2) “_https://freeskoool.wikispaces.com/file/view/Gamson+Identity+Movements+Self+Destruct.pdf”;

  9. 9

    It sounds like you are in a cult. I know what they are like – I grew up in one. Constantly watching your back and your words in case you were going to be the next one ostracised. And there was always ostracisms: regular rituals to ensure everyone else stayed on their toes and felt extra godly. I recommend you learn to think for yourself and say what you think. Question dogma. Be prepared to revise your most cherished beliefs. Groups of people who ostracise others for their thoughts aren’t worth investing. Find friends who enjoy honest discussion aimed at discovering the truth. You won’t look back.

    1. 9.1

      That’s an interesting take on what’s going on. I mean, I just haven’t heard it described as a cult before. Having very little personal experience on the subject myself (and knowing people who were in actual cults) I can’t really speak to the comparison. But I do make an effort to think for myself, since skepticism is what brought me to feminism in the first place. It’s possible to agree with the principles of a group (and in this case, a sociological theory) without accepting dogma, which is kind of what I’m trying to do by saying something about it publicly.

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