amorpha: (Default)
[personal profile] amorpha
...So I think we can conclude there is genuinely a significant problem with people going around trying to "police" for communities allegedly "claiming to be oppressed" or "appropriating the oppression of X community," when we start to get pissed off over seeing people do it to communities that we've never had any kind of involvement in. (Because our filters can't use our reaction as ammunition to insist that they're "really right" about us and similar crap, when it's about a community we've never had any connection in.)

So we were reading a fandom anon meme (I know, I know, terrible idea-- people post thoughtful things in them occasionally but more often they just turn into cesspools of nastiness and hate). Where someone complained about a person who said fans paired up characters too quickly or something. It didn't sound like anything horrible, just maybe a little naive/misinformed, and gods know the whole "how can you make these characters have a relationship/sex, they've barely even spoken to each other in canon" issue gets debated enough in fandom anyway.

And for some reason someone decided to respond by going on a completely unrelated rant against demisexuals, accusing them of wanting to be "special snowflakes" and slut-shamers and of wanting to appropriate LGBT oppression. And the... I don't want to say "tone," because that's been so firmly associated with "argument from tone" (...which is a concept that started out being valid, but we've seen it being abused in some places much like "free speech," when someone really is flaming and being abusive). Having trouble finding good words for things tonight. But the pattern. Underneath it. Like it was just this massive blast of hate with this sneering dripping all over it, this... blast of searing heat with some kind of caustic chemical in it so it doesn't just burn your skin but your mouth and nose and throat when you inhale it. (Trying to come up with a description based on cognitive synaesthesia. Not sure if it's working.)

But when people do those caustic hate blasts-- well, usually the ones we see are about some group we belong to. Not just various hateable communities; we've seen people do it about disabled people also. Like because they once knew a DD person who was violent or something it gives them free license to spew these giant acid clouds of hate and accuse everyone who ever says anything positive about DD people of having no idea what Those People are really like. Or the "oh you've only seen high-functioning people with autism" or similar crap.

And... there's this specific reaction we always have to stuff like that. And here we were getting that reaction about a community that we didn't belong to, that we had never even tried to participate in. (There are a few people in our system who identify as asexual individually but never tried to participate or make connections in any community for it.) Like initially cringing away from the massive blast of hate and feeling somehow like it was directed at us, even though we knew it clearly was not in this case. (...I think that's like... "diagnostic" of knowing that at least one of your identities is considered hateable, or something. When your immediate reaction to feeling those blasts of hate is assuming they must be intended for you, even though the intellectual facts are that they're not. And it feels disturbingly similar to the ingrained reflexes we have when people approach us in certain ways or using certain tones of voice because our instincts are saying they're going to abuse us or bully us even when we know it's really unlikely with some people.)

So we ended up reading some Tumblrs about demisexuality to see what the members of the actual community were and were not saying about themselves. As it turned out, most if not all people in the demisexual community seem to be extremely aware that people say all this shit about them. That they want to be "special snowflakes" and fence-sitters. That they supposedly all want to claim membership in the LGBT/general queer community while shaming queer people who have sex. That they get accused of "claiming to be oppressed" every time they even vaguely rant about anything, even if they never said they were oppressed at all. That trolls will repeatedly try to provoke members of the community into flamewars, and will try to incite flamewars by making posts attacking them and then tagging those posts with tags related to demisexuality/asexuality.

Oh, and apparently the community gets people making troll journals with fake identities too. And the troll journals are frequently the ones that make the claims the haters then insist All Of Them are saying, and hold up as typical examples of All Of Them. Like... there was one troll who made this journal where they kept comparing oppression of demisexual/asexual people to the Holocaust. Because this community is supposedly so ridiculous, it's so self-evidently ridiculous, but somehow it also needs you posing as a member of it saying things trying to make the community look ridiculous, claiming ridiculous things that no one in the community actually claimed until you came in and did it with your troll identity? How the fuck does that work. I have no idea.

And people have repeatedly made public posts trying to tell everyone things like "demisexuality does not equal slut-shaming" and "ranting about something does not automatically equal claiming to be oppressed." Or even "coming up with a name for what you are and forming a community does not equal claiming to be oppressed." (...the last one, we always thought was... self-evident. But apparently it isn't to the... pseudo-ally concern troll police.)

And... there was some sort of pattern that clicked in our head when we saw that no matter how many times people posted these explanations, the trolls and the accusations wouldn't stop. We're still trying to find ways to put it into words. Although a big part of it was "we've seen this, we've seen all of this before, we've seen this for over ten years."

Also that it says something about what the trolls and haters actually want and care about-- or, more specifically, what they don't actually want or care about, when people can post these explanations repeatedly with the honest belief that people are just attacking them out of some mistaken assumptions about what they do and believe and identify as, and it doesn't stop the trolls one bit.

Some thought like "if I'm supposed to 'convert' these people to being my allies through lengthy and repeated explanations of how we are not actually claiming to be oppressed, who needs enemies." And like... "No. If your definition of 'justice' is flaming and attacking people for supposedly claiming to be oppressed when no one except trolls and a minority of screwed-up people has ever claimed to be oppressed, and ignoring all attempts to explain this to you, and everything else in our community you're trashing on, I don't want you as my ally. Fuck you. I don't need you to be my ally."

(Using "I" here because... it's like the same patterns in every community that gets treated this way. I don't personally identify as demisexual. But I could say all of those same things to the trolls and griefers in a lot of other communities I am in.)

It's like... people get caught in this trap. Where the words, the language, the concept of "social justice" are used to bait people into thinking they just haven't explained themselves properly, and the idea that some overenthusiastic interpretation of it is the underlying cause of all the trolling and flaming, that people just want to make sure you're not claiming to be oppressed over something if you aren't really-- that whole idea, it's used as bait. And it is bullshit. A real potential ally will not put you through some glorified hazing that never ends with the vague promise that if you can just "explain yourself well enough" they'll stop harassing and flaming and trolling your community, and you can be accepted as a Real Member Of The SJ Community. (And that is about why I've quit caring about trying to be seen as one, and make clear instead that, like a friend of ours said, I'm neither "SJ" nor "anti-SJ.")

Because there can't be any "understanding" when one side has shown they don't want to even try to understand at all. It's not a productive discussion, it's more like giving a bully your lunch money so he won't beat you up on the playground later. (And then frequently breaks his promise anyway.)

There was also some thought I had about... the thing S. said about the undercurrents in the dominant culture that feed hateability. People justify trashing on plurals and Otherkin and therians and soulbonders with the claim that these are "obviously" stupid and ridiculous identities and therefore somehow inherently worth spending a lot of your time bashing. But with the asexual spectrum, I'm... not seeing anything that corresponds to the "haha, only a crazy delusional person would believe they were this thing" stuff. Yet the communities are being flamed and bashed and trolled in the exact same way, to the point where we have the exact same reaction to seeing people spew those giant acid clouds of hate at them. So there's something in the whole hateability phenomenon that goes deeper than "this is CLEARLY A CRAZY AND STUPID THING TO IDENTIFY AS." People getting up in arms about whether someone else wants to have sex and how often and with whom. Using arguments identical to the ones that we've seen some gay and lesbian people use against bisexual people-- fence-sitters, you just want to be special, you just want to be able to hide in straight privilege, bisexuality doesn't really even exist. (And this is not a thing of the past in the queer community like some people think it is. We STILL see these "arguments" being made against bi people.)

And I know that, generally speaking, asexual/greysexual/demisexual people don't experience the kind of systematic widespread social oppression that gay and bisexual people do. But it's significant in some way I can't quite get at in words yet, that the arguments being used are very similar, identical in some cases, if you substitute some words. In some way related to the way it's significant that both trans people and people with hateable identities get trashed on just for not identifying with their bodies, even if the latter aren't systematically oppressed as a group the way the former are.

And-- just the whole thing about beating down people for "claiming to be oppressed," assuming someone MUST be claiming to be oppressed and persecuted, the moment someone says they have experienced problems because of having a certain identity. Actually the person who runs demisexuality.tumblr.com put it very well, about how getting shit for being something does not always equal oppression but the fact that it is not oppression does not mean it is NOT A PROBLEM AT ALL:

If I didn’t delete all of it, I could show all the hate mail, claims that my orientation isn’t real and accusations of special snowflakery I’ve received. People post shit in the tags all the time attacking people for identifying as demisexual because apparently it doesn’t exist. In fact, about half of the posts that make their way into the demi tag are posts like these. When demis get shit, it more because the person saying shit doesn’t believe in the orientation and is attacking those who identify as such, so it’s more like you get shit for identifying as demi, not being demi, if that makes sense. I’m not sure how to explain that, but if someone else can, please do. Oh by the way, this stuff is not oppression (just to make that clear), but it is rude, problematic (especially when someone asks a demi to prove their orientation to them) and, well, shitty.


Yeah. Shitty is a good word for it. And I don't know in what universe shitty equates to "not a problem if it isn't Real Oppression." I mean, we were persistently bullied and sexually harassed through nearly all of our school years and in a few college courses too, but if someone could stand there and say to our face that that wasn't a problem or worth caring about or protecting us against because it was "just" bullying and not oppression (well, the parts that weren't ableism or sexually based anyway), I'd have to really fight myself hard to not do or say something I'd regret later. Because that's basically what it is. Bullying that people get away with because they can drape their language in all this ideological "social justice" talk, when what they're doing, at base, has nothing to do with any definition of justice we understand.

-not sure who started writing this, but it ended up as Yarrow

(no subject)

Date: 2012-12-12 05:05 am (UTC)
fauve: (Default)
From: [personal profile] fauve
"...I think that's like... "diagnostic" of knowing that at least one of your identities is considered hateable, or something. When your immediate reaction to feeling those blasts of hate is assuming they must be intended for you, even though the intellectual facts are that they're not. And it feels disturbingly similar to the ingrained reflexes we have when people approach us in certain ways or using certain tones of voice because our instincts are saying they're going to abuse us or bully us even when we know it's really unlikely with some people."
yes
absolutely
also: kudos to you for considering these poisonous attitudes long enough
to type up coherent, effective posts, my brain liquefies at the sight of this kind of thing
(additionally if these comments from a stranger providing no useful commentary seem weird, forgive me, i'm but a simple tumblr mouse)
Edited Date: 2012-12-12 05:06 am (UTC)

(no subject)

Date: 2013-10-04 11:57 pm (UTC)
aquila_black: Gogo Yubari, manipulating her Meteor Hammer's chain, eyes twinkling. (Yubari: Mischievous)
From: [personal profile] aquila_black
Hi, I was reading your Tumblr with interest and it eventually led me here. You’ve written a lot of things that I feel like responding to, but this caught my attention the most.

I think what marginalized groups have in common, the pattern you’re seeing that gets plurals and asexuals (and a lot of other people) targeted, is that they’re all making choices mainstream culture disapproves of. The “inherently [sic] mockable identity” thing is a smokescreen for “I want you to stop making this choice I don’t like, and if you refuse I want you to suffer for it.”

Society tolerates these people being attacked and holds them up as acceptable targets because it wants these deviations from the norm to carry a high social cost. It benefits from people being afraid to identify in certain ways, and in agreement about who the losers and monsters are.

I think the fear with multiples, and especially fictives, is that their perception of reality is so different from a singlet’s that they may not really care about the world outside their head (not because it works like that at all, but because binary thinking leads to a lot of irrational, selfish “but where do we fit in?” on the part of the dominant group). The thing with asexuals is that adults aren’t supposed to choose whether to have sex. It’s acceptable to not want to have sex with a particular person, or at a particular time, but … “I’m never interested in sleeping with anyone, stop asking and leave it be” isn’t. The latter, as a life choice, makes some onlookers very angry. How dare you do that, you think you’re so special, and so on. I’d suspect they’re singling out asexual women because some of the harassment has the same undertone of offended rejection that lesbians used to get from men; the part of it that isn’t accusing all asexuals of being immature children who will inevitably change their minds about this silly idea, anyway. Society tacitly approves of asexuals being bullied, because “what are they doing for us?”

That’s … sort of the crux of it. The unspoken assumption that you should be making choices that the dominant group sees some benefit for itself in. Individualism my foot, these are the limits of what society’s willing to tolerate. And when you surpass them, for whatever reason, it will try to ridicule, attack, gaslight, and invalidate you into conformity or hiding.

I think a lot of the maligning of hateable groups (I understand why that term has gained currency but I don’t like it) is more productively analyzed if you turn it inside out. Being special is not an attribute that humans should be accused of fraudulently claiming. The same way being a man, woman, or adult shouldn’t be something you have to prove you are and qualify for, uniqueness and basic, innate value isn’t something to hoard, dole out to the few, and revile anyone else for thinking they deserve. Plurals aren’t claiming the identity they claim “to be special” because they are special, with or without this stigmatized trait. And if you’re paying attention to a person because they’re different from you in a significant way (particularly if you’re hassling them) it’s pretty self-centered to believe that they’re doing it “for attention.” Attention is only a reward to people who like it, and whether they like it or not, it’s sick to assume by default that non-normative people don’t deserve to be seen or heard.

Now, about oppression. As best I can tell, oppression exists on a number of spectrums, and admitting that oppression against any group exists is something that society is very reluctant to do. The groups that most people believe are oppressed have fought hard to get that acknowledged. Unfortunately, a lot of SJ seem to think that human rights are a zero sum game, and if they acknowledge identities that are less organized, politically active, and conventional as oppressed, their cause and the smaller one will be thrown under the bus. This is part of the conflict between feminism and trans* people. Society at large at least acknowledges women as a real thing. Another liminal group that’s edging towards being taken seriously is the fat acceptance movement. Many people are still reluctant to see fatness as a stigmatized physical attribute, rather than “a bad choice” that they’re totally entitled to disapprove of. And make no mistake, things that society wants to punish are always presented as choices, whether they are or not. Remember when being gay was portrayed in the mainstream media as a destructive choice? And women are still getting this shit from rape culture – it’s not that anyone hates women, oh no, but what did she expect, drinking and partying? [sic] Anyway, my point is that oppression is justified as something that would stop happening, if minorities just stopped pissing ordinary people off. The trouble is that they aren’t being targeted for something they’re doing, unless you consider existing an active offense. And that is more or less the definition of oppression. Being bullied is not as bad as being murdered because society doesn’t like you. But fearing for your life is the extreme end of a spectrum, and even for people who are facing that much violence, most of what they deal with on a day-to-day basis is what your quote called shittiness. That’s oppression too. That’s the aspect of oppression that wears you the fuck down. And groups that everyone agrees are oppressed don’t have the corner on it.

Activists and minorities desperately need a more nuanced understanding of abuse and victimization, and society is fighting tooth and nail to make sure they don’t develop one. On the contrary, it’s working to manipulate SJs into policing everyone from a less established cause into disavowing the idea that they could possibly be oppressed. Even when the alternative implies that the bigots kicking you around must have some right to. If there’s abuse that goes unchallenged, because of who it’s aimed at, the real message is “abuse is not always wrong. We object when it happens to innocent people who don’t deserve it.” That’s the problem with arguing that some attacks are trivial. You can’t cheapen mistreatment by acknowledging that it’s endemic. But you can make society look really bad by recognizing how many groups it paints targets on, and you can find out exactly who’s more invested in believing that the status quo is good (and just needs a little minor tweaking!) than they are in facing facts. Those people are willing to assert some suffering doesn’t count, often because they believe their group can be accepted by society if they just act normal enough. And it really doesn’t work that way. Stable members of marginalized groups need to find a way to say “we respect your struggle, and we expect you to respect ours, even if it’s different,” instead of fighting about who can legitimately claim to be oppressed.

Oh, you know what else? Often the people who get the most hate spewed at them, people that the whole group is stereotyped as consisting entirely of, have important things to contribute to the whole. Teenagers have every right to be plural. Whites have every right to be plural. People who don’t work for whatever reason, or don’t worry about money have every right to be plural. Privileged groups that intersect with stigmatized ones can be a huge asset to the stigmatized group. (Unless everyone reacts to trolling by saying “eeew, we definitely don’t have any of those around here!”) The gay rights movement never apologized for containing men who could afford to donate a lot of money to AIDS research and political advocacy. It didn’t publicize who its membership consisted of, but it didn’t bash people for leveraging whatever privilege was at their disposal.

Teenagers tend to have time, attention, passion, and these days also a fair amount of computer savvy. It gets society’s goat to think that they might be attracted to a misfit lifestyle, they might be listening to crazies, they might choose to be something other than normal. (Conveniently ignoring that most people don’t assume it’s glamorous to belong to a group other people stereotype and despise, and … it’s not actually an inferior way to live.) If they do identify with a stigmatized identity, it may well continue to be a thorn in the public side for a long time. Teenagers also go on to make money, if they don’t already have much access to it, and they've been known to share it with the hateable people they consider their peers. Just because someone said “I need help,” and actually did. I don’t think society likes the sound of that, either.

The privileges of whites have been enumerated all over the place, so I’m not going to get into what whites can contribute to a space. Or otherwise-neurotypical people, for that matter. As for having money, I think that’s something most rabid commenters are jealous of, regardless of how much they insist they despise the idea of anyone getting something they didn’t earn. (That’s another broken record accusation, by the way – “you have something you shouldn’t have!” when the truth is, they actually have something everyone should have. Having your basic needs met and being allowed to exist is an absence of abuse, not a privilege or a blessing.)

Let’s take the financial bit from the top. First of all, most people in the US who have money come from a family that has money. That’s not the exception, that’s the rule, and if some plurals are young and well off, more power to them. There are certainly many others who are poor, disabled, institutionalized, and otherwise getting the short end of the stick. Second, there’s a big, wide range between abject poverty and having all your financial needs met. A lot of solidly middle class people feel guilty for what they have and worry any amount of self-expression is illegitimate, because it’s partly something they can afford to express; their strangeness might be invisible to the world at large if they couldn’t afford a computer, for instance. Third, having access to money doesn’t mean you live a charmed life. Even if it did, that wouldn’t mean you shouldn’t identify as anything weird. That’s true no matter who’s paying the bills. People who are supported by their spouse or live with their parents have a right to exist too. (It’s too bad that the latter idea is only gaining currency now because of so many able bodied young people who did everything by the book are finding they can’t get work in this mess of an economy and move out when they expected to. But anyway.)

Members of a stigmatized group should be sensitive to any advantages that stack the deck a little in their favor, and they shouldn't apologize for having them. This includes people who seem to fit every negative stereotype anyone ever came up with about what “you people” must look and act like. No one, seemingly privileged or not, has an obligation to volunteer their energies (IMO, looking at people as mere resources is something subcultures should go out of their way not to do), but they generally have strengths that should be highlighted and valued, if only as a counterbalance to the constant barrage of negativity aimed at [hah, this brings me back full circle to the point about] people who are doing things with their life that society doesn't like. Intersectionality everywhere.

And I could probably add more, but I won’t. Great post.

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