Jan. 6th, 2012 01:36 pm
amorpha: (Default)
[personal profile] amorpha
It's in common memory that we read this post at some point before, but we recently had one of those time-divide walls come down in our memory and now everything behind it seems like longer ago than it was. (This seems to have more to do with how our brain works than with being plural, as we've heard singlet autistic people report experiencing something like this, too.)

Anyway, from this post.

Marginalized groups must work to resist the tendency to devalue or bristle over any member whose actions might be viewed as “making the rest of us look bad”. The work to end all forms of oppression does not involve policing group members to ensure they are “on message”. Ending oppression – be it fat or racial or gender or whathaveyou – requires an active commitment to resist any cultural messaging seeking to frame one member of a marginalized group as representative of all members – regardless of whether the framing presents the members in a negative or positive light.

Yes. And yes. And yes. And yes. And yes again.

I was thinking about this not just because of recent Tumblr clusterfucks (if we had a Tumblr, I would totally post this to it, but we just can't deal with the social climate there). But because one of the first times we really tried to actively commit ourselves to a cause in a self-advocacy group, the entire group ended up being focused around, as the author of the post puts it, policing all group members to make sure they stayed "on message."

And going along with this was a certain amount of ableist crap about people needing to "prove they were functional" (read: university degree, job, living independently, everything people read as you having "made it" by dominant culture standards).

At the time we understood a lot less of oppression and prejudice than we do today. Or rather, we could see the patterns of how certain dynamics played out, and how certain problematic patterns tended to repeat, but we also thought that we were so socially inept and so bad at anything having to do with understanding other people that we ended up lying down and letting ourselves be walked all over eventually. At first we'd try to point out problematic patterns when we saw them, but we got told that was "disagreeing for the sake of disagreeing" and if we kept doing this we were going to kill the movement singlehandedly. And someone we were close to got manipulated into doing various things to shut us up.

I'm not saying this to demonize anyone, or suggest that everyone go hate on the people who were responsible for that attitude. It was years ago. But I think it does do a good job of illustrating how hard it can be for members of marginalized groups to sit down and unpack all their internalized self-hate baggage about themselves and people like them. To be careful of how easy it can be to throw other members of your group under the bus, to try to appease dominant groups by maintaining that "good X/bad X" dichotomy.

And the thing about people dangling other members of your own community out for mockery can be one of the most horrifically insidious ways to perpetuate this stuff. Because in the best-case scenario it's basically saying "Join us in condemning them, or we will treat you the same way."

And a lot of the time it's hard as hell not to. Even if you intellectually know that that person faces all the same kinds of oppression you do, whether or not you approve of how they're dealing with it. We've actually, for instance, seen some autistic people bragging about how they got in on trolling/snarking/etc other autistic people online who were "using autism/Asperger's as an excuse" or similar.

And I always want to ask them "In a world where that type of oppression didn't exist, where no one went around complaining about the alleged huge problem of 'people using autism/Asperger's as an excuse,' how much would you care? Would you treat them differently from any non-autistic person who did the same things? If someone pointed them out and said 'this person did this awful thing,' while holding them to the same standards as every other person out there, would you run over as quickly to join in on bashing them?"

And we have definitely seen instances where autistic people, and members of various other marginalized groups, were really definitely acting badly towards others. Just... I think it's that we know too well the panic, the paranoia, the gut-clenching terror of seeing someone hold up a member of your community to tear them apart. Not because they did something wrong as a person, in the way they treated other people. But because they did something that played into someone's prejudices about THEM, THOSE PEOPLE, and now you're terrified that if you don't run in to bust up the scene now with something like "We're not all like this! Seeing people like that represent the rest of us is so embarassing and they really do deserve all kinds of humiliation/criticism/mockery/etc for it!", the axe is going to fall on all of your heads.

And also... the idea that people who are badly behaved who deal with various kinds of discrimination already, somehow deserve worse treatment than badly behaved people who don't experience very much discrimination at all, makes no sense and is really sick if you think about it.

I mean, not that anyone treating others badly is ever good, but at least from my perspective, I can understand how years and years of marginalization can push someone to the breaking point. Or even just to saying "fuck it, I've tried to do all the changing I could to appease the dominant groups and I can't change any more, now it's time for them to be the ones to change," and have that called "rudeness" and using your marginalized group status as an "excuse." (And I also know too well the kind of angry panicked cornered animal lashing-out instinct, when you think you're all alone in the world and that you have no allies and no one else like you willing to help defend you, that can reduce a person to incoherency and flaming even if they're not normally like that.)

And finding that a bunch of people who are supposed to be in this with you, are more concerned with making sure you stay "on message," and shutting you up and beating you down if you step too far over the line of what they've called "acceptable," can make it worse.

I'm not saying some things aren't wrong. I'm not saying that some marginalized people don't use their status as marginalized to abuse others. We've seen it happen. It's just that 98% of the time when that instinct kicks me in the gut, that "No! No!! People outside our group must not see this person! We have to condemn this person now in public so they won't condemn us all!" feeling, it's about a person who is completely and totally within their rights to do whatever they're doing, saying, believing, etc.

And in the past, some of us have been passive-aggressive or acted like outright dicks to others in the plural community because of that. And I know I can't undo it, but I'm sorry. Because you are all my sisters too, and my brothers, and... whatever kinship terms you prefer, if you're non-binary-gendered.

And when I see people mention multiplicity in the same breath as something else they're holding up for mockery-- usually some form of not identifying with one's body-- it sometimes feels like I'm being baited to condemn. Like, go on. Prove to us that there are some Good Ones out there.

And I can't do it, because... for one, we've got more "weird stuff" going on in-system than we generally talk about, even if it doesn't resemble much, if at all, the snark interpretation of those things. (And people also shouldn't use this fact to draw conclusions about what individual ones of us believe about the external world as opposed to our subjective, in-system experiences, since we have varying beliefs about it.)

We don't talk about most of it because we realized fairly early on that it was the kind of stuff people would latch onto most and try to use it to destroy your credibility. As a result of selectively not talking about it, some people gave us privilege under false pretenses for being one of the Good Ones as opposed to the Bad Ones. Privilege that they didn't give to people who thought they had nothing to lose from talking about their "weird stuff."

Which made us feel... horrible. And I don't mean in the sense of "our feelings are all-important" or anything. It was horrible. That we were getting "cred" that some groups not actually too different from us, internally, weren't getting; that we were being regarded as sane, accurate, reliable reporters of our own experiences; that we were one of "the good ones who could be reasoned with." Regard that others weren't getting. Because people thought we didn't have particular elements in our system.

And it actually backfired in the sense that some people believed we were actually against certain things in plural systems, because we hedged and left so much out and used such detached language sets when we talked about those things. Because we were afraid if we didn't, people who were just out to snark would catch that we had some things they associated with the Bad Ones. And we also-- inadvertently, I think, but that doesn't negate that it had real effects on others-- absorbed some of the language sets of people who talked about those things in dismissive, unbelieving (by a dualistic view of reality, anyway) terms, and used them ourselves, and that set some people off into thinking we didn't approve of particular things.

(But it was also kind of a mess because... well, I know Amanda Baggs has talked before about people seeing her as this big leader in the autistic self-advocacy community online when she didn't ever want to be seen that way or think of herself as one, and we've encountered some people who seemed to perceive us in similar ways in the plural community. So, seeing our words as carrying more weight than we realized they did, because people had artificially elevated us to this leader status when we weren't aware of it. When at the time, we actually felt incredibly impotent power-wise despite the fact that we were co-moderating a community, and didn't want to be any kind of official voice of... anything. But we're writing another, separate entry about that and I should leave the rest of it for that.)

But... yeah. Having to constantly, constantly, constantly fight that temptation to take the bait, to give in and put down the Bad Ones because someone wants you to believe that you must be one of the Good Ones and condemn them, in order for them to throw you even a scrap of respect. It's a constant battle. It has just as much to do with why we rarely go in arguing with people bitching about "homg, people claiming to have DID" nowadays as overall burnout and lack of verbal spoons. And it seems to be universal across all marginalized groups, in some way or another.

-Tamsin and S. (one of those "start/end with different co-writers" things)


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