Monday, September 22, 2008

Some random thoughts on giving offense

I have always "let a lot of things go"--since you know, my Deity announced a long time ago, that we should forgive 70 x 7. [1]

An argument continues. I have decided we need to air it here, since we are basically talking about a difference in radical approach.

Lisa writes:

If I could go the entire rest of my life without hearing anyone say “I didn’t intend to say anything racist/sexist/homophobic/transphobic/ableist” as if it means anything, it will still be too soon.

I don’t care.
[2]
If you don't care, nothing will ever change, and no one will learn a damned thing. Some people, you know, just aren't as smart as others and have not had the educations that others have had... bottom line.
Someone says something transphobic to me or where I can hear it, I don’t care if they didn’t mean to hurt me, they did hurt me. I have the right to say “Hey, that thing you said was transphobic.” It’s just like if someone accidentally steps on my foot - I can still say “Hey, you stepped on my foot!” and whoever stepped on my foot will probably apologize and move on, and not start an argument about how I was standing in their way or how they never hurt people on purpose.
Bad analogy; it isn't as clear as that. What if the person says something and doesn't understand WHY it was transphobic? Can't we clarify and ask WHY? Isn't that a desire not to do further harm and integrate the message so that it never happens again?

Why is all discussion ruled out?

See, speaking of ageism, or rather, not speaking of it, since you carefully left it out of your list of oppressions (so should I assume the worst from this omission and claim ageism is therefore still acceptable to you?)--some of us come from older leftist/radical traditions in which all political questions were silenced by revolutionary cadre; to ask questions was to be seen as uncommitted to the cause, not because we needed to know the answer.

You sound like you think they did the right thing shutting us up, yes?
And you can say “Well, I didn’t mean to say anything transphobic” and I’ll say “I don’t care, you said it.” and suddenly the conversation becomes a matter of what you were thinking when you said it,
Well, yeah. If you are assigning meanings and INTENTIONS a person doesn't have, it becomes necessary to CLARIFY that NO you are NOT a proponent of mass genocide, or whatever outrageous charges are currently being levied.

And isn't it crucial to learn to express sentiments differently, rather than using offensive language?

How can one learn if one doesn't discuss these things?

(I still don't understand, for instance, and no, I am not allowed to ask, either.)

If some white person says "Obama is articulate!"--we need to explain that no, WHAT YOU SAID was not the insult (they in fact intended it as a compliment), but the way that particular word has been used in the culture, and what it conveys to African-Americans, is something quite different.

If that person doesn't understand that, I think it is perfectly reasonable to discuss it, or they will never learn and they will keep right on saying it.

Yes, I fully realize there are people VERY tired of explaining that, and I get that. But simply WANTING to understand, is not wrong or bad.

It is the heart of all revolutionary change.
and not what you said, and what you were thinking is irrelevant.
If you think certain people's thoughts are irrelevant while other people's thoughts are valid, this explains plenty. I think everyone's thought are valid. Whether I want to argue with them (say, at Feminist Critics, where incidentally, I have argued at length) is another matter. But what they think DOES matter and IS NOT irrelevant; they have considerable influence, particularly if their thoughts reflect the majority.
I don’t care if you’re transphobic and hate all trans people or if you just slipped up, I want you to own what you said, and not tell me about your inner life.
(This is a reference to my post about my father and how difficult it has been to overcome certain influences.)

Lisa, we probably won't "own it" to your specifications, so you may always be angry at people who don't use the politically-correct terminology. If I was this picky, here in the hyper-conservative upstate of South Carolina, I wouldn't have a single friend left. This sounds like someone who lives in a liberal area, who has the luxury of never having to work with the opposition.

I do care about people's inner lives, and what they are thinking. Yes, even the "bad people"--I don't think lasting change happens any other way.

Again, this is undoubtedly a big difference between us.

And I realize that your approach is perfectly respectable, ideologically. Malcolm X agreed with you. But that doesn't make you the expert on politically-correct behavior, any more than I am.

I am totally unable to simply cut loose a longstanding friend, or relative, or lover, or whoever, just because they used the wrong language or said something stupid. Certainly, I would want to hear what that loved-one has to say for themselves.

When a stranger steps on my foot, it's very, very different than when a FRIEND does. I would never regard these two events as morally equivalent. If you do, that also explains the differences between us.

And yes, I also believe that the inner life of OTHER oppressed people, even if you regard it as unimportant, is important. A stupid or offensive remark from a comrade, or another oppressed person, is not the same as the same comment from one who intends to do harm or who is not on the same side.

--

[1] Matthew 18: 21-22. Offhand cultural note: Even mentioning that one believes in the traditions of various Deities/Churches, such as offering to do PENANCE for an offense, is not permitted in some circles... did you know that? I sure didn't!

I'm sure this vast cultural abyss has nothing to do with being old and working-class (instead of young, trendy, upper middle-class, bright-eyed, well-educated and properly enlightened), so don't even go there!

[2] Should I point out that you missed "classist" and "ageist" in your litany?

Actually, I'm pretty used to that. Some forms of oppression rate a mention, and some are merely part of the air we breathe and don't even matter. The fact is, though, I have overlooked a great deal more classism and ageism than you can imagine. And what do I get for assuming charity and giving friends the benefit of the doubt? I get told that my feelings, my inner life, doesn't matter.

Well, it's nice to learn that NOW, I guess. It is a lesson I won't soon forget.

30 comments:

Renegade Evolution said...

its a tough situation all around. people get tired of explaining why constantly about things, which I can understand, but I can also totally understand people wanting to know why what they said was hurtful and trying to understand how they can not make the same mistake in the future.

In short, I'm not sure what to say, because it can be a rough situation all around, with feelings on all sides.

Bad Boy Bryce said...

u always care to much what people think. if they wannabe all self righteous & automatically ASSume the worst? they weren't really "friends" to begin with.

fuck that noise! you shouldn't let fake friends make you cry.

Octogalore said...

If the argument you mention is the motivation for that post, then I wonder why it continues. To me what happened seems clear. I understand the reaction to what was said but also understand that your response was motivated by a desire to be understood as not having meant offense.

I agree with Lisa that the ideal response is to apologize and keep it simple. But I also think where there's friendship and trust, things can stray from the ideal without dire consequences. Often one is concerned to have been the source of hurt and is anxious to explain. I may be overly simple, but I do think that among friends it shouldn't be that difficult. An apology, even an over anxious and defensive one, can be met with:

-- OK, I'm glad you apologized, and please don't go overboard or talk about penance as that's not meaningful to me, let me just explain what hurt me about what you said...

or

-- here's why your apology is all wrong and why it's decentering and what's wrong with you and ....

So I do understand Lisa's hurt and also her frustration. But I also understand your feeling that it was clear you were indeed sorry and had not meant to cause hurt, and among friends there could have been a much different ending to this.

Anonymous said...

You don't learn anything, Daisy.

The more you kiss the asses of these MEN, the more utter contempt they will have for you.

Your mistake is that you treated them like women. Regard them as the MEN they truly are and you won't be at all surprised at what they do to you. As a feminist you should see that someone raised as a MAN will eventually unmask themselves to be an abusive, arrogant, dismissive, contemptuous male. Of course they don't 'care' since men are socialized not to care about anything but their own desires. Can't you see that, even now?

If you don't, you deserve everything you get.

Lisa Harney said...

This post was a general expression of frustration in response to Shiva in this comment.

And explanations are fine as a part of accountability.

And no, if someone says something hurtful to or about me, or about a group of people of which I am a memnber, or about a group that friends are a member of, I don't care if they intended to be hurtful, I'd like them to be accountable for saying what they said, apologize, and move on.

And it's fine, with that apology to say "I didn't mean to say anything hurtful." That's not what I was talking about. I was talking about when the conversation then turns into "Well, I didn't mean to do anything wrong so I didn't do anything wrong."

And notice in the linked discussion where I explain why screwing up pronouns is offensive to trans people.

I do explain why something is hurtful when asked - but that doesn't stop people from getting angry and defensive and making it about how wrong it is to point out that they said something hurtful. I'm sure you realize that all the explanations in the world don't help when people start the wite magik attax.

For example, I've taken the time to explain why I found something hurtful and othering, and received an incredibly angry response that made use of four or five of those tactics, and a couple more that aren't listed. At that point, does explaining help? What's appropriate when the person you're talking to turns into a giant ball of defensiveness and blames you for finding what they said offensive?

As for ageism, I'm sorry I left it out. You're doing the flip side of what my post is about and what Jay Smooth is talking about in the video I linked - I didn't "carefully" do anything, and you can't read my mind to determine whether I did. Does whether I "carefully" did it even matter, or is the fact that it happened more important?

Either way, I edited my post because listing all axes of oppression is simply impossible. It should be clear that I'm not excluding any at this point.

Anonymous,

I hope that someday you're treated with the same kind regard you give trans women. And I mean that on top of sexism.

Daisy said...

Nony, run along. Please.

I got the email, no need to bring it here, too.

Daisy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lisa Harney said...

Okay:

I don't know what your intentions were. I assumed then and assume now you didn't set out to be hurtful. If I did assume you were, I wouldn't have tried to say anything in the first place, or at least I would have said it very differently.

Daisy said...

Lisa, at this point, I feel my actual INTENTIONS have been blown SO out of proportion, assigned such bizarre meanings, twisted beyond all recognition... that I took your title as a real stab. I feel like everything I say, somehow comes out the opposite of what I mean.

And no, I don't understand why that is happening.

EDIT: I was also asking in the context of whether such tactics were politically expedient or useful for progressive change in the long run. I say they aren't, and as the link to Plain(s)Feminist made clear, come from some of the worst of the old left.

It's cathartic, but what is the the net political result of these periodic feminist pile-ons? The Cultural Revolution has largely been judged to have been a failure, after all.

Lisa Harney said...

What turns them into pile-ons, though?

Also, I meant to say something to this, but forgot:

Lisa, we probably won't "own it" to your specifications, so you may always be angry at people who don't use the politically-correct terminology.

What are my specifications, by the way? Could you tell me?

I've posted them at least once on my blog, after all.

If I was this picky, here in the hyper-conservative upstate of South Carolina, I wouldn't have a single friend left. This sounds like someone who lives in a liberal area, who has the luxury of never having to work with the opposition.

There are people who drive around in trucks with 3+ Confederate flags, white power symbols, and homophobic bumper stickers who live in the same general area that I do. I live in a conservative rural area where many people keep their car radios tuned to the local "Focus On the Family" radio affiliate.

But that's beside the point - my post wasn't about the opposition, it really was about people who position themselves as being on my side, but who say problematic things and try to excuse them on the basis of "I didn't intend that" and yes, Shiva's comment is what tipped the scale there.

But really:

Why do the pile-ons happen? At what point do other people step in and say "What you're saying/doing isn't cool?"

Daisy said...

The derivation of "Politically Correct" is from Maoism, the Crit/Self Crit described by Plains Feminism in the link. The first time I heard and/or used the term was during this process, I'd say around 1978. With other leftists, this is the way I use it.

Why do the pile-ons happen? At what point do other people step in and say "What you're saying/doing isn't cool?"

All of this, of course... but why some rowdy folks and not others? I think because one person has become a target (or political liability) for some reason, at least, in my experience (see above, about Maoism) that's how it shook out.

A lot like "Survivor"!

Daisy said...

Politically correct:

Go to bottom: Message 2: "PC" summary

This is my usage when used with other progressives.

thene said...

It's cathartic, but what is the the net political result of these periodic feminist pile-ons? The Cultural Revolution has largely been judged to have been a failure, after all.

Well, what would be the result of not challenging oppression in these situations?

Not saying it's necessarily an either/or situation, but insisting that people don't challenge their oppressions in the name of a greater harmony is not going to lead to anything good.

Some time ago I recall you linking here to a discussion you were having with a feminist (I forget her name, but recall she was a lesbian Jewish woman with a pink-ish blog) who said that feminism (distinct from individuals who practice it) should be always putting feminism first, rather than putting a lot of material about anti-racism, trans and queer issues, etc, in our "feminist blogs" and making that part of the centre of feminism. You strongly disagreed with her.

Again, not an either/or, but I think that this is another situation where stressing harmony doesn't work, especially not if you are simultaneously seeking validation of your individual feelings from a group of political allies.

And I don't think you need to ascribe 'intentions' to someone in order to talk about their actions & the results of their actions. I mean, whatever the shooters intended, this guy's still dead.

Daisy said...

In these parts, if we didn't stress HARMONY, there would BE no progressive movement or Left to speak of. We consciously put aside a lot of differences to work on very specific goals: elections, exposing corruption, getting someone released from prison, etc. It's not an approach that easily allows for ideological purity... which is NOT the same as "putting aside all the differences"--as Ms Pink Blog (yes, I remember the blog, but not her name or the thread!) was advocating. I do see choosing one or the other as either/or.

this is another situation where stressing harmony doesn't work, especially not if you are simultaneously seeking validation of your individual feelings from a group of political allies.

Stressing harmony is about a political objective, but validating feelings is about friendship. My question is where one ends and the other begins? Because different strategies are called for. It's when they get all mixed up that you have trouble. Mao called this "being liberal" (not in the Western sense of the word "liberal")--i.e. you are "liberal" with your friends and harsh with your enemies, over differing levels of perceived offenses.

This is exactly what the old leftist groups talked about: how much personal feelings about personalities and styles of expression had tainted their politics.

thene said...

Stressing harmony is about a political objective, but validating feelings is about friendship. My question is where one ends and the other begins?

Damn good question. Does it mean that a group of friends who do political work together is an inherently conflicted entity? Because in such a group, I don't think that either objective has an end or a beginning. I think that crunches come and when they do, people have to pick one goal or the other in the moment.

Maybe that's a gloomy view of things on my part.

This is getting away from the original post, anyway. I think that 'ruling out discussion' is a difficult term because it sounds like it's leading up to an attempt to justify oppression. 'I want to discuss' tends to come off worse than 'I want to listen'. It doesn't lead straight to validation of your own inner life, but it can lead to sharing of other people's inner lives. And I think that your racism post would've been interesting and truly worthwhile either way.

(I feel a bit funny even typing these things, because I've never really been at the epicentre of a political blowout, so it's far more observation than any genuine lived experience. I think it is worth a deal less than $0.02, even at today's prices. But hey.)

takesupspace said...

I haven't seen any of the arguments mentioned. So, completely impartially (ok not really):

You're reading a lot of intentions into what Lisa's saying in that post. I don't know what Lisa meant, but I could've written the same post in other circumstances (and likely have)--and none of those intentions you ascribe to her would be true of me.

Let me give you an example. You allowed "anonymous" to post a hateful, trans misogynistic comment that added nothing to the discussion--that is, a troll comment. I know you've read at least some of what I have to say on the topic, and you've had access to detailed analysis of how these things work. Now, none of us engaged with said troll (perhaps in part because of those posts), which reduced hir power--but you had the chance to moderate that comment out and you didn't. Which implies you think it's a legitimate contribution to the discussion. Which implies that disregarding anything we say because of who we are is legitimate, even if you don't do it. Which implies that cis people having free reign--up to and including hate speech, silencing, and trolling on your blog--is more important than creating a space where trans folks can fully participate and be respected. Which implies that we're subordinate and unimportant.

That isn't about your intentions, it's about the impact of your actions. It could be an accident--in fact, I'm almost certain that you don't consciously think that last one--but it still sends a powerful message. It might send a somewhat more powerful message if you intended it, but not much--that is to say, you still have to deal with the fact that you caused harm. Until and unless you're willing to decenter yourself when you've hurt others, you're perpetuating and increasing that harm, not reducing it. Until and unless you acknowledge that harm and your responsibility for it. Until and unless you acknowledge that you did, in fact, have the resources available to not do that.

We all make hurt and oppress other people in ways we didn't have to or knew better than to do. But the difference that's crucial is not whether it was a mistake or not, whether you intended to or not, but whether you own it, acknowledge it, accept accountability for it, and work toward righting that wrong in a way that centers the needs of the folks you oppressed/hurt/offended.

Daisy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Daisy said...

Which implies you think it's a legitimate contribution to the discussion.

I am a pretty rabid, old-school free-speech Yippie-type, and I have only deleted outright spam or filth from my blog previously. I have left all manner of nasty political opinions untouched. I consider my blog a place for everyone to engage, whether I like them or agree or not. Like Renegade Evolution, I have a policy of never deleting any comments other than outright spam, buy-my-car, etc. I have allowed every other comment ever posted here, except for some of the really sexually-disgusting ones or the ones personally threatening me (although I did leave one of those up). That's my policy. I have also warned them I will post their IP addresses if they continue.

That usually does it.

I have criticized people like Heart (blinks!) for imposing censorship on their blogs, and I simply can't do likewise.

As for the rest of your post, thank you for engaging honorably, and of course, you are right. I have already apologized numerous times for my initial offense and continue to do so.

Ravenmn said...

OK, this is kind of vague, due to privacy issues. Consider all of this to be hypothetical and not applied to a particular organization. I've seen it happen in many activist groups, so I'm trying to make it as generic as possible.

There are some places in which we gather where we want and expect people to act a particular way when called on their privilege. If a group is focusing on feminism and someone says something sexist, we will exclude that person. We do this because we've decided that educating people about sexism is not going to be done in our group. If you need the beginner's lessons, go somewhere else. Our group has decided on a different starting place for inclusion.

It is definitely difficult to figure out what a group we belong to expects from us when we get a particular privilege challenged. The ways we have learned to respond to our critics may be entirely different from group to group. The ways we were trained to respond when we were young activists may be completely inappropriate behavior to use today.

What sucks is when we don't understand the ground rules and expectations of a group we join. It's hard to know what to do if it isn't spelled out for us. But no group can ever spell out all the behaviors that they would consider inappropriate.

Just like parents can't give our kids a list of what they shouldn't do, we can only hope that our fellow group members have shared assumptions and shared goals.

It sucks and can hurt like hell when we discover our assumptions are completely different. Once that happens, it comes down to deciding if pushing through the hurt and misunderstanding is worth it.

One example I recall from the battle against a meat packing plant in South St. Paul in the 1980s. A group of students and antiwar activists were planning a big joint event for the spring. We had all kinds of great ideas and a date that seemed perfect. When we brought it up at the union hall, we were rejected out of hand. The date we chose was the day fishing season opened in Minnesota. No one, including 90% of the meat packers, was going to be in town.

We never realized that the fishing season should be factored into our activities. Not many peace activists go fishing. The union members were amazed that we didn't already know about fishing opener because EVERYONE knew you never planned anything on that date.

That's a very benign example and we pretty much laughed it off. But it did show how different our lives were from the lives of the workers at the packing plant. They trusted us a little less after that, I think.

Daisy said...

The ways we were trained to respond when we were young activists may be completely inappropriate behavior to use today.

Exactly true.

Not asking questions, not trying to clarify, NOT arguing, in my youth, meant you didn't take the complainer seriously and didn't care about their POV or their form of oppression. Nobody was EXEMPT from Crit/Self Crit, you had to have questions, at least. You responded to each person separately, as a sign of respect. This also meant you were a serious political person.

Now, this whole approach seems to signify you are "decentering" people, and you're fucked.

Who knew?

Natalia said...

Way to try and score a few cheap points, troll. Hope it feels GOOD. I guess you can take what you can get under that bridge of yours, where it's clammy and dark.

I think all of this comes down to friendship. How it fuses with our personal politics. How it's both a burden and a blessing at times like these.

takesupspace said...

The two posts I link to talk about the results of allowing those comments to be spoken in feminist spaces--to drive out trans women's participation and to silence our criticism, which is the sole intent of that comment.

That speech is violent, that speech is silencing. I'm not saying ze oughtn't be allowed to say it on hir own blog, or that there should be legal penalties, but allowing that speech is preventing other speech. I mean, would you allow an anonymous comment that said "you need your pussy licked" or "you just need a good fucking"? Because that's what this troll is doing.

As I said, read Moving Forward & Digging Deeper if you still don't see why this is violent speech, and "why what they say is damaging *even if their points are refuted*. Because they say, over and over again, that we are stupid, incompetent, and worthless–and all that kind of abuse needs to function is repetition. All it needs to sneak into your heart is to be taken seriously."

And you benefit, too, from this troll comment, because its presence is an implied threat, is a "look, see how much worse I could be"--whether or not you intended it that way, that's what I (and I suspect most other trans folks) hear. The Anxious Puppetmaster and all. That's external dominance and it's not ok.

Daisy said...

TUS: The only reason I once deleted a "pussy licker" comment is that he kept on doing it, and it got rather dopey and monotonous. However, I wouldn't delete that comment now, instead I would publish the IP address (after issuing a warning; I have followed through on this threat twice) or block the IP completely (see lower right corner of blog, don't leave home without it!).

I didn't fully understand that technology then, but now I do.

As I said, I've left up personal threats addressed to me. Far worse than offering to lick my pussy.

My political values are that speech has to be protected. All of it. Pussy lickers, racists, bullies, Republicans, all of them. I am a First Amendment absolutist.

This does not mean I agree with the poster, or even with MOST people who exercise their First Amendment rights.

I am not Heart, and I won't indulge the habit of erasing the people who bother me, or you, or someone else. I want everyone to see ALL of the speech, and learn from it. I don't believe in excluding ANYONE.

In my own life, the most offensive speech has been the most educational of all.

So, sorry if I have to disagree with you.

John Powers said...

ravenmn writes:

"What sucks is when we don't understand the ground rules and expectations of a group we join. It's hard to know what to do if it isn't spelled out for us. But no group can ever spell out all the behaviors that they would consider inappropriate."

You address this point in the discussion in the thread at Plain(s) Feminist's blog, where you note:

"Men (patriarchal cultures to be precise) have developed very ritualized, stylized ways of handling conflict, they call it diplomacy and military intelligence and all like that."

I don't mean to butcher what you are saying, but I don't think that "slugging it out" and then "putting it aside" is what men often do. More often I think we posture using threats of violence for dominance. Too much doesn't get resolved that way.

Dialog is way more productive.

There are at least two kinds of vicious circles: The first kind essentially similar, i.e. mutually supporting like competition an rivalry. The second kind different but complementary, ie. dominance/submission, or exhibitionism/spectator, and the like.

There are also different styles of argument some people like to get it all out and get to the nub of it right away, whereas others are disturbed by the argument and feel as if together we can't get to the nub of it while feeling so upset.

It seems to me that both you and Lisa have more the style of argument to get it out in the open now rather than too cool off and pursue later. (Probably projecting because that's generally how I am.)Anyway one pitfall of this approach is the mutually supporting sort of vicious circle.

One of the roots of the debate has to do with overcoming the complimentary sort of vicious circle, to end oppression and a cycle of dominance and submission; that is to short circuit Cis-privilege.

Your apology didn't take and the first sort of vicious circle spiraled. So you wrote this piece to suggest that this vicious circle would well be short circuited too. This is a point that Lisa also makes in the post "How Not to be Defensive When Accused of Transphobia (A Guide For Cis People.)" which emphasizes moving on.

It is really hard to do any of this short circuiting! But it is helpful to follow the AA reorientation of "a higher power." The orientation is to be a part of the higher power.

Natalia said...

Just to give you another perspective, Cedar, I rarely delete offensive comments as well, both offensive comments against me and offensive comments against others.

It's very rare that I do delete anything, and I don't have a set rule as to when to do and when not to do it. Most of the time I do it? I am simply tired and find it easier to click "delete."

I think offensive comments can be useful - they can highlight just how bad a certain issue can get.

People who have posted prejudiced tripe against me and people like me over the years? They've served as examples of the fact that prejudice against Slavs, or Russophobia in particular, is alive and well.

Other comments have served similar functions.

I don't leave them up there because I agree with them, or because I want other people to feel uncomfortable, or because I want to look good in comparison.

I'm not speaking for Daisy, but I think there can be many different approaches to comment moderation.

Ravenmn said...

Hey, John, I think you've got me confused with Daisy here. That's my quote at the beginning of the post, but the rest of your comment is referring to Daisy. I haven't commented at the Plains' thread. No biggie, just making a clarification here.

I think the discussion here between Daisy and Takesupspace is a good example of the problems that arise in groups. Both are making really good arguments that are important and convincing. Both represent a valuable method of interacting on line.

I know Daisy much better than Takesupspace so I know the history behind Daisy's insistence on letting comments through. OTOH, I understand how Daisy's no censorship policy will make Daisy's blog an unsafe space for Takesupspace.

What do we do when we have valid differences of opinion like this? Is there a way for Daisy to warn Takesupspace and people who share her point of view that she may find this blog uncomfortable?

We are developing these techniques on the internet. There are trigger warnings and comment policies, etc. Since Takesupspace didn't expect to read anti-trans comments here, perhaps Daisy needs to do something to make her "all comments allowed" more visible. Or perhaps developers can create filters that will mean Takesupspace will be able to avoid that kind of hate-filled comment as she reads blogs.

There are answers out there and it's important that we keep trying to find them.

John Powers said...

ravenmn's clarification is exactly right. I'm sorry about being so unclear about what ravenmn said and what Daisy said. Thanks for making it plain ravenmn.

Amber Rhea said...

If you don't care, nothing will ever change, and no one will learn a damned thing. Some people, you know, just aren't as smart as others and have not had the educations that others have had... bottom line.

I totally hear you on this, Daisy. Basically I don't think an across-the-board rule can be stated without taking context into consideration. I mentioned this on my blog recently... if a friend I've known for years says something hurtful out of genuine ignorance, I'm going to respond differently than if it's some random person I've never met before coming on with a confrontational attitude. If we don't communicate with each other no one ever learns. And while I agree that the "I'm not here to educate you!" sentiment is appropriate in many cases, sometimes it comes off as snobbish. I mean, hello, were you just born "getting it?" I don't think anyone was. And if everyone had always taken a righteous indignation approach with me, I would have become defensive, never opened my ears and mind to listen, and thus nothing would be accomplished.

So really, I think it's all too complex to just say "handle it this way" or "handle it that way." CONTEXT MATTERS.

Amber Rhea said...

(sorry for the double post, got a little too trigger-happy with the submit button...)

What if the person says something and doesn't understand WHY it was transphobic? Can't we clarify and ask WHY? Isn't that a desire not to do further harm and integrate the message so that it never happens again?

Exactly. It's like my dear friend Jenny recently wrote:

---
My argument is that we can’t assume that people will agree with us - we have to give them reasons to agree with us. I think that public spaces should be pressured to do more to provide articulate arguments as to why people should view the lack of gender equity as a problem, not just arguing that gender inequality is a problem.

We need to push the why, not just the what.
---

I don't know about you, but I am a whole lot less likely to change my mind on something and think critically about it if no one can present me with a "why" but just a "do this because I say so!"

JustmeKaren said...

When somebody asks me a question about my life (I am a transsexual woman also) I don't have any issue with answering them as far as my experience or feelings will go. Sometimes my feelings are exasperation, I must admit.

I don't mind answering the questions of someone who has a preconceived notion about me, as long as they listen to my reply, accept it as my life's experience, and not discount it as invalid, because they won't even examine said notions, or consider modifying them to encompass ideas falling outside of them.

Silencing, or refusing to consider that transwomen have their own voices is transphobic, but asking them to share their voices in answering questions is not. I like to think it comes from a willingness to connect with, and understand, someone whose life story they have not encountered. I love that someone would ask me, even when the question is one that could exasperate me.

The transperson who doesn't understand that apprehensions and misapprehensions about them come from someone else's life experience is setting herself (or himself) up for a very bitter existence, and such bitterness will teach no one anything, or make any change, ever.