Friday, May 8, 2009

Censorship and radical feminist transphobia, episode # 89176

One reason I don't "moderate" (censor) comments on my blog, is because I fear the inevitable slippery slope.

First, I'd be moderating for being offensive. Next, I'd be moderating for any disagreement at all. And finally I would be moderating/censoring just for thoughtcrime, i.e. "upsetting" my friends and readers.

Nope, not going there.

Thus, I don't understand the tendency of certain bloggers to zealously moderate/censor comments. I understand guarding against trolling and spam, particularly after witnessing the manner in which some radical bloggers (such as Renee) have been harassed to death by online viciousness. But for regular, relatively small-time bloggers such as your humble narrator? Censorship is primarily used to avoid ideological conflict; a way to stay safe and avoid being questioned about one's beliefs.

And some of us actually grow and learn through the working out and witnessing of such conflicts. For this reason, I love contentious, argumentative blogs, where all sides of questions are aired and examined.

Whenever I use the word CENSORSHIP, people get very exercised. It's like pushing a button, and the official Encyclopaedia Britannica definition of CENSORSHIP is duly spit out, on cue. (Honestly, why do people bother going to college, if it doesn't teach them to think for themselves?)

The teleprompter reads: It's not censorship since you can write it on your own blog! It's not censorship unless it's the government! It's not censorship since we have not prevented anyone from speaking! Blah blah blah. This is drivel; of course it is censorship. If I sent my kid to bed so she would not see SEX AND THE CITY, then I censored her television viewing, period. If I edited the scene out of the movie BIG, wherein Tom Hanks touches Elizabeth Perkins' boob in implied foreplay-mode--so my very-young child would not see it--but left the rest of the illegally-videotaped movie intact, this means I CENSORED about 30 seconds of the movie BIG. Yes, lil ole Daisy, unentangled by government, CENSORED something, all on her own! This is the proper usage of the word, people:

cen·sor·ship (sĕn'sər-shĭp')

1) The act, process, or practice of censoring.
If you do not want to be accused of censorship, then by all means, do not censor, which is defined as:
To examine and expurgate.
That's all. No mention of the government or "Get your own damn blog"--none of that. It simply means, TO JUDGE UNWORTHY FOR WHATEVER REASON--AND SUBSEQUENTLY DELETE. That is censorship.

When you protest that no, you do not engage in censorship, when you clearly DO, then you are a coward who does not have the courage of your convictions and who does not take responsibility for your own beliefs, whatever those beliefs are.

Thus, when you "moderate"--you censor. Do not argue otherwise, just because you want to come off as some big tolerant liberal. Please admit what you are doing. I just admitted I didn't want my young daughter to see likable Tom Hanks grab a boob, before she was old enough to understand everything about that scene. Now, you can do likewise and admit that you have occasionally done the same, it will not kill you.

If, however, you are one of those people who LIVES TO CENSOR, then I can see why you might want to avoid the label... obviously, alternate versions of truth--as perceived by others--are things you don't like to wrestle with very often. Much easier to squash these other voices, like dragonflies on a hot southern-summer windshield.


As you all must have guessed by now, I was just censored, again, and decided to address the subject. I was polite and succinct in my comment, so the only reason I was censored was for disagreeing with the majority.

And see? It would have been lots better if Valerie of Valerie Speaks, had just gone ahead and allowed my polite little dissenting comment... now it is going to be FAR MORE NEGATIVE and MUCH LONGER.

On a thread titled Radical Feminists and Trans Stuff (warning, offensive hate speech from Sam Berg and the usual we-hate-sluts contingent), Heart writes the following:
The conflict ideologically speaking between radical feminists and Queer/postmodern people is really located right here, in the disagreement about what gender is. All sorts of things happen to female persons because we are female: we have been denied the vote, denied citizenship, forced into marriage, forced into prostitution, endured the mutilation of our genitals and reproductive organs, had our feet bound, been raped and sexually enslaved, suffered honor killings, forced to cover ourselves in specific ways, forced to bear children, degraded and debased because we bleed or because we are pregnant, and so on. That’s *gender*. It happens to us because of our sex. This is core to radical feminism because the belief that gender is something mystical, something in the head, something someone is somehow “born with,” something someone just “knows” about herself or himself [1] obscures or erases the horrific realities I’ve described, what the process of gendering a human being does to her (or to him.) To gender a person is to force him or her to conform to a patriarchally designed and coerced stereotype. To gender is to coerce. If we abolish gender and all gender coercion, people grow up free to be whomever they want to be, to express themselves in any conceivable way, wear whatever, do whatever they want to themselves and not be told it is “unfeminine” or “unmasculine” or whatever, not be ostracized, marginalized and so on.
Italics mine, not Heart's.

And here is my censored comment:

Therefore, forcing someone to present as one or the other gender, simply because their genitalia is X or Y, is to continue the coercion.

Just to be clear, there is nothing remotely feminist about that position.
And you know, I can't understand how anyone could write that paragraph, and still be in favor of forcing gender on people: If you have X or Y genitalia, you are evilll and wrongggg for not identifying accordingly! (Isn't that the conclusion Heart and Co. have arrived at?)

If one agrees that gender is constricting and negative, why so judgmental and intolerant of the people who won't live according to their assigned birth gender? Doesn't the existence of such people PROVE that gender is fluid, multi-faceted and complex, rather than something very precise, prescribed and inborn (as the patriarchy has historically defined gender)?

Why are you preserving the gender-system right down to the necessity of panty-checks, if you claim you are against it?

And more to the point: your disapproval of trans people and your implication that trans persons are somehow invalid and trying to "deceive"[2]--is basically an unabashed celebration of inborn gender-roles and identity. (And this is in direct contradiction to your stated claims of abolishing gender.)

More from Heart:
No radical feminist I know and respect is personally concerned so far as what someone else might have done to their body or how they identify or, for that matter, what their beliefs about gender might be. All of us want justice for all people.
What are you talking about? Of course you are "personally concerned"--to the point that you believe such women should be refused entry at the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival (Michfest). You have written in favor of this position hundreds of times, on your own blog, the old Ms message board, countless other blogs, as well as the Michfest board. Hundreds of posts, thousands of words. You have proudly and zealously gone on record as approving of the active exclusion of trans women. How is that "unconcerned"? How is that "wanting justice for all people"?

The acrimony around transgender issues has to do, mostly, with the insistance that woman-only space and lesbian spaces, especially, be respected.
No, the acrimony is due to the fact that that you have decided certain women do not belong in that space, and you will not give equal time to any defense of said women's rights. They do not deserve inclusion, so OUT, OUT DAMNED SPOT. Ejection without trial! You show such proud disrespect, that you will not even listen to trans women or allow them to post on your blog... then you claim to be about "justice"...(!)

You first claim gender is oppressive, and then assert you want the right to continue to oppress people who do not fit into the proper gender categories. When this contradictory position brings about "acrimony"--you decide it isn't for the reasons feminists like me have enumerated, it is instead because you are too PURE AND GOOD for this world (there's that pesky Calvinism of yours creeping in again, Heart). You will not listen to what WE SAY is the problem and the cause of the acrimony, because of course, you know better than we do, right? We are not important enough for you to listen to. We don't count.

I think they call that predestination.

The experience of being subordinated because we are female from the time of our birth results in a lived reality that is not shared by those born male, even if they have transitioned.
No one has ever said the experiences were identical... but that these experiences do illustrate a different kind of oppression. As a cisgendered woman who has admirably fulfilled your gender-role, you have a privileged status. In fact, the way you are definitively proclaiming Who is What, regardless of their self-definition, is part and parcel of that status. You are giving an excellent demonstration of cis privilege: you know what transgendered people are, even BETTER than they know themselves. As men have always claimed to know women better than WE know ourselves. (Since you claim to be this right-on lesbian-feminist, doesn't imitating the worst habits of men bother you at all?)
As female persons subordinated on account of our sex by men and male-created institutions, we are entitled to gather as women for all the reasons all oppressed groups of persons gather. We are entitled to say that our spaces will not be shared by those born male.
As I said, cis privilege: you will decide who is "born male" and what that means, using the traditional patriarchal definitions. People's own perceptions of who they are, their own accounts and process, do not matter to you.

You are continuing to FORCE the definitions of gender; the very same gender that you criticize as oppressive. Suddenly, gender is your friend, when you need it to keep out the riff-raff.

Do you see the contradiction here?

Our gathering as women born female, who have lived as girls and women all of our lives, ought to be respected. A comparatively small number of vocal persons disagrees and has not only refused to respect women’s and lesbian space but has filed lawsuits against lesbian organizations, in some instances causing them to close, boycotted already marginalized lesbian and women performers and artists, launched no holds barred attacks on lesbian and radical feminist journalists, and so on. We are being told we are not entitled to determine how we will and will not strategize our own liberation. We are called “transphobes” and “bigots” in other words because we believe we are entitled to our own spaces, “our” meaning spaces for women born female, lived as girls and women all of our lives. There is a lot of understandable anger and resentment about this among lesbian/radical feminists. That anger isn’t about bigotry or transphobia, it is about justice for women as a people. Because, in fact, women are a people.

There are real transphobes everywhere, zillions of them in the mainstream, many of them, as you’ve noted, in alternative communities as well. Radical feminists are not, for the most part, transphobes and neither are lesbian feminists/lesbian separatists. Defense of our own spaces is not bigotry; it is insisting that we retain the right to strategize our own liberation.
Who is "our"? If you are going to continue to justify your exclusion of certain women, this is counterfeit liberation... it only refers to you and your friends. This is not all women. Certainly, it bears no relationship to radical feminism, but is instead a parody, a joke, by pseudo-feminists who were too busy during the birth of radical feminism to be involved... but like you, came on board much later, after reaping the considerable benefits of acceptable middle-class heterosexuality, as well as religious authority within Christianity.

Aren't you even a little embarrassed to be on the side of the censors, the segregationists, the haters, this time? Do you honestly believe there is nothing to the lawsuits, the boycotts, the challenges? They are just filled with the devil and are out to get you, is that it? These progressive feminist trans women who want to be included are simply trying to co-opt feminism, is that it? Why would they do that? What is the purpose? What's the frequency, Kenneth?

It seems to me, they want to be included, as disabled women once agitated to be included, as LESBIANS (whom you claim to be, something you mystically "just know" you are) have also agitated to be included. This is the same. But for some reason this time, you dig your heels in. THESE WOMEN you will not accept. They are too inferior; you simply will not associate with them.

And I think we can see, more boycotts, more lawsuits, more hell-raising, all are necessary.

Like the last segregationists, they will not give an inch unless they are forced. Bigots rarely learn a thing.


PS: Valerie, see how much LONGER this version is? Two lines would have caused much less fuss!


[1] How on earth could someone decide they are lesbian while still married to a man? Maybe lesbianism is "something someone just “knows” about herself or himself"?

[2] Heart has written that any trans person who does not disclose their trans-status to a prospective sexual partner, is guilty of rape. It is basically the feminist version of the "trans-panic" defense, used by trans-bashers throughout the land. Most recently, it was used as a legal defense of Allen Andrade, convicted murderer of trans woman Angie Zapata.


Ann oDyne said...

Dear Feisty Ms DDA -
1. I couldn't have Comment Moderation - too much fiddling.

2. I censor my own intake all the time when perusing the news - turn the page quick if it's a bad animal story etc.

3. nasty issue here in Victoria at the bottom of Australia this week re gender:
"A judge allows a girl to have her breasts removed" is upsetting those who realise that the person who had to negotiate legal red-tape, thinks of themselves as a male.
All the reports say 'her' and 'she'.

Dori said...

Thank you Daisy, for saying just the right thing to keep me from screaming. I have a trans partner and I identify as genderqueer. When these hateful and hurtful things are said, they cut me right to my heart.

I will say however, that I do censor in my own space, simply because I see it as a matter of personal mental safety and the mental safety of my readers. I admire Renee's commitment to open dialogue, but I can't do it. I don't have the energy. Hateful people like Heart have an entire world in which to spew their bile, and its a world that for the most part will listen to and support their poison. I refuse to give them another platform. I need one place that they are not allowed to say that shit in.

All that being said, that's how I choose to run my space, as is my right, and I respect how you run yours. You are a stronger woman than I, and I appreciate what you do and how you do it.

Meowser said...

Yeah, I send first-time commenters to moderation, as well as those with multiple links. And if I think they're going to be too much trouble for me, if they look like they're just there to stir up shit and be nasty, I don't approve their comments.

The reason I (and many other fat acceptance bloggers I know) do this is simple: I don't feel like having the same goddamn argument all day, every day, about how my fat is going to kill me and I need to diet NOWNOWNOW, and by the way did I have any idea how ugly I was and that my boyfriend is only fucking me out of desperation and/or pity? I don't have time for that shit. And that's what would be going on ALL DAY EVERY DAY if I let that get a toehold. They would jack every goddamn thread to the point where I just would not want to blog again. I'm not kidding. Circular arguments are not just tiresome to me, they will make me have a meltdown.

They can at least come up with some clever new material if they want to get approved. But they never seem to, it's always the donuts-donuts-Twinkies-Twinkies-McDonalds-moo-oink-ewwww stuff, again and again and again. I do, however, differentiate someone who has a well-thought-out argument to make with someone who's just trolling.

bitch queen emily, PhD said...

Yeah, I don't have moderation on for my blog (though Lisa's got in on for QT).

Generally I just can't be arsed with it, it's a time drain and sometimes it's best to let people's stupidity hang out. I totally agree with you on that, because you never know who's watching and learning.

Having said that, I've got totally sympathy for other trans people who do use it, cos when you get swamped with trolls (as Little Light was been a few times) then that sucks. And when you're already tired out from Planet Cis then the last thing you want is an internet battle with people who want you to either STFU or just not exist at all.

And that does go for more than just trolls - I find if you have enough clueless cis people in one place (eg Feministing) then you can't ever say anything useful (which was the reason you came onto the internet in the first place) and all you get is knock down sub-101 fights that get you nowhere. So as a small, marginal group we need to use our energy as best we can and for some people that does mean moderation and I totally support that.

It's a fine balance, you know?

mikeb302000 said...

I started moderating a couple months ago, but after reading your post, I don't know if I'll continue with it. I have such a high regard for your opinion, and it was clear how you feel about comment moderation, that I'm honestly now reconsidering.

My commenters came upon a tactic in our argument that I didn't like. They said my owning a computer and camera made me partly responsible for child pornography. This was in response to my arguing that their pro-gun position, especially their resistance to gun control laws, makes them partly responsible for the gun violence that results from the current policies.

After exhausting the argument back and forth, they began repeating my name and the words "child porn" and "kiddie porn" so frequently and sometimes in a way that was even off thread, I began to suspect they were attempting to damage me in some way, so I started the censoring process, as you called it.

What should I do? Are bloggers not within their rights to ask certain things of their commenters? If cooperation doesn't follow, what's the right response?

I recognized in all this as certain controlling in myself. Part of it was I asked them and I demanded that they comply. On the other hand I don't think what I was asking was all that unreasonable.

Anyway, I'd love to hear what you think about this, if you have the time. I realize it's a totally different situation than yours, but there are some common basic elements.

CrackerLilo said...

1. I started moderating when I got 50-plus pieces of really hateful homophobic drivel in my comments from the same person. Every time I think I'll stop, I get a serving of spam. I moderate for no other reason. Dissenting comments go through--I'm glad I make people think!

2. I have absolutely nothing to add to or subtract from regarding your comments on radfem transphobia. Nothing. Brilliantly done. You're right--Valerie should've just accepted your two lines.

3. Around here, we call lesbians married to men "bisexuals," especially if they actually like the idea of sex with other women. But radfems don't really like us bisexuals, either.

4. Ann oDyne, that's horrible, how they treated that young FTM person! I'm glad the judge got it right, however.

Tracey said...

Bravo to this post. Bra. Vo.

DaisyDeadhead said...

Mike, first, I would ask people to stop, issue a formal warning. As in FIRST WARNING, SECOND WARNING. Let them know they have crossed the line--it's only fair, since lots of people do not realize they have. They think it's all in fun, or whatever.

Next: This requires a relatively low number of hits (under 500 in a day--which is why I don't begrudge Renee and the "big blogs"--I don't think this would will work too well for them)... and considerable vigilance, but see what I did on this thread?

Of course, this person was dumb enough to post AT WORK, too. But when I Googled the IP address
I found the name of the law firm that owned the computer. The IP addresses are in your stats; StatCounter provides the entire number, SiteMeter only part. But SiteMeter makes it easy with their "outclick" feature. I use both together, along with the time-stamp of the post, to find the IP address. Lots of times, it will tell you EXACTLY where it came from (particularly if they post from work or school), or you can Google the IP separately. In any event, threaten to post it, or just go ahead and post the location, as I did. (Sometimes you will get the whole Google-earth map to the IP address, which is sweet!) I print that to let people know they will not get away with that shit. I make AN EXAMPLE of the person.

And at the bottom of the page, is an IP address blocker, if all else fails. You can keep the most obnoxious trolls from visiting your blog, if you have their IP addresses. I've done that too.

If I had a specific BRAND of troll, as Cracker and Meowser have had (i.e homophobes, anti-fat trolls, people on a "mission"), this might not work as well. Certain posts really draw out the "missionaries" (your gun posts fall into this category!)--and they can be especially hard to keep track of, because they are terribly dedicated, dogged and super-obnoxious. (i.e. using a variety of computers, actually stalking.) You need to be aware of posting something that will draw out the wacko-faction, and keep special watch on those threads. Sooner or later, one of the trolls will get sloppy and post at work or school, particularly if they are obsessive. At that point, you gottem, dead to rights. :D

I do not have internet access on my job, and if these assholes have this wonderful privilege and abuse it? They deserve to be outed. I will print whatever information I can find, no matter what it is.

I consider this method of troll-control PART AND PARCEL of my free speech family values! :P Just because this is the net, you do not have the right to harass me without repercussions!

DaisyDeadhead said...

Mike and everyone, I would also recommend careful study of your blog stats ... be generally aware of how many people read daily/regularly but DO NOT post comments. (I tend to give them names based on location, like "Detroit" or something.) Some of these readers like you and some don't. Every now and then, you will say something to draw one the lurkers out, in a good or bad way...then you will know for sure if they are friend or foe. Make notes of IP addresses for future reference. BLOGGING IS AN ONGOING PROJECT and deserves devoted surveillance. The Yippies taught me constructive paranoia! :D

"Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're NOT out to get you."--Abbie Hoffman.

jovan b. said...

All comments on my blog are moderated, just like it is on Ren's.

I am not on the blog very often on weekends, so if someone posts on it on Saturday or Sunday -- I won't look at it and comments won't be approved until Monday, unless I approve the comment from my Gmail before then.

If it is a really trollish remark, I will reject it and may use the comment in my next post in order to bring shame on the troll.

I've never banned anyone until April 19. One person kept calling me a "Nazi" because of my post about the TEA parties and I had to ban him for it.

And that post was related to the this posting about Janeane Garofalo's take on the April 15 protests. I'm getting real close to turning comments off because the trolls keep coming back to that thread.

DaisyDeadhead said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
CampTrans said...

"Our gathering as women born female, who have lived as girls and women all of our lives, ought to be respected."

Transwomen have been at Michfest since the very first gathering and helped organize and build it from the beginning. I can name names. Heart only discovered Michfest attendance a couple of years ago, and now acts as if she owns it. This is her usual modus operandi, as Daisy has written: get there late, then pretend you've been there all along. There has never been some Eden at Michfest in which transwomen were not present. This is a complete fiction, continuously propagated by transphobic radfems.

Daisy Bond said...

But for regular, relatively small-time bloggers such as your humble narrator? Censorship is primarily used to avoid ideological conflict; a way to stay safe and avoid being questioned about one's beliefs.Well, yes and no. It's a question of what kinds and levels of disagreement we want to acknowledge, engage with and thereby legitimize. I'm more than happy to have comments from you disagreeing with me -- you're a reasonable person making a reasonable case and I respect your views. But I'm not going to donate any portion of my space so that a Holocaust denier can make his case. To do so would be to tacitly legitimize his position, IMO -- to let that perspective stand as though it's worthy of our time and consideration. Some ideas just aren't worthy of our time, and I don't care to engage with them. I'm not going to argue with someone who thinks I'm not human. That's one belief (that I'm human) I have no interest in questioning, and there are others, and I think that's proper. We all have to draw the line somewhere.

Lisa Harney said...

My moderation is pretty simple:

If you misgender someone, I won't post your comment. This has caused one person to fly into a tailspin of destructive self-justification, but it generally works.

I can and have been misgendered in many places for reasons as petty as, well, where Heart's coming from. There's no protection from that, no insulation. It's one of the primary verbal/textual attacks used against trans people. I have no responsibility to allow it in my space.

This doesn't mean I disallow disagreement (although I did not approve one comment justifying that it would be ethically reasonable to eliminate trans people entirely), it just means I ask for a basic respectful concession before I approve comments.

Erin said...

Haha, I love what you did to the commenter on the Swine flu post. That's awesome.

Anonymous said...

The reason you don't need to moderate your comments is because you don't have a controversial blog. You're post is very safe and PC, hence you will not attract too many flamers. There are some who are bolder in their blogs and "anonymous" commenters.

For instance I could leave a comment calling you a moron and an immature overly emotional knee-jerk liberal Obot, for calling people's valid reasons for wanting to moderate thier comments, drivel. Then if you had friends who read your blog, they may feel inclined to "stick up for you" and then you would have a war every time you posted a blog. For these who are more risk taking when they post, they have to deal with these things.

I wasn't able to read past the first two paragraphs but I would also like to inform you that I am a feminist and love trans. I don't know what your theory was but putting people in boxes is about as useful as Obama's comedy routine last night, while everyone loses thier jobs.

I also find that Obama fans the the epitome of those who are trying to silence Freedom of Speech. I keep hearing them make remarks about how certain people don't deserve Freedom of Speech, but only when they are talking about how Obama is bail out the richest men on the planet just like W did ... and about how Obama is a war monger just like George W, continue the War on Terror leaving a third of the troops in Iraq after promising to bring them home, and sending 17,000 troops to Afghanistan and mentioning it on the same day he announced his stimulus exactly something Bush would do, incidentally it is Democrats who discuss the Fairness Doctrine and Obama has expanded the Patriot Act after pledging to reverse it.

So yeah whatever your point was on trans please note I am a lefty radical feminist and I love trans.

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

Anonymous--your comment calling me out is pretty nervy, but too bad you undermined all that truth-telling by not having the nerve to sign your name.

Not controversial? Wow, at work, I am known as this big dangerous red. I guess you just gave yourself away as living in a nice, safe liberal place like New York City.

Believe it or not, not everyone does.

DaisyDeadhead said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bryce said...

sorry u gotta dumbass transphobe troll but at least its only one. they dont know how to behave themselves & show out everywhere

happy mothers day late, d.

Anonymous said...

I returned to the Huffington Post and I discovered I was censored. Never used a curse word ever. Did positive posts on Hillary Clinton in the past. I guess that was enough to flag my account. When I returned to post thoughtful comments about a new article, I discovered I was totally censored. Again, never used a curse word. Never insulted the writer, just disagreed. Just posted arguments against the writer's position. I go to a lot of liberal sites and never had problems. But I'm not alone in having problems with Huffington Post. I think people should go to another news aggregator, because the censorship of responses are not around being a troll or cursing, it's times you provide arguments against their editorial position. Hushing their readers is totally hypocritical of their "open" and "new" journalism.

Monica Roberts said...

The poet Gwendolyn Brooks once said 'truth tellers are not always palatable. There's a preference for candy bars.'

Too many time POC bloggers whose writing challenges people's preconceived notions or rattles cages are attacked.

That being said, thanks for the post, Daisy.