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Over the last couple of years, there’s been a lot of talk about toxicity or abuse in activist cultures. The overwhelming majority of this talk has been crap scapegoating some of the most vulnerable people in activism. As it turns out, when the largest space is given to privileged voices talking about social justice activism, Sturgeon’s Law is an understatement.
Still, there are good, thoughtful people doing good, thoughtful work on the topic. A few pieces worth reading:
- “Calling IN: A Less Disposable Way of Holding Each Other Accountable” by Ngọc Loan Trần
- “On cynicism, calling out, and creating movements that don’t leave our people behind” by Verónica Bayetti Flores
- “Words, Words, Words: On Toxicity and Abuse in Online Activism” by Katherine Cross
- “Calling Out, Calling In: Why Internet Activism Matters” by Kitty Stryker
- “Real Answers for Freddie deBoer” by Angus Johnson
- “Words for cutting: Why we need to stop abusing ‘the tone argument’” by Katherine Cross
I would argue with some of those pieces here and there, but they’re all written by activists putting in work to think about and articulate what activist spaces need from and for their members. Beyond pieces like these, there is a small world of internet writers unpacking different social interactions and general approaches to social interaction that is worth checking in on if the topic interests you. I recommend Miri’s Brute Reason Tumblr and Kate Donovan’s Monday Miscellany posts as aggregators, though both contain plenty other interesting content as well.
Quibbles aren’t what this post is about, however. This post is about making sure we don’t underestimate what it will take to deal with abuse in communities of activists who are themselves marginalized. This is about understanding the costs of viewing abusive behavior primarily as something to be excised. It’s about recognizing the skill required to navigate desperation and conflict. It’s also about recognizing the power that good communicators have within these communities even as they remain otherwise marginalized. [Read more…]