Two guest posts in one: Glenn Beck level ass-hattery

First, a comment by themadtapper on The art of the question on July 24:

This is some Glenn Beck level ass-hattery. “I’m just asking questions! Why won’t Ophelia Benson confirm she’s not a transphobe?”

I love how Joe says “it was just the polite way of asking if you are a transmisogynist”. As if anyone, even an actual transmisogynist, would ever answer anything but ‘no’ to that question. No, what Joe was doing was fishing for something to accuse her over. When challenged on the claim that Ditum and Lewis were “obvious bigots” and the assumption that following on Twitter amounted to an endorsement, Joe promptly blocked Ophelia and then lied about her reply. And in true Beck style he took every refusal to play his game as an admission of guilt to an accusation that anyone with a cursory knowledge of Ophelia’s posting history would know is false. And sadly, just like Beck, he gets what he wants even if you don’t give him what he wants. In come a parade of people to make posts about how hard Ophelia is trying to avoid the question. “Why, she MUST have something to hide after all, since she won’t answer the question!” Or, you know, she knows perfectly well that no answer will satisfy anyway. Because an answer is not what’s wanted. Any answer denying guilt will be met with further interrogation and insinuation, and the refusal to play (whether immediate or after fatigue and frustration set in) will be declared an admission of guilt. [Read more…]

Divorce status

What is the divorce status? It’s in abeyance for now, because I was very strongly urged to make it so.

But I still very much want to leave. I’m going to set up a Patreon account, and if I get a few subscribers, that will help make it possible. (Imagine B&W with no ads again!) I want to leave because several network colleagues have ostentatiously attacked me, not simply as someone they disagree with, but as a bad harmful dangerous person. They consider me a taint, a pollution, a toxin, and that is obviously very bad for a network of this kind. I don’t want to blog on a network where a small but vocal group of fellow bloggers think I’m a contaminant.

We don’t have a rule against a group of bloggers ganging up to ostracize and demonize one blogger. I thought (without noticing I thought it until recently) we did have a tacit rule of that kind, but I’ve learned that we don’t. We don’t have a rule, but what we do have is reality. The reality is that if a group singles out one blogger and goes after her for thought-crime and deviationism, that blogger is going to leave.

What do I mean, thought-crime and deviationism?

This for example from a comment by Jason on his post attacking me:

I think she said particularly impolitic things in particularly impolitic ways, regurgitated damaging arguments handed to her by TERFs that rightly got peoples’ hackles up, and I think she personally does not understand that at least some of the vitriol thrown her way is because some of those positions she’s taken are, actually, expressly damaging to trans folk. And the way she finally acquiesced to saying yes was so loaded with “but but gender is weird” — as though anyone was arguing gender WASN’T — is further damaging and undercuts her yes in a way that looks like a YES-BUT, which always reads as a NOT REALLY. And I am aware that she keeps saying over and over that she’s answered “yes”, but she’s doing so much lashing out at the genuine, nuanced criticism, and so much cozying up to the TERFs that everyone ELSE recognizes as having it out for trans folk, that it is perfectly reasonable for trans folk to want to steer clear even where people who are not trans might want to continue to engage.
To modify my first sentence though, I think my like and trust for Ophelia Benson is eroding the more she refuses to acknowledge that she might have done wrong and that anyone is at all legitimately hurt here. And every clarification — even if a step in the right direction — is loaded with paranoia about snakes in the grass and poisoners and witch-hunters who just want to attack her, that no amount of nuance in the argument is going to get through to her.

That’s not how colleagues should talk about each other in public – not in any organization where I want to work, at least. The main reason I wanted to join Freethought blogs when it was first set up was because it appeared to be a great group of people. I loved working solo but then once the network was created, I didn’t want to be left out of it. I thought it would be fun to have colleagues, and it was. It’s not fun any more, now that a few of them have lined up to talk about me the way Jason did there. If it’s not fun any more, why on earth would I stay? I could decide to stay for the good of the network, but since it’s the network that’s portraying me as a contaminant, I’m not motivated to do that. I’m getting all the shit part of having colleagues, and none of the good part.

From Halifax to Harrogate

And now for something completely different, a pop culture interlude. Last Tango in Halifax – any watchers here?

I don’t think much of the latest season, season 3. Too much silly melodrama and way too little daily life, which is what it’s best at. I got bored. It’s funny that melodrama can be boring while daily life can be enthralling, but there it is, at least for me.

Still. It’s better than most things. Women front and center, and talking about lots of things besides a man. It passes the Bechdel test in the first few minutes, every time.

And then it’s Yorkshire.

And it’s Derek Jacobi, the best Hamlet ever in the history of everything.

And Nicola Walker, and Nina Sosanya.

Guest post: I yet still wished that children were born undifferentiated

Guest post by Tigger the Wing, originally a comment on a Facebook thread, published with permission.

To me, it is whatever the person calling themselves a woman says it is, for them and them alone.

What society says a woman is, fits few (if any) real people.

We need to have this discussion, and we need to do it without attacking other people for perceived transgressions (or even trans aggressions. Ouch. Sorry).

Ophelia has been entirely honest – she acknowledges that if a person says she’s a woman, then she is a woman. And she also says we need to discuss what is meant by that word ‘woman'; not because of individual women, but because of how wider society treats people that find themselves in that artificial class of ‘womanhood’. [Read more…]

Disambiguation

A thing I’ve noticed. There’s a lot of talking past each other here (in this hotly contested discussion, I mean, not on this blog). There’s a  lot of mixing up of slogans and political commitments with attempts to disambiguate words and problematize concepts. The two don’t go well together. I have political commitments, but I also like to try to disambiguate words and problematize concepts.

So, if only “abbeycadabra” had thought to make their question to me a matter of political commitments, I could have answered it, probably the way they were looking for. But they didn’t. And because they didn’t, they pretty thoroughly fucked up my life for the past couple of weeks.

I squandered much too much time today answering endless repetitive pointless questions from two men on Facebook who were making the same mistake. [Read more…]

Guest post: But if such explorations were interrupted

Originally a comment by kevinkirkpatrick on I did say.

It’s said no analogy is perfect; so take this with a grain of salt:

Say I took issue with the legal institution of marriage; and felt it was worth exploring whether our society would be better off massively redefining marriage or, perhaps, doing away with it altogether (I think such a case exists – marriage doesn’t seem to provide benefits, like financial assistance w/ guardianship. to many who need them; while it certainly has some massive rob-the-poor-to-feed-the-rich effects that do our society no good) . Such explorations might entail examinations of romantic couplings vs. friendships; childless couples vs uncoupled guardians; various toxic religious views of marriage; etc., etc. [Read more…]

Guest post: Some trust their sources so slavishly

Originally a comment by Stewart on I did say.

More seriously trying to understand it, there is probably a mixture of things going on, none of which is Ophelia holding unpleasant views she refuses to discuss, but one of which is Ophelia reacting with completely justifiable exasperation at people launching unceasing attacks at her (some of a truly vile and literally – in that word’s original meaning – dehumanising character, throwing the very idea of discussion or arguments out the window) for views she doesn’t hold.

Perhaps some trust their sources so slavishly that they feel it unnecessary to read what Ophelia has actually written; there are others who are deliberately egging them on. Others still have sunk so deep into a morass of jargon that they will follow anyone who seems to be trendy (which is what most jargon is really all about). [Read more…]

I did say

I guess what I need to do is just re-post this every few hours for the next who knows how long. “This” is the post I wrote to clarify why I refused to answer a yes-or-no question and what my view is. (It took me more than one word. That’s why I don’t answer yes-or-no questions, except for very simple factual ones like “do you murder people?”) It seems I need to re-post it a few hundred times because people keep accusing me of things I very explicitly reject in that post (and then calling me paranoid and narcissistic when I notice).

So here it is. Get used to it – you’ll be seeing a lot of it.

_____________________________________

Ok. It’s too late for this (but then it probably always was), because there are a lot of people just hell-bent on spotting a TERF in the bushes and not changing their view no matter what; the well is thoroughly poisoned and is going to stay that way. The poisoner oolon, who went to Pharyngula to work up the troops against me yesterday, is one such; that dude wants scalps, period.

But there are, I’m told, people who are just plain hurt and upset, especially trans people, and I don’t want to hurt people. Therefore I’ll try to clarify what I meant by refusing to answer yes or no.

(It’s like Bill Clinton and “is” – that was treated as a joke, but there actually is more than one meaning to “is.” Rumsfeld and his unknown unknowns were also treated as a joke, but he too was quite right – it’s only a pity he didn’t take the unknown unknowns a lot more seriously.)

There’s a difference, for instance, between an ontological is and a political is.

The more I think about the ontology of gender, the less I think I understand it. It’s slippery. That makes it impossible to answer yes/no questions about it.

But politically? Do you mean, will I take trans people’s word for it? Will I use their right names and pronouns? Of course I will. Do I want to make them jump through hoops to prove something to me? Of course not.

Do I get that trans people are severely marginalized, and have to jump through kinds of hoops I have no idea of? Hell yes.

I have thoughts and questions about gender, broadly speaking; gender as it affects all of us, and women in particular. I don’t think those thoughts are transphobic.

It’s not enough to just passively dislike someone

Gee, I wonder what this could possibly be about. This post at Skepchick: Release The Scotsman: Responsible Use of Fallacies.

There’s a trend when it comes to talking to people about the negative elements of communities they’re involved in. When people don’t double down and simply deny that there are nasty folks in their community, they like to play the “well they’re not a REAL feminist/atheist/kinky person/purple people eater.” This is known as the No True Scotsman fallacy, and it’s annoyingly common.

Understandably, few people like to be called out on using fallacies, so a typical response to getting called out is something like “Well I still don’t like them and I don’t want them around so they don’t count to me.” I often find myself responding to No True Scotsman call outs by saying “I know they’re technically part of feminism/atheism/people on Tumblr, but I really don’t condone what they’re doing and I have no desire to be associated with them. I don’t know why you’re talking to me about what they did, I hate it as much as you do.”

Eh?

That’s so contorted it’s hard to follow. Olivia (the author) seems to be going to a lot of trouble to avoid saying what she’s talking about; maybe that’s why it’s hard to follow.

I think what she’s saying is: it’s a pain when there is Someone Terrible in our group, so what we do is, we say the Somone Terrible isn’t a real member of our group, aka not a True Scotsman. Olivia seems to be saying that’s a bad thing to do; she frowns on it. We have to bite the bullet and say how Terrible the Someone Terrible is. We have to own it.

But that’s kind of bullshit. All of us have to collect our folks when they’re doing inappropriate shit, and if we want to avoid Scotsman accusations we have to be willing to recognize that even the people we hate can be and often are parts of the movements that we are part of.

I think I’m on the right track. I think she’s saying we have to be honest about the fact that even people we hate – like this Someone Terrible – are part of our movement. We have to “collect” them when they’re doing inappropriate shit.

What are the behaviors someone has to do in order to be responsible towards the shitty members of their groups? Are there times that it isn’t fair to use No True Scotsman just because someone is trying to distance themselves from other members of their movements?

That part is very opaque. It’s about shitty people who somehow are in your groups, and…no, I can’t figure out the second sentence at all. Who is distancing from whom? I think she lost the thread there. Not a very good writer. Is that what she means by being shitty?

No you are not personally responsible for every other person in your movements. But if you want to distance yourself from the shitty elements, you have to do actual work. Meaning you actually have to distance yourself by saying “That is not appropriate stop doing that.” You also have to take actions. If the person is behaving in a shitty manner towards trans people, step up and say “I 100% believe that trans women are women.” Use preferred pronouns, don’t make trans identities the butt of jokes, and call out those who are doing the opposite. Essentially, do your own work and be a good ally or activist by calling out bad behavior when you see it*.

Ohhh, now I think I see where we are. She’s saying everybody has to step up and shit on me, the Notorious Terrible Person of the week month year. Don’t just sit there; don’t look away; don’t talk about something else; don’t ask what the fuck you mean; step up and distance yourself by saying “That is not appropriate stop doing that.”

If you are doing your own work, if you are stepping up to the plate to try to improve your movement and community, if you are denouncing the awful actions of the shitty people in your movement, then and only then do you get to say “I did my best to change that part of feminism/atheism/etc. Those are not my people. I am not associated with them and I have made that clear.”

It’s not enough to stand by and assume everyone knows you disagree. It’s not enough to just passively dislike someone. You need to step up and make your own positions clear.

Right on! Preach it, sister! Denounce those awful actions of shitty people (i.e. me)! Do it! It’s not enough to stand by and assume everyone knows you disagree. It’s not enough to just passively dislike someone. You need to step up and shit on that awful person the way all the other good people are.

It’s best not to say her name though. That way you can…uh…