What Salty Current said on Alex Gabriel’s “smoke / fire” post from last month, a post which was kicked back to life a few days ago by the odious “sonofrojblake,” whom I finally banned from commenting here because he’s so odious.
This is the whole comment, because it’s good.
@Salty Current (#59): Including trans women in your definition of women doesn’t require you to ‘accept unproblematically a gender binary with whatever associated qualities anyone might attach to it’.
If you’ve been experiencing the oppressive aspects of the category “woman” and its associated beliefs for your entire life, writing for years prior questioning and challenging the category and its definitions, and (in Ophelia’s case) feeling very ambivalent about what it means to identify yourself in those categorical terms, it does. I’m really very angry about what looks like a total dismissal of our very real interest, as people harmed by these categories, in continuing to question and challenge them – in continuing to want to talk about gender in a critical way; like not immediately ceasing that aspect of our fight against oppression because some people demand it is done to exclude trans people from the great benefits of womanhood. People’s refusing to acknowledge the difference between this continued questioning and challenging of gender categories, in form and substance, and denying people’s rights, including the rights to self-identify and to have that identification be recognized and respected, is troubling. There is a difference between saying “I accept these categories and belong to one, and I won’t allow those people into it” and “I recognize and respect everyone’s self-identification and rights, but I want to continue to challenge the received categories which I and others have experienced as oppressive,” and it’s essential that it be recognized.
Maybe there is a lesson in that somewhere too.
I think there is, and it’s a lesson for you. Your history suggests that you seem to have a very individualistic focus and to be less adept at recognizing harmful or evil social dynamics. IIRC, you had far less experience with the pit than did those to whom you were insistently defending them, and I told you that more than once at the time. The point, as we tried to explain to you, wasn’t that their individual motives – the site and the collective behavior was harmful (which isn’t to excuse any of them individually, and many were and are capable of individual evil acts).
What’s happening now with Ophelia is very similar in form to the pitters’ actions against her then. Again, people’s individual motives aren’t the point: some are willfully malicious towards her, some are trying to sow divisiveness among social-justice atheists, some hate FTB and everything associated with it, and many believe they’re defenders of trans people and fighting the good fight. The practices, though, are familiar: setting yourselves up as a group to prosecute an individual, quote-mining, misrepresenting, projecting things into their statements or actions, spreading and repeating rumors and false stories without links, uncritically accepting claims about the person’s alleged bad behavior from questionable sources, looking for guilt by association, monitoring them closely on social media and compiling public dossiers to present your case to the jury (who are yourselves), encouraging others to join in, personalizing arguments and instead of reading arguments as arguments mining them for clues of bad intent, reading in the most uncharitable fashion possible, gathering on whatever sites will host you (if one blogger puts an end to it, you can always go to another) to endlessly rehearse their supposed misdeeds, providing threads for others to talk about their suspicions, ignoring or abiding some of the nastier tweets and comments, denying that there’s any such dynamic going on, dismissing the person’s feeling collectively attacked or besieged, presenting their statements and responses as though they weren’t made in that hostile context,…
I know many of you don’t see it this way and think you’re on the side of the angels, but it’s evil and harmful and cruel collective behavior that gets us nowhere. But for the lack of caricatures and derisive nicknames, much of what you’ve been doing is indistinguishable from the pit’s targeted attacks. I hope you’ll think about that. I don’t think any of you would want to be subjected to this yourselves.