I have a Twitter account. Arguably that’s a bad idea, but it’s true, like my closing in on epic levels of caffeine consumption.
I mention this because I noticed a trend among bad actors trying to spar with me. My bio there includes the phrase “Anti-bigotry, pro-kindness.“, which transphobes and other terrible people regard as hypocrisy because it in no way prevents me from handing them their asses. In a fit of nigh-ironic coincidence, I was on my way here to post about this in response to a TERF tweeting
Oh look, a pronoun person who preaches kindness. at me, but I arrived to find our own dear sweet Holms doing exactly the same thing, and of course getting his ass handed to him in response.
I have come to sincerely believe that the sort of people who do these things, who are capable of holding in their hearts genuine contempt for some demographic or other, don’t understand what kindness is or how it works.They believe that my treating them with the contempt and belligerence they so richly deserve is unkind, and therefore I am a hypocrite*. They believe “kind” means “gentle”, “pleasant”, “nice”.
It doesn’t. In any way other than the providing of very short term immediate comfort, kindness means doing what’s right, not doing what’s pleasant – and “doing what’s right” is not something that exists in a vaccuum. These interactions are not me and TERF du jour alone in space having an academic discussion that affects nobody else.
When I fight bigots and their bigotry, I am being kind to the people they would otherwise choose to harm. I am being kind to the onlookers who may be in those groups and see they are not alone, someone with fight for them.
An argument can be made that this isn’t the best way to do this. Honestly, I don’t even know. I’m a huge fan of the idea that making an enemy into an ally is the best form of victory, but that begins with the requirement that you can reach them at all. We’re talking about hardcore bigots here, people who have subsumed into their very identities a contempt for entire demographics, which pretty well invariably comes with a belief that the members of those demographics they encounter are inferior, damaged, and above all untrustworthy. One of the main jobs on an ally for any marginalized group is to talk to people who might consider them but not the marginalized people credible, to advocate for the marginalized people†. Bigots do sometimes change their minds… but not when they are in the middle of a crusade to hurt someone online.
This is actually beside the point, because this is about kindness, not tactics. Other people may have better tactics, and more power to them**. I’m not a demagogue; at best, I’m a writer, and not one of the ones anybody’s going to be studying fifty years from now. However, when I see someone else doing these things, fighting the good fight as it were to advocate for trans people or mental health, it helps me have a little hope in this political cesspit of despair, and when I smack down a bigot, that is the kindness I’m trying to do for others.
For the record this isn’t the only thing I do for the sake of kindness, the vast majority of it is stuff any casual observer would agree qualifies – and none of which I am talking about here because this post is about the nature of kindness, not about trying to establish some
kind sort of kindness cred for myself. This is about “mama bear” kindness, which is mostly about taking good care of someone who needs it, but also being willing to claw threats in half if need be.
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the ones who think kindness is necessarily soft and passive are also the ones who use the term “virtue signalling” to describe caring about people who aren’t like oneself, who need to find some kind of selfish justification to explain unselfish behavior in others.
If you confront someone who is out to hurt people, if you confront this ultimate unkindness, and your response is to try to make them comfortable… that’s not kindness at all.
That’s just kissing ass.
* In Holms’s case I’m really not sure what he expected to accomplish by doing this to directly pick a fight with a blog owner (not for the first time); perhaps he imagines himself a martyred crusader for White Feminism. I suppose that’s what they all imagine, love-bombed by the rest of the bigots for their Good Works.
** I do not mean the “tone police” here. Telling a marginalized person of any kind to be quiet because otherwise they’re hurting the cause is an act of oppression, full stop.
† The Southern Poverty Law Center has a whole series of articles on how to speak to bigots on the daily.
Andreas Avester says
When another person treats you with contempt, it’s only rational to reciprocate. There is no reason why victims should be nice towards their abusers.
The bigots have made this a zero sum situation, so they’re the ones who can get the brunt of that. They create a situation where I have to choose who to be kind too because they won’t let us all cooperate, so why should we be giving them that kindness rather than the people willing to work with us?
The way I see it, bigotry is a deliberate and unearned unkindness being done to others, and that opposing this and them must perforce be opposing unkindness, and therefore kind.
Holms, it turned out, actually tried to comment after being banned, actually tried in point of fact to posture at me and look all Not Mad and stuff.
I don’t get it. Why DO that? He can’t win here, it makes no tactical sense whatsoever. He doesn’t even understand how thoroughly he lost, not because there was somethig magic in the words I said to him, but because he’s well-deservedly banned.
Someone I once knew and whose opinion I greatly respected posed a similar argument to me once regarding “kind” vs. “nice.” I really liked the distinction, and I agree 100% that aggressively challenging bigotry is consistent with being kind.
People arguing otherwise strike me as the same sort who would complain that those who support “tolerance” aren’t “tolerant” of bigots and Nazis. It’s a face-up disingenuous argument from the start.
Hi abbeycadabra! Congrats on your new blog. Looks like I have some reading to catch up on.
I comment occasionally on FtB and a lot over on pathoes, so I’ve seen you around. I use my full name over there. My handle here is the first three letters of my first and last name. Pretty original, huh.
Anyway, good luck on your new adventure!
“kindly” like the Erinyes.
Marcus Ranum says
Is it “evil” to stop evil people from doing evil things? To them, it probably is, since they feel that their “evil” is just how they are and is therefore justified. That’s why sometimes you have to adopt the sterner methods of convincing them of the error of their ways.
My view of Batman is not that he is evil or insane – he’s just really impatient with having to argue with libertarian bad guys who want to tone-troll him into a stupor. So he just kicks the shit out of them. Which, by the way, is a totally libertarian sort of response: power does what power does, suck it up buttercup.
I had a similar occurrence with his BFF latsot this week. I hadn’t noticed that he was still following me from back in the days before a certain ex blog on FTB went full out TERF.
He commented on something irrelevant to gender or trans issues and acted as if nothing ever happened I told him that I didn’t appreciate him acting all friendly in that instance when he was a massive transphobe and hung out with people who are more than assholes towards me and that I’d like him to unfollow me (which of course he did not do until I blocked him).
He became all huffy and puffy claiming he didn’t know he wasn’t supposed to be friendly and that maybe I was the asshole?
He seriously believed that his light and friendly tone in that interaction meant I was not allowed to take his history on trans issue or our personal history into account.
It’s using friendliness and being nice as weapons against others and i agree, I’d much rather be kind.
Just had Latsot join in with Holms over on ‘Justice Demands You Feel Better’. I don’t remember experiencing abuse at his hands, so I just gave him a warning. I have no moral imperative to tolerate disingenuous trolls and ‘rationality-bros’ in my space, and don’t intend to.
Disagreeing with me is permitted. Playing gotcha-games by deliberately conflating and misinterpreting isn’t. Shitting on any marginalized group isn’t either.
I wonder what it says about these troll people that my first post intended to be inspirational and uplift people who are suffering is the one that attracted them to attack me. Rather implies they have such an ingrained cynical bigotry that they DO believe some people deserve to suffer, and I’m one of them, doesn’t it?
Using a picture of Batman does not mean I subscribe to Batman’s philosophies. He dresses like a bat to punch people.
I have seen you engaging in trolling and abuse around here as well. I suggest you give me a reason to not believe that was intended as an insult, because I already have quite a few reasons to believe your input is not terribly valuable.
“Rather implies they have such an ingrained cynical bigotry that they DO believe some people deserve to suffer”
Hierarchies with the deserving at the top (and usually us at the bottom) are kind of a key feature of authoritarians and fascists. They’re just arguing over who should be at the top
I can’t offer much more in evidence than my simply saying “it’s not an insult”. Everything else you say here I support and agree with. If you’d rather I didn’t read what you write or comment upon it, say so and I’ll go elsewhere. I’ve no intention of trolling.
All right. I’ll accept that. But consider how it looks when your “not an insult” involves claiming that the kindness I try to do is a euphemism for hate and revenge, which is what the Furies represent, and then compounding this with a video “destroying” Batman under the misguided belief that he actually informs my beliefs.
It was aggressive and dickish. If you are not trolling, please be more aware of the context of your words in the future. I’ve had to whack three moles so far and I see no reason to put up with people who consider trying to bother or undermine me part of their objective in my own space.
I would like to beg your indulgence for sonofblake. I think of the Eurinyes as both feminine and bringers of justice-and-vengeance, in that the vengeance they do is impersonal. So it didn’t read as an insult to me and it also seems which is exactly what you the blogowner are doing so complimentary and reinforcing your gender at the same time?
I ask because I do the same as you and I most definitely do not consider myself as nice, but I am being kind to those who are in error who don’t listen to “nice”. Sometimes a short sharp shock is needed and they do find the very painful massive cognitive dissonance that I lay on them that I can talk their talk and come to different conclusions.
It is vengeance to use the word “snowflake” on hypocritestians and rethuglicans and I do this a lot. Here is one I often do:
If a person looks like every Mike you’ve ever seen but says their name is George you call them George, because it’s basic politeness (a bogaboo for them who would say we are Not Nice (c)). If they look like every Mike you’ve ever seen but says their name is Georgina you call them Georgina. Not being doing this means you are a special snowflake who doesn’t have to be polite. …and you know what? If there are onlookers, say on the bus, who were mad or frustrated by being called snowflake just for being kind or nice, they feel better for it to see this jiujitsu. This is The Furies pretty much exactly, according to my own rather excessive liberal arts education.
Thing is, that’s NOT what I refer to as kindness. I don’t claim otherwise than if I react with opposition and belligerence to someone I am not being kind to them; I just think the greater kindness is for the people they would otherwise hurt, or are hurting. Bigotry is a major unkindness; opposing unkindness is itself an act of kindness, is it not?
Also I don’t actually like doing that. I get very little from it except emotional exhaustion and the occasional small flicker of dark schadenfreude. I prefer not to indulge in that, though.
This morning I took extra time out and more than doubled my already significant commute to drive an acquaintance to a very important early morning appointment when transit would not have delivered him in time. This is the sort of thing I normally consider an act of kindness, and is definitely the sort of thing I prefer to be doing.
*reads everything over again, is confused* *treads on thin ice?* *decides you are interesting enough to take the risk*
In the preserved classical works in which there are the Erynies as characters and I have read, they themselves say they do not enjoy what they are doing. It is their neutral and inevitable duty, just like it is for a judge and a jury.
You are not a bad person. I don’t believe you are a bad person. ( I am also being rhetorical here).
I’m going to post-modernism-erate you here, in an attempt to see if I can tell what to unpack. What specific thing I spoke of is the not-kindness, maybe this will help me?
You are not a bad person. I don’t believe you are a bad person.
IME I’m more like stderr: people do what they will and don’t choose masochistic acts unless they’re into it (and I truly and honestly don’t believe that you-Impossible-Me are into it). People have a limited amount of time and don’t do neutral things that are exhausting unless they’re paid as a job or are volunteering for some greater thing (my prior true and honest belief is here: you-Impossible-Me are NOT worthless and your communication skills about bigotry do have worth and are VALUABLE bold underlined). I am introverted and talking to someone where a large group might be listening is also exhausting to me. So while it may be exhausting for both of us, it is something we in some way want to do.
I assign enjoyment to this. I don’t need to feel schadenfreude, because I am my brother’s (=all humans’) keeper from my (not really useful to you) faith, and this is reinforcing of me to me. Helping onlookers and on-listeners is enjoyable to me to the degree that I will in fact do this exhausting thing when others remain silent. This in fact is the better part of the enjoyment to me, because it means that while I don’t always guess what incomprehensible thing people are and are thinking right now for once I got it right. And this means that that stuff the hypocritestians and rethuglicans are saying that sounded like obvious bullshit really is bullshit just not necessarily so to in a way that others who are neurotypical and allistic can understand. It means that for one brief moment I am not insane and it proves to me I am alive.
If you are not enjoying it literally, are you being deontological?
You are an awesome person to help a friend like that.
You are not a bad person. I do not believe you are a bad person.
Okay, let’s see…
Well thank you. Don’t worry, I’m not going to be mad at honest confusion. If you’ve seen me be harsh in replies lately, it’s been when dealing with known bad actors. Guys who specifically believe their every posting is somehow in a vacuum and I’m not supposed to be aware of their long history of abusive behavior, somehow. This ONLY applies to guys like them, who aren’t here for honest discussions anyway.
Is that so? I didn’t know that! I am no classical scholar, my familiarity with the Erinyes is primarily pop culture, and within that – full if nerdy disclosure – mostly from Sandman. I seem to recall they hounded Oedipus? Hey, is Cartomancer around? I wonder if they have something to say about this.
Er… good? Thanks? I’m pretty sure the only people who could think I am “a bad person” are those who for some reason have a vested interest in hating me or some group I am in. Personally (and this is despite the fact that I may speak in shorthand of someone being ‘not good people’ or something) I object in a general sense to the idea of “bad person” or “good person” as anything fundamental; a person is the sum of their choices, and it is actions that can be good or bad. Deciding whether an action is good or bad…. is one of the biggest branches of philosophy and I’m barely qualified to mention it let alone expound on it.
1) Thanks again. 2) My name is Abbey, feel free to call me that. 🙂 3) You can use certain HTML tags in the comments here, including <strong>the strong tag</strong> for bold (result: the strong tag), <em>the em tag</em> for italic (result: the em tag), and <u>the u tag</u> for underline (result: the u tag).
In honesty I’m not sure I am quite following your argument here, but I will try to explain what I meant.
There’s plenty of things I do that I do because it feels like a duty – something I should do where I agree that I should do it, rather than a “should” imposed from outside. Tangling with bigots is such a thing: I feel like I have a duty to do this insofar as I am able on behalf of those who aren’t, itself a thing I do less and less these days out of pure weariness because they don’t stop coming ever. I usually don’t enjoy the act of tangling with them; occasionally they’re dim enough and self-own-ish enough that there is a dark glimmer of schadenfreude involved in exposing them, but that is minimal and not very satisfying because that never stops them; bigots are not self-aware enough to comprehend when they are displaying their idiocy in public.
If your interpretation of the Erinyes is correct – and since I am a strong proponent of ‘Death of the Author’ I have no problem assuming that at the very least it is for you and taking that on board – then yes, it’s that sort of thing, a world-weary duty.
However, in your previous comment, you seemed to be saying that fighting with a bigot is a kindness TO THEM, like educating them or showing them the error of their ways or something. I disagree with this, both on the basis that I don’t think those things can ever happen from an interaction with a member of a group they hate, and also because in this context I am opposing them, impeding them, trying to strip away their satisfaction, even trying to strip away their imagined armor of infallible self-righteousness, and I do not consider these to be acts of kindness at all.
In a way this is the one Batman-ish thing in my philosophy: I’ve seen people describe that character not as someone who loves justice but who hates injustice. In this case, what I am doing in an attempt to be kind to others is not supporting kindness but opposing unkindness.
Uh. Sssssort of, but… not really… My ethics could be most accurately described as a squishy sort of utilitarianism, I believe. Insofar as I am deontological, it is a set of ‘rules’ and ‘duties’ I chose on the basis of what seem to be the ‘right’ things to do based on a few axioms that seem to me to be the right way forward. “Do the next right thing”, á là Frozen 2.
It is a duty. And I do want to be seen as someone who is reliable and diligent. I just think this sort of thing is stretching the definition of ‘enjoyment’ well past the breaking point.
Thank you, but I disagree with that for the same reason I object to ‘bad person’ as a category above. Also, I didn’t mention that for praise, rather only as a recent example of something I consider directly doing a kindness for someone, wherein I doubt most people would disagree that it was.
Well. I’m not sure I have correctly responded to your comment, but it’s been interesting, especially since this reply touched on two posts I have in the queue and might inspire another.