Explaining Horizontal and Intra-Community Hostility: Aoife Helps Out

Aoife O’Riordan who writes (or wrote, last post was in 2017) the blog formerly hosted here on FtB Consider the Tea Cozy once wrote a bit about anti-bi-woman sentiment in lesbian communities. She doesn’t gives us much about causes, but she does identify a problem similar to that experienced by trans* women in queer women’s communities (especially but not only those that label themselves lesbian communities). This should be no surprise, since she’s actually attempting to use the experience of cis bi-women to educate other cis people about the experiences of trans* people who share their communities.

There’s lots of lesbians, you see, who won’t date or sleep with bi women. Even if there’s mutual attraction, they don’t want to go there, simply ’cause we fancy men as well. Girl meets girl, girl fancies girl, girl finds out girl also fancies guys, girl backs away in disgust. While it’s absolutely their right to reject whoever they like for any reason the like (of course!), it still sucks to hear. And the fact that it’s a pattern familiar to almost every bi woman I’ve talked about is, y’know, a problem. This doesn’t mean that every lesbian in the world has to date the first bi woman who fancies her, regardless of whether the attraction’s mutual! It just means that a lot of bi women (and hopefully loads of lesbians too) would like it if the lesbians who do feel that way took some time to think about whether their feelings might be based on prejudices and stereotypes. That’s all.

But this anti-bi-woman prejudice, where it exists, isn’t explainable as a reaction to some genital configuration because it is just as prevalent when lesbians interact with cis bi-women as it might be when lesbians interact with trans* bi-women (though in practice it appears to be dramatically more prevalent, because sexual orientation tends to take a back seat to biological sex – past or present – in discussions of cis* lesbians interacting with trans* folk).

We have to draw on other knowledge to help us explain this intra-community split. Fortunately, I’ve written about this before on a Pharyngula thread:

[After WW2 and the Holocaust,] people wanted an ethical system that said, “Never again” and meant it. Clearly the deontology of divine command didn’t do it. You couldn’t count on contractarianism to make a government respect its citizens. So, what then?

The infinite, the universal, the transcendent is what. If we can’t give human beings an infinite, transcendent value, then there will always be the possibility that some community or nation will believe that mass killings are desirable based on comparing the value of those human beings (to the nation considering the killing, not to those people themselves) to the value the society places on its own goals.

Infinite worth was the way out of the despair of WW2. Existentialism spread like wildfire. Good stuff, in its way. It gave us terms & concepts like “devalue”.

If you see yourself as horribly devalued, however, and you latch onto infinite value ethics as your level to try and achieve your safety, a couple things [might] happen. First, you try to universalize: you want to get every woman on your side, the struggle is that important. Thus, “we’re all in it together”, thus “we’re all exactly the same in the way that matters most”, thus, “those sufficiently different from me that I truly can’t imagine myself ‘the same as’ cannot be in my category”, thus “those falsely claiming to be in my category are jeopardizing my movement and thus my safety,” thus “it is appropriate to label their destabilization of this category upon which I rely for my ultimate safety ‘an attack’ ”.

[This particular chain of ethical reasoning] also shows how the same women can claim to be anti-racist (“we’re all in this together, of course I care about women of color”) but end up pursuing an agenda that has nothing to do with ending racism (“The real oppression is sexism, it’s universal to every society.  So when we get rid of the real oppression, *THEY* won’t need racism to divide us and racism along with all those other subsidiary oppressions will pass away” – AKA “there will be no racism after the revolution, so don’t worry your nappy little head about white supremacy”). [original comment lightly edited for our purposes – cd]

Keep in mind that these aren’t thoughts that necessarily flow from existentialist ethics. Indeed de Beauvoir’s graph on ethics and morality was called, “Pour une morale de l’ambiguïté” (in english traditionally rendered: “The Ethics of Ambiguity”), and the intolerance of destabilized categories of essence is directly contrary to de Beauvoir’s concept of self-directed, self-determined essences. Nonetheless, these ethical statements about the negative value of subdividing the category of woman are descended directly from de Beauvoir’s leading-edge, second-wave existentialist feminism. This is, in fact, one of the reasons why I find exclusionary feminisms so incomprehensible at times. They clearly attempt to preserve quite a lot of de Beauvoir and other early second-wave feminisms, and yet they fully reject aspects of those feminisms that were fundamental to their cohesion and their ethics. In the language of de Beauvoir, they have embraced facticity and rejected transcendence.

Nevertheless, while hollow-boned, feather-winged flyers were not inevitable once early archosaurs evolved, and while hollow bones and other aspects of modern birds would be in conflict with the mode of existence that made early archosaurs what they were, looking backward we can say that birds’ descent from those early archosaurs is a historical fact. Likewise, it is a historical fact that these ambiguity-rejecting, fear-based feminisms descended from de Beauvoir’s feminism (albeit with admixtures from independent sources).

It can be very difficult to understand how trans* exclusive feminists who appear to cling to the second wave can simultaneously reject so much of the second wave’s fundamental insights. But this is not because the development of these feminisms and their ambiguity-rejecting ethics is inherently incomprehensible. Rather, the difficulty in understanding comes from attempting to derive these feminisms based solely on prior feminist categories. In fact, other sources of fear or love, other priorities and values, even other meta-ethics from entirely outside feminism are constantly mixing with our existing feminisms. At times, they enrich our work and make it more effective, as with Kimberlé Crenshaw and the development of intersectionality. At other times they mix poorly. But on its own, bringing into feminism other aspects of women’s experiences, knowledge, and thought is not a bad thing. Indeed it’s a good thing. We wouldn’t have feminism at all if we weren’t allowed to bring those things into a feminism that did not yet include them. How else would we have gotten a feminist labor movement? How else would we have gotten a feminist movement for a more ethical judaism?

So let’s understand that this fear of the other, this fear of destabilized categories, when brought into an early existentialist feminism that offers hope of a universal, stable category of woman, a category that can then be called upon for universal action, can seem wise. It does not instantly negate the opposition to sexism that is the organizing principle of all feminisms. But if you hold existentialist feminism to the light in just the wrong way, it seems as if our fears as women of sexist domination absolutely demands easy categorization, eradication of ambiguity, an undivided unity of interest.

It is tragic, but even the existentialism that so many thought offered a way to guarantee that we fallible humans would live up to our own mutual promise, “Never again,” cannot prevent dehumanization. It cannot prevent violence. It cannot prevent – and it has not prevented – genocide.

The cry for easy categorization, for undivided unities in the face of violence is a cry of fear. It guides us towards liberation no more reliably than any other fearful response. But it is comprehensible, and it should not on its own negate efforts to feel and to offer sympathy across the boundaries of rigid categorization those crying out in fear construct. Indeed better understanding and sympathy for the fear can often be useful in opposing the ossification of these new and contested constructions.

 

 

Straight People Make Me Want To Fight Imperialism & Colonialism

I know my best friend got this from another friend, so it’s probably making the rounds of the internet. Knowing exactly how hep & with it I really am, I presume some number of you have seen this already, but I couldn’t resist sharing it when it seems relevant to a number of recent topics here, including the definition of “Oppression = Prejudice + Power“. Here’s someone with a novel way of fighting prejudice, but with no clue about fighting oppression:

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Happy Juneteenth

Portland has an awkward history of Pride overlapping with Juneteenth, and this year it happened again. If you had a choice of going to a Pride celebration or a Juneteenth celebration but couldn’t be a part of both, which would you attend? Why?

For me it’s a bit academic, living in Canada where Juneteenth isn’t celebrated (for obvious reasons) and Pride is on a different weekend anyway. But it’s still a chance to look at important issues of how we prioritize our lives and the causes that we value. I think right now I’d prioritize Juneteenth if for no other reason than the Canadian kids have been to lots of Prides and zero Juneteenths, but it would get harder to answer if we’d been to both the same number of times.

I Dare You To Read The Comments They Don’t Allow!

Wonkette is in fine form today. In addition to Five Dollar Feminist summarizing the news from a court case in which a professional calligraphy corporation in Phoenix decided that they did not want to produce

Happy Buttfuckin’!

place cards for a super-gay wedding, the commenters have gone gloriously nutso with pet pictures I can’t even begin to describe for fear my tears of laughter will entirely short circuit my laptop.

Enjoy!

 

Autism = Violence in England Gay Bar Threat? Why not? asks Associated Press

A number of news outlets are carrying a brief Associated Press story on the sentencing of a man arrested in connection with a terrorism threat against the gay community in the smaller Brit town Barrow-in-Furness. You can read it here, if you like.  The story is mostly uninteresting. The man arrested, Ethan Stables, never got the chance to make the spectacular “kill all the gays” attack he’d been threatening, and when time came for his sentencing, the judge assigned him an indefinite term in a psychiatric facility.

What’s odd here, however, is that you don’t go to a psych hospital instead of jail if there’s no psychological or psychiatric problem that led to your crime. Now, it may be that you had a condition from which you’ve since recovered, but you had to have had a condition at the time. So when the Associated Press’ description of Stables lists precisely zero conditions known to have a mechanism that can cause violence but does list “autism spectrum disorder” readers not aware of the state of psychological research might assume, wrongly, that autism spectrum disorder is associated with an increased risk of violence.

This description of Stables originally came from the defense, but we should not allow that to grant the Associated Press a free pass here. In order to prevent crazy-blaming, the AP has a responsibility to avoid dropping any disorder into a story in this context unless they are certain that the disorder has a known correlation with an increase in violence and a plausible explanation of how that disorder might have played a causal role in the behavior at issue. It may be that the records of any court ordered psych examination are sealed, but in that case the AP should not mention any particular disorder, whatever the defense contends. It may also be that the court believed that autism spectrum disorder could explain Stables’ threats of terrorism, but in that case the AP should clearly report that this is contrary to the best scientific evidence we have to date, and absent an explanation of how aspects of autism spectrum disorder played a role in a unique causal chain, the court’s judgement should be clearly labeled questionable. The AP took neither tack. The relevant part is entirely contained in this quote:

Defence lawyers said the 20-year-old, who has an autism spectrum disorder, had been brainwashed by right-wing extremists. But he was convicted in February of preparing an act of terrorism.

Journalism of this recklessness should always be called out for criticism.

Churches Complicate Everything

So Oregon has a new case that, while pretty much terrible for all concerned, is very interesting from a law geek’s perspective.

As someone who participated in law-drafting exercises while in law school with adjunct professors who took back the class’ collective work to the provincial legislative assembly, I’ve had about the most minimal input into drafting law that could still be truthfully, if technically, called input at all. Nonetheless, even if my input was minimal, my work with these two professors was significant and they have spent their entire careers drafting legislation. It’s a topic I took to eagerly and (if they weren’t just puffing me up) well. And, it turns out, I know just enough to know that I’d be in way over my head trying to address a recent issue that came up with respect to non-discrimination law in Oregon.

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Caitlyn Jenner Has No Privilege, It’s Just “Privilege”. Also, Jenner Discovers Trump Sucks.

I generally don’t cover trans* celebrities, even those i respect and who are doing a lot of positive work in their communities and elsewhere. Mostly because I’m not really interested in covering any celebrities, they get enough attention. On the other hand, politicians are celebrities of a sort, as are widely-read print journalists and commentators who frequently appear on TV, and I cover those folks. But if you look, most of that is when someone does something that needs criticism. That sort of coverage I can’t set aside merely because the person needing criticism is trans*. Today that means discussing Caitlyn Jenner.

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Accuse Everybody

Content note: brutally racist and anti-semitic language

In a recent Pharyngula thread, it was suggested by billyjoe that, “We can’t go about accusing people,” so long as some people accused incur disproportionate or otherwise unjust consequences.

On that thread, I made it clear that it is not the accusation that is the problem.

Paxoll then chimed in to support this statement, simultaneously saying that others can’t know whether or not an accusation is true and that billyjoe was only speaking of false accusations (despite being unable to tell them apart … and despite billyjoe doing nothing to mention truth or falsity as  important in deciding whether or not we actually can go about accusing people).

Although I replied to Paxoll in that thread, I thought the concept might need its own post here even before I finished up my comments and opened up RawStory to find this headline:

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FOR FREUD’S SAKE, YOU GET TO DISCRIMINATE!

Thirdmill – who is not an idiot, but is wrong in this instance – has repeated a bad, bad, bad, bad, bad, fucked and wrong trope over on Pharyngula. This trope is repeated by idiots so much that eventually some reasonable people start to think that maybe they have a point, which is why the trope needs to get stomped on hard, though please don’t stomp on Thirdmill as a person, should you choose to comment.

The trope is this: when considering discrimination, we need to consider the genuinely held beliefs and permit room for people to adhere to their consciences when doing so does not directly harm another. This was in the context of a Pharyngula post about how in the 99 years after the civil war and before the federal government started butting in, the invisible hand of the free market had totally taken care of private sector segregation just fine, and that Title 7 thing was completely unnecessary and Heart of Atlanta is a load of crap. Because of course it was, this is Sam Harris’ opinion, remember?

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Gay Pornography

Oh, NYTImes. You have all the details about Bill O’Reilly’s latest sexual harassment, assault and rape settlement. You have all the details, and you’re willing to share:

21st Century Fox, acknowledges that it was aware of the woman’s complaints about Mr. O’Reilly. They included allegations of repeated harassment, a nonconsensual sexual relationship and the sending of gay pornography and other sexually explicit material to her, according to the people briefed on the matter.

Emphasis mine.

Really, NYT? If it was fellatio focussed porn, would we know that? If it included anal penetration, would that be fit to print? Shall we presume that there was no cum shot, or just that the cum shot was, shall we say, not newsworthy?

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