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Friday, 24 February 2012

Who's the victim? Co-opting activist language is en vogue.

The following is cross-posted from the Damsel in de Tech blog. Click here to see the original.




Who's the boss? Who's the victim? Evidence of a feministicalogical conspiracy
to enslave teh menz? You be the judge...

I'm not the sort of blogger who is able to keep on top of every new topic that comes along. Not least of all because there's so much shit that happens all the time. If this were a full-time job, I'm still not sure I could do it. I'd likely miss deadlines as I cowered under my covers, hugging my teddy bear and softly singing to myself, "It can't rain all the time".


Actually, it probably can.

So, given that I'm not trying to keep up with the minutiea, sitting back and watching from a slight distance provides some clearer perspective on overall trends that I've been noticing (I'm certainly not the only one, as you'll see, because I'm quoting posts from Manboobz.com).

For example, it's interesting (read: ridiculous & depressing) that the term "victim" is being simultaneously misappropriated and maligned by groups and individuals who wouldn't know what it is to be a victim if it came up and slapped them upside the head (which would be ironic, because then they'd be victims of assault). I know that this isn't just something that MRAs do, I just know that I'm more aware of their hijacking of the term because I find it deeply offensive and obnoxious.

They seem to have recognized that people tend to sympathize with "victims". So, in wrenching sympathy from those who deserve and need it (i.e. - people who have been actually victimized), they've adopted a tactic of "Don't sympathize with them! They're chowder heads! Look at us! We've got hangnails because women are teh debbil! We don't like it when people criticize us for being so shitty, so we're going to co-opt their language unironically to excuse and pretty-up our abuse."

One of the more frustrating things about this tactic, is that genuinely nice people who actively work to support survivors of various forms of violence and oppression don't always know how to react to it. When someone states they are being oppressed or victimized, the standard response from good people is to try to support them and work with them to alievate what it is that is affecting them. When it's cis people claiming that the existence and acknowledgment of trans people are oppressing them by "reinforcing negative gender stereotypes by trying to conform to the opposite-sex" (I shit you not, I've seen that argument), good people are often gobsmacked into silence. Like, what do you say to such a bizarre misappropriation of the language of anti-oppression work?

Here are my suggestions for how to deal with people who usurp activist language to justify their bullshit:
  1. GIF party - when people are being absurd, sometimes the only logical and sane response is a lolcat
  2. MEME party - similar to GIF party, but can also be done without pictures. Eg. - "What is this? I don't even"
  3. Short answers, "That is the stupidest thing I've ever heard." - unfortunately, while this is often the first response that comes to mind, it often leads the OP to demand that you "prove" what they said is false, inaccurate, misleading, batshit insane, etc. Sometimes that can be difficult in the moment, because their claims are just so bizarre that no rational breakdown rebuttal immediately comes to mind.
  4. Post links stats and studies to the contrary - this can be helpful when you are so gobsmacked you can't formulate a response other than to point to someone else who has already laid out an eloquent response
  5. Ask questions. This can be very helpful in getting over the initial "O_________O" response. Keep asking questions, like: "How exactly does recognizing and honouring the experiences of transgendered persons negatively affect you as a cis woman?", and "And you came to this conclusion how?" and "And how has denying and ignoring the existence of oppression helped women so far?" and even "Are you posting ironically? Because it's pretty bang-on if you're being facetious in order to highlight the absurdity of the claims of those who find it expedient to discount their own levels of privilege."
  6. Take a break. I know that with discussions online, sometimes 5 minutes can feel like an eternity, and any time away from the topic can feel like the other side is "winning" by filling up the conversation with venom that echoes when not addressed. But, seriously, if you're gobsmacked or your face is turning red because you are so irate that someone could post something so offensive, it's ok to take a break. Often, with a bit of distance (even as short as 5-10 min) comes greater clarity in how to respond. And, in your absense, it's possible someone else will also chime in and put into words what you have been trying to express. Allies are awesome that way.
  7. Stop responding. This may be counter-intuitive, but sometimes it can be very effective to let a ridiculous comment stand on its own without comment. Posts can echo, and sometimes the silence that follows can be more powerful than any other response.
  8. Copy and paste. If you've been posting online about social justice issues for any length of time, chances are you've repeated yourself, and perhaps have repeated yourself so many times you can't be arsed to type the entire response out again. That's why I started updating a document with my most-common arguments. No sense reinventing the wheel. If people are going to keep lazily rehashing insults and out-dated arguments from a half-century ago, then you're allowed to repost something you said last week.
  9. Build a group of allies. I've got a great collection of amazing people that I rely on as a sounding board and comic relief when dealing with these issues. Sometimes I'm too close to the issue or too upset to respond in a timely manner, so I go to them to see if they're able to respond, instead. It's not 100% assured someone is around to respond, but having people there to vent to helps regardless.
Now, I'm sure there are many other ways to address these types of arguments, and your mileage may vary on any and all of these suggestions. Whatever happens, know that you're not insane and, yes, they are really maliciously co-opting activist language, and yes, it really is fucking offensive. But at least you're not alone.



1 comment:

  1. So pertinent to my last few days. The displays of privilege, silencing, and not getting it are so much harder to deal with coming from someone who should be an ally and know better.

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