(I don't normally like to do this, but since I've been banned from commenting there, I have nowhere else. So be it. If you want to skip the interpersonal drama, you can scroll down to the double dash -- for the generalized parts.)
So, I occasionally read Womanist Musings, usually on the order of "catching up once a month or so on what I've missed." Because of this habit, I happened to read this apology post before reading the grossly cissexist and homophobic post that prompted it. (Trigger warning on the latter link.) The original post was about Perez Hilton, a gay male gossip blogger who posted an upskirt photo of singer Miley Cyrus, and generalized to other gay men who still enjoy male privilege; the apology covered the cissexism in the original post, but not the homophobia.
Of course, unapologetic -ism is nothing new at Womanist Musings, but given that Renee posted specifically to apologize for wielding her cis privilege to hurt others, I thought it was possible that I had a chance at a similar apology for the use of her straight privilege as a weapon.
Boy, was I wrong.
If you'll read the comments on the apology post, you'll see that I make my problems with the original post very clear. Namely, they are:
I also went into detail about each of these complaints. This included:
Renee eventually left the discussion (after misrepresenting my objections, accusing me of sexism, saying I was erasing others' experiences because I objected to her erasing of my own, and pretending that I had asked her to give up her issues and focus on homophobia when I had, instead, asked her not to be actively homophobic), which continued for a little bit in her absence.
More recently, one of WM's guest bloggers, Sparky, posted about the importance of safe spaces. Part of the post was about when it is appropriate to speak up about an -ism in someone else's safe space, which recalled to my mind the issue of homophobia and transphobia in what was supposed to be a safe space for women at the same blog. I commented, disagreeing with Sparky's argument that sometimes it is necessary not to bring up that oppression in a space devoted to another kind of oppression, and Sparky commented back clarifying that it was different for single-issue blogs and intersectional blogs. Another commenter mentioned the past post in a way that misrepresented the views of the people objecting, so I explained what was going on as well as why I had commented - because I expect an intersectional blog to be a safe space. Fairly on-topic, wouldn't you say? Talking about calling out -isms in safe spaces in a post about calling out -isms in safe spaces?
Of course, the magic wand of privilege can make anything "off-topic," so my comments were duly tarred. And then the comment thread becomes a wonderful source for privilege bingo, hitting "But I know gay people who don't think it's homophobic!", "I didn't mean to be homophobic so it wasn't homophobic!", "You're derailing!", "You're oppressing me!" (the source of the post title), "You have no right to expect a safe space!", "THE GAY AGENDA!!1!", and the wonderful old "You're just oversensitive!"
Of course, WM isn't the only internet (or real-life) "progressive" place crawling with -isms. That doesn't make this any less wrong. In theory, at least, "progressive" is not a synonym for "cis heterosexual supremacist" or "white TAB supremacist" or "white male supremacist." (No matter what other marginalized communities the people in question may be part of - female, disabled, POC, gay - if you enjoy any privilege, when you are the gatekeeper of that kind of space and discussion, you take responsibility for not using that privilege against other people.)
This means that it is incumbent upon maintainers of "progressive" (inclusive, intersectional, etc.) spaces to make those spaces safe for everyone. Make a racist comment at a campus feminist meeting? Congratulations, your group is not a safe space for people of color. Offhand rape joke at Students for a Democratic Society? There goes a woman who might have made a difference to your movement. (This is part of why I have a problem with Joe.My.God. - because it is not a gay male blog, though it is run by a gay man, and though it deals with issues relating to plenty of groups, it's not a safe space for most of those groups. The comment section is often a cesspool of sexism, for example, and the habit of referring to unpleasant people as "Miss" doesn't help much either.)
And intersectionality is crucial here. One commenter at WM (who I assume is heterosexual, though I could be mistaken) explained that she felt that her experiences were validated by Renee's sarcasm. Guess what? I found that sarcasm offensive, as I found the subsequent attempts to erase my experiences. Now, I really doubt that there was no way to validate straight women's experiences without hurting queer women. This comes of weighing your options and choosing to use what may have been a slightly more effective rhetorical technique to make straight women feel better, at the cost of hurting queer women. Not caring if you're hurting queer women? Makes you homophobic. And when you make yourself out to be the maintainer of an inclusive space, unapologetically throw around your straight privilege, and ban people for pointing it out, you betray that intersectionality and inclusiveness, and your blog is not a safe space for queer people.
This is why you recognize that you are abusing your privilege, apologize, and do better in the future.
If cissexism in your "safe space for women" drives away women who need the safety you advertise, you have failed women. If your philosophy includes a recognition of the fact that "all isms affect women" and you proudly use homophobia as a tool to fight sexism, you have failed women.
As I explained there (partly in comments that were left intact and partly in ones that were deleted):
Part of what straight privilege means is that Renee can walk away from this and forget after two minutes about those touchy queers "tarring and feathering" her. (Yeah, pointing out someone's privilege is apparently equivalent to torture now.) For her, walking away means not having to confront her internalized biases.
For me, walking away means resigning myself to the fact that one of the most prominent progressive bloggers doesn't think homophobia is even worth acknowledging, much less apologizing for. For me, walking away means accepting second-class status in a particular space where I expected to be treated as an equal human being.