I'm really amazed I have to say this twice in less than one month, but apparently some people are very, very attached to the idea that they can do no wrong (and very fond of banning people who suggest otherwise).
I didn't think it was a difficult concept. Someone from a historically marginalized group tells you that you're perpetuating that marginalization, you take a look at what you did and try to do better in the future. You don't go "OMG you're the sexist one! If you didn't have all that sexism in your head, you wouldn't have thought what I did was sexist!" (An example from a commenter in one of this poster's other threads: "You're sexist! If you didn't think that the mother was the one who should always be taking care of the children, you wouldn't think policies restricting children's movement were sexist!" In defiance of the fact that since, in the real world, mothers do the majority of childcare, policies about children disproportionately affect women.)
That said, the poster's being a queer woman in no way precludes her post excluding queer people and promoting an essentialist view of gender. Or have we never seen gender-essentialist women before?
I'm not really sure how to describe this mentality. It's easy enough to call it a mechanism to shift blame for oppression onto the oppressed party (because she can't really think that her culture is not informed by sexism and homophobia, I hope), and while it's obviously that as well, I'm also interested in how it works in terms of blogging specifically. Was it an overreaction, surprise that anyone took issue with what she wrote?
I wonder how much of that has to do with the difference between writing on a small blog and writing on a large one. When I wrote a guest post for Feministe, I specifically kept in mind that it would be read by people of many backgrounds and political positions. This blog doesn't have a lot of readers, and I wouldn't be surprised if the ones that do come are demographically similar to the bloggers - white, middle-class, American, possibly Jewish, possibly TAB. I've probably written a lot of racist, classist, and ableist stuff here that I haven't been aware of because of a commentariat that isn't necessarily diverse enough to notice and call me out on it - and that's my fault, for not writing about issues that affect more groups. But when I wrote that post for Feministe - a reworking of an earlier post - I made sure to define my terms, tried (not always successfully) to avoid unnecessarily excluding or targeting anyone, and attempted to weigh the concerns of both sides. Because Feministe has readers who are more sensitive both to anti-Semitism and to Islamophobia than I am, and who won't take my background and terminology as assumed.
And when people called me out for fucking up - for mocking the valid concerns of a group I belong to - I apologized, rather than saying "People who think anything I've said could possibly be anti-Semitic are narrow-minded and provincial anti-Semites."
I don't think the significant thing there was the way I wrote. Everyone makes mistakes, and everyone fails to estimate what the response will be like to something they say. If that post received relatively little criticism, that means I got "lucky," not that I didn't say things that were offensive. (I say "lucky" - it isn't especially, since if I make a mistake that goes unnoticed I'm likely to make it again where it could hurt someone.) I think the important thing was the way I responded.
This is not meant as "yay me, I am a good blogger." Rather, this is to say that it's not difficult to apologize and try to do better. I am a rather prickly personality, and somehow I manage.
Because I am responsible for what I do. As a writer, part of what I do is choose words and phrases and paragraphs based on what they mean to me and to my audience. But since I write publicly and not privately, some of the people who might read my pieces are people I wasn't thinking about when I wrote, and their take on it is no less valid. They can't read my mind and know that I didn't "intend" to be racist or ableist. They can only read what I chose to put on the screen in front of them. If I didn't mean to write something that marginalizes them, it's my job to remember that they're my audience, too, and not do that again. Not tell them it's their fault for daring to take part in the discussion as a person who has faced racism or ableism that sounded like that, or that they'd better shut up until they can adequately appreciate my sophisticated yet natural wisdom.
You don't tell people that they're only seeing an -ism because it's in their heads, and that you're not responsible for marginalizing that you've done. This is a cardinal rule of anti-ism work. You own what you do.
Perhaps Mai'a isn't used to considering a wider range of responses. I don't know; it's not my place to psychoanalyze, because I can't see in her head either. All I saw was what she gave me: a post that other queer people and women saw as marginalizing, and an extremely inappropriate reaction to their concerns.
I admit I fucked up by assuming that this poster was heterosexual, though in my defense, the "I didn't meeeeeean to be homophobic, you're the homophobic one for noticing" is typically the resort of heterosexual people called on their straight privilege (as it is the resort of other groups of privileged people). However, I will definitely be more careful in the future, and remember that I too have internalized stereotypes of groups to which I belong. I also admit that I need to do a better job of taking off the American goggles. (From the comments visible there, it also appears as if I said that the poster was not black; this is because comments that would have made it clear that I do not believe that were deleted.)
The Daily Agenda for Saturday, May 25
2 hours ago