Fuck Your Good Intentions

Good intentions. I’m sick to death of good intentions.

Every time someone comes into one of the groups or blogs I manage, says something racist or sexist or transphobic or [fill in oppressive BS here], and they get called out on it, not only do I end up getting the whole offended “I’m the victim here” song and dance (“You are oppressing me by nullifying my right to express an opinion” “You are being violent to me by excoriating me in the group” “You are being a dictator!! [yeah, I’m Stalin])… Not only all that, but then come in the chorus of apologists: “He didn’t *mean* to offend anyone, he meant well!”. Oh, I guess the hurt he caused is now erased, then.

So here is what I have to say about good intentions: FUCK GOOD INTENTIONS.

If you have “good intentions” all that means is one or more of the following:

  1. You are trying to make yourself feel good by doing some patronizing BS. You don’t actually “see” the group you are thereby helping oppressing, you are actually maintaining the existing order (which is patriarchal, hierarchical, and based on unequal power relationships). You are probably white knighting, cookie seeking or mansplaining. Or just plain being a liberal asshat.
  2. You are being selfish and/or self-centered. We might try to follow the golden rule (treat other as we would want to be treated) or walk a mile in their shoes, or some other cliche on how to act towards others… But really – each of us thinks differently and processes information differently and has our own filter for actions and words. Especially if there are differences of gender, race, class… You don’t get points for enforcing your own ideas upon others, especially if you’re going to get offended when they don’t appreciate your take on things like you wanted them to.
  3. You are defining for others what is good, what is harm… If that isn’t oppressive, what is? If you’re trying to be an ally, find out what the group you’re allying yourself wants, for fuck’s sake. Find out what their pain points are. Don’t assume things. Don’t go barging in there with your good or bad baggage. Their activism is theirs, and you get to help. IF they want you to. HOW they want you to.
  4. You haven’t done your homework. Activism is first and foremost about awareness. You don’t go stomping in with your newly budding understanding of something, and spray it all over the place. Have you learned what the group is about? Does it have any rules or conventions you should be aware of? Do members of the group want to continually educate newbies — or are they trying to get their own stuff done? There are plenty of resources to learn from on pretty much any issue, and in any case I’m sure the group you’re trying to work with would appreciate your asking where you can learn – and therefore help – rather than assuming you already know more than you do, and gracing them with your ignorance. No excuse for stomping. Even if you’re dancing to make your cat happy, if you step on her, ya know, she’s gonna yowl. Maybe even scratch.

So remember:

7 thoughts on “Fuck Your Good Intentions

  1. Couldn’t have written it better myself. Seems that “good intentions” is the new and upgraded version of “I didn’t know” and “it was a mistake”. In Israel it’s a very dominant voice in public discourse. that way, besides the diminishing of women and violence against women, discrimination and humiliation of Jewish-Arabs is excused, and extreme violence against Palestinians is justified.

  2. I agree with this. At the same time, however, it’s very important not to discourage people from becoming allies. I imagine somebody new to activism could quite easily be deterred from trying to help an activist movement for fear of inadvertently saying/doing the wrong thing. In my opinion, the problem doesn’t arise when somebody makes an uninformed comment (we’re all ignorant about some things), but when somebody refuses to accept that what they’ve said is unhelpful or hurtful. It is incredibly frustrating when somebody gets pissy with you and uses the ‘oh so you don’t want my help’ attitude, and arrogance combined with ignorance is very hard to deal with. On the flip side, willingness to learn should be nurtured at every possibility, and often that involves accepting – on both sides – that mistakes will be made.

  3. Actually I think such comments do more harm than good. I think we have realize that the advancement of women to a station where they are equal to men in all aspects of society will take time. Generations actually. And will require the active participation of all men and women on the planet. But Atleast good intentions are the place to start, and yes there will be mistakes! But through positive conversations and advancing understanding gradually those good intentions, and mistakes can be turned into positive results that will contribute slowly but surely to this process of change. The authors comments make such a positive process seem very of putting. The ends do not justify the means. You use arrogance and paternalism to try and achieve your aims, you’ll only succeed in alienating those may have been ready to assist. Infact, ironically you are using those negative traits that have been mostly associated with men (conflict and contention) rather than the compassion and love which are positive feminine traits that we know can bring about lasting change in the long-run, and which the world needs more of.

    • Yeah, well – read previous comments. Good intentions are just a way of not taking responsibility. Anyway, I’m not sure where you got the idea that I want “equality with men” or that I deify feminine traits (product of patriarchy). I don’t consider men, what they have, or systems they created, any sort of standard to hold myself to. And anyway – when was the last time in history an oppressed group got free by asking nicely, and eating the “nice” crumbs of their oppressors? Oh, yeah – NEVER. Read the whole thing again, for fuck’s sake. How is someone stepping on me while thinking they are so supremely enlightened a good thing? What kind of “help” will they give me? I want them to recognize their privilege, take a huge leap backwards, and learn to be an ally, not their patronage.

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