Another post on why there is no such thing as misandry or reverse racism. But Purple People Eaters are real.

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Here’s what I want to say to all the men who call “misandry” when women dare hate men, or to white people who think there is such a think as “reverse racism”, or any other BS privileged person who wants to coerce oppressed or marginalized people into “we are all individuals” and “hate is so negative” or [fill in your own BS comment here]…

I want to give you an illustration of how this works, because explanations seem to not reach high enough on the hierarchy ladder to reach your ears…

Here it is.

You leave your house and a one-eyed one-horned flying purple people eater – one of that group that makes up most of the cops, most of the politicians, most of the business owners, most of the military, most of the bankers, most of the managers, etc. – in short, the people in power, the people with access to resources, the decision-makers – comes up to you, and grabs you very unpleasantly. You call for help, and a cop – a purple people eater, of course – comes up and says, “I don’t see a problem here”.

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Scared, and somewhat bruised, you get on a bus, where you are shoved around by all the purple people eaters, some actually touch you with their horns, or at least flash them – and get to work. Your boss – you got it, is a purple people eater, says that you are distracting everyone with your lack of purpleness, and therefore shut up when they harass you about it. And anyway, who are you to speak out? You are the lowest on the company hierarchy, so what if you get paid less, you must not be working hard enough. Stop complaining and get back to work.

Then you go to your purple people eater doctor to deal with your health, which is also affected by all the shoving, stress, poverty, and other results of NOT being a PPE – and doc says you are imagining it, or that’s how it is when you’re not purple, and gives you a pill created for PPE physiology that makes you pretty ill.

Then you go home (on the way several PPEs stare and you and say some stuff – no big deal, it’s not like they STABBED you with their horns! How do you know they didn’t mean it as a compliment?) and the PPE you live with (living with anyone who is NOT a PPE is freaky, and another reason for violence and discrimination), anyway – YOUR PPE, who had a bad day, punches you in the face.

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When you complain, you are told that it’s #NotAllPeopleEaters, and why are you acting like this is a social issue, just leave. Well, you make less then your PPE, and you have a family that you are the primary caregiver for, and your friend got KILLED after leaving a PPE, and you are also pretty fearful at this point, but at some point you do manage to leave, and you meet a new PPE who is so enamored of you, so you set up house. Only this PPE also eventually feels like its okay to stab you with their horn, that’s what horns are for, after all, and you shouldn’t be complaining.

You turn on the TV for some escapism, and all the cool PPEs are doing really awesome stuff. You feel bad, because people like you are primarily in the story to get poked by PPE horns, and they are all really happy about it, for some reason, and keep telling you and everyone how awesome it is to be the pokee, and here are all the things you can do to be a better poking target – there are creams, and clothes, and operations, and if you are not the perfect target, well – there is something seriously wrong with you anyway, and you aren’t important enough to be heard and if no one wants to poke you with their horn it is THEIR fault and why are you acting like they are responsible for the situation?

You head to meet your counselor through the obstacle course of PPEs who are calling out at you, touching you, following you home, describing in detail how they are going to stab you with their horn… And your counselor is really supportive, and comforts you, and even hugs, you, and then you relax, because this is a trust relationship. After your counselor pokes you, you feel like it must be your fault that you feel bad, because they are supposed to know what’s right and wrong, and how to behave, and have your best interest at heart.

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This goes on for years in various forms. You live with it (or not, but let’s assume you are still amongst us), and so you develop all kinds of mechanisms for dealing with PPEs. Sometimes that even requires that you adopt PPE mentalities, or rhetoric and politics that are in line with what PPEs are doing and saying – I mean, if the government wants to regulate those parts of your body that should have a horn but don’t, or that extra eye you insist on carrying around – there’s probably a good reason.

But deep down – do you trust purple people eaters? You probably love the PPEs in your life, maybe your are raising some little PPEs… There are a lot of reasons not to generalize. But maybe, just maybe, when you are walking down the street/picking a doctor/going to work/having a conversation while waiting in line at the bank… You’d really really really really rather that there be NO purple people eaters around you, at all. You probably want to socialize in settings they are not in, and promote people in business/politics/academia who are like you, because the next time you are framed only as the person to poke you might go on a murderous rampage.

Or simply see a PPE coming your way – and turn and head in the other direction. Yes, without waiting to see if THIS one will poke you or punch you in the face.

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A Short Rant

I’m pretty tired of always being expected to be apologetic to hegemonic persons who automatically get riled up at the merest hint that they may be in collusion with an oppressive system – whether men, white people, cis-people, straight people… Seriously, no matter how good you THINK your intentions are, you benefit as a member of that group from the oppression of others. You have a responsibility to proactively act against all the attitudes and behaviors that perpetuate the existing structure. You don’t get off by saying “I don’t see color” or “we’re all human” or “everyone is equally deserving of respect”, or “Just be nice to everybody!” (“nice” really isn’t the issue). By doing that, you are erasing and ignoring and minimizing the actual lived experiences of marginalized people – THEY never say they don’t see color or that everyone should love each other equally, because their ENTIRE LIFE EXPERIENCE is based on the fact that people DO see color (or gender, or ethnicity, or weight, or age… and they DON’T LIKE IT). You don’t get to say “generalizing about men is equally sexist to what men do to women”, because guess what: it isn’t. If that was all we were dealing with, we wouldn’t be here, doing this feminism thing. And getting no end of crap for it. We get to be mad, because we’re the ones getting raped, murdered, beaten, paid less, judged, disowned, legislated against, maligned, harassed, and more. You don’t get to act as if there is parity between us. If I hate you – nothing happens to you except you feel I was unpleasant to you. I live in a state of fear and violence, whether or not you even recognize my existence. I get to say “I hate straights/cis-people/men”, even if that isn’t “nice”. I don’t owe you my niceness. You don’t get to hate women/people of color/trans* people – because when you do, you are supporting an entire system of oppression and violence. Someday, when the playing field is even, you will have a right to claim that this attitude might lead to oppression. Someday, on that day that will only arrive if TODAY YOU RECOGNIZE YOUR PRIVILEGES AND THE OPPRESSIONS OF OTHERS. But for now – you don’t get to take away our anger. Their anger. The anger that comes from being stomped on and marginalized. YOU JUST DON’T.

The Revolution Is Here, Read All About It!

bi:notes for a bisexual revolutionI am part of a very radical, political, and informed bisexual community. I am proud of the people comprising this community, but as little as two or three years ago I didn’t even know they existed. If I pause to think about how I came to know these amazing revolutionary friends, and how I learned pretty much everything I know about bisexual politics, it’s fairly easy to pinpoint a handful of key people, who by reading them and engaging with them, I literally changed how I think: about myself, my gender and sexual identities, about community and politics, and about a million other things. One of these people is Shiri Eisner, whose book Bi: Notes for a Bisexual Revolution has just been published.

By reading Eisner online* (Facebook, Tumblr, and her Hebrew– and English-language blogs) and engaging in the same or similar political discussions (and, of course, with other persons active in radical politics as well), I was able to come to terms, for the first time, with ideas I was either blind to, ignorant of, or in total denial of their existence. I had never heard of bisexual erasure, for example, and I wasn’t troubled by it either, because my own bisexual identity was not important to me.

This new (to me) political discourse made me question myself – why was I willing to suppress my own identity? It isn’t as though I was against identity politics in principle, as I was an active feminist, a supporter of Palestinian liberation, an anti-racism and anti-colonialism activist, and more… What was it about bisexuality that was so easy to dismiss? And once I was aware of my own identity issues, how could I ignore the political aspects of accepting or denying my bisexuality? Was I not collaborating with a system that was oppressing me and others like me?

And as oppression is not my cup of tea… My perceptions had to change.

I can’t actually describe how momentous of a change this was for me. It was a watershed moment, a light bulb switching on, an epiphany… Pick your phrase, but I simply cannot overstate the significance, because this wasn’t just about bisexuality, it was a defining moment for me in understanding my own belief systems – that I have a radical rather than liberal political viewpoint, and that I had gained new critical lenses with which to examine all power relations. It led to a redefining of my feminism, my activism, my gender identity, my participation in other groups’ activism as an ally… It changed my life, and there is no going back. My activism has taken on an entirely different aspect, whether online or in “real life”, and as a result I have come to recognize that I have strength and influence I never imagined.

But what does this have to do with the book?

I don’t think my personal story is unique. I think there are many of us out there, people with non-normative sexual and gender identities, who find each other mostly online, and there share information and experiences and political ideas. I think we gather knowledge and awareness like berries, sometimes in abundance sometimes scraping from scarcity, but always searching and not necessarily knowing everything we might want to about developing ideas or even history, or just the state of things. Or simply getting information in a form or in an order we can digest. So sometimes we gain understanding, sometimes we don’t, it can be hit and miss, and there isn’t one central place in which we can start at the beginning (say, what is bisexuality, anyway?) and then move on to more advanced concepts and tools.

In my view, Bi: Notes for a Bisexual Revolution is the first time all this knowledge has been collected into one place, in a clear and coherent way, defining not only what bisexuality is and is not, but also the societal forces that influence attitudes towards bisexuals, and their consequences. What it has taken me a couple of painstaking years to learn and internalize, Eisner has brilliantly collated into a comprehensive, yet readable book, accompanied by her own unique analysis. While the book certainly deals with advanced concepts, it takes care to define them, and is geared to be an accessible and useful tool for both beginners and those more deeply involved in bisexual discourse.

So why should you read the book?

First of all, you are guaranteed to learn something new, or get a new perspective on familiar topics. For example, even the most basic question of how bisexuality is defined is not free from disagreement, controversy, and political significance, and the book’s explanations are very illuminating. And that is just the beginning – the book introduces many other concepts we should all know, from monosexism to bisexual erasure to gender subversion… Even familiar terms are explored in a way that uncovers their revolutionary potential and places them in contexts that are both surprising and revealing.

In addition, you will learn about issues surrounding bisexuality – such as how bisexuals are disproportionately and detrimentally affected in terms of health, finances, and sexual violence. The book also discusses how bisexuality and the bisexual struggle intersect with, and are influenced by, other oppressions and struggles (there are entire chapters on bisexuality and feminism, bi and trans, bisexuality and the homo-centric gay movement, and bisexuality and racialization).

Finally, you will also gain tools for understanding and dealing with some of the challenges and concepts presented – such as deconstructing common biphobic stereotypes and tropes (bisexuality doesn’t exist, bisexuals are just confused, bisexuals are really either gay or straight, bisexuals spread diseases, bisexuals are inherently unfaithful, and more).

Book Quote: Transgender and Bi and intertwining ideas

But perhaps what most appeals to me is that while Eisner certainly does instruct, the book in no way comes to excuse or to defend: Eisner is unapologetic and even aggressive in her insistence on the inherent legitimacy of bisexual identity and community, without seeking approval from any external source; moreover – in seeing the subversive and intrinsically revolutionary potential of bisexuality, as a challenging force to oppressive, binary, mono- and cis-sexist, hegemonic cultures.

I feel extremely validated by the very existence of this book. I like it very much when things I know, or believe in, or strive for, are put in writing and can be referenced. I like learning new things and being challenged to see things in new ways. And I feel very privileged to have been a part of the community Eisner uses as her point of reference and example in this very important document.

Oh! – and I am not recommending this book only to bisexuals and other non-monosexuals… My ardent wish would be for all “normative” (monosexuals and cisgender) people to read this book. Perhaps they would begin to become aware of how they contribute to the oppression of others, even if they are doing so in the most unintentional way.

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* Since that time, we have also met socially and have done activism together.

The bisexual umbrella


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:
RESULTS MATTER MORE THAN INTENTIONS, NOT THE OTHER WAY AROUND

The Revolution Will Not Be Polite: The Issue of Nice versus Good

Rachael from the Social Justice League does it again, with this brilliant post about why it is a mistake to confuse “niceness” with “social justice”.

Slightly abridged version here; you can read the whole post via the provided link.

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Social justice is about destroying systematic marginalisation and privilege. Wishing to live in a more just, more equal world is simply not the same thing as wishing to live in a “nicer” world. I am not suggesting niceness is bad or that we should not behave in a nice way towards others if we want to! I also do not equate niceness with cooperation or collaboration with others. Here’s all I am saying: the conflation of ethical or just conduct (goodness), and polite conduct (niceness) is a big problem.

Plenty of oppressive bullshit goes down under the guise of nice. Every day, nice, caring, friendly people try to take our bodily autonomy away from us (women, queers, trans people, nonbinaries, fat people, POC…you name it, they just don’t think we know what’s good for us!). These people would hold a door for us if they saw us coming. Our enemies are not only the people holding “Fags Die God Laughs” signs, they are the nice people who just feel like marriage should be between a man and a woman, no offense, it’s just how they feel! We once got a very nice comment on this site that we decided we could not publish because its content was “But how can I respect women when they dress like – sorry to say it, pardon my language – sluts?”. This is vile, disgusting misogyny and no amount of sugar coating and politeness can make it okay. Similarly, most of the people who run ex-gay therapy clinics are actually very nice and polite! They just want to save you! Nicely! Clearly, niceness means FUCK ALL.

On an even more serious note, nice people also DO horrible bad things on an individual level. In The Gift of Fear by Gavin De Becker, he explicitly says that people who intend to harm others often display niceness towards them in order to make them feel safe and let their guard down. This trick only works because we have been taught that niceness indicates goodness. What is more, according to De Becker, women have been socially conditioned to feel indebted to men who are “nice” to them, which is often exploited by abusers. If this doesn’t seem obvious to you, I suggest you pick up the book – it talks a lot about how socialisation of men and women makes it easier for men to abuse women.

How many more acts that reinforce kyriarchy have to be done nicely and politely before we stop giving people any credit for niceness? Does the niceness of these acts make them acceptable? It does not.

An even bigger issue is that if people think social justice is about niceness, it means they have fundamentally misunderstood privilege. Privilege does not mean you live in a world where people are nice to you and never insult you. It means you live in a world in which you, and people like you, are given systematic advantages over other people. Being marginalised does not mean people are always nasty to you, it means you live in a world in which many aspects of the cultural, social and economic systems are stacked against people like you. Some very privileged people have had awful experiences in life, but it does not erase their privilege. That is because privilege is about groups of people being given different rights and opportunities by the law and by socio-cultural norms. Incidentally, that is why you can have some forms of privilege and not others, and it doesn’t make sense to try to “tally up” one’s privilege into a sum total and compare it against others’.

The conflation of nice and good also creates an avenue of subtle control over marginalised people. After all, what is seen as “nice” is cultural and often even class-dependent, and therefore the “manners” that matter get to be defined by the dominant ethnic group and class. For example, the “tone” argument, the favourite derailing tactic of bigots everywhere, is quite clearly a demand that the oppressor be treated “nicely” at all times by the oppressed – and they get to define what “nice” treatment is. This works because the primacy of nice in our culture creates a useful tool – to control people and to delegitimise their anger. A stark example of this is the stereotype of the desirably meek and passive woman, which is often held over women’s heads if we step out of line. How much easier is it to hold on to social and cultural power when you make a rule that people who ask for an end to their own oppression have to ask for it nicely, never showing anger or any emotion at being systematically disenfranchised? (A lot easier.)

Furthermore, I think the confusion of meanness with oppression is the root cause of why bigots feel that calling someone a “bigot” is as bad as calling someone a “tranny” or taking away their rights. You know, previously I thought they were just being willfully obtuse, but now I realise what is going on. For example, most racists appear to feel that calling POC a racist slur is a roughly equal moral harm to POC calling them a “racist fuckhead”. That’s because they do not understand that using a racist slur is bad in any sense other than it hurts someone’s feelings. And they know from experience that it hurts someone’s feelings to be called racist douche.

So if you – the oppressed – hurt someone’s feelings, you’re just like the oppressor, right? Wrong. Oppression is not about hurt feelings. It is about the rights and opportunities that are not afforded to you because you belong to a certain group of people. When you use a racist slur you imply that non-whiteness is a bad thing, and thus publicly reinforce a system that denies POC the rights and opportunities of white people. Calling a white person a racist fuckhead doesn’t do any of that. Yes, it’s not very nice. And how effective it is as a tactic is definitely up for debate (that’s a whole other blog post). But it’s not oppression.

Being good and being nice are totally unrelated. We need to get serious about debunking this myth, because the confusion between the two is obfuscating our message and handing our oppressors another tool with which to silence us. In some cases, this confusion is putting people (especially women) in real danger.

This social movement can’t achieve its goals if people think it’s essentially some kind of niceness revolution. And anyway, social justice is not about making the world a nicer place. It’s about taking back the rights and opportunities denied to us by law or by social and cultural norms – and breaking out of the toxic mindset that wants us to say please and thankyou when we do.

via » The Revolution Will Not Be Polite: The Issue of Nice versus Good Social Justice League.