Okay most of this has been said before I think, but still, I got irritated by someone identifying as an ally being terrible recently, so! Large analytic post. If you know why self-identified allies are often a problem, this probably isn’t anything new.
tl;dr: Being an ally means encouraging people to call you out more, not less.
Cis feminists will often expect to be treated as heroic “allies” for mentioning trans people in passing occasionally, while not doing anything to reassess their conceptions of gender and gender oppression, and like, they expect to be criticized less when they fuck up because “they’re on your side!”
And it’s actually not just cisfeminism, it’s more or less every sort of ally ever.
This seems to be very blatantly coming from a place where the only type of real oppression is the most violent overt harm, and maybe erasure, but from this perspective erasure is “nobody ever mentions you in passing ever” not “every narrative in society is constructed with the assumption that you are not possible”.
It all ultimately comes from the desire, common amongst privileged people, to use marginalized people for their own personal glory. Your only worth is to make them seem like an awesome person for saving you. Except they aren’t actually saving you, and they don’t want to actually put any effort into helping you.
And basically, this is just another way to marginalize you, objectify you, and force you out of the discourse. People who say things like this are basically the enemy. And when they say “attack the real enemy!” this is a blatant attempt to divert your energy from helping yourself into helping them. You can be sure that these people never will consider diverting their energy into helping you; and once their oppressions have fallen, they’re more then happy to assume a new place in the status quo.
But this leads to a strange sort of twisted logic where allies think that because they’ve given some ground, they should be less a target of criticism. This only makes the slightest bit of sense if your primary goal is to keep the status quo as intact as possible. And moreover, it actually is entirely the opposite of what you’d think an ally should be.
See, a recurring part of a marginalized person’s life is being constantly bombarded by oppressive ideas. Nobody has the energy to call these all out, or even to acknowledge them. Especially when nearly everyone will respond hostilely to such attempts.
See, the person who’s an ally, in the actual sense that that word means, not in the “self aggrandizing privileged person who uses your struggles to make themselves look better”, would be someone who, when they do something fucked up, would be willing to listen to you if you explain how.
Like I will critique the actions of my close friends far more often then people I don’t know, because with my established relationship with my close friends, its far more likely that they’ll listen and productive discussion will ensue.
See, nobody is going to ever be not oppressive. That just doesn’t happen. There’s too many sorts of oppression. Oppression is too ingrained in everything. And oppressed people don’t all agree on everything. And these things may be contradictory in their needs*. It may be possible to fix things in the future more or less, but now? Nope.
This doesn’t mean oppression is okay, which is why being open to listening is so important. If you can’t be perfect, it becomes especially important to fix the and be aware of the damage that’s done.
But by saying you’re an ally, you’re saying you want to change things. And that starts by reconceptualizing how you see the world. Which starts by listening to marginalized people and acknowledging how the systems that are in place do not help them, and creating an environment in which they can openly discuss these things.
Basically, by saying you’re an ally, you’re saying “You should call me out more.“ You’re saying, “rather then rolling your eyes and moving on when I hurt you, you should tell me, because I’m willing to be different from most privileged people, and actually listen.”
And if you try to insist that because you’re “on the same side” as us that we shouldn’t discuss our marginalization around you, you’re not on our side in the slightest.
*Like with pronouns, to be fully accepting of genders we basically need to allow people to make their pronouns whatever they want, but my learning disabilities mean, that like names, I’m really really bad at attaching those to people, which would be best served by having a small finite list of pronouns. …I definitely think the former is the better choice, assuming people actually acknowledge that people’s memories are not unlimited and there are good genderless options to fall back on if you’re memory is full of holes. But basically, these marginalizations are entirely contradictory in what would best serve them.
Or like, the way my autism works I tend to use elaborate and sometimes weirdly precise language, and… oh hey that can be super inaccessible sometimes. But on the other hand people insisting I should talk like normal people and not describe my emotions as “transient psychotic dysphoria” when “sad” would work is a very significant part of my oppression (both for the autism and the transient psychotic dysphoria, which… isn’t actually the same as being sad, though the meanings of the terms overlap)
But yeah, the gist of this is a lot of the ways to counter oppressions overlap and so simple solutions aren’t actually possible. Which makes openness to discussion all the more important.
[Cross posted–with some edits–from Fuck Yeah Borderline People.]
So one of the traits of borderlineness is a pathological need for attention. Like we’re not talking “you want people to pay attention to you” here, either, we’re talking “if people ignore you, you have a psychotic meltdown and hide in the closet sobbing because everyone hates you forever” or “if you go too long without talking to other people (like, twenty minutes or so), you’ll start developing severe disassociative symptoms, such as, say, random strangers walking into your head to help keep you company.”
Like, you may have noticed I’m three people. Yeah one of those showed up because I was bored as fuck because it was 4AM and nobody was awake, and because the person who showed up thought it would be amusing to, well, show up, and the other showed up after I spent a weekend convinced that none of my friends cared about me. Frequently sobbing in a box it my bathroom.
(This isn’t to say multiplicity and borderlineness are always connected, it should be noted, but there seems to be some correlation and in my case and several other people’s, they definitely are connected.)
Another thing borderlineness tends to do is result in general instability of your identity, or a tendency to define yourself based on what other people think. And again, we’re not talking, “you like to go along with your peer group” here. We’re talking “You are more or less incapable of believing your own intuitions unless someone else validates them.” Like, for example! I went through a stage where I was convinced that my periodic attraction to men was completely irrelevant; obviously I couldn’t really be queer because it just didn’t count. Until I mentioned it to one of my friends and they invited me to the LGBT support group.
(Obvious note here: this was before I realized I was trans so I would’ve been percieving attraction men as gay and to women as het, even though the opposite is more accurate)
Or, this can lead to situations where another person disagrees with you, and so obviously they are right about things, and you’re just mistaken. Because there’s no way you could be write about something if other people disagree. Even if something is say, your gender identity that the other person has NO WAY AT ALL of knowing.
Anyway, this whole thing can lead to an attachment to labels, and a desire to label absolutely everything about yourself. Because unless there’s a socially accepted label, obviously that personality trait doesn’t really exist! And a desire to explore EVERY POSSIBLE identity since, after all, you’re basically incapable of telling who you are. Even if you’re obviously one thing one moment, wait a few weeks and your self doubt and inability to process your identity will show up again, and WAIT MAYBE NOT.
This all leads to a tendency to have idiosyncratic, and frequently unstable identities. Or, in my case, its like that one species of crab that picks up random sediment and glues it onto itself to make a shell. (And I maaaay have gotten that metaphor from someone else. You also tend to pick up personality traits randomly from everyone around you, since, after all, you’re not you, you’re them.)
And so I have a list of all the brain issues I have, for example, and it has nineteen entries. Some of which are really not typical (sharing your head with other people, for example)
What this ends up doing, is it makes other people decide you’re trying to be super unique for attention. Because, honestly, you are trying to get attention. Wanting attention is a normal human thing, though the psychotic meltdowns are a bit less so. And you are trying to establish yourself as an individual, because, well, you’re basically incapable of it, so you just don’t stop trying.
But see, labels like Special Snowflake are then thrown at you, because obviously no NORMAL person would be transfeminine AND autistic AND plural AND have a dozen other varieties of neurodivergence. So clearly you’re just trying to get attention! And attention seeking is terrible forever! (sarcasm)
…and yes, “special snowflake” is used like that, trust me, I’ve seen it happen first hand.
(This is not the only way in which it is problematic, it should be noted. The term is also inevitably extremely gendered and is frequently used against people, especially women, who attempt to differentiate themselves from the mainstream culture.)
It’s not ableist to acknowledge that people have varying ability levels. I mean obviously come on that’s like, one of the most basic points of disability theory.
Intelligence is ableist because it isn’t actually a thing. It’s a bunch of things, and often they aren’t correlated at all (See for example specific learning disabilities; like I’m completely unable to remember things in the short term and get distracted all the time and forget what I was doing but as soon as something is in my long term memory it is staying there forever.)
Like the best way to put it seems to be to realize it’s not really one specific thing. It’s not even that there’s lots of ways to be intelligent—which there are—it’s that if you talk about intelligence we have no way of knowing if we’re talking about being able to remember facts, being good at processing numbers, having a wide knowledge base (like knowing twenty five languages, for example), or even readily using wikipedia so you’ll have answers to other people’s questions.
It is probably worth breaking the idea down into its component parts here, because really my ability to grasp complex concepts quickly and my tendency to become completely lost if a person uses weird organization or is at all poetic are very different things, and they’d both be considered intelligence or lack thereof. Plus, the way people talk about it now it doesn’t even really mean anything because it’s super vague and, well, a ton of unrelated things.
The other reason it’s ableist is because people without intelligence, or specific facits thereof, are treated like shit and get their autonomy denied them and generally are abused and unaccommodated so they can’t use the abilities they do have (like, I learn really fast and have a ridiculously good memory but then I have no ability to focus and can’t read books very well, so I failed out of college. Even though basically intellectual things are basically what I’m best at, and actually because of my other disabilities are practically all I can do)
It should also be noted that it’s not “intelligence” that’s privileged; it’s a bit more complex then intelligence is privileged and lack of it is disprivileged. In my experience it’s really productivity that’s privileged; I mean i got forced into segregated special ed classes and generally had no material ever that was remotely appropriate to my ability level (either because it was completely impossible for me to do—I completely left the essay portion of the SAT I took blank—or because it was stuff I’d learned years ago and they didn’t know anything better to do then teach it to me six times in a row), but I was generally regarded as “intelligent”.
Certainly there’s privilege in there, including my access to an education and resources and not being completely written off as uneducatable for any of various reasons. But in my experience, testing at the ceiling of IQ tests mostly resulted in everyone insisting I needed to be perfect at everything, and punishing me when I was merely above average. That’s… not privilege.
(But insulting people for lack of intelligence? That’s ridiculously ableist; like there’s no way it could be interpreted as not. So seriously stop using words like “stupid” to attack people)
So I took down my last post pending revision and expansion, because it had some problems that I’d like to address at some point, but because of some personal crises that I hadn’t processed as well as I’d thought–which, notably, the post was in response to–I’m not currently in a good mental space to discuss anything about how rape culture and my life interact to anyone but my close friends.
I’ll probably revise and expand it eventually, but I’m not quite sure when, it may be as much as several months, given how my attention span works.
Posted August 19, 2011on:
[Trigger warning: ableist slurs]
Because the most condescending things I can think of are “Wow, you’re so fucking stupid,” or “Wow that’s fucking stupid.” Or even “You’re delusional.”
Like all of those are ableist as fuck.
Or, another great way to be condescending is to insist that someone is “childish” or “juvenile”, which, obviously, is great until you realize you’re saying that someone’s opinions are invalid because they’re like young people.
And even more so then just that these are comparisons to oppressed groups, this further are entirely condescending based on the idea that they invalidate people’s ability to have an opinion. Or have any sort of responsibility for their actions at all. After all, if someone is “delusional” obviously anything they say can’t be valid because it’s just a product of a delusion. Same with “stupid”; obviously the person’s statements can’t be valid, because “stupid” people do not make valid statements, because they can’t think.
Or if you’re saying someone’s actions are juvenile, obviously they shouldn’t be allowed to do something because of that, again, you’re saying “Your like a child, people should violate your right to self-determination to ensure you don’t do the choice you’re doing.”
So are there any good ways to be condescending as fuck without being ableist or ageist?
I’m leaning towards “You’re being oppressive so your opinion is completely fucking irrelevant” or possibly “your understanding of this issue is so fucking biased there’s nothing you could say on it that could possibly have any relevance”.
I’m wary of invoking privilege though to be condescending, not that privileged people don’t merit it frequently, but that privileged people often act like douchebags about the fact that “people use privilege as an insult!” which is mostly bullshit, we generally only do that when we’re extremely pissed at the world or when said privileged person is doing really fucked shit because of their privilege.
But I don’t particularly want to give them more fodder for their bullshit.
[Note: this post was written by my headmate]
Trigger warning: unpleasant sexual experiences
One of the common tropes about relationships that I’ve come across is that you’re supposed to do them in a certain way. Or that certain traits clearly are necessary to show you love someone, or a bit more often, that they’re indicative of romantic love, or just, coded as indicative of wanting a romantic relationship.
Many of these have nothing inherently romantic about them. There is probably some indication of at least some level of friendship, obviously, as they do tend to involve spending time and/or energy on another person, which, tends to be a clue of at least some sort of relationship.
An obvious example would be the concept of a date. This is significant enough to the concept of Serious Romantic Relationships as constructed by mainstream society that, in fact, the phrase “Person A is dating Person B” is interpreted as synonymous with a Serious Romantic Relationship.
At least as I have gathered,* a normative date seems to exist of arranging in advance with a person to go out and do something, more normative choices seem to be watching a movie or eating at a restaurant, or both. And some amount of formality is also normative, for example planning it in advance, putting some extra effort into looking nice, etc.
But there is nothing inherently romantic about formally arranging to go have a meal with a friend and dressing up, it is just as possible to do this with a nonromantic friend. And this by no means means that this is the only way to performatively date, either; planning to talk to a friend on IM and calling that a date, or going out for supper with a partner spontaneously because you’re bored is just as much relationship performativity, just a bit less normative.
There are of course other examples of relationship performativity. Examples coming to mind off the top of my head are such things as commemorating anniversaries, or Valentine’s day, or certain varieties of presents are coded as romantic, such as flowers or chocolate.
Nonromantic relationships are also performative, it must be noted. The tropes tend to be a bit less formalized and are treated as less Serious Business than romantic relationship performativity. Though for example I’ve seen going to bars together, or watching TV together coded as nonromantic relationship performativity, or doing something for Mother’s or Father’s day is often coded as child/parent relationship performativity.
This does further lead into an obvious way in which relationship performativity can become oppressive. In coding certain behaviors as expressions of a relationship, their absence can, in turn, become coded as absence of a relationship. For example, forgetting an anniversary could be read as a sign that you don’t particularly care about your partner, or not remembering to thank your friend when they take time for you could be read as being apathetic or uncaring about their support, and not, for example, a manifestation of ADHD, which tends to just result in terrible short term memory, and so such forgetting is a manifestation of a physical inability to consistently remember such things.
This can also lead to a situation where because a person does not feel they can fulfill performative relationship tropes that they feel that they are unable to have a legitimate relationship, for example a person with minimal ability to handle subtext or other varieties of normative flirting could feel that it is impossible for them to ever have a relationship at all.
The fact that relationship performativity can be oppressive does not necessarily mean that it, in fact, always is. Relationship performativity, especially when open to personal interpretation, can be an immensely valuable thing. Compulsory or exclusionary relationship performativity, however, can rapidly become extremely oppressive.
The concept of relationship performativity also ties into the deconstruction of relationship classification, as it is entirely possible for relationships that are not remotely romantic or sexual or other common tropes of Serious Romantic Relationships to be performative in ways coded as romantic, or for a person to have multiple performatively romantic relationships, or, on the other hand, it is entirely possible for romantic relationships to not be performative in the slightest, or for relationships that resemble close friendships in terms of performativity to be romantic in terms of the emotions present in said relationship. In short, there is nothing remotely inherent about relationship performativity tropes, and people should be free to choose or discard such tropes based on what works for that person.
*The closest thing I’ve ever done to a formal normative date was entirely nonromantic, and my relationships are more likely to involve mutual ranting about Judith Butler’s cissexism than dates, so I’m not necessarily the best at saying “this is how dating works!” based on my own experiences, though the tropes frequently show up in media, or have happened to my friends.