Let’s vacuum our ceiling fan blades this weekend, yeah? Seems like a good thing to do.
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Queer as in F*ck You
+ Well this latest from Maria Catt is something you’ll want to read, so do that. Uncomfortable People.
+ Rebekah Herrick breaks it down for you: Why U.S. States Vary in the Rights and Protections they Offer to Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Residents.
+ Ex-Gay Stories Flourish When Bisexuality is Ignored.
+ Katie Barnes On Queered Masculinity and Misogyny.
+ Maria Bello Is a “Whatever,” But You Can Call Her a Lesbian.
The memoir-in-essays, together with the accompanying website whateverloveislove.com, is part of Bello’s quest to make room for all of those who don’t fit so easily into labels like “gay,” “lesbian,” or “bisexual,” and those who exist outside the heterosexual nuclear family structure. In each chapter, Bello asks herself a philosophical question about her existence (“Am I a Bad Girl?,” “Am I Cinderella?,” “Am I a Feminist?,” “Am I LGBT or W”?), and in the process, asks readers to question terms we likely have taken for granted. In the opening essay, Bello asks, “Can my primary partner be my sister or child or best friend, or does it have to be someone I am having sex with?”
+ Senate Confirms Loretta Lynch as Attorney General After Long Delay.
+ This is What Women Are Forced to do to Avoid Street Harassment by Tara Culp-Ressler.
+ Sexiness That Isn’t ‘Pushed-Up, Angelfied And Blinged-Out’: Building A Better Bra by Jessica Goldstein.
“The way lingerie has historically been marketed,” said Vosper, referencing Victoria’s Secret’s branding, “is lingerie is made to make you sexy. Sexy for someone else. Pushed-up and angelfied and blinged out. And I think that aspect of lingerie marketing made it feel like it was all about seduction and sexiness, and that’s uncomfortable.
“But the reality is, most women wear underwear every day because it’s functional, not because they’re trying to seduce someone. So if you think of underwear in a more normal light — that we’re all wearing it, and it’s normal, it’s quotidian — that’s the way we’re approaching it. Taking away that voyeuristic, lecherous side. Every girl wears underwear. You dry your hair in your underwear. You make scrambled eggs in your underwear. It doesn’t have to be about seduction on a bed. That’s part of the way we see the dialogue shifting.”
+ The Forgotten History of the Women Who Shaped Advertising by Ciara Lavelle.
+ Women’s War Stories are Finally Being Told, But Let’s Not Pretend War is Romantic.
+ Some words on the Writing with a Smirk panel at last week’s LA Festival of Books: Is It Rude to Ask Women Humor Writers How They Differ?
+ This Tori Amos interview is titled Tori Amos: “I’m too raw for straight men. They are tortured by my shows”, so you know I was into it.
+ Anne Helen Peterson brings you The Lessons We’ve Learned From Our Boomer Mothers.
Saw This, Thought of You
+ Here’s Mara Wilson walking you through a breathing exercise to help calm your anxiety. Thanks Mara Wilson!
+ What the everloving fuck: Man Trapped in an 8-Year “Groundhog Day” Loop Baffles Scientists.
+ Buying Better: The Impossible Challenge of Ethical Shopping.
+ America Loves the Eggplant Emoji and Other Lessons From a New Emoji Study.
+ So many podcasts! Podcasting for a Change: A Curated List by Beatrice Martini.
+ Words For Cutting: Why We Need to Stop Abusing “The Tone Argument” by Katherine Cross. Yes.
Local Autostraddle Meet-Ups
+ 4/26 Los Angeles, California: LA Queer Women’s Book Club
Sorry this is the best thing you’ll read today that’s not on Autostraddle. Rewilding Farm Creates Refuge for England’s Rare Turtledoves by Isabella Tree.
I just realized how dirty my fan blades are yesterday. Thanks for reminding me that I should actually clean them!
Oh man the Uncomfortable People essay is powerful. I really loved how the part near the end describing uncomfortable people described both himself and the people around him.
Also the year I had daily panic attacks, the attacks were always proceeded with intense feelings of deja vu. Whenever my anxiety starts becoming pronounced I start having deja vu a lot. There’s a part of me that kinda wants to contact the researchers.
Maria Catt/their writing is blowing my world up right now. Thank you.
I don’t feel the concept of tone argument is brought out so much for violent or threatening speech (maybe I’m missing the instances of it?). But what I continue to frequently hear on many Internet sites are people saying “why so angry?” “talk like that pushes our allies away” “be respectful of other people’s opinions” (AKA… intolerance) blah, blah blah. Nope, I think the concept of calling out people who use tone arguments to dismiss others’ experiences and perceptions continues to be a valuable one. Threats are more tangible… it’s a statement of potentially violent action or of dehumanization or ridicule.
Far more often I hear statements like someone saying they will boycott something or are critical of how something is portrayed which is then pictured as a threat or censorship when it absolutely isn’t. And yes, characterizing something as a threat when it isn’t is, indeed, a kind of tone argument. So, no, Katherine Cross, I don’t buy your treatise.
As a unique human in a world of 7 billion unique humans, you have to defend yourself from others who seek to constrict you to their limited definitions of acceptability and respectability. We are all going to frequently and unintentionally offend the other, on a regular and ongoing basis.
And this is one of the most difficult lessons that an Old Soul will learn:
YOU CANNOT EXIST AMONG OTHERS WITHOUT DISTURBING THEM.
We emphasize “EXIST” because we are not speaking of imposing yourself, or defensively navigating the life in antagonistic ways. Your mere existence will disturb others.
IT IS SUPPOSED TO.
We do not say the above as if you have a predestined role or function. We say the above because it is a practical description.
If an adult walks into a room full of children, the children often notice the adult quite profoundly and react in some way that honors the adult or defies the adult.
No Old Soul at this point in the collective evolution of your species can escape this similar scenario. You are not invisible. You can hide. You can isolate. You can deny. You can comply. But you cannot UNexist.
You can be considerate of those who remain sleeping, but the pace and preferences of your life do not have to diminish to compliance and constriction.
You do not have to “slam doors,” but you can use doors, so to speak. You will not get through this life without disturbing others into considering where they are in the process of waking up.
To keep yourself safe, you have to be able to determine if a real threat is imminent, or if the bigotry is just more awful bigoted words(verbal abuse).
Being able to the tell the difference between a real threat and verbal abuse is the difference between having time to carefully walk or run the fuck away, or get beat up.
I thought this perspective on “tone argument”, failed to advance any genuine insight on it. It has further confirmed for me that speaking one’s mind and using boycotting is the best form of peaceful protest ever. But there is also physical defence and sometimes life requires defense from physical combat. Which is why it is useful to determine between
More bigoted verbal abuse and
More bigoted physical abuse.
The tone argument is a luxury of the privileged.
Your whole comment is brilliant but that last line kills it. It’s funny how the article resonated hardest with cis straight white women and cis lesbian white women. Probably because they are used to being treated with deference and kid gloves in their respective circles. And they see any criticism of their behaviour as an attack.
This is what I meant when I said the
“tone argument”, is the luxury of the privileged.
Here is how I have defined “tone argument”
Person A: [bigoted statement]
Person B: The fuck?
Person C: Now, now, let’s have civility.
Dear C: You came in one statement too late.
Anyone thinking it is ok to ever use a tone argument against someone else is as much of a bigot as the person attacking another with bigoted verbal/physical abuse, and is failing to support someone who is being verbally or physically abused. The person who is being abused needs help, and whoever uses a “tone argument” is failing to provide help, and is enabling the abuse to continue.
I LOVE that piece about the tone argument, I agree so hard with every word in it.
donated to feministing — i hope that as more and more websites take up a membership-based business model people will realize how imperative it is to the survival of independent media and join A+!
You would because it’s an article saying that white women are permitted to say and do what they want as long as they afterwards realise they were wrong. And offer a mealy mouthed apology for it. Called the Lena Dunham model of behaviour. I also like the way she thinks acts of bigotry should serve as teachable moments because minorties lives are all about justifying their humanity to bigots. I must remember to sit and explain to the next white woman who calls me racial slurs why those slurs are wrong. I’m sure while spitting in my face they will eventually learn their lesson. I wouldn’t want to get angry at the inbred racists and offend feminist sensibilities. Also hilarious the writer couldnt identify the actual race of the activist she hates and confused her race with another. All us darkies are actually the same to white feminists.
You do realize that Katherine Cross is neither cis nor white, right?
I honestly think her ideas are worth engaging with. There are online feminist/queer spaces that have become toxic. And perhaps if a working-class, trans Latina activist feels silenced by the fear of making a tiny misstep, we should listen to what she has to say, whether we agree or disagree in the end, and try take this conversation in a more productive direction.
If you’re interesting in understanding what she’s trying to get at, read this blog post as well as its follow-up post on the uses of anger/the problem of niceness (and the comments, where there’s a lot of productive, active disagreement) here:
She’s certainly more white passing than me. And I never said she was cis but that her article resonated most with cis white women who are used to be treated with respect. I’ve read both articles and it’s basically – I want to make mistakes and say the wrong things but I don’t want to be called out on it. This ‘toxicity’ argument is always aimed at non white women. I’ve seen white feminists call WoC toxic for saying that Hilary Clinton is a war monger and drone strike obsessive. It’s basically be nice to me while I learn about your humanity. The same articles were written by white feminists after the solidarityisfofwhitewomen hashtag and it was bullshit then. People don’t owe ignorant people anything and I’m not sitting around educating women like the author and you who only see a certain subsection of society as human beings.
Let’s just… not start erasing people’s identities based on whether they “pass”, or not, shall we?
I agree with a lot of what you’re saying here. That you and other PoCs have to put up with a lot of this behavior of the part of white women is shitty and horrible. Your anger here is obviously justified and any tone-policing leveled at WoC in the circumstances you’re laying out here absolutely needs to be called out.
That said, I think that white women are responsible for most of the toxicity I see out there. When I say that Katherine Cross’s essays resonate with me, even as a cis white woman, these are the examples I have in mind, since I see justified anger as salutary rather than toxic to begin with. Since the author is a trans woman of color, it doesn’t require a huge leap of the imagination to assume that she’s got toxicity on the part of white or cis women in mind as well (and she says so explicitly in the piece I linked to).
There are just a lot of very privileged, white/cis wannabe allies out there who seem mainly concerned with toeing some imaginary line and are turning queer and feminist spaces into echo chambers in order to gain some sort of “street cred” with actual marginalized communities.
We can call-out racism, transphobia, and other forms of discrimination while tolerating and respecting various forms of political disagreement that has nothing to do with discrimination or systemic oppression.
Katherine Cross is a fantastic writer and activist whom I feel very lucky to have met. She is a lesbian trans latina and a consistent advocate for both LGBT people and people of color.
Anger is a completely reasonable response to the discrimination, harrassment, and abuse suffered by many people of color, women, and LGBT people. Cross is not disputing that. She is making the point that when language crosses the line from angry to abusive (such as telling someone you want them to die a painful death), that isn’t something that activist communities should condone.
Certain groups, such as black women, are regularly attacked for being “angry” when they are simply expressng their opinions forcefully. Calling out this type of tone policing is completely apprpriate and not at all what Cross is criticizing. She’s talking about instances where harsh personal attacks (such as threatening someone, insulting their appearence, or wishing death/injury/illness upon them) are tolerated – even celebrated – as an appropriate response to disagreements.
Creating spaces where abusive language is discouraged isn’t just about not offending allies, it’s about creating spaces that are safe for their own members.
Cross is a lesbian, a transgender woman, a person of color, and an activist who works to advance the rights of poc and LGBT people. She is also highly educated, articulate, and aware of what is currently considered appropriate language in radical activist circles. If even someone like her gets regularly attacked within LGBT, feminist, and anti-racist communities, that’s an issue.
What is the point of creating spaces for LGBT people, people of color, and women, if the standards for participation are set so high that almost no one qualifies?
I’m not interested in how many different minority groups she may be in. What annoyed me about these articles is I can see white women linking to them the next time they get called out on their bigotry. The same thing occured when solidarityforwhitewomen caught media attention. A slew of articles saying feminists should band together and how ‘toxic’ those evil WoC on Twitter had made the feminist atmosphere. I’ve never seen the tone argument utilised again white women – it’s always against WoC and their anger at being mistreated. So to see white women celebrating that a trans WoC has told them they are right and that they can cry abuse whenever someone responds to their ignorance with anger. It’s also ironic it’s been posted on the site created by Jessica Valenti, a hugely racist feminist and ardent defender of white male feminst Hugo Schwyzer who bullied WoC feminists online and was hired to write on feminist sites despite being an unrepentant rapist and abuser. No doubt she loves being told that the tone argument is a valid one to use against her critics. Like I said it will resonate most with white women like you who can use it as defence next time you say something wrong and don’t want to admit fault.
Also Madeline hilarious that you think a dark skinned person and WoC who is light skinned suffer from the same amount of racial prejudice. White passing people suffer from a lot less abuse than someone like me who doesn’t pass as white. And I don’t need to be lectured on racial idenity by someone who isn’t a WoC and has zero idea what its like to suffer a lifetime of racial discrimination. Keep your patronising comments for the unfortunate PoC who cross your path in real life.
The fact that someone might misuse or misrepresent an argument doesn’t make it a bad argument.
Things like insulting someone’s appearence, wishing death/rape/assault on them, or telling them they should commit suicide are not OK. People who care about social justice should not encourage this type of damaging language in our communities. This isn’t a problem that’s specific to people of color or any other group. If anything, white people probably do it more because we think we can get away with it.
There is nothing progressive, radical, or empowering about extreme personal attacks. They are hurtful, unproductive, and create a toxic environment that almost no one actually enjoys.
Hey J.V. , you’re right to insist on the fact that it’s mainly WoC who are accused of creating a “toxic” atmosphere on Twitter and other social media spaces. I’ve already agreed that’s a huge problem.
But what I’d said was it’s mainly white women who are responsible for the toxicity that I see (in person and in the media). And they don’t often get called out on it, as Dialethia pointed out. And to me, that IS a problem.
There are people out there without the lived experience of racism (for example) who feel the need to turn the volume up to 11 in the desire to act with sufficient solidarity and take the conversation to a really messed-up place where we do see threats and the like. And they do need to be told to take it down a notch.
Your comment makes me extremely uncomfortable. You did not need to be rude to Riese or make assumptions about what she thinks or feels just because she is white. PS I am a Latina “darkie” and you do NOT speak for me.
I don’t want to speak for you and am not interested your defence of white women feelings. In my experience as a dark skinned women the tone argument is used as a defence by white women like Riese against WoC like me who dare to challenge their ignorant comments. This bullshit article only serves as a defence for white women to continue being ignorant arrogant bullies while saying ‘look this WoC says you shouldn’t be mean to us wah wah’And I can make assumptions about what white women are thinking about racism seeing as I’ve been targeted with racial abuse my entire life by ‘progressive liberal’ white women. I really don’t care about your discomfort levels either, I like to call out ignorance where I see it.
JV, the only person engaging in bullying behavior on this thread is yourself. Riese has helped create a wonderful, inviting safe space for queer and minority women like myself. In fact, even though I’m not flush with money ATM I’m going to renew my A+ membership.
Lmao at bullying behaviour. You really took that article on board didn’t you? You can’t form any coherent arguments against me so use the tone argument. God forbid I speak out angrily against people defending bigotry. You really need to look up the definition of words before using then in a sentence.
I usually get all anxious when people start saying “love is love!” and “labels are whatever!” because some of those same people tell me it’s wonderful that as a bisexual I *just don’t see gender.*
But, damn, I am on such the same page as Maria Bello. I’m single, but I’ve realized that I have a lot of love, and companionship, and intimacy, and caring relationships in my life. These are just as important as any “relationship.” I love what she says about not equating a relationship changing with a relationship failing. I personally think her ideas sound very poly but maybe “love is love whatever” is a better label for people who don’t like fancy board games enough to call themselves poly.
Uh that article about tone policing was awful. She seemed to be arguing for more nuance and then went and used obviously extreme examples to make her point. Obviously the comments that that one activist had made were really fucked and transphobic? Like you can say that, and I really doubt anyone is going to say ‘you’re tone policing’.
Actually the tone policing of woc, especially black women, still occurs a hell of a lot, and it’s really important to be able to speak up against that.
Yeah her argument didn’t run with me at all.
I should re-state what I said, because there *would* be people who would use whatever arguments they could to silence people speaking out against transphobia and it wasn’t right of me to say ‘I really doubt anyone is going to say you’re tone policing’.
I do think the examples used in the article were quite clearly abusive and fucked up, and I don’t think the article bought much nuance to the discussion, and I do think we still need to stand against people tone policing marginalised groups, because that is still really important.
Cross has written a couple of longer peices on the same subject that flesh out her arguments. These can be found here: http://quinnae.com/2014/01/03/words-words-words-on-toxicity-and-abuse-in-online-activism/ and here: http://quinnae.com/2014/01/07/beyond-niceness-further-thoughts-on-rage/
I think it’s clearer in some of her longer articles that she understands that tone policing is a genuine problem that adversely effects certain communities. She isn’t calling for an end to the tone argument, just the abuse of it. She’s advocating for a movement away from personal attacks (such as telling someone that they are monster, that they should kill themselves, that you hope they die a violent death, etc.). Unfortunatly, this type of language has become too common in certain circles.
If that’s her position then why not focus on speaking against ad hominen attacks (which I don’t always necessarily agree are bad because some people are a-holes, but do agree can be counter-productive when trying to get a point across) rather than promoting the idea tone policing is sometimes justified? There’s a world of difference between saying sometimes tone should be policed and saying “maybe don’t be so quick with ad hominens and threats.” Because the reality is that trying to justify tone policing by using the examples she does sets up strawmen and justifies attacking marginalized and oppressed groups for their anger and frustration. I mean, let’s not forget how quick Ani DiFranco was to accuse her detractors and critics of high-velocity bitterness and how we endured thousands of comments accusing us of being bitter, not giving our “allies” the benefit of the doubt, not to mention that annoying and pretentious sharing of an article by a POC on how “calling out” can be bad and harmful. Those arguments, especially when from a POC, are often thrown around as rhetorical weapons to justify tone policing and criticism, and people need to be cognizant of that when writing/stating them, and need to think about what they are trying to get across. Disagreeing with threats and death wishes do not have anything to do with tone policing, as it is defined and used, and to imply so is disingenuous and props up people who want to dismiss the anger, frustrations, and ideas of others.
Basically, if someone is wishing or threatening death or making personal insults, the problem there isn’t “tone” it’s, you know, that they are making statements that are screwed-up and dangerous regardless of what tone they are said in. Tone policing comes into play when the argument is made that one’s position can’t be taken seriously unless they are 100% nice in their interactions with others, regardless of what they are experiencing or what the other is saying.
That’s a really important point Denise. But I am curious to ask you what you think of this: “I’m not sitting around educating women like the author and you who only see a certain subsection of society as human beings.” (I am quoting J.V., above).
No threats here, but I do feel like I was just called a monster. I didn’t respond because there really is no point and it would just make things worse, but just because I happened to agree with many of the issues Katherine Cross was bringing up (which you actually expressed better, I think!) does not mean I only see “a certain subsection of society as human beings”. J.V. doesn’t know me, doesn’t know anything about my life and yeah, I do take that as an unjustified personal insult.
Totally agree, and the tone argument article said something very similar:
“To invoke ‘the tone argument’ against someone criticizing an activist for, say, wishing death on someone is something that fully misunderstands the very nature of what the actual “tone argument” is about, then. It’s meant to refer to the silencing of an idea one does not wish to hear at all, whitewashing it from discourse; ‘tone’ is simply a lazy, bad faith excuse used to plaster over this discomfort and shift the burden of a moral faux pas onto the activist one criticizes.”
I reckon a clear definition of “tone argument”, could have clarified a lot sooner the difference between
bigoted verbal abuse
bigoted physical abuse
those “privileged” enough to think it ever worthwhile using a “tone argument”
and those “unfortunate” and “unprivileged” enough to have the misfortune of having the “tone argument” applied to them and silencing them. Acceptability and respectability has a narrow range, apparently.
Call people out on their bigotry. Using a “tone argument” is a cowards’s way of managing a potentially volatile and dangerous situation.
Your response is exactly the reason I have a problem with Cross’s argument and equating non-tolerance of attacks and threats with tone-policing.
If someone comes into a space thinking their feelings at being accused of only seeing some people as human beings is on the same level as feeling like some people habitually don’t see you as a person, then I don’t think a good faith argument and discussion can be had and continuing to converse is pointless. Of course there are nuances in there, including when people have their identity erased, downplayed, or assumed. There is also the frustration of having disagreements with other members of a minority group in front of the dominant group and trying to navigate that without feeling like giving license to the dominant group.
But for a counter example, just because Ani DiFranco feels she is an “ally” I don’t give a flying frack about her feeling like the recipient of high-velocity vitriol from people upset she wanted to host a high-cost retreat at not just any plantation, but one that deliberately downplayed the horrors of slavery and referred to slaves as a “willing workforce.” Do I care if she gets called sexuality and gender or sex based slurs? Yes. Do I care if she gets accused of not caring about black women and not considering us people unless we are kissing her feet? No. Denouncing calling her a “b—” or a “sl–” isn’t tone policing. Complaining that calling her an agent of white supremacy who doesn’t see black women as human is hurting her feelings and shutting down discourse is tone policing, and that I have a problem with.
So, J.V.’s decision and comments might hurt your feelings because they don’t want to engage you and feel a certain way about your intentions. But they feel they have been invalidated as a human being, and the history of oppression and marginalization they have had backs that up. I don’t agree with some of what they say, but there is definitely a history of women like you benefiting when people write articles like what Cross wrote and using it to avoid criticism. It comes across as the equivalent of saying “being called a racist is hurtful.” Well, experiencing racism is worst and has far realer consequences for those of us who feel we are experiencing it.
Basically, I think J.V.’s comment calling people “inbred” was a gross ad hominen, but even disagreeing with some things they said I think their disengagement from a continued conversation with you reflects a way a lot of WOC sometimes feel the need to just stop interacting with some people who will center their feelings to the point they aren’t willing to risk having their ego bruised. Think about what a POC must be risking trying to engage in a conversation about race with white people. Think about what harm we must risk opening ourselves to the ensuing comments. And now think about what it must mean to have a white person complain about walking on eggshells and toeing lines. Do you really think the risk for emotional harm and psychological stress on the issue of racism is anywhere near the same for the people involved? And that goes for other marginalizations on the axis as well.
Being accused of not seeing certain people as human beings is not equivalent to feeling like you aren’t seen as human. And the person with power/privilege on that particular axis needs to understand that and keep in mind how much more harm a marginalized person must be experiencing. It should be a call for reflection, or if you really think you did nothing wrong then an acceptance of disengagement. It needs to be a reminder that intentions aren’t magical, conversations don’t happen in isolation but involve the histories of the people involved, and no one is infallible. And maybe that person’s views are a blip, but if they come from multiple sources then…
So already, I think you are engaging in tone policing and using Cross’s article as justification for doing so. That was quick, and exemplifies my concerns with equating an intolerance for ad hominens/threats/abuse with tone policing.
Denise, thank you.
You said it perfectly.
I think what you’re saying makes sense. Maybe phrasing it that way would have made her work less vulnerable to misuse/misinterpretation. I think she used the term “the tone argument” because there are certain online spaces where critique of even extreme ad hominem attacks is reguarly shut down as “tone policing”, and she wanted to acknowledge that even radical spaces are not always safe spaces.
That being said, I agree that making it about tone, rather than explicitly about ad hominem attacks, does leave the article open to misinterpretation (and could make white women feel justified in engaging in tone policing, even where no one has used threatening or abusive language).
Oh my Book Club is here. Yay. We are reading Bad Feminist by Roxanne Gay
…for the turtle dove story, thank you.