Snippet: Why We Should Talk Before I Hit That

“Can I kiss you?”

According to most of my students (your average group of community-college-attending young adults), this question is just too cheesy. Apparently the embarrassment you risk in asking it is worse than the rejection you could receive by leaning in for a lip lock and landing on a hastily turned cheek.

This is bullshit.

Why is our culture so anti-consent? Why is the absence of a “no” better than the presence of a “yes”?

Personally, there are two reasons why I’m a fan of consent. One is just an old-fashioned appeal to charm: I find it adorable to be asked for a kiss, rather than be thrust into one unawares. Second, and most important, is that it shows a valuation of my desires, an acknowledgement that my kisses are not to be taken, but rather given.

But this becomes extra-sticky when we move beyond kisses and into sex. Those same students who object to asking for a kiss think you should just “get a feel” for your potential partner’s mood, and enter into sex “naturally.” My question is, what’s so unnatural about discussing it?

I talk the hell out of sex. I will not engage in sex with a new partner unless we’ve covered all the most important topics, including but not limited to: Contraception, STDs and testing, and triggers. This doesn’t kill the mood; to the contrary it helps it flourish. I’m not going to be able to lose myself in the moment if I’m worried about getting knocked up, catching chlamydia, or being fucked through a rape flashback.

With established partners, I believe in continuing to practice radical consent. Kisses are sometimes spontaneous, but sex does not occur unless each party has enthusiastically agreed that it’s a good time, place, and situation. I don’t do nagging for action, pressured excuses, or lackluster fucks. Everyone is going to be fully engaged in the moment or shit isn’t going down. And I have lots of sex–this insistence on consent does not impact my ability to get laid. Rather, it keeps sex a pleasurable experience, rather than a chore or burden.

The assumption that a lack of a “no” is enough to proceed with sexual activity excuses a lot of coercive rape. A person’s body does not exist to be used by others. And this does nothing to touch on the old stereotype of rejection being pressured and pushed until someone just says “fine” to appease their partner’s wheedling. None of this is acceptable; not within the confines of one-night stands, new relationships, or established partnerships. Your partner does not owe you their body, you have no right to it. It is theirs to share or keep private as they so desire.

This is the lesson we need to be raising our children with: That consent is necessary. There have been attempts to label it as “consent is sexy” to get people on board, but it shouldn’t fucking matter if it gets you horny or not; this is about basic respect. And everyone deserves that respect.

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Snippet: On Growth and Social Education

It strikes me sometimes that I should go back through and re-read old posts, because I know on some subjects my eyes have opened wider, and I see more than I once did. There’s no hiding the fact that I’m still socially ignorant–I try to educate myself, but the fact is, I can’t know what oppressions I don’t experience feel like.  This can be in a large sense, such as not experiencing racism, to a more specific sense, like not knowing what it’s like to be a sex worker.

One of the things I’m trying hardest to cultivate is awareness of my own ignorance. I’m trying to know what I don’t know, so I can try to not put my foot in my mouth, not contribute to oppressions I’d like to see eradicated. But I’m gonna fuck up. It’s inevitable. There is no way to be a perfect ally, because no matter how hard you try to understand, there will always be nuances that escape you.

This is also all I ask of those trying to be allies to the oppressions I experience personally. It’s okay to fuck up. What’s not okay is to throw a fit when someone calls you on your fuck-up. Your response needs to be humble, introspective, and apologetic.

So this is my apology for times in the past where I have used this blog to perpetuate ignorance. It’s also an invitation to call me out, because I refuse to silence dissenting voices just because they make me look bad.

And no, this doesn’t mean I’m apologizing to all the men who’ve come here objecting to my feminism. My apology is to the marginalized, abused, misunderstood minorities I’ve wronged, not to the whiny assholes who refuse to acknowledge their own privilege. I’m not apologizing for offending people, because sometimes people deserve to be offended. I’m apologizing for any ways in which I’ve participated in upholding the status quo. We need to shake that sucker to the fucking ground, and I’m going to try my best to help do that.

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Yes, All Lives Matter: Now Can You STFU and Talk About Black People for a Second?

It’s common cultural knowledge at this point that “black lives matter” has gone beyond just a hashtag and become a cultural phenomenon, a slogan that people on and off of the net are embracing to encourage the masses to recognize a very specific point of racial inequality.

Black men are being murdered at a startling rate, and even more frightening, it can be at the hands of law enforcement. I’m not talking about hostage-taking gunmen robbing banks and murdering cops, I’m talking about things like what happened to Eric Garner, being unlawfully put in a choke hold while begging for their life. This was ruled a homicide, yet many people feel Garner “had it coming.” They were breaking the law, right? Yes, because suspicion of selling untaxed cigarettes warrants murder, amirite?

This is hardly a standalone case. I’m not going to bombard you with links; either you already know what I’m talking about or you can do your own damn research. The point is, simply on merit of being black, people are losing their freedom, losing their lives, sometimes for committing no crime at all.

So people are attempting to open a national discourse, to bring light to these events and get people to understand what unjust tragedies they are. #blacklivesmatter. Right?

Except nearly every time someone uses that hashtag, some white knight rides in announcing that “ALL lives matter.” Well thank you, Captain Obvious. If you hadn’t shared that information I’m sure black people would have banded together to exterminate every other human being on the planet, since our lives don’t matter. Bravo on stopping genocide.

But we all know that shit isn’t the case. #blacklivesmatter =/= #whitelivesdonotmatter. Valuing black lives and valuing non-black lives are not mutually exclusive. What’s being talked about is how black lives are consistently, institutionally, politically, and personally undervalued in a way that specifically white lives are not. It’s calling attention to the inherent racism in the system, not calling for the eradication of everyone who’s not black.

I stand behind the hashtag, and I have people come at me with “all lives matter,” telling me how racist I’m being, how I’m saying white people don’t matter. Newsflash: I am white. My child is white. If you seriously think I’m arguing that our lives don’t matter and someone should come put bullets in our heads, you’re fucking delusional. I’m just acknowledging that the chance of that happening to us is greatly diminished by the fact of our whiteness. If I walked around a white neighborhood at night in a hoodie, donning skittles and tea, a neighborhood watchman wouldn’t deem me a “thug” and murder me in so-called “self-defense.” If my child was playing with what was obviously a toy gun, cops would not point very real guns in their face and risk my child’s life. But this shit happens to black people, purely by nature of being black. And admitting that does nothing to change the fact that I’ve got bucketloads of white privilege.

Others have said it better, but I’ll repeat anyway: Would you burst into a cancer research gala demanding that they acknowledge that “all diseases matter”? Or do you maybe understand that everything has its time and place? It’s time to stop making everything personal, and recognize the cultural trends that are negatively affecting black people. Black lives matter, but society at large doesn’t agree…yet.

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Nonbinary Nomenclature: On Gender and Pronouns

It has taken me years to settle into my identity, but I am now comfortable saying that I am a nonbinary trans person. I have called myself a “nonbinary woman” in the past, because in spite of my personal gender identity, I am perceived as female by most everyone, and that shapes how people treat me. I will always deal with misogyny, regardless of my gender, because I am FAAB (female assigned at birth) and will always be perceived by most as a woman, simply because of my appearance. This perception does not bother me enough to correct everyone, primarily because I do not feel safe doing such a thing. I wish everyone could just know and understand my gender, but that’s not the world we live in. The world we live in is one where trans people are victimized, and that’s something I live in fear of. Taking this step, saying this publicly here, this is huge to me. This is me putting myself on the chopping block and asking everyone to put down the knife.

Still, in spite of a general fear of how strangers may treat me, I am making the effort to use gender-neutral pronouns, not just for myself, but in general. I am tired of misgendering people on an assumption that is as faulty with anyone else as it is with me. I’m tired of calling everyone with breasts “she” and everyone without “he,” as if it’s really that simple. I’m tired of seeing exterior markers of stereotypically gendered characteristics and (egotistically) making the assumption that I can know a person’s gender. I can’t, and I don’t want to make that mistake.

So, everyone is “ze” or “they” to me now. And I ask that others use ze/zir/zirs or they/them/theirs for me (or really any gender-neutral pronouns, I’m not picky). This is going to be difficult to implement, and I apologize in advance for the million times I will fuck this shit up. I might misgender you. I will misgender myself. I will not be able to implement this flawlessly, but that does not mean it should be abandoned. I am going to try my damnedest to make this work, and that includes using these pronouns at work. I am an English educator, and I’m making a huge change to my linguistics; that cannot be done in a vacuum. This is something that will take purposeful implementation, explanation, and discussion, but I trust the maturity of my students, and hope I might even open a few minds with this. Above all, though, I hope I am offering a safety blanket to those who are nonbinary, who are trans and using alternate pronouns, who are binary but assumed the wrong gender. Those marginalized people, they are the ones I am doing this for. Because I want the world to have one less hostile person in it–me.

Posted in challenging privilege, trans/nonbinary rights | 8 Comments

Snippet: Why I Put Stock in Labels

I’ve heard it said several times that hating labels is a luxury of the privileged. Only when you don’t need labels, do you find them superfluous. It’s the stereotype of the white person who doesn’t see race–it’s their privilege that allows them that blindness.

I’m a fan of labels, because it took me so long to find them. When I was young and struggling with my sexuality, I was a complete outsider. There were no out queer people at my school, I was harassed endlessly under the mere assumption of my queerness, and I lived in complete terror. I was threatened with beatings and death, I was sexually assaulted, I was the target of bullying that dwarfed what movies had taught me to expect. Then I stopped hiding. I came out, and I started to embrace myself as a queer person.

Did my actual situation improve? Not really. I was still threatened, I was still bullied, I was still assaulted. But now the label that others had used against me as a weapon had become my shield. They couldn’t point and call me “queer” or “dyke” and expect me to flounder and hide. I just said, “Yeah, what of it?” and they were the ones left speechless. I’d blow the girls kisses and walk on with pride, comfortable with my label, satisfied with my place in the world. I was queer, and that was fabulous.

I think labels can really serve a purpose for people who always found themselves outside the default. I always felt awkward in my attractions until I settled into the label of “queer,” because it opened a whole new community to me. There was this entire world of people living lives like mine, and I had no idea they were there. I reached out to other queer people (online, because as I said, I was the only out person where I lived) and built a community for myself around that identity. It opened doors for me when I thought I was living in a room with no exits.

I’ve found similar communities with other labels, but none so strong as that which I discovered when I became crippled. Again, here’s this slur that people use to dehumanize me, and I’m finding joy in it? It seems so backwards to some people, but it’s a call to arms for those of us who have been ostracized because of our identities. When I call myself a cripple, I am calling upon all of my experiences as a disabled person. I am cloaking myself in that existence, using that ableism against those who’d oppress me with it, and telling the world I am a full and complete human being, even as a cripple.

“Black women wake up in the morning, look in the mirror, and see Black women. White women wake up in the morning, look in the mirror, and see women. White men wake up in the morning, look in the mirror, and see human beings.” — Michelle Haimoff

Now this isn’t to say there aren’t minorities who dislike labels, and it’s always important to respect the individual and not apply a label to them that makes them uncomfortable. But for many of us, labels are an essential part of our humanity. Disrespecting those labels is just another attempt to sweep us under the rug, to ostracize or at best ignore what makes us different. But society doesn’t let us ignore those differences, because we’re punished for them on a near-constant basis. We’re expected to bear the weight of prejudice without ever calling it out for what it is. That’s why labels are important–they allow us to call out inequality, by bringing attention to who is victimized by it.

I like the concept of the ideal world where labels are unnecessary and we all just view each other as human beings. But until minorities no longer have to fear hatred and violence because of our minority statuses, our labels will be necessary. And disrespecting that is an act of privilege.

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Tolerance: How Conservatives Weaponize It, and Why We Should Reject It

I’ve found that increasingly, I’m being told I’m not “tolerant.” It’s pulled out condescendingly by conservatives, with insistence that “tolerance demands tolerance” and that if I want people to be tolerant of me and people like me, I have to be tolerant of them.

Of course, there’s subtext to this. The main thing that skitters under my skin is the idea that I need to be “tolerated” in the first place. I don’t like to whip out the dictionary all the time, but I think it’s warranted here:

tol·er·ate
/ˈtäləˌrāt/
verb

1. allow the existence, occurrence, or practice of (something that one does not necessarily like or agree with) without interference.

2. accept or endure (someone or something unpleasant or disliked) with forbearance.

I’d like to address those conservatives now. Let’s tackle these definitions one at a time, shall we?

1. First, you do not allow people to exist. You do not allow them to exist as black, or gay, or disabled, or any other minority you find distasteful. If you think you have the right to “allow” people to exist, congratulations, you’re a Nazi.

Second, note that “without interference” part? That’s the part where all you “tolerant” people fail. You tolerate your gay coworker, but vote against gay marriage. You tolerate your black neighbors, but donate money to Darren Wilson. You tolerate the disabled clerk at the grocery store, but protest that historic buildings should never be “defaced” by retrofitting handicap access. This shit is interference. You are directly interfering with the lives of minorities when you do these things, and a laundry list of other microaggressions. Abled and parking in handicap spots? Interference. Writing angry Facebook statuses about JC Penney for featuring gay parents? Interference. Gossiping about the Mexican family that moved in down the street? Interference. See how this works?

2. Can we start with “endure” here? Because can anyone, in any way, explain to me how “enduring” something doesn’t imply it’s somehow torturous? You don’t endure an entire class of people. You may have to endure individuals, like your boarish mother-in-law or your nosy neighbor, but there is nothing inherently bad about minorities that make us a burden on you. You don’t get to lump minorities together, and based on your stereotypes, call our very existence a harrowing ordeal for you.

But let’s go ahead and run with “acceptance,” since it’s the kinder of the two words. Acceptance is okay, right? Doesn’t everyone want to be accepted? But there’s a problem with acceptance. When we are accepted into the fold, instead of viewed as part of the tapestry to start, we are still othered within that context. Our existence is allowed, but our minority status remains an issue to all the privileged people who see themselves as so benevolent for accepting us. They will continue to hold harmful stereotypes, continue to think of us as fundamentally different kinds of humans. This not only continues to be actively harmful, but also puts minorities in a delicate position of either standing up for ourselves and risking loss of that acceptance or staying silent and accepting that we’re still viewed as lesser humans because of who we are.

And forbearance? Really? It takes restraint for you to tolerate us? Exactly how much restraint are we talking? Like you bite your tongue when you want to call me a “cripple,” or like you have to actively restrain yourself from inflicting physical harm on me for being queer? Because I’m really not okay with anything on that spectrum.

But the absolute key to this entire thing is that part which both definitions have in common: That tolerance is about someone or something disliked, disagreed with, and unpleasant. Just like with the whole “allow” nonsense, you do not get to “disagree” on a minority’s personhood. We are still fully-developed humans, I assure you, and there is nothing about our inherent beings that should beg agreement or disagreement. We simply are, and should be allowed to be. Disliking us for being who we are, finding us unpleasant for our very existence, that’s not accepting, and it’s sure as hell not respectful. But since when have you worried about respecting us?

It’s in this way that people turn “tolerance” into a weapon to use against minorities. Because all those microaggressions, all those stereotypes, we’re told we need to tolerate them, or we’ll be given even less respect. Our human status will be revoked, and you’ll return to outright hating us, instead of resenting us in quieter ways. And that threat comes with real danger to us, so the idea of losing that “tolerance” is actively terrifying for a great many of us.


This cat is tolerant. Be better than this cat.

So no, I don’t want tolerance. To quote Hari Kondabolu, tolerance is a low bar for humanity. And I therefore owe no tolerance to those people enforcing ableist, heteronormative, racist, or otherwise bigoted social norms.

And it’s those norms–those precious, precious norms–that we need to challenge and change. Because that is what minorities need: Complete and utter normalcy. Our minority statuses should not other us, they should simply exist as things we know and recognize but which don’t make our lives more difficult or dangerous.

Now don’t get me wrong, I tolerate lots of harmful things. Mosquitoes. Commercials. Cramps. But I refuse to tolerate bigoted viewpoints that actively other and harm minorities. And I ask for no tolerance in return. Love me or hate me, just fucking respect and normalize me. It’s really not that much to ask.

Posted in challenging privilege, human rights, sj allies | 3 Comments

Train Wrecks: Derailing with the Tone Argument and “Free Speech”


I’ve used it before, but this image is just too perfect.

I had a commenter recently who latched onto my use of the term “derailing” and started throwing it all over the place with little regard to its meaning. I figured that meant it would be a good time to tackle derailing as a subject, and cover my “favorite” (read: least so) derailing tactic.

So, what is derailing? It’s a form of trolling that involves distraction from the original topic. It can take different forms, and can vary a bit from topic to topic. Obvious derailing is obvious: If the subject is misogyny and you launch into a diatribe about how the thing we should all really be worrying about is racism against white people, you’re a derailer (also a racist).

If we’re talking about rates of domestic violence, it’s derailing to start talking about the crimes of female dictators. It doesn’t matter that it’s an attempt to prove “misandry” and therefore disprove theories of patriarchal influence on domestic violence. It’s wildly outside of the subject at hand. Being able to loosely tie something to the general topic of misogyny does not make it on-topic for each individual discussion of elements of the patriarchy.

Derailing can also be a trickier line to follow, where a derailer might think they’re being on-topic, but they are in fact bringing up something completely irrelevant to the conversation. This mainly presents through the basic logical fallacies. If someone is talking specifically about the misogyny that prevents women from pursuing careers in computer science, it would be derailing to start making blanket statements like, “Schools don’t forbid women from taking those classes!” Of course they don’t. No one said they did. What’s being discussed are the social burdens that discourage women from pursuing those goals, the subtleties that keep women out of the profession. It has nothing to do with official edicts, we’re talking about social pressures. Argue that those social pressures don’t exist all you want, at least you’ll be on-topic (though still wrong). It’s a strawman, you’re fabricating an argument to distract from the real topic, and that’s derailing.

So what isn’t derailing? Disagreeing. Asking (or demanding) to bring things back to the topic at hand. Rebutting. Rudeness. Becoming angry, hostile, emotional. And this last one deserves its own little spotlight.

The tone argument is one that comes up a lot in call-outs. It declares that unless the minority is being nice enough, polite enough, gentle enough, an oppressor doesn’t have to listen to them. But validity does not rely on kindness, and it’s disingenuous to expect people to be calm and kind when you’re oppressing them.

This derailing tactic can be particularly insidious, as it may be factually correct, and can therefore pretend relevancy. The minority in question may very well be extremely angry or otherwise emotional, but that’s not pertinent to the discussion at hand. How things are being argued is not the point; what is being argued is. The tone argument places the onus once again on the oppressed person, and blames them for not winning flies with honey. But the fact is, a person who doesn’t want to listen is just not going to listen, regardless of how kind you are. You can be sweet as honeysuckle and people will still say you’re bitter, hostile, and unreasonable. It’s the content of your argument that’s ruffling their feathers, they’re just blaming it on your tone to shirk responsibility.

Everyone takes a different approach to their own oppression. Some people prefer to calmly educate those who offend, and more power to them. Sometimes it even works, sometimes people legitimately listen and adjust their behavior. But the fact is, minorities owe that education to no one. Google exists for a reason, there are literally millions of resources available to people who want to learn why something they said might be bigoted. By demanding an education, and a kind one, they’re saying that their time is more valuable than that of the minority in question. It’s insulting and lazy.

It’s important to realize that bigotry, however unintentional, is an act of violence. That’s why we become volatile in the first place. When you say something misogynistic/racist/ableist/etc., you are attacking minorities. These attacks are something we live with constantly, a never-ending slew of assaults on our very selves. And sometimes, your words will be the straw that breaks our backs. After a lifetime of grinning and bearing it, we’ve finally said “enough.” And maybe that’s uncomfortable for you, because you’re used to us silently tolerating those innumerable offenses with good humor. But your discomfort does not compare to our oppression. You owe us the basic respect of introspection. So when we tell you to stop derailing, what we’re also saying is, “Start examining yourself.”

Often, derailments get defended with the “free speech” fallacy. It’s where people declare that their right to free speech allows them to say whatever they want to say, wherever and whenever they want to say it. This is objectionable on a base level:


Succinct.

If the best defense of your argument is “It’s not illegal for me to say this!” then you’re standing on some pretty shaky ground. No one is infringing upon your rights by telling you that you’re derailing or that your contributions are unwelcome. Believe it or not, you don’t have the right to comment on this entry telling me how wrong I am. You can because I allow you to, but I have the right to not publish your comments. Because this is my private space, and I can control it however I see fit.

Ultimately, derailing is just about believing that your own words always take precedence, regardless of whether or not they’re applicable to the subject at hand. It’s privilege at its finest.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments