The best defense we have is knowledge.

Continuing from last post: the main problem as I see it with people like Dan Linford is how many people they hurt, and how long they get away with it before people start talking about their behavior in public settings.

To the extent that women and those-seen-as-women are able to protect themselves from men who don’t respect consent, it’s usually because they were warned beforehand about which men can’t be trusted. This communication tends to take place in back channels.

It may not be realistic to bring the back channels into the sunlight just yet, but we can make the back channels more extensive and comprehensive.

This is where our feminist-sympathizing dudes, who understand the value of consent and women’s autonomy and want to be part of the solution, can help.

If you’re communicating in a private setting with another dude, and he confesses to some violent, predatory, or even just unethical behavior with women, those-seen-as-women, and people whom he sees as potential sex partners? Take screenshots and start passing them around.

Depending on the seriousness of the behavior in question, how long ago it happened, how much remorse he feels about it, and how he’s conducting himself now, it doesn’t necessarily need to make him a pariah. But if we’re interacting with an admitted rapist, we’d like to be aware of that so we can protect ourselves accordingly.

When the communication around the admitted rapist reaches the public discussion level, you can help by signal-boosting women writers when they talk about who has hurt them and their friends. It should not be the case that people tend to hold men as so much more credible than women, but the reality for now is that they do, so you can be part of the solution by reblogging and sharing women’s accounts of who has hurt them and their friends. Speak with us, not over us. Retweet, reblog, link and quote. Believe us, and show up.

On the difference between inclusiveness and justice:

Chuck Wendig has a thing to say about Tor’s recent shaming of Irene Gallo. I will focus on this much, as it is especially important:

Regardless of whether or not you agree with what she said, the fact remains: her publisher publicly rubbed her nose in the mess, then threw her under a bus, then threw her body to a pack of wolves. Again: publicly. Not privately. Perhaps this was all part of some legal stratagem or even a legal necessity — but what it feels like is an entreaty by the publisher to appease folks who believe and opine about really horrible things. And any time you want to make sure that your “inclusiveness” includes the most awful amongst us, please understand you’re not creating a safe space for anybody but the abusers. It’s like putting up a sign in your flowerbed: POISON IVY WELCOME.

We like to talk about creating spaces in which “everyone” is welcome. Yeah, we welcome all kinds! Everybody come on in and make yourself at home!

It’s a great idea and I’m all in favor of inclusiveness, but only if we recognize the necessary limits of inclusion. This is something we’ve been debating in the atheist community (to the extent that an “atheist community” exists) in recent years: we can’t be inclusive to everyone. For example, we cannot be welcoming to feminists while also welcoming those who love to harass and threaten feminists. If the harassers are allowed in, then feminists aren’t welcome because the harassers make sure we feel unsafe. There’s no such thing as a welcoming environment when some people refuse to recognize the humanity of others.

Sometimes, the most inclusive and welcoming thing to do is to recognize which elements need to be kept out.

Missing the point AND proving it.

I mentioned the #UpForDebate tag on Twitter last night? Today I found this in my mentions.

You know I'm not really asking to compost Grampa, right?

You know I’m not really asking to compost Grampa, right?

The earlier commenter is also a participant in the discussion. The second commenter appears not to be.

The hashtag is used as a sort of Modest Proposal debate technique, in which we start tossing out “ideas” that we know perfectly well are horrible and offensive, and tag them with “up for debate,” as if there is any room for these atrocities in a civilized discussion.

The point is, that’s how it looks to us when we’re expected to “debate” reproductive freedom as if it’s just an interesting thought experiment and not a serious matter concerning our quality of life.

As for why I specified “retired white people,” specifically…yeah, there’s a reason for that, too. White people, qua whites, are not used to having our human rights put up for debate. There are other axes of oppression, of course! Many of us are affected by some degree and some combination of heterosexism, misogyny, transphobia, poverty, ableism, and regionalism. But simply as white people, our bodies are not for anyone else to exploit, destroy, neutralize or marginalize. People of color, especially blacks, have not been so lucky. (See also, for example.) When we’re in a situation in which some lives are considered not worth keeping around anymore, do not pretend that whites are in the same boat, and in just as deep, as everyone else. I specified retired white people, and not just elderly people in general, because I knew it would be especially shocking, precisely because it really is a break from the status quo.

And, of course the second commenter jumps in to prop up the status quo. No, don’t talk about hurting us, she says. Let’s talk about hurting everyone else.

Free CeCe, with Laverne Cox!

I have shamelessly copy-pasted this from This Is White Privilege:


FREE CECE, the new documentary with Laverne Cox, explores the roles race, class and gender played in CeCe McDonald’s case. McDonald’s claim of self defense was rejected by Hennepin County prosecutors. The documentary explores the implications of CeCe’s story as a survivor, housing trans women in male prisons, and the practice of keeping trans women in solitary confinement.
Please take a moment to visit the site and contribute a tax deductible donation so this important work can continue.

If you can’t donate, then signal boost if you can. This deserves all the attention it can get!

The Ally is Dead. Forget the Ally.

It would be so, so nice to live in a bubble where I can assume this shit doesn’t happen, but really, even the social justice community has a lot of cleaning to do in its own house.  Brittney Cooper tells us a story:

Two nights ago I showed up to the Brecht Forum in Brooklyn ready to have a conversation about what we mean when we say “ally, privilege, and comrade.”

I showed up to have that discussion after months of battle testing around these issues in my own crew. Over these months I’ve learned that it is far easier to be just to the people we don’t know than the people we do know.

So there I sat on a panel with a white woman and a Black man. As a Black feminist, I never quite know how political discussions will go down with either of these groups. Still I’m a fierce lover of Black people and a fierce defender of women.

Ms. Cooper’s black male co-panelist began the discussion. So far, so okay, but still in need of more honesty:

The brother shared his thoughts about the need to “liberate all Black people.” It sounded good. But since we were there to talk about allyship, I needed to know more about his gender analysis, even as I kept it real about how I’ve been feeling lately about how much brothers don’t show up for Black women, without us asking, and prodding, and vigilantly managing the entire process.

In a word, I was tired.

I shared that. Because surely, a conversation about how to be better allies to each other, is a safe space.

Emphasis mine. Surely, a panel discussion about how allies can be better, with people chosen for their supposed commitment to social justice, is a safe place for a black woman feminist to talk about how people of higher privilege profiles can be more effective in showing up to the fight for people who have to deal with more shit. Surely, Ms. Cooper should be able to say these things in this setting.

This brother was not having it. He did not plan to be challenged, did not plan to have to go deep, to interrogate his own shit. Freedom-talk should’ve been enough for me.

But I’m grown. And I know better. So I asked for more.

I got cut off, yelled at, screamed on. The moderator tried gently to intervene, to ask the brother to let me speak, to wait his turn. To model allyship. To listen.  But to no avail. The brother kept on screaming about his commitment to women, about all he had “done for us,” about how I wasn’t going to erase his contributions.

Then he raised his over 6 foot tall, large brown body out of the chair, and deliberately slung a cup of water across my lap, leaving it to splash in my face, on the table, on my clothes, and on the gadgets I brought with me.

I will make no bones about this: that man’s behavior on that panel was an act of violence. Even if he didn’t lay a finger on her, his behavior was geared to intimidate, traumatize, and humiliate. Ms. Cooper was not safe on that panel, and her male co-panelist was the reason why, and he made sure she knew it.

I waited for anyone to stand up, to sense that I felt afraid, to stop him, to let him know his actions were unacceptable. Our co-panelist moved her chair closer to me. It was oddly comforting.

I learned a lesson: everybody wants to have an ally, but no one wants to stand up for anybody.

Eventually three men held him back, restrained him, but not with ease. He left. I breathed. I let those tears that had been threatening fall.

Then an older Black gentleman did stand up. “I WILL NOT STAND FOR THIS MALIGNING OF THE BLACK MAN…” his rant began. While waiting for him to finish, I zoned out and 

Wondered what had happened here. Did this really happen here? In movement space?

There’s more. I highly recommend you follow the link and read Ms. Cooper’s post. If you read the comments, you’ll see the guy’s name.

I’m very sorry to hear that it took so long for anyone to stand up for her, but I’m also not surprised. If I’d been in that audience, I think I’d have been glued to my seat, too. It’s a “WTF, is this really happening? Seriously?” reaction. No one expects a panelist at a social justice event to behave that way.

Now let’s look at the fact that this fellow thinks he’s an ally to women. He thinks he’s an ally to black women. And he shows his allyship by screaming and throwing a cup of water at a black woman who asks him a legitimate question at a forum about allyship and privilege. (I’m not mentioning her race just for the heck of it; I find it extremely unlikely he would have reacted this way to a white woman, even if she asked him the same question.) He wasn’t even just some yahoo in the audience, he was on the panel. Someone in the Brecht Forum approved him to speak on this panel with two women. And he reacts violently when a black woman asks him to examine his commitment to social justice.

With “allies” like these, oppressors are out of a job.


How to Learn About Racism from Romeo Rose

The latest chapter in the sordid saga of walking trainwreck Romeo Rose, aka Sleepless in Austin, is that he has been fired from his day job owing to his newfound notoriety as a towering heap of bigotry. I have screencapped his Facebook announcement from Jezebel:

I can't imagine why anyone wouldn't want him on their payroll.

I can’t imagine why anyone wouldn’t want him on their payroll.

I take this as confirmation that Sleepless in Austin is not a hoax. This guy really is who he says he is, and he really thinks that way.

This follows Radar Online’s revelations of his sexts to a New Jersey woman who tried to take up his challenge to find him a mate. (Teal Deer version: he spends way more time thinking about black dick than he has any right to. He has zero interest in a woman’s boundaries, but that hardly comes as a surprise.)

Continue reading

Ally: that word does not mean what you think it means.

Being an outspoken, visible atheist doesn’t mean you’re committed to social justice. Being an outspoken, visible atheist who likes to pay lip service to certain social justice issues doesn’t mean you’re a model social justice warrior. Exhibit #129,334: JT Eberhard.

There was an incident at a recent atheist conference that made JT uncomfortable, so he turns his discomfort into an occasion to lecture a justifiably angry black woman atheist on how to deal with “ignorant” questions by “naive” visitors.

I am so, so tired of seeing shit like this happen. Not really this, per se:

The problems all started when, during the Q&A of Mandisa Thomas’s talk, a woman asked her what black people were doing to fight black on black crime.  Was the woman’s question naive?  Yes.  Very.  And the naivety resulted in her asking a question that certainly had racist undertones, even if the woman was not intentionally being racist.  Mandisa handled it well.

But then, during the Q&A of Darrel C. Smith’s talk, Bria Crutchfield stood up and proceeded to give the woman an angry tongue lashing.  This went on for about five minutes (or maybe it just seemed like that long).  While Bria did answer the woman’s question, it was very embarrassing to the woman and trailed off into a number of red herrings such as “I’m here, get over it” as if anybody was suggesting that Bria or black atheists were unwelcome at the conference or silently sneered at by…anybody.

I mean, I’m not tired of seeing women like Ms. Crutchfield get their rage on in a clearly rage-worthy moment. I’m tired of high-profile, privilege-blind “skeptics” presume to play the Great Communicator and “rationally” explain to the hysterical “other” types how we’d all get along so much better if only they could be nicer to people who insult their humanity.

What other information might we like to see about the incident in question? From a commenter at JT’s blog:

Seeing that you stated that you left the room during Bria’s “outburst” I assume you did not hear her breakdown into tears at the end. I also assume that you were not present at the beginning of Bria’s talk where she apologized and clarified a few points.

If you would have witnessed the entirety of the “event” I don’t think you would have seen it as anything other than Bria’s frustration in having to educate people in a place that she hoped was already beyond that. It is often our “allies” that we get the most frustrated with, since for better or worse, we hold them to a higher standard because we hold them in higher regard.

When you want to see someone get angry about something because she just loves to have an excuse to get angry, keep following this blog. It happens sometimes. Ms. Crutchfield’s “tirade” was not the behavior of a woman who was looking for a fight and happened to get her wish; it was the reaction of a woman who was at the end of her rope, has had more than her fill of this derailment tactic, and knows far better than JT what it really means when someone asks about how blacks are combating “black-on-black crime.” In the comment section of Jen’s post, PZ Myers understands the feeling:

I’ve been where Bria was. No, not specifically, I’m a white dude…but I’ve had those experiences where someone says something so clueless and stupid and offensive that I’m rocked back and don’t rebut it right away, and then the rage simmers and builds and has to erupt somewhere. Usually, for me, in a blog post. Bria just erupted in a Q&A.

That question — “what are black people doing to fight black on black crime?” — is outrageously stupid. It’s the equivalent in inanity of a creationist telling me that evolution is just a theory, or that if evolution is true, why are there monkeys? It’s the kind of question only someone totally ignorant of the subject on which she is pontificating could ask. Naive? Fuck no. Dumb as dirt and a dozen times as damaging. She needed something more significant than just information — she needed a kick in the ass.

Jen points out that JT’s criticism is a load of tone-trolling, and that he has a long history of refusing to learn anything from private explanations of social issues which he has demanded from his friends. Anger isn’t the problem, nor is it inappropriate to call out public displays of racism in an equally public setting. The issue here is not that Ms. Crutchfield was unfair to the “what about black-on-black crime?” questioner—even JT admits that Bria answered the question!—it’s that her anger made JT uncomfortable.

Sometimes, making people uncomfortable is the only way to make them think. That is assuming they’re willing to learn anything new, which it appears JT isn’t:

Lately there’s been a lot of this attitude in the atheist movement, that every misstep out of naivety or ignorance, even if it’s insulting, makes someone a prime target for a shout down in a “public room” – as if humiliation and shame, while sometimes the proper tools, are always the proper tools.  When did we forget that people in the atheist movement are our friends and allies?

Basically, every clause in the above quoted paragraph is full of wrongness and dishonesty. Ain’t nobody got time to explain everything that’s erroneous about what he just said. I will address this much: it is not up to JT Eberhard to decide who is a friend or ally to Bria Crutchfield or anyone else dealing with real-life shit that he doesn’t understand. An ally is as an ally does, and a halfway-decent ally in this case would have listened to the substance of her anger rather than tell her how she “should” feel about hearing an insulting question for the umpteenth time.

If you bail out on ally-ship because someone got too angry for your liking, you weren’t really an ally to begin with. People who are paying attention to racism, misogyny, heterosexism and misogynoir (specifically, hatred of black women–I love learning new words!), and most especially those who have to deal with this shit in their lived experiences, have every right to be angry, and those who are “just asking questions” which have been done to death a million times already, have given up the right to play innocent.

Want to be a good ally? To start: shut up and listen. For example: try expending more mental energy to understand the anger of someone who’s reacting to racism than the one who set her off. In the information age, where Google is the best friend we always wanted, it is increasingly inexcusable to be uninformed about social justice issues at the time we bring loaded questions into a public setting. The mental gymnastics required to assume such questions come from a place of naiveté, rather than hostility, are a waste of oxygen and glucose.

Without anger, change would be impossible.

Allies are Supporting Characters

I would like to share some handy advice from Melissa Harris-Perry about how to be a good ally in a social justice cause.

Don’t demand that those you are supporting produce proof of the inequality they are working to resist.

This one is so basic it’s practically tautological. If you’re a dude who needs proof that sexism exists, a white person who needs proof that racism is still a thing, a straight person who needs proof that homophobia is still a problem, an able-bodied person who isn’t convinced that discrimination against people with disabilities still happens…you’re probably not interested in being an ally. If you’re interested in ally-ship, you’ve already grasped that we live in a world shaped by systemic inequalities which must be addressed.

Do recognize that the shield of your privilege may blind you to the experience of others of injustice.

Just because you haven’t seen it yourself, doesn’t mean it’s not a problem. For example, I didn’t know until I started reading Microaggressions, which was probably more than halfway into my Peace Corps assignment, that many ethnically East Asian people living in Western countries (often their nations of birth) have to deal with idiot white people yelling “Ni hao!” at them whenever they pass by on the street. I didn’t know that was a thing until my mid-20s. I didn’t know about it because I wasn’t in the line of fire, not because it wasn’t happening. (And, if you comment to demand to know why shouting “Ni hao!” at an Asian person is offensive, be ready for a towering wall of fire-breathing from your blogger.)

Don’t offer up your relationship with a member of the marginalized group as evidence of your understanding.

“But I’m not racist; see, my girlfriend is Asian!” No. Folks; don’t do this. You may count a person of [insert disadvantaged status here] as a friend, but are YOU a friend to THEM? Non-privileged people tend to be well-practiced in playing nice with the dominant group in order to keep the peace. They may be nice to you, but that doesn’t mean you’re on their side. An ally is as an ally does. Your actions decide whether you’re on board with social justice pertaining to people who aren’t like you.

Do be open to learning and expanding your consciousness by listening more and talking less.

Sometimes, the best thing you can do is show up and take in what they’re talking about. Sometimes it’ll make you uncomfortable. How you deal with that discomfort decides how good an ally you are.

Don’t see yourself as the Kevin Costner in Dances with Wolves.  Or Tom Cruise in The Last Samurai.  You are not the savior riding to the rescue on a white horse.  Do notice that you are joining a group of people who are already working to save themselves.

You are not the star of the show; the people you claim to support are not characters in a movie about you. You are a minor character, helping with the heavy lifting regardless of whether you show up in the credits. You don’t hog the spotlight; you help move obstacles out of the way. The people you want to support already know a lot more than you.

Do realize the only requirement you need to enter ally-ship is a commitment to justice and human equality.

You don’t need credentials. You need to act like you give a shit.

One last thing, outside of Dr. Harris-Perry’s advice: you’re going to hear a lot about privilege. We can roughly define privilege as “shit you don’t need to worry about, thanks to an aspect of your identity.” Please understand that having privilege doesn’t mean you’re a bad person, or that you’re not welcome as an ally. It means that there are some things you haven’t, and do not realistically expect to experience. It means that when people in the disadvantaged group tell you about the crap they put up with, including from people in your identity group, you need to listen. You need to take them seriously. You need to think about how your experiences, and your lack of other experiences, have shaped your outlook on life.