If the bark on the trees were as soft as the skies

For the August 2015 Carnival of Aces, I wanted to write about my ideal version of the ace community & convey some big thoughts in a clear and compelling manner, but… it doesn’t look like I’m going to be able to write my ideal post on ideals.  For the time being, the best I can offer is a few unrefined fragments like these.

If: any, then:

  • an ace community with no rhetoric of “progress,” no depiction of change and improvement as a linear process, of gains as squares on a board game — no treatment of the work to be done as a mere matter of putting in elbow grease and tearing pages off the calendar; no expectation that matters will fall into place with time like we’re simply mining for bitcoins.
  • proactive responsibility, accountability, and a readiness to accept criticism in those who set themselves up as authorities; an end to prescriptivism and Sorting Hat advice blogs and Platonic statements on What Is
    • better yet, some recognition that the idea of “natural” category systems, especially w/r/t categorization of people, has a relationship to colonial science and the legacy of the Enlightenment
  • space for grayroms, upsetting the strict and arbitrary het/aro/lgb division (when aros get mentioned at all) that keeps getting summoned; a community culture where supporting the model of romantic orientation for aces who use it goes hand in hand with acknowledging that it’s not useful for everyone
  • an ace community that turns up its nose at disclaimers and tokenism and asks for a new rule
  • an ace community that understands the difference between “equality” and liberation
    • I’m already treated like I’m the same as a straight person, and that’s the problem.
  • a lower value accorded to visibility, a widespread understanding that hypervisibility is not a privilege, and less enthusiasm and more disgust at “representation” in the form of a White woman called “Voodoo” whose asexuality serves as joke fodder; an ardent rejection of the elitist mind vs. body binary that would have White aces celebrating “One Night in Bangkok”
  • enough self-awareness and ace-led conversations on abuse tactics for us to recognize en masse that wanting to be more visible at any cost, even if it exposes us to more anti-ace vehemence — and the implicit belief that toxic acknowledgement is better than none at all — is itself a product of internalized abuse
  • more discussion of how asexuality, aromanticism, & nonamory impact access to material resources, more interrogation of the financial benefits to marriage, more analysis of how we define “ending up alone” & societal expectations w/r/t medical care and social connectedness for the elderly
  • ace critiques of the sex industry replacing the fear of being deemed Not Sex-Positive Enough
    • interrogation of the classic Victorian prudery we’re associated with as the hand-wringing of sexist, classist moralists scrutinizing the pursuits of lower-class poor women with limited choices
  • respect for the histories of other communities (not mutually exclusive with this one), enough to where you don’t get aces suggesting a lethal STI as a good movie idea or ace organizations using an image of a white fist on vis/ed materials
  • further distance from the rhetoric of Moving Forward and Modernity and Individual Liberty and the reverence for capital-s Science and written documentation that all together have long been put to colonialist ends; an end to liberalism in the ace community
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23 responses to “If the bark on the trees were as soft as the skies

  • luvtheheaven

    This is an epic list, Coyote. I love pretty much everything on it. There are a couple of bullets I don’t quite agree with but most I’m just silently cheering you on with a “Hell YES” as I read it. ;) Oh I just remembered I wanted to write something for this carnival topic… HMM… maybe I will find time today or tomorrow before the month is up…

  • SAA

    Just a quick question:
    When you say reverence for capital-s Science, what should I imagine?
    Are we talking about the reproduction of New Atheist rhetoric and/or subscribtion to the frightening notion of Scientism [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientism]?
    Would that include those attitudes atleast?

    Just trying to get an image here, thanks in advance!

    • Coyote

      Scientism, definitely.

      Picture a white man cradling a Richard Dawkins book beginning a sentence with, “According to science…”

      Alternatively, picture the guy I got in an argument with several months ago who thought the ace community was all wrong in the way it defined and talked about asexuality because our definition for it isn’t “proven by science.”

  • TheUnmarkedPage

    What do you mean by moving away from progress? Not trying to change anything? Wouldn’t not trying to change and improve things be bad?

    I’m not sure if I’m understanding what you mean there. I mean, you’re probably right about whatever it is you’re trying to say, I just don’t understand what that is.

    • Coyote

      “What do you mean by moving away from progress? Not trying to change anything?”

      No. Good grief.

      I was talking about rhetorical shifts. Not all change can be mapped in a linear fashion.

      • TheUnmarkedPage

        I knew that was probably not what you meant, but I wasn’t sure what you did mean so I put what I was getting from it in the comment so that you would have some context for my question. I wasn’t trying to accuse you of opposing change or anything. Sorry. I wasn’t trying to hurt you but I’m really really sorry if I did even though I know that doesn’t mean anything.

        • Coyote

          You’re fine, you’re fine.

          To give you an example of what I’m thinking of: when an exemption for asexuality was added to the DSM (for HSDD or something similar, can’t remember which) — was that “progress”? It was a change that should have repercussions, certainly, but it doesn’t do anything for patients who haven’t heard of asexuality or therapists who don’t believe asexuality is legitimate. And for questioning people on the border of identifying as ace, knowing that IDing/not IDing as ace will have Consequences in terms of what diagnosis they get may heighten questioning anxiety and make aces feel like they’re using their identity as an “excuse” to “get out of” treatment for the disorder they’re worried they might have. So, sure, it could have positive effects, but for reasons like those, I’m uncomfortable calling it straightforward “progress.” Not every change can be neatly categorized that way, and to try and fit all ace-related change into a binary of (progress/not progress) feels like skirting the complexities in a way that’s not really helpful to anyone.

          Does that make sense?

  • Calum P Cameron

    What definition of “liberalism” are you using here, can I ask? It may be a dialect thing or somesuch, but I’m not sure I know how to interpret the word in this context.

    • Coyote

      Hahaha ohhhh boy.

      Think… individualism, and the French Revolution, and libertarians, and “free speech” (no matter how violent), and prioritizing the right of the individual to Do Whatever They Want over what would be generally beneficial to society, and an overemphasis on Personal Choice that neglects the fact that some choices hurt other people, and… associated mindsets and attitudes. I wish I had a concise definition for you. This might help.

      • Calum P Cameron

        Ok, gotcha.

        It happens to be that most of the people I know with serious libertarian-leaning, freedom-to-hurt type attitudes are the same people that mock ME for being too “liberal”, so that’s not a set of connotations I’m used to being covered by the word, but I think I recognise the concept you’re driving at.

        • Coyote

          Yep, people use the word “liberal” in a lot of different ways. This explanation is very economics-focused, but it might give you some more context.

          • Calum P Cameron

            Yeah, I think where I’m from “neoliberalism” and “liberalism” are pretty-much considered opposites by the average layman, and as used they basically boil down to “sounds like the Tories might like it” and “sounds like the Tories would hate it” respectively.

          • Coyote

            I don’t even know who the Tories are.

          • Calum P Cameron

            Ah, apologies. Short version is it’s British slang for “Conservatives”, basically.

            Long version is that the main right-wing party in the UK is known as the Conservative Party. They originally grew out of the older British Tory Party, and as such members of the Conservatives (and sometimes also Conservative voters) are generally referred to in everyday speech as Tories. The original opposition to the Tory Party were known as the Liberal Party, so “liberal” and “tory” have historically always been viewed as opposites, even though the Labour Party has long-since replaced the Liberals as the main centre-left party in the UK. The British Tory Party originally took their name from their guiding ideology of Toryism, which was basically a sort of hardcore pro-tradition, pro-monarchy, pro-Anglicanism form of distinctly British-flavoured conservatism. Think along the lines of the Cavaliers, or the Loyalists in the American War of Independence. The modern Tories mostly still seem to have that basic outlook (the current leader of the Conservative Party seems to be very big on the idea of Britain as a good ol’ fashioned Anglican Christian country), but in terms of their actual political actions it’s taken a backseat to privatization, austerity measures, slashing benefits schemes and related social/economic safety nets, and generally being “tough on immigration/crime/unemployment/drugs” – with critics pointing out that this often seems to be done with little or no regard for the various poor/vulnerable/disabled/homeless people that inevitably end up as collateral damage. And because this is Britain and we can’t resist being ridiculously stereotypical, they’ve also recently made “making it legal to hunt foxes with dogs like in the good old days” into a major party policy alongside all the economic and social stuff.

            Infamous Tory PM Margaret Thatcher was a big supporter of President Reagan, if that helps provide a slightly closer-to-home indication of the approximate set of attitudes with which the term is associated.

  • anonymous ace

    “interrogation of the classic Victorian prudery we’re associated with as the hand-wringing of sexist, classist moralists scrutinizing the pursuits of lower-class poor women with limited choices”

    As an ace woman of color, I’m very uncomfortable with this statement. Sure there are some middle-class white women who are critical of the sex industry and some women of color who are in the sex-positive camp. But dismissing criticism of the sex industry as “Victorian” (which has connotations of being white, Western and middle-class) also dismisses women of color who are critical of the sex industry. Many of the activists in North America are not rich white women: Vednita Carter, Cherry Smiley, Bridget Perrier, Brenda Myers-Powell, Alice Lee, for example, and their groups mainly serve other women of color. Many activists, including some of the women I mentioned earlier, as well as Rachel Moran, Rachel Lloyd, the late Norma Hotaling, are also sex industry survivors.

    I’m not going to get into a conversation about specific legal remedies for the sex industry and you’re entitled to your opinion, but I do want respect and acknowledgement for these women.

    I’m also offended by the idea that criticizing the sex industry is “prudery”. I have seen women describing their traumatic experiences in the sex industry personally shamed as “prudes”, “sex negative” and “judgmental”, or attacked as overemotional, “crazy” and liars. They have a right to their personal boundaries, and those boundaries likely made sex work psychologically damaging. It’s not ok to make fun of them as “prudes”. (As asexuals, this sort of sex-normative garbage should sound familiar.)

    I’ve written about this elsewhere, but I also find deeply disturbing the idea that only white middle-class women don’t like the sex industry. By extension, I guess that women of color and working class women are more likely to find sex work acceptable or even favorable? (Some individuals may, but it’s the “more likely” bit that I object to.) Because we’re more “sexually liberated” or just more “sexual” than white and affluent women?

    I don’t have to explain why that logic is extremely racist and has been used repeatedly to justify the rape and sexual exploitation of disadvantaged women.

    TL;DR – please don’t dismiss women of color and working class women who criticize the sex industry, and please don’t assume that women of color as a group accept working in the sex industry more than white women.

    • Coyote

      Thanks for commenting. That’s not what I believe nor what I was going for, and I’m sorry for letting it come across that way. I’m not entirely sure how to amend the post, though. Would you be interested in continuing a conversation about this, or should I let it drop?

      • anonymous ace

        I appreciate your reply. I wish that there was more acknowledgment of sex industry critics who are exited women themselves, and often women who are marginalized on many levels, rather than dismissing them as prudes and “white feminists”.
        I might put a note in the askbox regarding this issue later.

  • AA: a point of clarification | The Ace Theist

    […] response to a message that I was asked not to publish, I’d like to clarify some things about this mess of a post.  My poor phrasing raised some concerns about what I was implying… so allow me to offer this […]

  • on “Victorian morality” | The Ace Theist

    […] when I said that real “prudery” is actually misogyny+classism (and not bitterness+sex aversion), […]

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