on the allo-cis comparison

*rubs temples*

If it was just going to be individual embarrassments like strategicgoats shooting their mouths off, I wasn’t going to say anything more than I already have, but now a mod at a popular ace advice blog is endorsing the idea of allosexual privilege, now, in October 2015, despite the coiner having renounced it over a year ago.

anonymous message: i just want to say this where people will actually see it: people who complain about theterm “allosexual” sound exactly the same as people complaining about “cis”, “cishet”, “allistic”, etc… like???? it doesnt mean anything other than “not ____”

Kiowa: Yup. You’re right.

They’re privileged people and they don’t like having to label themselves.

mmmmmnnnnnnnnnnngghhh.

Look.  I understand the temptation, okay?  I see the reasoning.

But don’t compare “allo” to “cis.”  Especially not to declare a case of “allosexual privilege.”

The concept of “cis privilege” is appropriate because a cis woman is privileged over/can wield privilege over a trans woman.  Even though both are marginalized as women, whether one is cis or trans affects access to resources and exposure to violence.  Cis women can, and do, oppress trans women.

You think the cis/trans axis of oppression translates linearly to a allo/ace axis?

Is a lesbian who experiences her sexuality in a way that doesn’t make asexuality a useful reference point for her identity privileged over an ace lesbian?  Do you think that experiencing sexual attraction makes any lesbian safer or less marginalized, considering her sexual attraction to women is itself something she is marginalized and targeted for?

I mean.  This has been explained, numerous times, numerous ways.  “Allosexual privilege” doesn’t account for the ways sexual attraction is coded & accorded legitimacy on the basis of other axes of oppression, which is what people mean when they say that the idea is racist, homophobic, and transmisogynistic.

ex. a White trans woman can wield White privilege against a Black cis man but literally? how? is an allo trans woman going to have any power over an ace cis man?  It doesn’t work that way.  Go do more research if you don’t understand.  Try keyword “hypersexualization.”

If you want to make the “aces are oppressed” argument, fine, whatever.  Heterosexuals are our oppressors then, not all-allosexual-people-as-some-monolithic-class.

A term for non-aces for convenience within ace circles (which you can also debate the validity of on other accounts) does not correlate with some societally coherent demographic unto itself, especially when you factor in concerns about policing boundaries of greyness.  It’s… worrying, that we have big names ace blogs (speaking in general here) riding for “LGBT+ inclusion” & “aces are oppressed” when we’ve got this kind of widespread community disinterest — that’s what I’m calling it, not ignorance, disinterest — in the histories & material realities of the LGBT community and all the ways that various forces of oppression (ex. White supremacy) have manipulated the framing of sexuality to exploitative ends.

Just.  Just.  Why even pound on the door, when you don’t care what’s behind it?

Advertisements

30 responses to “on the allo-cis comparison

  • salmelo

    Just a thought, but if you changed “They’re privileged people and they don’t like having to label themselves.” to “Their experience is normative, and they don’t like having to label it.” Would that be any better?

    To be honest, as an ace person, I’m not really comfortable saying “heterosexuals” are our oppressors specifically. Depending on to whom you’re talking, there’s going to be a different spectrum of how acceptable various experiences of sexual attraction / orientation and gender etc are. Some people are going to see asexuality as better than other LGBT identities, others will see it as worse. And as an aro/ace notsureaboutgenderatallrightnow I’ve definitely felt, not oppressed per se, but definitely marginalized, in a direct, targeted way, by the actions of a bi (if I recall correctly) trans man. By which I mean they directly targeted me, personally, through the fact that I’m aro. Their not being het had nothing to do with anything, in that instance.

    Frankly, I think ‘oppression’ has become something of a loaded word. Especially with all the arguments about which groups are oppressed by which other groups. Different people have different experiences, and some people are assholes about it. Some people are more likely, in a statistical sense, to be harmed by that than others, but that doesn’t make anyone else immune to it either. I feel like all arguing about it does is focus on the semantics instead of actually trying to help the situation. Idk, there’s a point to figuring out words and making sure people are on the same page, but when does that cross over into not letting people have their own opinions?

    Lately it feels like all I see activists doing is fighting with other activists, and it just seems so pointless. Shouldn’t we all be focusing on reducing human suffering, in whatever way and corner we choose to focus on, rather than getting in each other’s way all the time?

    Also, I feel like it’s kind of pointless to try and pull different pieces apart like this. An individual person is the sum of all their experiences, including those with sexuality, attraction, orientation, gender, etc. But also those with education, class, nationality, society, culture, pop-culture, mental health, physical health, various positive and negative events ranging in scale from the hyper-personal to worldwide. Basically ANY attempt to look at one demographic, whatever demographic that may be, as “some-monolithic-class” is going to fail. Because any group larger than one isn’t monolithic. By definition.

    To quote one of the Green brothers, I forget which at present, “All simplicity is a lie.”

    • Coyote

      “Would that be any better?”

      mmmno.

      “Frankly, I think ‘oppression’ has become something of a loaded word.”

      Become? What, like it wasn’t always?

      “but when does that cross over into not letting people have their own opinions?”

      What does “not letting people have their own opinions” mean?

      “Lately it feels like all I see activists doing is fighting with other activists,”

      It’s not just lately.

      “Shouldn’t we all be focusing on reducing human suffering, in whatever way and corner we choose to focus on, rather than getting in each other’s way all the time?”

      Trying to fight homophobia in the ace community is an attempt at reducing human suffering so I don’t know why you’re coming here with this.

      “Basically ANY attempt to look at one demographic, whatever demographic that may be, as ‘some-monolithic-class’ is going to fail.”

      Nah.

    • epochryphal

      lateral oppression. horizontal oppression. or better: horizontal aggression.

      an aroace person could marginalize and hurt you on the basis of your being aroace. nb people hurt me on the basis of me being nb all the time.

      it’s horizontal, not vertical.

      it’s individual manifestation, not systemic institution.

      • salmelo

        I suppose what I’m asking for then, is to try and not phrase the systemic such that it erases the individual.

        • Coyote

          Oh, honey.

          You came to the wrong house.

          • salmelo

            Can you elaborate perhaps?

          • Coyote

            I’ll try.

            Background: I, as a social critic and as a person marginalized one a handful of axes, am very tired of the rhetoric of individualism, liberalism, and individual exceptionalism. It’s a sore spot, we’ll say that.

            Timeline:

            I made a post pointing out some societal patterns that I believed were being overlooked. Overarching axes of oppression was the original topic of conversation.

            Then, in the ensuing dialogue, you said “I suppose what I’m asking for then, is to try and not phrase the systemic such that it erases the individual.”

            On the one hand, I don’t think I was doing that (point to where I did if I’m wrong), and so to me this looked like a non sequitur along the lines of “don’t forget the concept of the individual though.” On the other hand, because it appeared like a non sequitur reminding me to prioritize the individual when I was talking about the social/societal, I’m just ornery to take the stance of “I do prioritize the societal first.” Not because I think the individual is irrelevant or because I don’t care about horizontal aggression (which I have experienced, so I empathize), but because in my experience the societal is already too overlooked, so much that a reminder to remember individual dynamics just rubs me the wrong way.

            I hope that wasn’t too wordy.

          • salmelo

            No, I appreciate wordiness when it’s needed to get the point across properly.

            “On the one hand, I don’t think I was doing that (point to where I did if I’m wrong)”
            To be honest I’m not sure if you did or if I just read it that way because I’m overly sensitive, both seem quite possible to me.

            Basically I interpreted the “Heterosexuals are our oppressors then…” as “If we’re oppressed it’s by hetoresxuals, and no one else.” And then interpreted that further to mean that I must not have been aggressed at by someone who wasn’t het, when I definitely was. I realize looking back that that was probably not your intent, and like I said, maybe I just read too much into things.

            If that’s the case then I apologize.

          • Coyote

            “If we’re oppressed it’s by hetoresxuals, and no one else.”

            …Yes. On the sexuality axis, anyway. Because horizontal aggression isn’t the same thing as oppression.

      • salmelo

        On another note, what exactly is systemic institution other than an aggregation of many individual manifestations?

        • Coyote

          Do you really need help answering that?

          • salmelo

            Um, yes? I’m not trying to be passive aggressive or anything. To my thinking, anything systemic is really something statistical, and anything statistical is an aggregation of things individual. If I’m wrong about that I’d like to know, and I ask here because, well, something about this post got my attention to make me want to comment and there was a response.

          • Coyote

            Things I did not anticipate doing tonight: defining the term “institution.”

            mmmmmalright. Fair enough. Let’s try this. What’s the difference, to you, between a company (in the legal/business sense) and a group of people working together?

          • salmelo

            Mm, I suppose a company has some legal definitions behind it. They get to be treated as a separate entity for taxes and stuff. That’s, about the only difference as far as I can see. At the end of the day anything a ‘company’ does is really getting done by one or more of it’s members, I should think.

          • Coyote

            Yes. And what are legal definitions? How is a law different from a person just saying a thing?

          • salmelo

            Laws can be legally enforced. But I feel like I’m missing something, because, at least in the US, we have laws that specifically say you Can’t discriminate, oppress, etc, most demographics. So I feel like there’s something other than the literal law separating your idea of an institution from my idea of an aggregation. Social/societal weight perhaps?

          • Coyote

            Are the laws against discrimination always enforced?

  • Siggy

    I continue to disagree with everyone on allosexual privilege, and you too.

    The only reason anyone ever feels the need to talk about allosexual privilege is that it isn’t already covered by straight privilege checklists, when it should be. It’s not covered by straight privileged checklists because the straight/gay binary.

    • Coyote

      I have not seen these checklists, but I can imagine them needing to be modified. What would you add?

      • Siggy

        I’m not answering that question as it seems like a good way to quibble over details.

        Isn’t it weird that you have never looked at such a checklist? It’s rather important context. I think a lot of backlash to allosexual privilege basically have to do with increased scrutiny towards an especially suspect group. The scrutiny may turn up some genuine problems, but so would scrutiny of more common usage of privilege.

        I see “privilege” as a rather brazen form of marketing. Like the only way to get people to care about minority problems is to frame it in relation to everyone else, regardless of how apt that framing is.

        • Coyote

          “I’m not answering that question as it seems like a good way to quibble over details.”

          Um. Okay.

          “Isn’t it weird that you have never looked at such a checklist?”

          Maybe? Maybe I’m not sure what you mean at this point. I’ve read a White privilege checklist that was part of an assigned reading a while back but for the most part the kind of reading I’ve done on this kind of subject isn’t written in the form of checklists, and it never occurred to me to look one up specifically… My bad?

          “The scrutiny may turn up some genuine problems, but so would scrutiny of more common usage of privilege.”

          I’m not sure what you’re insinuating here. Are you saying we should critique the “privilege” concept in general?

          • Siggy

            I’m very critical of the concept of privilege. Some groups have advantages and disadvantages, and privilege is often a useful way to frame it. But it often isn’t, for a panoply of reasons. But I’ll shut up about it, as you didn’t ask for a rant.

          • Coyote

            I might be interested in reading a rant, although a comment section might not be a convenient space for it.

            In any case, is that critical position on privilege models at odds with saying we shouldn’t make linear comparisons between allo and cis (besides the definitional “not _____”)?

          • Siggy

            I have a rant written, which may or may not be out of date.

            I am not a fan of comparing cis/trans dynamics to ace/allo dynamics without noting important distinctions. (It doesn’t look to me like Kiowa is making an extensive or deep comparison, but whatevs, it’s game for critique.) But I also disagree with the standard you set for what may count as privilege. Practical usage of “privilege” (and of words in general) is messy and inconsistent, and doesn’t necessarily imply “wielding privilege against others”, whatever that means.

          • Coyote

            [from link] “”Privilege” is a way to talk about the minority group by talking about the majority group instead.”

            Hmmm. Yes.

            I do think this-is-what-aces-face-for-being-ace is a more useful angle than this-is-what-allos-get-for-being-allo.

  • freesiabird

    “But I also disagree with the standard you set for what may count as privilege. Practical usage of “privilege” (and of words in general) is messy and inconsistent, and doesn’t necessarily imply “wielding privilege against others”, whatever that means.”

    This same idea was nagging at me while reading this. The article by which I was introduced to the idea of privilege, “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack,” by Peggy McIntosh, conveys an idea of privilege that isn’t solely about oppressing other people, but is instead about the way the world/society/environment is set up, i.e. as a white cis person, the world is set up for me to pretty much be able to do and have what I want, such as arrange to be in the company of only other people who share those characteristics, or find examples of people who share those characteristics portrayed positively in pop culture. Allosexual people do, it seems to me, enjoy (this interpretation of) privilege–including LGB folks. Thanks to the (thank goodness!) increasing acceptance of LGBT+ identities, it is, in my experience of contemporary America, regarded as more normal/acceptable/excusable to be lesbian than to be ace. The world is mostly set up for straight people, but it’s also *more* set up for non-straight allosexual people than for ace ones.

    Apologies if my late night thoughts are meandering or unclear!

    • Coyote

      “it is, in my experience of contemporary America, regarded as more normal/acceptable/excusable to be lesbian than to be ace.”

      Huh?

      What are you basing this off of? The fact that “lesbian” is a more frequently-used word?

      • freesiabird

        Ah, thank you for calling that out. Upon further pondering, you’re right—what I wrote there isn’t really what I mean. Instead of “acceptable,” I guess I mean something more like “conceivable” or “comprehensible,” able to be conceptualized or understood readily, and therefore able to be engaged with according to established societal scripts (albeit frequently stereotypical and ill-fitting scripts). When someone comes out (and moves through the world) as gay, people around them know to some extent what that means and what the set of possible reactions to that identity are, whether they choose positive or negative ones. And there are institutions (organizations, journals, conferences, etc.) organized around LGBT identities that give those identities some concrete, undeniable presence in the world, as well as a growing number of representations in media that at least sometimes present those identities as positive. Asexuality isn’t yet in that position. Ace vis/ed efforts are doing a lot to ameliorate that, but as yet, asexuality is a concept that isn’t embedded in our collective social consciousness the way LGBT identities are.
        I guess that’s what I mean—as you implied, it is still frequently treated as completely unacceptable to be lesbian, but the concept of being lesbian is one that society understands and knows how respond to (in one way or another), and there are spaces in society for people who identify with that concept, even if those spaces are still few and far between. Ace identities are getting there, but they’re not there yet.

        Again, apologies for late-night thoughts which might not be as completely or carefully formulated as I could wish.

WP account not required to comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: