ethos-ethos

[tw: abstract/theoretical sexual violence talk, intracommunity conflict, inconclusive stressful junk]

That whole… thing where RZ responded to Queenie’s series — I haven’t said anything about it because it’s too dizzying for me to engage with, which is saying something, but I just wanted to comment, it still strikes me as strange that RZ would point out the ethical/credibility appeals in Queenie’s intro post as if… as if it’s bad for someone participating in a conversation about sexual violence to disclose their relationship to the subject, as if it’s manipulative for a survivor to point out they’re a survivor when they’re going to be talking about how survivors are talked about, as if her experience as a member of the RFAS team isn’t relevant to the claims she goes on to make…

Or, I mean, maybe I’m misinterpreting things, I guess.  The part I mean is:

I have not seen anyone express any kind of disagreement to anything in any of Queenie’s series. There are probably a number of reasons for that[3], but most of them likely boil down to the construction of Queenie’s “expert” discursive authority about ace survivors of sexual violence, because of which anyone who would express any disagreements would be automatically positioned as “against ace survivors of sexual violence”. […]

[3] First a significant portion of that post was dedicated to her writing about her own experience of sexual violence. ( And generally, people stay away from criticising anything that event gets near in proximity– i.e., in the same post– to that kind of writing for good reason. )

Second, the first part of the series makes a big point of not harassing the bloggers she quotes– presumably that point applies to leaving her alone too.

Third, given her discursive power within the community as an Expert of ace survivors of sexual violence, anyone who disagrees with her is automatically positioned as “against ace survivors of sexual violence”. This power is something she bolsters very deliberately: there’s a section in her first instalment explicitly justifying her “expert” subject position. This entire series’ credibility is largely based on this “expert” status.

???  What is this?  Should she… not have included those things?  I mean what is this?

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8 responses to “ethos-ethos

  • Hezekiah the (meta)pianycist

    I felt the same way about RZ’s responses to Queenie’s series. I don’t think people view Queenie as an Expert that you Cannot Disagree With without being an Oppressor. And even if that were the case, it’s irrelevant to say that in a piece of writing that is disagreeing with something Queenie said, because it’s not addressing the actual substance of her series.

    In the past, I have done some of the things Queenie criticized in her series. (And it might happen that I accidentally do some of those things again, because my brain is not always on my side when I’m reading and writing. My brain’s functioning, however, isn’t an excuse.) I’m really glad she wrote the series because it helped me understand how I could have been alienating survivors when I did those things, even as a survivor myself. I think of her series as a good set of guidelines in a wider toolkit for Better Ace Discourse. And I think Queenie has written good guidelines as to when it’s appropriate to bring up sexual violence against aces in an argument or in vis-ed materials.

  • Sennkestra

    I feel like at this point RZ was just stuck on the defensive and was trying to find any alternative to just admitting “oops, I messed up, and wrote things that had bad implications and hurt people, no matter what my intent may have been”. Which on the one hand is something I sympathize with, but is also something that someone who positions themselves as an activist really needs to be able to overcome a lot better than this.

    I do think it’s telling that they elide the possibility that most people are agreeing with queenie not because of power differentials, but because Queenie was actually making points that many of us actually agree with…

    I think this particular argument format likely stems from the fact that in certain arenas of tumblr/sjw/feminist academic culture, there’s a sort of rhetoric of “oppressed people saying things are right” and “oppressors saying things are wrong”, so in order to argue against a point in those arenas, instead of just making claims about the actual statements, you also have to find a way to position your opponent as your oppressor, no matter how nonsensical or irrelevent to the point it might be. I know that academic feminism/queer theory can be rife with this, and I think RZ engages a lot with that (correct me if I’m wrong) so it’s probably bleeding over from there.

  • Libris

    What struck me reading all that is that, while Queenie’s writing is accessible and comprehensive without being jargon-ridden, RZ’s writing is extremely complex, convoluted, and jargon-ridden, rendering it nigh-inaccessible in the particular way which implies ‘you can’t understand this because you’re not as clever/expert as me’.

    Watch your own writing style if you’re going to throw stones about ‘appealing to expert status’.

    (Furthermore, from experience it seems that Queenie is generally open to respectful questioning/disagreement/whatever – even if her answer’s ‘sorry I don’t have the spoons, go ask [other blogger] for clarification’, that still contrasts with getting another several paragraphs of dense hostile writing in return. You can engage with Queenie and feel like she’s trying to answer you, that is, rather than feeling like she’s trying to prove herself right and not listen to you.)

  • Omnes et Nihil

    (The using too many words thing is not something I can change– take it or leave it: I’m not offended if people don’t read my words but if you ask me a question or pose a question about my actions, I’m probably going to answer it. So to that effect:)

    To answer your question, I didn’t say Queenie shouldn’t have said those things or that I thought it was manipulative for to have said it. I was saying that her saying those things had a particular consequence: if anyone does disagree with anything Queenie said in her series, then there are a lot of reasons why they would *not* say so publicly (and why I would never ask anyone to). Whether everyone agrees with Queenie’s interpretation of my words or whether a bunch of people disagree with Queenie’s interpretation, Queenie set up her series in a way that virtually guarantees the same outcome: nobody is going to contradict her. I’m not accusing her of doing that deliberately so as to silence any potential criticism or disagreement– I have no evidence of that– the point is it doesn’t matter *why* she did it because the consequences would be the same.

    And in deference to Hezekiah’s comment, yes it isn’t addressing the actual substance of the post and yet it is totally still relevant to the situation because it explains factors preventing other people from expressing their disagreement the way people might be expected to. For example, while responding to me, Sciatrix repeatedly assumed that people didn’t support me or didn’t agree with me (which happens not to be accurate), apparently presuming that if people *did* agree with what I was saying or support the words in question etc., then she would see the evidence. But that’s not true. (Most of my interactions with people in ace communities are not publicly available online for anyone to read, but even if they were, in this particular case,) there’s good reason to expect people who do disagree with anything Queenie said in any of the series would *not* express their disagreement publicly.

    Having said that, I responded to Queenie’s post despite all that because I felt it was important for someone to name the active silencing going on about violence targeting sex-repulsion. (And I expected backlash but it was necessary for me to say something anyway because I couldn’t let the silencing of discussions of violence targeting sex-repulsion within this context to go unnamed.) This active silencing is something I see all around me, very often, and it’s harmful. If you don’t see it happening or if you don’t see the harms, it’s not because they don’t exist. It’s because we’re looking in different places. Our social contexts are very different: it seems that I am not part of your world and you are not part of mine.

    Interestingly Sciatrix’s response to me didn’t deny that Queenie’s post was silencing discussions of violence targeting sex-repulsion: she argued that Queenie was doing this on purpose.because those discussions *should* be silenced (and that I’m ridiculous for taking Queenie at her word when she repeatedly said she wasn’t addressing those issues– either ridiculous or putting on some kind of act). I mean Sciatrix argued other things too but the “stop talking about violence targeting sex-repulsion” message was pretty clear, as though there’s no room for anything about violence targeting sex-repulsion because apparently only 1 thing can be socially relevant.

    I never have any idea what any of you will interpret as hostile or why. To me, accusing someone of being insincere or disingenuous is one of the most hostile acts out there. From my perspective, it’s a lot more hostile than direct confrontation and a lot more destructive too. I am not going to claim that someone’s actions are going against their stated purpose without massive amounts of evidence. Backing up a claim like that with lots of evidence is a basic act of respect. (Apparently in your microcosm it’s an act of hostility?) Yet over and over I’ve seen various people accuse me and each other of being insincere or disingenuous (all in ways that were seemingly socially acceptable within your little microcosm). I don’t know if there’s an insincerity quota I’m missing or what’s going on but at this point I don’t think it matters. Clearly our worlds and social norms are very different, perhaps irreconcilably so.

    • Coyote

      “Queenie set up her series in a way that virtually guarantees the same outcome: nobody is going to contradict her.”

      I think we must come from very different backgrounds, because this isn’t as intuitive to me.

    • Siggy

      As far as length goes, I think it’s acceptable to a write very long OP, but much less so to write something very long as part of an ongoing conversation. You’re basically obligating participants in that discussion to put up with your writing, or shut up. You say you’re not offended, but I’m not afraid of offending you, I’m more afraid of you saying, “you didn’t read my thousands of words carefully enough,” which is what you say every time.

      A while ago you had an interaction with QAC where you drowned them with words, and in the tags you referred to it as the way conflicts should be resolved between adults. QAC replied by throwing up their hands. That was appalling. What made you think that was a positive interaction?

    • Sennkestra

      I don’t think people are accusing you of insincerity. I think what people are concerned about is that you seem to express a sincere belief that nothing you have done could ever have been a mistake, and a refusal to accept that your words can, whether intentionally or not, end up causing harm to other people. I think the problem is that that recently, literally every time I’ve heard someone say “you said this thing, and It was harmful to me or other people”, you just accuse them of maliciously misinterpreting your words on purpose.

      And like, I get that frustration, when you try to say one thing and people keep hearing something else. But when it happens over and over, it’s not a sign that people are out to get you – it’s a sign that something you are doing needs to be changed. Sometimes no matter how good your intentions might have been, your eventual actions have the real effect of hurting people. I’ve been there, and it sucks.

      But still, assuming that everyone who was hurt must just be a confused or misinterpreting or an outright liar doesn’t help anyone – if you want to be able to work in a community and not drive everyone else away, if you don’t want to keep hurting people, you need to acknowledge when something you have done has been caused people upset.

      Sometimes that means acknowledging and apologizing for that hurt. Sometimes that means just acknowledging a difference of opinion and stepping away without further comment. But attacking anyone who ever criticizes the way you do things never helps.

    • queenieofaces

      If people disagree with me, I encourage them to utilize the comment section(s) set up on the series. I welcome difference of opinion, but it’s very difficult for me to hear differing opinions when they aren’t being expressed to me. This has always been a collaborative project–thus my getting input from a ton of people so that I felt I had a chance of both properly representing the diversity of experiences and perspectives of ace survivors and creating a resource that could be helpful to the wider community of ace activists. In related news, I’m unclear on why this discussion is happening everywhere other than in the comment section(s) set up for that purpose.

      I think one of the problems here is that we are approaching this issue from very different perspectives. You’re interested in theorizing structures of violence whereas I’m interested in the day-to-day support of ace survivors. Part of that is probably a difference in experience–I do a lot of crisis work through RFAS, and so my focus is on getting people through the day and putting them in contact with support systems. While theorizing can be important, sometimes it conflicts with supporting survivors, in the same way that attacking abusers can conflict with supporting survivors. In my experience, and in the experience of many of the ace survivors I have talked to, theorizing structures of violence–especially if those structures focus on a very limited set of experiences AND if those experiences are leveraged in larger political debates–can create barriers to support for ace survivors, because they feel that their experiences don’t count, that they have to frame their narrative in a particular way to count, etc. To quote the post you were responding to, “Intersectionality exists even without a causal relationship, but discourse that only cares about causation focuses only on the moment of sexual violence and elides any other factor, experience, or identity that may shape the fallout from that moment. If you want to support ace survivors, you should care about what comes after sexual violence, especially since the (sometimes long and painful) fallout is often where we need the most support.”

      I’m not trying to silence discussion of violence that targets sex-repulsion; I think violence that targets sex-repulsion should be one of MANY types of sexual violence we discuss, but currently violence that targets sex-repulsion (as well as violence that targets asexuality specifically) receives a disproportionate amount of attention. What I am asking people to do is reflect on the narratives of sexual violence against aces they choose to propagate, who is consistently left out of those conversations, and how those conversations may affect ace survivors. Theorizing is fine, but I want to put people before theory. If the way a particular theory is being presented is hurting people or making them feel like they don’t deserve support, I want people to think about what is happening there and how to go about making sure that doesn’t happen anymore.

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