Tag Archives: visibility

on visibility, erasure, and other sight/image metaphors

Here’s a post on the use of terms like “visibility” in the context of asexual & other minority issues, brought to you by nothing in particular besides the fact that I’m unfocused and restless.

See, “visibility” is a fine word to express a specific abstract idea of societal access, awareness, and circulation, and yet… seeing it used too often, in certain ways, has begun to grate on me.

Not as much as “erasure” does, though my bristling at that one does feel more petty, to be honest… Could be just a matter of personal distaste, I guess.  When something is “erased” what my literal mind interprets that as is a literal cessation existence, like in sci fi when memories get erased… as opposed to how I’ve seen people using it politically, as a verb for when a fact is ignored, overlooked, covered up, or denied.  I don’t think erasing is a good metaphor for misrepresentating, obscuring, and lying, but maybe that’s just me.

As a side note — there’ve been select times when I’ve seen “erasure” used on something specific being conspicuously omitted or obscured for historical record, and… y’all.  We have a word for that.  Please don’t leave “censorship” to its misuse by various misogynists.  It’s a real, actual bad thing to be opposed.  But hey, me preferring one word to another… maybe that’s also just me.

If there’s anything that’s not just me, here, it’s a concern that “visibility,” as a fair goal, seems to sometimes gain too much focus and centrality as a priority in some ace rhetoric.  I think of visibility as an along-the-way kind of goal, as opposed to an end goal unto itself.  And sometimes, the way some people talk… I’mmm not so sure they agree.

More times then I can count, I’ve seen this “asexuals are invisible” idea forefronted as a core of asexual issues (complete w/ “invisible” as something we *are*, rather than something that is *done to us* — which it is. by the way. mass-scale process that is done. to. us.).  And I understand how, with so many of us having been kept in the dark with monolythic images of sexuality and internalized hetorosexism, resolving that seems like it could resolve a lot.

But when the issue’s highlighted just a little too much, I want to grab someone by the shoulders and say, hey, you know a demographic that’s also highly “visible”?  Women.  Women are visible.  Images and depictions of women would be hard to avoid, frankly.  Everyone knows that women *exist.*  And yet, by golly, it’s almost as if that hasn’t solved sexism.  It’s almost as if that wouldn’t solve challenges faced by ace survivors and antiace sexual entitlement, either.

Being seen, or being seen more often, is not liberation.  Visibility is not liberation.  Visibility, sometimes, can be so far from liberation, that in the case of misogyny they even have a term for that: “the male gaze.”  Being seen and looked at and openly perceived are not some unqualifiedly good thing regardless of the how.  I want to believe that if you think about it for more than two seconds, you’ll understand why “invisibility” is just a symptom, not a source.  A symptom, an outgrowth, a byproduct, of societal browbeating and a culture of rape.

Fact of the matter is, no amount of Horton-hears-a-Who-ing at folks with a chant of “We are here! We are here! We are here!” will ever sway the people who know you exist and who hate you for it.

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malice envy

[ (parental) abuse & homophobia tw ]

When I was a kid, I remember reading the summary for a novel about a little girl whose abusive father would beat her sister and ignore the main character completely, making her feel like a piece of the furniture.  I remember the summary saying something about how she wished he would pay attention to her, too.  I didn’t understand why she would feel that way at the time.

More recently, I’ve been thinking about how some aces rhetorically position LG/b identities as more socially legitimate than asexuality, act like gay people (specifically) are somehow privileged over them (ignoring gay aces ofc), and outright crave the same “level” of recognition as gay people have, in spite of the fact that most of that recognition is violent.  Because, I guess, some of us hate being eclipsed and ignored and gaslit so much that sometimes, the idea of direct, explicit malice can sound validating.

…And now, I think I understand what that book was talking about.