Trigger warning for discussion of pedophilia, rape, pedophilia apologism, rape apologism, domestic violence, and misogynist slurs.
I’ve been spending a lot of time in dark places of my own past lately, and absolutely none of this has been ameliorated by Bro Dawks publicly making excuses to sweep certain “degrees” of pedophilia under the rug (obvious trigger warning), followed by using even more child rape apologism to defend that standpoint. Nor has this time been made easier or better by what can only be described as the Bro Dawks Defence League, which follows Bro Dawks’ lead and persistently claims that any criticism of Bro Dawks himself for child rape apologism is telling him how he should feel about being sexually molested by a teacher with a reputation, or nearly gang-raped as a youth by slightly older age mates in the same school (where, evidently, this teacher earned his reputation for pedophilia—and where arguably, those age mates learned to nearly gang rape younger boys).
As a survivor of incest and rape, it’s events like these that constitute powerful triggers associated with my past traumas. But that doesn’t make me a victim claiming victimhood, or I wouldn’t be writing about it. It simply means that events like these put me back in the same dark place as the past events they trigger. Another one of my triggers is the word “cunt”. When I hear someone say it or see this word in writing, regardless of the context, it puts me back in the moment it was the last thing I heard being shouted in my face before a man drenched me in his spit, and all in the same gesture, grabbed me by the throat, turned me against the nearest wall (which was actually a solid wooden door), and began strangling me. Not a happy place to be in or even obliquely reminded of when I may not even be prepared for it at all. You could say it puts me on the defensive, and that may manifest in several different ways depending on the quality of my day.
That being said, I was on the way to my psychiatrist’s office this morning when I spotted this tweet:
See, I wasn’t prepared for this, and especially not from this person, who I started following after noticing that for months, I had been hitting the favourite and/or retweet button on their tweets. Their politics resonate with mine quite frequently, and so does the fact that they are a hard-ass about it. In particular, I had noticed a long time ago that they have a strong sense of identity as an indigenous person, and an equally empowered set of politics around race/ethnicity. This tweet took me by surprise because I would not have anticipated them to find this particularly misogynist slur acceptable, or even remotely useful in virtually any situation at all. On top of that, had I not been up unusually early and already well on my way to my psychiatrist, I wouldn’t have even seen it. What I’m driving at is both that I wasn’t prepared for it and that it was incredibly trivializing of the social power associated with it (and still would have been, whether I was prepared for it or not). So I called it out. Out of respect for their generally prickly content, I didn’t formulate my call-out as though I was dealing with a delicate little flower. This person fired back right away:
Well first of all, I wonder how anyone was actually expected to determine how else this person was gratuitously using the word “cunt”. A brief visit to their profile at that time suggested that it was the joke of the day, that a few especially crass people were quick to jump in on and even actively encouraged to run with in a series of puns firing back and forth. Even without looking at their profile to make this discovery, the tweet itself seems to be a deliberate effort to make light of or trivialize the word for a childish snicker. I really frankly disagree with the idea that challenging this behaviour at all, especially without even advising against it in the future or in certain mediums, constitutes “language policing”. This is equally as childish as turning “cunt” into a joke depending entirely on its phonetic sound for a punchline. I don’t make the “rules” for what language means (i.e., semantics) or how it should be used (i.e., grammar and mechanics), and I’m not even coming close to attempting to “enforce” language “laws” by calling someone out for saying something incredibly shitty and insensitive. Let’s face it. The “language police” argument is fucking stupid and frankly little more than pathetic whining about being reminded that there are real world consequences for our carelessness.
And secondly, I wonder how exactly anyone with similar associations around the word “cunt”, who saw this tweet this morning, is expected to simply tolerate this unprovoked antagonism, which for many women is triggering. The point of describing the event the word evokes is to show this person how they have a right to choose how to feel about it, but it’s not for everyone to “take back”. In fact, for women of colour, it was never theirs to “take back” in the first place. In fact, it’s actually an English slur firmly rooted in the colonization of Northern Europe. There was a period of about ten years that I had convinced myself it was mine to “take back”, and I had this freedom largely due to the fact that it had never been so closely and powerfully associated with a serious violation of my body. It wasn’t a trigger for that ten years. I even took it as a compliment when I was being particularly nasty with a consenting female partner who shouted it out at me before bursting into uncontrollable cackles—which was actually the sound of her taking it back from a previously well-established association with sexual trauma (she, too, is an incest and rape survivor). For ten years in my mind, “cunt” was associated with positive memories, and that is a fact that changed on December 12th last year when a man spontaneously and easily overpowered me within mere seconds of shouting it in my face.
And finally, had I said something that triggered this individual’s experience of being assaulted and raped, I’d be mortified. I might not know if or when I had or have said that unless someone confronted me over it, regardless of how delicate or prickly they were being in the process. I concisely summarized the event of domestic violence I associate with the word “cunt” as part of my call-out. I did not, however, just randomly come out and bombard this person with my story, as if to solicit a comparison of oppressions that I expect to “win”. No one wins in the Oppression Olympics. Especially not those whose chief complaint is that someone is “policing” their language:
That’s interesting. A single tweet in response to a single word now constitutes a “penchant” for using passive aggression to police another person’s language choices. What’s even more interesting is that I published this tweet as an indirect response to someone who was claiming that they had been “censored” because someone blocked their Twitter sock puppet account (the second half of the above statement is directly challenging this comparison). I find this argument utterly absurd, as a brief visit to my profile at about this time would have indicated—a reasonable example of censorship is the systematic destruction and withholding of residential school records to cover up cultural genocide in this country. To compare losing a sock puppet account on Twitter to that is so extremely offensive, I could not possibly form an adequate gesture. And yet, this is what people do every day. The exact same dickshit in this case actually went on to try to argue that a pedophile’s “human right” to “freedom of expression” trumps the several other human rights of their victims, on the basis that a racist has the same “human right” to “freely express” their ideas. He didn’t seem to realize that hate speech legislature defines the publishing of racist literature as a human rights violation. He also didn’t seem to realize that I’m not a hotline he can just hammer on for answers when the entire rest of the internet is freely available to him.
That tweet about censorship was also followed by an important distinction about the concept of censuring. These two words are more closely related in spelling than in meaning, and yet neither of them apply to someone who is called out for saying “cunt” or someone who is whining about losing a duplicate account on a free social networking website.
Now who’s being passive aggressive?
I don’t expect people to “watch it” around me because of my triggers. It’s my job to watch myself because of my triggers (e.g., avoiding being deliberately set off by the triggers I know about and recognizing those I didn’t know about until they were tripped). I don’t get a “Get Out Of Working Against Being A Shithead Free” card, either, just because I have a responsibility to myself to mitigate my exposure to these triggering things, places, and people. I wouldn’t get that card even if I believed I didn’t have triggers. If anything, I understand better because of my experiences and triggers, how to just not be a total chronic shithead towards other people through some of the simplest gestures possible—such as realizing that other people actually have triggers, that this fact doesn’t automatically make them a victim addicted to their own story, and that other people have the inalienable right of self-determination (e.g., other people have a right to tolerate more or less callous disregard of misogyny than I do).
I can be responsible enough to keep my own shit in check when I’m engaging in behaviours that common knowledge dictates is more than just a matter of some peoples’ panties getting in a bunch. I wonder why this simple act of forethought out of consideration for others is such a big fucking problem for people who casually use language that reduces all women to the anatomical parts between their legs (i.e., this called essentialism). On second thought, that would require them to think of women as people first:
I probably wouldn’t find this remarkable, if it weren’t so conspicuously posted in the middle of this conflict, which fairly immediately derailed from this point into a race war* (i.e., “You’re too white to be entitled to criticize me for this misogynist thing I said!”) The central issue in this conflict is the dehumanizing of women through our own language choices. As women are also members of different races/ethnicities, it’s essentialist to attempt to separate race/ethnicity and gender, as this person appears to be working towards from this point on. I personally refuse to separate my pale skin from my female birth. I also refuse to look at race/ethnicity as just a superficial matter of what colour or shade your skin is, and I refuse to look at gender as a separate issue defined entirely by one’s reproductive anatomy at birth. I work from a platform of intersectionality, which demands of me to accept basic facts such as that visibly racialized women experience sexism differently than I do (this is abundantly self-evident, though many white women ignore it, and that kind of ignorance is exactly where Slutwalk came from).
It’s definitely not my decision to make for someone else, what kinds of systemic inequality they will and will not tolerate, or to what degree that tolerance applies. However, it is equally not this person’s right to decide that for me either. While it’s clearly not important for them to resist evidence of accepting the subjugation of women as immutable in their own language choices, I’m not satisfied being reduced to the anatomical parts in my pants, or living in a world where it’s considered socially acceptable for anyone else to do so to other women. We’ve long ago reached a point of impasse, but this person clearly wants conflict:
You see, I think we’ve already established that both of us in this conversation have bigger issues to face and deal with than whether or not to subscribe to someone on Twitter. For starters, both of us have experienced assault, and both of us have experienced rape. Some women I know attempt to treat their own similar experiences as painful but inevitable, and so something from which you just dust yourself off and move on with your life. It works for them, or they make it work. And that’s their decision to make, but that’s not going to work for everyone. That I didn’t just pick myself up after finally escaping an extremely abusive household in which I endured ten years of incest and nearly a full decade of sexual aggression, domestic violence including battery from both of my parents, and fairly severe parental neglect, doesn’t mean I’ve spent all my time being a victim. That my best efforts to move on resulted in more rapes than I care to count doesn’t mean I’m stupid and a perpetual victim. And that the only comforts I knew to seek out very nearly landed me several times in sex trafficking or — without exaggeration — a morgue, doesn’t mean I make a hobby or profession out of victimhood. But these are the experiences from which I developed triggers. The fact that I’m not the only person in the world who has had to face this, and the fact that many don’t make it out except directly into a grave or an asylum, means that there is and always has been much more at stake than whose flagrant exhibitions of misogyny pop up on my Twitter feed on a Friday morning. I shouldn’t have to point this out after I’ve already described being strangled.
I find it interesting how often I am accused of passive aggression by people who turn into a heat-seeking missile once they know they’ve pushed someone’s tolerance threshold, and then revert to passivity when they don’t quite get the conflict they were seeking. Here is the entry where I addressed the context of my upset in regards to people planning on hijacking the reconciliation events to picket Big Oil’s involvement in them. You’ll notice it’s been updated with a link to a piece of writing by an indigenous author, who engages specifically with why Big Oil needs to keep its dirty money out of indigenous communities (or perhaps more accurately, why indigenous communities need to put their respective feet down and say no to that money). The timing of that article is what I would describe as unfortunate at best and carelessly insensitive at worst, as it appears to incite the picket line that residential school survivors themselves have even begun openly pleading to be spared from during the reconciliation events. I nevertheless find myself in agreement with the sentiments contained therein, but as the cash from Big Oil has already long ago been accepted and spent for the reconciliation events, I do not agree with the urgency with which the author chose to publish. My criticisms of the perceived issue are extremely narrow and finite—just like they are with respect to the use of the word “cunt” and even Bro Dawks’ pedophilia apologism.
Indeed. Women’s rights (to be treated with respect and dignity freely afforded many male human beings), the global struggle against ecocide, and the liberation of all peoples from a dominant culture that implicitly endorses pedophilia, to name a few shared issues off the top of my head, are just such boring issues. The idea that all oppressions are connected is such a tired four-word diatribe unless you get to pick and choose for other people which oppressions are important and which we should all just care less about. I see where this is going:
Who said this person is a victim? In fact, who other than Bro Dawks said he’s a victim? This person’s rationale concerning the word “cunt” is officially shared and endorsed by a man who puts everything on a scale with no middle ground as soon as he’s criticized for saying some of the most incredibly offensive shit I’ve seen published on Twitter—including that white Western women should essentially STFU about being sexually objectified and sexually harassed by men for no reason other than “it’s not as bad as what Muslim women experience in the Middle East sometimes”, that being called out for using heavily racialized language to describe enormous swaths of Middle Eastern people is oppressive to him as a famous white dude, and that he gets to decide when and how pedophilia should be condemned for no reason other than that it allegedly didn’t do him “any lasting damage” to be sexually molested by a well-reputed sexual predator.
Frankly, with just a couple minor substitutions in any of those three Bro Dawks hall of shame arguments, we’re right back to the central focus of this piece of writing. That this person has experienced worse than how I felt from seeing that first questionable tweet doesn’t mean I don’t have a right to take issue with it. That this person is racially marginalized while I am, by appearances alone, not, doesn’t mean that they get a free pass for creating this conflict. That this person is satisfied essentially giving up and doing nothing to challenge everyday misogyny doesn’t mean everyone else should be.
A person may very well be being honest and being angry at the same time, and this person has arguably nailed both in the same gesture. These are not mutually exclusive ideas at all, and I would have a hard time believing anyone who tried to argue that there’s any meaningful distinction to be made here with respect to this person’s conduct. Then again, I’m fairly positive that their generally disingenuous attitude towards me has already been established several times—from the “I wasn’t being humourous” bullshit line that started it amidst an obvious string of puns, to the disingenuous solicitation for what has no relevance to the conflict and has already been expressed at length in my writing (though they aren’t interested in reading it, because they’ve already decided I’m the one who’s being disingenuous).
Well, that’s interesting. I didn’t realize at the time this was yet another instance of this individual actively looking for more things to bait me into a conflict over, but that’s actually beside the point. I’m pretty sure this individual would be justifiably incensed if, for example, I claimed that being called a racist was a million times worse than directly experiencing racism. But they don’t draw a parallel between this, which I’m almost certain they witness on a daily basis (I certainly do), and what they’re doing with respect to the dignity of women. What’s even more interesting is how they appear to be assuming exclusive ownership of the word “ally”, while simultaneously being a spectacularly shitty ally to women. Do women somehow not deserve or need allies, even as they are being beaten and raped, then blamed for it or denied the legitimacy of their own experiences? I must have misplaced the memo where “ally” came to refer exclusively to people who work for the liberation of indigenous people, with absolutely no regard for the respect and dignity of women. Well I guess that settles it, right?