November 2017
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on disrespect, winning people with politeness, and being a "real" activist.


Last week I embroiled myself in an argument about the use of slurs (which is normal for me) and was careless about my tone (which is quite out of character for me). The person responded by critiquing my tone and ignoring my argument, telling me that I was being disrespectful and I wasn't going to win any people to my cause with that attitude. What's implied here is "if you were a REAL activist you wouldn't be rude." As a real activist, I reject 100% of this argument.

Being respectful is important to me. I wasn't being disrespectful, I was being rude. I said "Ugh," mocked this person's argument (which was in favor of using slurs) by paraphrasing and called it ridiculous; nothing about this denigrates someone's personhood. If I say to someone "your breath stinks, I wish you would brush your tongue" I'm not being disrespectful, I am being rude. If I said "You're gross because your breath stinks" that would be disrespectful. If I called this person a word which is regularly used to dehumanize, that would be extremely disrespectful. The problem is, when you are used to the privilege of being taken seriously, someone being dismissive of your argument feels very shocking and humiliating; you take it personally.

Secondly, the idea that "you catch more flies with honey than vinegar" is flat-out wrong. I have extensive experience with calling people out, and their reaction depends entirely on them (others who regularly engage in calling out also say this is true and I have yet to see a counterexample). I have been polite and had people react with fury, and I've been rude and had people react with concern and a desire to learn. Usually I am polite, but it is not my job to be polite in the face of someone else's disrespect. What usually happens when I argue with someone who is using a slur or otherwise supporting oppression is that that person doesn't change their mind, but others who witness the conversation do. The "catching flies" argument is invariably used by people who just want an excuse not to bother changing.

And oh, the "real activist" argument. There is no wrong way to resist oppression, and my goal is NOT to convert all the people to my way of thinking. My number one goal is to resist oppression in whatever way I can in my individual life. I hope that others are influenced along the way, but I am not an activist for their sake and if they want to be offended by my "PC policing" that's not my problem. I completely reject the idea that I must be an exemplary person for others to realize that oppression is wrong and decide to resist it. I do not need to live up to your standards for oppression to be harmful: that is an objective fact, and it is your job to realize it, not my job to teach you.

The reason I am usually polite is partly because I fear being judged. I have seen what happens with people who are perceived as "too strident" and I am afraid that my friends will judge me that way. I also don't enjoy being rude for its own sake: I am only tempted to do it when I am out of energy to calm myself down and be careful to phrase politely, and too upset to let it pass. I am not proud of being rude to this person, but I am not ashamed either. This was a new experience for me and in the future I intend to be more constructively rude when I am rude (because groaning and mocking is a waste of my time), but I don't intend to make sure I am polite to people using slurs or making oppressive jokes. My politeness is earned by respect and lost by disrespect.

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Comments
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classical_wolf ══╣Boy-Girl-Person╠══
The reason I am usually polite is partly because I fear being judged. I have seen what happens with people who are perceived as "too strident" and I am afraid that my friends will judge me that way. I also don't enjoy being rude for its own sake: I am only tempted to do it when I am out of energy to calm myself down and be careful to phrase politely, and too upset to let it pass. I am not proud of being rude to this person, but I am not ashamed either. This was a new experience for me and in the future I intend to be more constructively rude when I am rude (because groaning and mocking is a waste of my time), but I don't intend to make sure I am polite to people using slurs or making oppressive jokes. My politeness is earned by respect and lost by disrespect. - All of this!

belenen ══╣adoring╠══
:D
bunnika ══╣bunny: drunk╠══
I'm one who gets perceived as "too strident" (to put it kindly) and yeah, it's got it's share of bullshit. Honestly the worst thing I've encountered is someone I care about telling me I'm "hard to love" because of my activism. That's been ringing in my head nonstop since she said it. I try to be kind, but for a million reasons I am often low on spoons and just can't hand-hold through every oppressive dynamic. But that makes people dislike me, and it's something I've just had to come to accept. I still hate the judgment I get, but I'm not going to stop calling people out. And you're right, there is no "right" way to do it; the people who say you aren't doing it nice enough wouldn't want to hear it with any level of kindness. They just don't want to listen.
belenen ══╣hissing╠══
Oh yeah, I've been told the same thing, and it was the hardest for me to shake as well.
left_harangue ══╣╠══
belenen ══╣feral╠══
100% this! yes!
alephz ══╣╠══
The reason you catch flies in honey is so they'll get stuck there and die either from suffocation or from inability to move and find food. I've never understood why people are so eager to the the flies in that metaphor.
slammerkinbabe ══╣╠══
This is an excellent point.
raidingparty ══╣╠══
belenen ══╣╠══
raidingparty ══╣╠══
Having difficulty with this one...
Outrage is definitely the appropriate response to violence.
But to the offender's mind, it's a disproportionate response, and hence illogical, and thereby dismissable.
Until perhaps enough people respond the same way? No, then they get to play victim complex.
Not sure where to go. Careful about overreaction, but I'm aware that that same caution is preserving the status quo.
belenen ══╣garrulous╠══
Re: Having difficulty with this one...
It's really about their priorities: if they prioritize maintaining their self image, they will not listen. If they prioritize avoiding hurting others, they will listen. And you have to realize that if you are in public (including online), the ones most likely to take in what you are saying and change are probably staying silent out of not wanting to show what they used to think.
raidingparty ══╣╠══
Re: Having difficulty with this one...
itsjustc ══╣╠══
This is a very thought provoking read. I really enjoyed it.
slammerkinbabe ══╣╠══
Ugh, tone-policing. Derailing 101!

The fact that there are people in this world who defend the use of slurs is beyond me. Sadly, the recent Twitter explosion over "tranny," and the pile-on attacks some trans people suffered, has made it very clear to me that there are plenty of people who do it.

And "real activist" talk is bullshit.
jem0000000 ══╣╠══
*hugs*
belenen ══╣confused╠══
I don't understand this response. I don't feel a need for comfort.
jem0000000 ══╣╠══
belenen ══╣╠══
halfshellvenus ══╣╠══
I do not need to live up to your standards for oppression to be harmful: that is an objective fact, and it is your job to realize it, not my job to teach you.
I had never thought of it this way, but it's utterly true.

There is a great deal of emphasis on "style," but an argument/position that is utterly wrong... is still wrong.

I very much liked the distinction here between rudeness and disrespect. That also matters.
i_17bingo ══╣╠══
What's implied here is "if you were a REAL activist you wouldn't be rude."

Oh, I'm sorry that I made you mildly uncomfortable. It totally equals hundreds of years of being denied jobs, the right to vote, and dignity. It's totally the same as words used as weapons to make others feel less than human. It's totally the same as worrying about the way you dress or how much you drink or what music you listen because someone might rape or shoot you, and you'll be the one who has your reputation shredded while your attacker walks away with no consequences. Totally the same.

Fuck these people.
agirlnamedluna ══╣╠══
Often, telling truths that people don't want to hear is perceived as "rude" or "disrespectful" or a number of disdainful reactions because people don't want to hear it or fear that they will have their own precious rights taken away by giving the same to others.

I've been biting my tongue lately, trying to be very patient with a real "dudebro" who claims that taking away "boys will be boys" violence against girls infringes on his rights to be a "real man". He doesn't spare his words (Only yesterday or the day before did he claim that my article about Maren Sanchez's death being a result of an attitude where violence against women is a right to be the most offensive BS I've ever posted.

So yes, I know very well where you come from :D
snarkerdoodle ══╣toadie snark╠══
I really liked your example of the distinction between being rude and disrespectful. And this - "I do not need to live up to your standards for oppression to be harmful: that is an objective fact, and it is your job to realize it, not my job to teach you." - is such a true statement. Nicely done!
majesticarky ══╣╠══
I've had a few racist friends, and one of them calls me too PC :/. So I know the feeling. *sigh*. I don't get angry about it so much as I call them out at times.
camilleyun ══╣Camille Claudel╠══
I could probably be more polite than I am but sometimes I REALLY just want to be rude. Here is a recent example. I met someone for the first time and we went to Target to get some white chocolate M&Ms during the after-Easter sale. I never had them before. I did not mind being fed by having them placed in my mouth since I consider this to be a friendly gesture I have shared with others although not on the first day I meet someone. However, I DID mind it when he stuck 2 fingers in my mouth and said, "Yeah baby eat it, stick it in there". My reaction was to chomp down hard and bite his fingers. He said it hurt but he liked it. My survival instinct kicked in so I said and did nothing more because I did not want to end up getting myself into a situation where I would be in any harm. Side note, I have never understood why when people are placed in tense situations they egg-on the potential violent offender. If I am going to be mouthy, I do it over the phone so I cannot get hit. When he called later I could have just ignored the call but he liked blowing up my phone so I answered it and before I was able to say anything about how I would prefer he lose my number, he said his back hurt so I suggested a massage place I had seen in the same shopping center where I have taken painting classes. He said he would feel weird going there and I was thinking isn't that interesting how he didn't feel weird sticking his fingers in my mouth. He suggested *I* give him a massage so I said, "Look, I provided a solution to your problem. If you want to find reasons why not to go, suit yourself, I guess it is more fun for you to be the victim". That's when I was called a rude bitch and told this is why I am alone and single since I lack empathy and should be the last person anyone should call for comfort. That's when I lost it and said, "I don't like you, I don't respect you, I don't want to touch you". I am sure you can imagine the barrage of behavior lectures which ensued via text after we got off the phone. There was no way I felt like being nice. I truly did want to be as caustic as possible.
roina_arwen ══╣Be So Good...╠══
I like your examples about being rude vs disrespectful.

I too am often polite because a) I also don't like being judged, and b) I don't like being rude or disrespectful if I can help it.
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on communication, social justice, intimacy, consent, friendship & other relationships, spirituality, gender, queerness, & dreams. Expect to find curse words, nudity, (occasionally explicit) talk of sex, and angry ranting, but NEVER slurs or sexually violent language. I use TW when I am aware of the need and on request.
Expect to find curse words, nudity, (occasionally explicit) talk of sex, and angry ranting, but NEVER slurs or sexually violent language. I use TW when I am aware of the need and on request.