I’m at the point of having a bit of a love/hate relationship with the internet in general and blogging in particular, so I’m again in my “late to the party” mode regarding this letter by Queen Emily, this thread from The F-Word, and the multitude of posts that followed afterwards. I think 95% of the “hate” side of this relationship can be summed up with the tension I feel when reading those posts that Ren links, and shaking my head at the ever-deepening recognition that there is no damn way there is ever going to be anything resembling collaborative conversation with some people who call themselves “feminists”. And honestly, that’s all I can say about that.
What I really want to note is this “ally” word that comes up again, specifically in the comment thread on the F-Word. I’ve written about this before, but I need to say it again, because in amongst the comments that were outraged at the F-Word for posting this at all and the comments supporting Queen Emily’s original point, there were several that either outright asked for kinder, gentler language on the subject or alluded to just how difficult it is, as a cis person, to be maligned for not understanding yet. Specifically, in what seems to me to be a spectacular display in missing the point, commenter Ellie says:
For a lot of people there are real questions they have, real issues to be discussed, regarding transwomen. Are you saying that if we try to discuss certain issues we are not allies?…I’m probably going to get ripped to shreds here, but I’m not trying to deny transwomen anything, all I’m saying is thatt o move forward, to bring transissues more into the sphere of feminism, we need to discuss, introduce ideas to people, allow individuals to express opinions or ask question without being called a bigot or acccused of not being an ally, just get people to a place where they actually want to listen.
Lisa responded pretty thoroughly to this comment here, but I want to add an answer to the first question, bolded above (by me).
I don’t know if Queen Emily wants to say that, or Helen G, or anyone who was involved in that thread, but me? I will absolutely say that yes, if you want to discuss “certain issues”, like whether trans* women and men reify gender essentialist, or whether cis women require certainty that the person they are speaking to about their experience of rape has lived her entire life as a woman and therefore understands as no one else possibly could, or exactly what kind of language and what level of anger might make you willing to participate in the discussion, in a conversation that started about hate crimes, violent murders, and deadly levels of systemic ignorance, then I am calling you “Not an ally”.
Note, of course, that this is not the same thing as calling you a bigot, and the fact that you think it is speaks volumes on your level of understanding about privilege. In the logic 101 sense, it would seem obvious that all bigots are non-allies, while all non-allies are not bigots. The world isn’t divided neatly into these binaries of “Good People” and “Bad People”, where all the “Bad People” are the misogynists, the racists, the homophobes, the transphobes, the whole damn checklist, and all the “Good People” get put straight into the “ally” camp, with a gold star for awesomeness pasted to their forehead, so we will always know that there’s no need to accuse them of anything, because even if they’re saying something upsetting, it must just be a misunderstanding.
You don’t get to be called an ally just for not being a bigot. That would be the bare minimum requirement for the “Lessons in Not Being an Asshole” club.
I do say this with some level of compassion, though I know my sarcasm comes through a lot more than my kinder gentler side on this blog. I’m chock-full of privilege, over here, and I can relate to the desire to be a good ally as part of living up to your own conception of what makes you a good person. But I find I get myself a lot farther along toward that conception if I stop expecting other people to call me a good person, and especially if I stop expecting thanks/praise/affirmation from people I’m supposedly trying to “help” (though not much of a fan of how condescending that charity-model can be) or with whom I am allied. It’s just not about me, and it’s only my pride that gives a whit about what I’m being called.