FeminismHomophobia

Unimportant Us

We’ve all heard it. Whenever an argument comes up about all those human rights denied to us queer (or women, or non-white, or pretty much any other minority), we have all at least once been told we should stop making such a fuss about such a minor thing, with all those other bigger worrying issues there are that actually deserve a fight.

Why bother legalizing gay marriage, when we should really be thinking about all those human rights being violated in North Korea?! Why complain about being cold-propositioned at 4am in an enclosed space in a foreign country, when there’s female genital mutilation going on unpunished on the other side of the world?! Why do you even mention any of that when there are, like, nuclear bombs being built?!

It’s an either/or argument fallacy: you’re either pro same-sex marriage or you fight for more important human rights. You either find it uncomfortable that a man thinks he’s entitled to sexualize you in an elevator at 4am or you care about those women being mutilated. You’re either a terrible person or you like puppies. It implies that if you find some “smaller” issue unfair, you immediately lose your capacity to empathize with any other “bigger” situation.

This is wrong in so many ways (beyond the fact that it’s an obvious “Shut Up, That’s Why” non-argument, meant to invalidate any real argument and silence the discussion for eternity), that most of the times it’s presented to me, it’s all I can do not to facepalm and give up on humanity.

It just doesn’t work that way, and to suggest it does is incredibly disrespectful. It’s putting perspective on someone’s pain. It’s lacking empathy completely. It’s not having any argument at all, but still disregarding other people’s experiences because, from your privileged view, it doesn’t seem too bad. It’s deeming us not important enough. It’s saying we don’t matter as much. And mainly, it’s trying to stop people who do not harm you from being given rights that do not concern you, just because you’re so afraid of diversity, blinded by all kinds of privileges and prejudices, you think we should conform (and sometimes force us to).

There will always be some bigger issue. Last time I checked, though, we humans were still able to fight multiple fights at once. That’s how we make allies, really. The skeptic movement, the feminist movement, the LGBTQ movement, they are not isolated little groups fighting for their specific causes. We overlap, we try to broaden our discussions (well, at least some of us do). And though we do focus on the issues that afflict us more immediately, that does not mean we’re unaware of every other one. It means only we try to deal with the crap we get first, so we can stand up strong to take part in any other fights we think fair. The “smaller” and the “bigger” issues essentially come from the same place, and that’s what we all need to address; whatever the dimension, they will always be as harmful as the hatred that generates them.

And hopefully, Queereka will be safer than that. If someone wants to invalidate us, well, then they’d better bring on some real arguments.

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Aretha

Aretha

Aretha is a lesbian girl born in Amazon-covered northern Brazil, and currently lives closer to the Atlantic Ocean. She is working on becoming a biologist and her interests include feminism, LGBTQ rights, particularly small soil fungi and anything Anne Hathaway does.

22 Comments

  1. January 5, 2012 at 1:24 pm —

    I think the most telling thing about this kind of derailment is that the offending party is ALMOST NEVER involved in the fight against whatever he or she deems so much more important than our petty grievances.

    That kind of gives away the game right there.

    • January 5, 2012 at 2:05 pm —

      Exactly! When people insist too much on this, I make a point of asking what are they fighting for. It doesn’t even have to be a greatly noble cause, just anything that isn’t fighting against something else.

      I never got an actual answer, 😛

  2. January 5, 2012 at 6:20 pm —

    I like to ask, “At what point does it become important for you? Because for me it is important now.”

  3. January 6, 2012 at 2:11 am —

    I always remind these people that small steps now lead to bigger victories later.

  4. January 6, 2012 at 9:15 am —

    Where I find trouble – and this isn’t the rule, but maybe a significant minority – is within the queer community themselves. I live in Toronto and our pride events are under scrutiny at the moment due to some complex and not-so-complex issues around free speech, etc (and an uber conservative mayor for whom homophobia might be the least of his issues), which could see city funding for Pride events taken away, or at the very least change the very nature of Pride events in this city….but if you talk to certain queer people, their solution is to shut up and stop making such a scene, we have things pretty good (…er…if you’re cis-male, white, able-bodied and rich, but anyway…), and all these squabbles just ruin the party. I’m always looking for ways to remind people that just because some of us are doing okay, the fight isn’t over, and whatever rights we HAVE won need to be defended.

  5. January 6, 2012 at 10:53 pm —

    It makes me curious what bigger events were going on when great moments in civil rights were happening. How much worse were things in other parts of the world when Frederick Douglass was writing? Weren’t there nations with bigger social problems for Mark Twain to point his wit and criticism at? Were race relations the biggest issue of the day when Martin Luther King Jr. was protesting? He’s a double failure, because he even split his attention to other trivial problems like the Vietnam War. It might be nice to have that kind of historical perspective to offer.

    • January 9, 2012 at 4:12 am —

      Huh, I never thought about that. Especially about the effect the Civil Rights Movement had in places where “worse” stuff was happening. Steve Biko, the founder of the Black Conciousness Movement in South Africa, was influenced by Black Power and Malcolm X. His followers were reading the works of activists from other places, first-world or third-world. This led to the youth riots of 1976 that put Apartheid on the world stage and revitalised the resistance movement.

      If the Civil Rights leaders had just come to South Africa to fix it as the dismissers seem to be suggesting, it would have been an epic fail. They were alive in a different time period, and didn’t have the knowledge of the South African socio-political landscape that South African activists did.

      There is actually an ethical question of whether activists should fight against things outside their own cultures, lest it turn into ignorant meddling.

  6. January 13, 2012 at 9:49 pm —

    “Why complain about being cold-propositioned at 4am in an enclosed space in a foreign country, when there’s female genital mutilation going on unpunished on the other side of the world?!”

    I think the point being made by people like Richard Dawkins is that the disutility Rebecca Watson incurred by (putatively) being propositioned, whatever the time, is not merely relatively small compared to the disutility caused by (real) issues like FGM, but negligible even without reference to these graver topics. The fact that they compare “Elevatorgate” to these things only serves to underscore its negligibility.

    “This is wrong in so many ways (beyond the fact that it’s an obvious “Shut Up, That’s Why” non-argument, meant to invalidate any real argument and silence the discussion for eternity)”

    If Queereka behaves like Skepchick in regards to its commenting policy, this is a very curious charge.

    “It’s not having any argument at all, but still disregarding other people’s experiences because, from your privileged view, it doesn’t seem too bad.”

    Ugh, standpoint theory. Why is this acceptable in skepticism? Last time personal traits were considered epistemically relevant before the Academic Left came along is now widely considered a failure:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deutsche_Physik

    Why should ad hominem become quite OK in the skeptical movement?

    “Last time I checked, though, we humans were still able to fight multiple fights at once.”

    Yes, but we also have limited time and resources on this planet and, as such, need to prioritize. That means piddling non-issues can be disregarded rightly.

    “Exactly! When people insist too much on this, I make a point of asking what are they fighting for. It doesn’t even have to be a greatly noble cause, just anything that isn’t fighting against something else.

    I never got an actual answer,”

    Should you ask me: upholding the primacy of epistemic over ideological issues in the skeptical community.

    • January 14, 2012 at 1:53 am —

      “I think the point being made by people like Richard Dawkins is that the disutility Rebecca Watson incurred by (putatively) being propositioned, whatever the time, is not merely relatively small compared to the disutility caused by (real) issues like FGM, but negligible even without reference to these graver topics. The fact that they compare “Elevatorgate” to these things only serves to underscore its negligibility.”

      Uh, no. His point was “shut up, there’s worse shit going on.” It was pretty clear that he was playing oppression olympics. The people who compared what happened to Rebecca to what happens in the Middle East were Richard Dawkins & company.

      Also, who the hell are you to decide what is a negligible event for someone else?

      “If Queereka behaves like Skepchick in regards to its commenting policy, this is a very curious charge.”

      How, exactly, does Skepchick behave with regards to comments?

      “Ugh, standpoint theory. Why is this acceptable in skepticism? Last time personal traits were considered epistemically relevant before the Academic Left came along is now widely considered a failure:
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deutsche_Physik
      Why should ad hominem become quite OK in the skeptical movement?”

      What the hell are you on about? What, exactly, is wrong with phenomenological approaches to understanding people’s experiences? You cannot possibly think that it is useful to disregard multiple perspectives when trying to overcome oppression. Or can you?

      “Yes, but we also have limited time and resources on this planet and, as such, need to prioritize. That means piddling non-issues can be disregarded rightly.”

      Who is we, and who gets to decide what the priorities are? Who decides what “piddling non-issues” are?

      “upholding the primacy of epistemic over ideological issues in the skeptical community.”

      For example? What do you consider an epistemic issue versus an ideological issue? I bet the line is not as clear as you think.

    • January 14, 2012 at 6:28 am —

      I was mostly going to say what Will said (thanks, Will! :D), so as he beat me to it, I’m only going to add this:

      Yes, but we also have limited time and resources on this planet and, as such, need to prioritize. That means piddling non-issues can be disregarded rightly.

      After the one sentence you quoted, I actually talk about the need to prioritize, so I’m with you on that. But I disagree the “piddling non-issues can be disregarded”.

      What qualifies as a non-issue to you? Because it seems that everytime someone uses that term, they’re talking about a “smaller” issue that is incredibly annoying or painful or hurtful to someone, but they have the privilege of not having to go through them. So it becomes a non-issue, a small issue, because it affects only very few people and we should all be looking at the bigger picture, right?

      Except the people affect by it don’t want it to happen anymore. So it’s their priority to fight against that which touches them more closely first. And no one who isn’t going through what those people go through should judge why they made that a priority. Calling it a non-issue is disregarding them and their experiences from a privileged point of view, yes.

      (Oh, and I inferred that was your definition for non-issue for the way you described the “Elevatorgate” as negligible. If that’s not the definition you were using, could you clarify what is?)

  7. January 15, 2012 at 2:58 pm —

    “Also, who the hell are you to decide what is a negligible event for someone else?”

    Let’s say I got a papercut in a hospital ward where someone was dying on the table in the OR. Let’s assume also that I started screaming bloody murder and demanded that the doctors and nurses pay attention to ME ME ME and you were there.

    Would you decide for me that my papercut were a “negligible event”?

    “How, exactly, does Skepchick behave with regards to comments?”

    Deleting people who politely disagree with them. Then self-righteously yammering about how “we will not be silenced” as if their detractors were beating them with nightsticks.

    “What the hell are you on about? What, exactly, is wrong with phenomenological approaches to understanding people’s experiences? You cannot possibly think that it is useful to disregard multiple perspectives when trying to overcome oppression. Or can you?”

    I think bringing up personal characteristics in epistemic matters as feminist standpoint theory does is irrelevant, essentially a form of ad hominem, and amusingly similar to Nazi Germany’s
    Deutsche Physik research program, which supposed that being a German gentile or a Jew had any relevance at all in matters of physics.

    “Who is we, and who gets to decide what the priorities are? Who decides what “piddling non-issues” are?”

    Insofar as my own actions are concerned, I do. You don’t get to set priorities for me.

    For example? What do you consider an epistemic issue versus an ideological issue?

    Epistemic: Bayesian vs. frequentist controversy.
    Ideology: It’s not fair because Privilege™!

    Clear line.

    Except the people affect by it don’t want it to happen anymore.

    Has it occurred to you that I’m entitled not to give a damn and think the skeptical community should be focusing on issues of substance instead?

    Calling it a non-issue is disregarding them and their experiences from a privileged point of view, yes.

    That’s like saying that my bipolar paranoia was ridiculous and out of touch with reality is speaking from the perspective of Sane Privilege™.

    • January 15, 2012 at 5:00 pm —

      Your comparison is absurd. You are making people who complain about sexism and misogyny out to be screaming, hysterical women with completely absurd claims. This is a typical silencing tactic, attempting to detract from complaints and make it about how oversensitive women are.

      I challenge you to provide a specific example of a polite comment that was deleted because it disagreed with someone on Skepchick. Give me the name of a specific thread where this happened and a specific commenter who this happened to. You can go look through other threads on Skepchick and see some really horrendous comments that disagree that are left for all to see. Why would polite disagreement be deleted? And by whom? You are making serious accusations, you had better back it up with some specifics. Otherwise, you’re just making shit up as far as I’m concerned, and you lose all credibility.

      And did you just pull a Godwin? Are you seriously comparing the discussion of sexism and misogyny to support for Nazism??

      You said: You don’t get to set priorities for me.

      And yet, here you are, trying to set priorities for others. What absolute hypocrisy.

      If you don’t like these issues being discussed, why the fuck are you here? Are you here to derail and insert your own priorities as superior to the priorities of others? You decide what “issues of substance” are for all of us? This is so typical of someone with unexamined privilege, to come into a conversation and insist that THEIR priorities are important, and any questioning of that is offensive because THEY are the ones with the true reasoned, logical (or, as you say, “epistemic”–which I fear you are misapplying) position, while the people actually experiencing and discussing oppression are the ones being emotional and unreasoned (or, as you say, “ideological”). The irony that seems to escape you is that your entire post is ideologically driven, even as you propose that you uphold “the primacy epistemic over the ideological.”

      You’re nothing but a hypocrite and a derailing troll.

      • January 15, 2012 at 5:21 pm —

        “You are making people who complain about sexism and misogyny out to be screaming, hysterical women with completely absurd claims. This is a typical silencing tactic, attempting to detract from complaints and make it about how oversensitive women are.”

        No, anyone who makes a huge fucking deal out of an Almost Raped™ situation on elevator, man or woman, is oversensitive.

        Also, nobody is being “silenced”. You are being criticized, and held to some degree of satire. If you lot can dish it out, you should be able to take it as well.

        “Give me the name of a specific thread where this happened and a specific commenter who this happened to.”

        Me (emporsteigend):

        Sacrificing Privilege

        Accused of “bullying”. Notice utter absence of “bullying”.

        “And did you just pull a Godwin? Are you seriously comparing the discussion of sexism and misogyny to support for Nazism??”

        I am comparing the promotion of masculinity vs. femininity to epistemic relevance to the promotion of gentile Germanness vs. Jewishness to epistemic relevance: stupid, and ad hominem.

        The similarity between feminist theory and Deutsche Physik would be your problem, not mine.

        “And yet, here you are, trying to set priorities for others.”

        No I’m not. I’m merely pointing out why your priorities are skewed.

        “If you don’t like these issues being discussed, why the fuck are you here?”

        “Seek out argument and disputation for their own sake; the grave will supply plenty of time for silence.” ~ the late Christopher Hitchens

        Shrill overreaction to disagreement on a so-called skeptical blog.

        “This is so typical of someone with unexamined privilege”

        Ad hominem.

        • January 15, 2012 at 5:37 pm —

          No, anyone who makes a huge fucking deal out of an Almost Raped™ situation on elevator, man or woman, is oversensitive.

          *sigh* You clearly are misinformed. No one made “a huge fucking deal” out of what happened to Rebecca in the elevator. Go watch the video that sparked it. She just said not to do that. What caused elevatorgate was the misogyny and sexism directed at Rebecca after she made the video. THAT’S where the “huge fucking deal” came from.

          And also? You don’t know what people have experienced in their lives. For all you know, someone *was* raped in an elevator, and being put in a position like what happened to Rebecca can be a triggering event. But, I suppose you think they are just being oversensitive and should get over it, right?

          Re: deleted comments. This is interesting. You claim that comments accuse you of bullying, but there are no comments with bullying…so, either you WERE bullying in comments and they were deleted (which would not be “polite” comments being deleted), OR your polite comments are still visible and were not deleted. In other words, you’re making shit up.

          Also, thanks for pointing out your comments in another thread. I see exactly what we’re dealing with now.

          I’m done engaging with you. Please see our comment policy regarding this being a safe place. You’ve already violated our comment policy (e.g., making light of rape and your bullying comments carrying over to here from Skepchick). Consider this a warning that you need to stop derailing threads in this way or you will be placed on permanent moderation.

          • January 15, 2012 at 5:47 pm

            “THAT’S where the “huge fucking deal” came from.”

            Takes two to tango.

            “Re: deleted comments. This is interesting. You claim that comments accuse you of bullying, but there are no comments with bullying…so, either you WERE bullying in comments and they were deleted (which would not be “polite” comments being deleted), OR your polite comments are still visible and were not deleted. In other words, you’re making shit up.”

            Nope. Didn’t make any personal comments about anyone. Just disagreed. Some of my disagreeing comments were deleted but not the bulk. My account was closed there too. Apparently, disagreement is unwelcome.

            Unless you’re asserting that there MUST have been some bullying comments there that were deleted, which is of course unfalsifiable anyway.

            “You’ve already violated our comment policy (e.g., making light of rape and your bullying comments carrying over to here from Skepchick)”

            I have not bullied you and I have not made light of rape. Almost Raped™ is not rape anymore than Almost Robbed™ (a black man asking me for a cigarette while I’m walking home (at 4 am)) is actually robbed.

        • January 15, 2012 at 5:40 pm —

          *sigh*

          No I’m not. I’m merely pointing out why your priorities are skewed.

          Okay, one: no one was trying to set your priorities for you. We were just seeking that our priorities be respected and not disregarded.

          If you don’t think what we’re fighting for is worth it, if you think that sexism is a simple paper cut, again, why are you here? What makes you think you are entitled to be here?

          We don’t need you to agree with us. But we’re also not going to take you coming here and trying to set our priorities for us, treating sexism and misogyny like a papercut, and acting like a victim of our oh-so-irrationaly-emotional responses.

          I’m pretty sure this is no longer productive.

          As Will said, you’re nothing but a hypocrite and a derailing troll.

          • January 15, 2012 at 5:44 pm

            “If you don’t think what we’re fighting for is worth it, if you think that sexism is a simple paper cut, again, why are you here? What makes you think you are entitled to be here?”

            I repeat:

            “Seek out argument and disputation for their own sake; the grave will supply plenty of time for silence.” ~ Christopher Hitchens

          • January 15, 2012 at 5:57 pm

            “We were just seeking that our priorities be respected and not disregarded.”

            Why shouldn’t mine be respected and not disregarded then?

            You said:

            “Exactly! When people insist too much on this, I make a point of asking what are they fighting for. It doesn’t even have to be a greatly noble cause, just anything that isn’t fighting against something else.”

            I have given you an answer, namely: epistemology > ideology. So, you get to rubbish my goals all you want but I’m an nasty dipshit if I do the same to you.

            Oversensitive much?

  8. January 15, 2012 at 5:30 pm —

    Let’s say I got a papercut in a hospital ward where someone was dying on the table in the OR. Let’s assume also that I started screaming bloody murder and demanded that the doctors and nurses pay attention to ME ME ME and you were there.

    Would you decide for me that my papercut were a “negligible event”?

    Last I checked, the majority of hospitals had more than one medical professional. In fact, some of them are even assigned to making rounds and tending to people’s minor ailments and complaints! Many of those doctors and nurses aren’t connected to the OR at all!

    Please take your shitty analogies and go away. Until someone crowns you the Grand Poo-Bah of Oppression Arbitration, you don’t get to tell other people that their experiences are unimportant, and you are not welcome here if that is going to be your main debate tactic.

    (Note how we’re not deleting you.)

  9. January 15, 2012 at 5:32 pm —

    “Last I checked, the majority of hospitals had more than one medical professional. In fact, some of them are even assigned to making rounds and tending to people’s minor ailments and complaints! Many of those doctors and nurses aren’t connected to the OR at all!”

    I was quite recently in a few different mental hospitals and noticed that they don’t like whinging or whingers there either. My analogy is fine.

    “Until someone crowns you the Grand Poo-Bah of Oppression Arbitration, you don’t get to tell other people that their experiences are unimportant”

    In fact, I do.

    “(Note how we’re not deleting you.)”

    Well. That’s atypical.

    • January 15, 2012 at 5:38 pm —

      In fact, last hospital I was in, this guy kept going “I wonnnnna nother cigarette breeeeaaaaak”, with just the intonation of a whiny four-year old and wouldn’t stop arguing with the techs about it. I think they all secretly hated him.

      And, certainly, his experience of nicotine deprivation, seen from the standpoint of those with Non-Smoker Privilege™, was dismissed as unimportant. So should “Elevatorgate”.

  10. January 15, 2012 at 5:33 pm —

    Furthermore why is “unexamined privilege” (read: ad hominem) acceptable but not what I did?

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