In defense of the sanctimonious women's studies set || First feminist blog on the internet

Spillover #9

A red "Keep Calm" poster with the caption KEEP CALM AND STAY ON TOPICNew #spillover thread, since the last one is up to 250 comments. Some reminders:

  1. #spillover is part of our comment moderation system for keeping other threads on-topic. It is intended as a constructive space for tangential discussions which are veering off-topic on other threads. This is part of our blog netiquette, which has the general goal of making it as simple as possible for commentors to find discussions focussed on topics of particular interest without entirely stifling worthwhile tangents of sorta-related or general interest. #spillover is also a space for those ongoing/endless disagreements and 101 issues that just keep on popping up.
  2. Commentors are encouraged to respect the topic of each post and be proactive regarding inevitable thread-drift in long threads: we hope that commentors will cheerfully volunteer to take off-topic responses into #spillover so that each post’s discussion gets room to breathe and tangents can be indulged in a room of their own.

More detailed outline/guidelines were laid out on Spillover #1.
The Moderator Team will enforce topicality where necessary, and off-topic commentors who ignore invitations from others to take their tangents to #spillover are one of the reasons commentors might consider sending the moderators a giraffe alert.

101 thoughts on Spillover #9

  1. I have to start off this thread with an embarrassing confession:

    I only am familiar with the term ‘spoons’ in terms of soup, cereal, and/or cocaine.

    If anyone wouldn’t mind explaining this term to a stupid person it would ne much appreciated.

      1. OK, I had no idea what that meant, but it helps me understand any number of comments that I was clueless about.

        Let me see if I understand with a personal example”
        Yesterday, when I spent all day crippled with a sinus headache and took FIoricet all day then at 9 pm I had two Xanax and a shot of Scotch alongside the Fioricet because the pain was so unbearable I just needed sleep. It still would be an appropriation for me to use the term ‘spoons,’ because, despite suffering from chronic sinusitis, I have just as many good days as bad days and I can work through the pain.

        1. I didn’t comment on the other spillover, but I think that’s what makes it an inaccurate metaphor for a lot of people. You can have a chronic illness or disability and still plenty of “spoons” (if spoons has to represent your energy level — emotional or physical — which is how I understand it). A number of people in my family have RA, but enough spoons — maybe the spoons are broken, mismatched, or covered in rust, but there are plenty of them nonetheless. (My mom didn’t like the spoons analogy.) Does that mean the disability isn’t real?

        2. I don’t think anyone was claiming that the spoons analogy is the perfect metaphor for everyone who lives with disability or chronic illness, and it’s definitely not the case that you have to use the spoon analogy or otherwise your disability isn’t real. The issue was that for those of us who do find it helpful, it can be frustrating to hear able bodied, healthy people using the term and thereby making light of how disability can impact our lives.

        3. @Steve,

          I’m not going to answer your question directly, mainly because I don’t think its appropriate for me to comment on someone else’s disability. But by way of answer, I’ll give you how I think about it wrt my own experiences.

          I have a few chronic health issues, for example asthma. But none of those health issues has – for me – dramatically altered how I want to function in my life. As a day-to-day matter, I don’t have to parse out how much energy I spend on walking to the bathroom.

          I contrast this with a period in my life (about a year) when I was in constant, severe pain and unable to walk without assistance. During that period, I did have to engage in a mental calculus weighing whether I should hobble to the kitchen to get something to eat which would make it difficult to study for a few hours or be hungry until my partner came home several hours later. There were severe limits on my ability to function that changed how I could live my life during that period.

          And that was just 1 year of my life.

          So I, personally, don’t use the spoons analogy. I can see how it can be useful – particularly those who are asked to give more of themselves and of their time than they have available – but I think we’ll have to find our own analogy. Or just say that we don’t have the time or energy for that right now.

        4. A number of people in my family have RA, but enough spoons — maybe the spoons are broken, mismatched, or covered in rust, but there are plenty of them nonetheless. (My mom didn’t like the spoons analogy.) Does that mean the disability isn’t real?

          So…I don’t think the spoons analogy works for everyone or everything. I’m unsure where anyone could have got that from any of the comments on that thread, but whatever. Look, I’m not saying that identifying wtih spoons analogy is a gateway test for disability. (What the fuck!?!?) I’m saying it works for me, it works for some people, and it is thus not OBJECTIVELY useless and ridiculous, it’s just useless and ridiculous for SOME PEOPLE. Who are free to not use it, in the same way that others are free to use it!

          Good gods, I have no idea how to put this in smaller words.

        5. Oh, and because I didn’t quite make it clear in my other statement on that thread, I hope that people don’t think that Strumpet’s putting of words in my mouth means I agree with them, and think that the spoons thing is stupid. I know I would be pissed if someone dismissed any analogy I thought was the most effective way I found to describe my epilepsy in a more visceral manner than “I have epilepsy.” Again, it doesn’t work for me, but I can see how it is a valuable metaphor for others, no matter what Strumpet say I think.

        6. Macavity – exactly. When I used “we” I wasn’t trying to erase Barnacle’s experience by speaking for them. I was talking about the people who LIKE the spoons analogy and find it helpful, not ALL PEOPLE WITH ALL DISABILITIES EVAR.

    1. third attempt at nesting this comment where I want it to go!

      I declined to publish a comment from Barnacle Strumpet last night because it was the first comment in the thread, and the moderator team has decided to limit Barnarcle’s commenting privileges for the time being so that they will not be the first commentor in any thread.

      Since shfree’s comment above is at the nesting limit and does not allow Barnacle to reply directly, I’m leaving this comment so that they can reply in this subthread rather than beginning a new one.

      Barnacle, over to you (if you want).

        1. I really hope you reconsider. You have often been a substantive contributor, and I love substantive contributors.

          You do however have a bad habit of disrupting discussion sometimes by making an argument all about you and derailing threads. It was simply happening too much lately.

          If you can exercise more restraint when dissenting then your dissenting comments will be approved, and if you keep it up then the permamod will be lifted. But you will have to show the mod team that you’ve learnt to avoid derail-bait.

          Your choice.

  2. To the mods:

    I swear I’m not starting wank, I’m just genuinely bothered by the Dear Feminists post. Specifically, the violence towards amorphous “feminists” in the post. Obviously I don’t agree with OP, but I can’t imagine that I would have felt much more comfortable had OP been arguing my exact position with the same kind of violent language. I am unable to figure out why that level of violence was allowed in a post when a commenter who engaged in “I want to choke and claw and spit on people like you” rhetoric towards a blogger would at the very least wind up on permamod. Particularly if the blogger protested and was told it was essentially her fault for having a “delicate ego”. I don’t see why I as a commenter should have to put up with people telling me that they want to choke and claw and spit on me. I wasn’t triggered, but that’s only because of her choice of violent description; I easily could have been. I’d really appreciate some policy clarification on this. Thanks!

    1. I couldn’t figure out how to articulate this myself, but I feel very similarly. Thank you, Macavitykitsune.

    2. Yes. I support this. I remember when LotusBecca got told in no uncertain terms that her joking aside to me about “having phone numbers” of thugs who could do a number on some figure we detested was unacceptable. Why were Sarah Elizabeth’s far more graphic descriptions, which were actually directed at a group to which many commenters belonged, OK? Particularly given that when what she was doing was pointed out to her, her reaction was adolescent petulance.

      1. Yes, “adolescent” is a word that occurred to me as well, with respect to her sarcastic defense of her violent rhetoric. I thought she might be really young — not that that’s an excuse — but I think she’s in her early 30’s. But she clearly wasn’t prepared to deal with any kind of pushback on her post, either with respect to the substance or with respect to the rhetoric. I don’t know what she expected.

        1. And I really hope all of this doesn’t become part of the “Feministe commenters are mean to guest bloggers” meme. Because I do think that people have been relatively civil, and have tried to engage with her, not “attack” her.

        2. Thanks, Donna. I had a similar thought that this could be seen as evidence that the Feministe commentariat is mean to guest bloggers. I also thought the thread was really civil and I know I for one was influenced by the moderator note essentially calling for peace in the thread. However, if the commenters must be peaceful, the same must go for the posters.

    3. Hi mac,

      I’m the Editor who approved that post, and I let that violent imagery slip by me. I have since redacted it when several readers pointed it out and rightly complained, but I should have spotted it, edited that paragraph to remove the violence before I ever approved the post, and if the author had protested then I would have simply rescinded the guest post offer. I will definitely be following that MO in future.

      I noticed that the author has not responded since I put the thread on hiatus while I was sleeping. I will monitor her future comments closely and any further defence of her violent fantasy will not be approved.

      1. Thanks for the reply and the clarification, tigtog. I don’t want to pile on you with all the shit that’s gone down for you in the last few days, both what I’ve seen here and elsewhere, and I’m sorry I brought it up. I’m glad that will be MO in the future!

      2. Thanks, tigtog. I think you missed a paragraph in the redaction, though:

        Women who prostitute rack up long lists of criminal offenses, further entrenching them in this life. Some may say “well that is why we must legalize it” and I want to spit in their face. I want to grasp my fingers around their neck and choke the ignorance from them.. I guess violence begets violence because my eyes go red when feminists lecture about “sex work.”

        Like Mac, I really do appreciate all the work you do around here.

    4. Frankly, I wish that all the discussion of this post weren’t so entirely focused on the violent fantasies. That is a problem, especially because the category of “feminist” that she accuses and fantasizes about hurting so heavily overlaps with “sex workers.” It is not, however, the only problem, or even the main problem with it.

      First of all, the biggest problem is that this is yet another example of Feministe prioritizing the voice of a non-sex worker over those of sex workers. This is a huge problem here. Jill wrote a post about “Centering the voices of sex workers,” but the most that has been done is to provide links to sex workers who are speaking up for themselves. It is based entirely on a single day in the comfort of a van. On the basis of that one day, she felt qualified to condemn as a mark of privilege a term that was coined by a sex worker (Carol Leigh) and has been adopted and popularized by sex workers themselves.

      As a commenter on my blog pointed out, deleting the post at her request was yet another example of Feministe prioritizing Sarah Elizabeth’s voice over the voices of sex workers; along with her misbegotten post, you deleted several well-thought out comments by sex workers speaking for themselves.

      I’m not a sex worker. I am a civilian, and I often wind up writing about sex workers for various publications. But goddamn, I always make sure that I include their feelings and words in my articles. I check with them before I write, and I double-check with my sex worker friends after it’s published to get critiques. Basically, I don’t ever, ever want to be Sarah Elizabeth or Jill.

      Second, in addition to the whorephobia of the post, it was highly racist and classist. It was a classic narrative of someone with privilege venturing into the land of the black, brown, and poor, and being overwhelmed by the need to “rescue” them. Notice that the voices and the feelings of the actual people she saw were absent, except in the most vague and indirect manner. This is all about how a white girl felt when she saw poor black people for the first time. Ironically, the article itself was highly objectifying, in the sense that the people she saw were “rescue objects” instead of sex objects. (Pro tip: The term “prostituted woman/prostituted person” should be struck from the vocabulary of anyone who wants to pretend that they respect the agency and will of anyone working in the sex industries.)

      Have you even noticed the amount of rage that it’s inspired among sex workers on Twitter? Have you at all tried reaching out to their communities? Even without the violent fantasies, this was a massive fail on multiple levels, and you need to do more to address it than just delete it and hope everyone forgets about it.

      1. Chris, I appreciate the feedback. As I noted above, the post has been unpublished rather than deleted, while we decide the best course forward. I’m divided still on whether it’s best to remove entirely a post and thread which has garnered its author harassment and intimidation, or whether it’s best to remove just the post as requested while allowing the responses to stand.

        The reason I chose to publish this guest post in the first place was because it seemed to me a very different opinion from what I’ve read here on Feministe before, and the whole point of having a submission procedure for guest posts is to highlight women’s voices who aren’t just clones of the existing bloggers, who offer a range of varying viewpoints. On reflection I was too impressed by the visceral power of the writing while not adequately examining the attitudes underlying that powerful writing. It’s a mistake I won’t be making again.

        1. My big concern is that so far, you haven’t shown any understanding of what your mistake was. Your problem, both with this post and Jill’s in February, is a repeated failure to prioritize the voices of sex workers. You seem to believe that Sarah Elizabeth Pahman and Jill Filipovic’s opinions on sex work are just as legitimate and valid as those of Kitty Stryker, Li, Caty Simon, and the other sex workers who spoke up in that thread. They are not. They have priority on this.

          As I said when I wrote on my own blog about this, in conversations about sex work, the role of non-sex workers such as myself, Jill, Sarah Elizabeth, and you is not to sit in the driver’s seat of the discussion. Our job is to watch their backs and boost the signal as much as we can. So far, Feministe has failed to practice an editorial policy that acknowledges this. You have, in fact, created an environment that a lot of sex workers find hostile, and that makes it very unlikely that they’re going to be sending you their guest posts. Changing this is going to take active engagement on your part. The fact that you’re “decid[ing] the best course forward” behind the scenes, without having made any public apology, statement, or call for feedback, is a huge blow to your credibility on this topic.

          I’d take a look at Oaxa Koate wrote about this post [CN: Adult site] on Slixa, and consider what her conclusion means for feminism:

          It’s for a myriad of reasons I shy away from the label of Feminist. I find the privileged Feminists crying the loudest about the “ills of sex work” more than a little off-putting. What it boils down to is this: If assisting workers in the sex trades is your goal, start by consulting –and then listening to– the workers themselves.

  3. I’m done posting at Feministe. The blowup on the abortion thing was probably the catalyst, but it made me really consider why I post here and what I was getting out of it/putting into it.

    In the end, I realized that I love commenting here in an intellectual way. I find the issues that come up here interesting and important and engaging (and yes, sometimes enraging). What I don’t do is rely on posts that are written here for my own emotional needs or validation or affirmation; I don’t draw strength from finding this community. This comes down to, in large part, from being a man with male privilege posting on a feminist site. And so while I think on some threads my contributions have been useful (mostly, not coincidentally, in areas that I have my own oppressions- religion, race, victims of sexual violence), I also think I have a long-standing tendency to derail into what I find enjoyable to discuss, rather than what other posters need to hear. I think the net effect is negative.

    I know I’m hardly a pillar of the community here; this isn’t a play for attention, or a flounce. I do regret going out on a sour note. But I’ve learned a ton here- especially when it came to expunging my own fatphobic and transpobic assumptions- and I owe an immense debt of gratitude to many of the posters here for teaching me (you know who you are).

    I just wanted to say something, instead of disappearing. I wish everyone the best.

    1. Best wishes, ambling. Maybe you’ll decide to return someday; who knows?

      And I do want to say that despite all the issues you mention, I don’t even really remember any transphobic assumptions on your part — I think of you as having been pretty supportive.

    2. i’m just a lurker, because i have an anxiety disorder and i know i can’t handle it but there have been a number of times i have really wanted to thank you for things that you have said, and i failed to, so i don’t know if you will see this, but thank you.

    3. I also think I have a long-standing tendency to derail into what I find enjoyable to discuss, rather than what other posters need to hear.

      Alright. It’s cool that you had fans, but I don’t want it to go unsaid that this isn’t what happened on the abortion thread (and this spillover). It’s not that we “needed to hear” that people who target women and their caregivers with violence and threats are terrorists – it’s that you denied that this fit the fucking definition of terrorism despite being literally what terrorism is. You ignored every substantive argument against you and got your knickers in a twist when people pointed out your giant logic fails. If you find it enjoyable to tell people who are less privileged than you on this relevant axis that they shouldn’t call these mean people with their bombs and guns terrorists because you use some special definition of “terrorist” that doesn’t specify a non-government entity that uses violence or threats of violence to achieve specific means (which is what actually happened), good riddance.

  4. I’m interested in working through some thoughts about violent fantasies expressed rhetorically by some of our community. I recognise that these tend to be expressions of anger and frustration, and those are very understandable emotions that lead to explosive venting. Sometimes people are trying to displace these emotions by making a joke of it, and this is even more likely to go wrong than pure rage, and since the failure mode of clever ends up being ‘asshole’ and that is even more likely to prompt combative responses.

    Avoiding splash damage for our readers via surprise triggering is a primary concern for the Feministe moderator team.

    The Pharyngula and Manboobz commentariats have worked through exactly the same issue over the last few years, and due to a fair amount of commentor overlap have both come to the conclusion that only utterly absurdist fantasies of minor pain/irritation are acceptable forms of venting e.g. to illwish someone with elves stealing their shoes and strewing legos before their bare feet forevermore.

    This absurdism allows people to convey their sense of anger/frustration without potentially triggering other readers with a history of abuse, and seems to work reasonably well in those communities as a compromise which doesn’t totally silence those who are angry and frustrated.

    What do others think of this form of channeling these disruptive commenting impulses?

    1. tigtog – I’m glad you brought up the MB and Pharyngula comments. You’ve probably seen the debate in the current Thunderdome about that very thing.

      I like the absurdist things we use at MB a lot, but I’m seldom angry enough, and very seldom triggered enough (or at all), to reach that level of anger, so I have a level of protection others don’t.

      I do think random invisible Legos are an idea that needs exploring …

    2. I tend to go the absurdist route personally. My violent fantasies often involve things like slapping people with fishes or having pianos fall on them.

      Though I am also a strong fan of ye olde Pokémon-themed reaction gif.

      1. Li, I think those might still be problematic re triggering abuse survivors because slapping with a fish is a direct attack and a piano-fall is almost certainly a death-wish, so I feel those are too extreme despite being thoroughly absurdist.

        A hail of kippers interrupting a journey, or a person’s own piano having its keys turn to marshmallow every time one attempted to play for an audience would be more along the guidelines I’m suggesting.

    3. I tend to go archaic in my own fantasizing (I will call up my clan and we will totally steal all your cattle).

      I think the absurdity standard would be a decent compromise. I know absurdist word swapping has worked in way rougher spaces I’ve belonged to so that members could indulge in their meme-ing and general saltiness without crossing the line into sexist douchebag territory. It does take some getting used to since the mouthfeel just isn’t the same, but it prevents derails to deal with wishing X thing that isn’t okay on people.

    4. A ptsd forum that I post on from time to time has a slightly different approach for what its worth. Since some discussion may be triggering to readers, but cathartic to the writer they use a feature that collapses the potentially triggering portion of the comment. Of course this may be too difficult to implement technologically on a site of this size with this level of traffic.

      I am completely onboard with doing whatever is necessary to prevent triggering people, but I wonder if by banning it completely (rather than enacting safety measures) we run the risk of falling into the “women aren’t allowed to be violently angry” social stricture. Which, IME, can be harmful to survivors who process their experiences differently.

      1. we run the risk of falling into the “women aren’t allowed to be violently angry” social stricture.


        Honestly, the whole “no venting unless it’s ‘may your piano keys turn to marshmallows'” thing… it feels a little too Portlandia to me. (Which is ironic, I guess, since Fred Armisen’s Women 7 Women First character is often threatening extreme, disproportionate violence.)

        I get not wanting the comment section to be a hostile place, but… I just… no.

        1. Yeah, me too. When I am enraged because somebody is doing or saying something harmful, I don’t wish their piano keys would turn to marshmallows. I couldn’t give two shits about their pianos.

          My solution is to keep my violent fantasies out of public comment forums. And anyone who’s been reading here over the past couple years can tell you that doesn’t mean I modulate my anger much (“Go fuck yourself, you adolescent shit-for-brains!” for instance, gets the job done).

        2. My solution is to keep my violent fantasies out of public comment forums. And anyone who’s been reading here over the past couple years can tell you that doesn’t mean I modulate my anger much (“Go fuck yourself, you adolescent shit-for-brains!” for instance, gets the job done).

          Yeah, this is pretty much my take on things.

        3. Honestly, the whole “no venting unless it’s ‘may your piano keys turn to marshmallows’” thing… it feels a little too Portlandia to me.

          I hate it. I have a low personal tolerance for whimsy though.

      2. Ms. Kristen J., that’s a very good point, and thanks to others who have reinforced it.

        It will have to be a balancing act. I want anyone who is feeling that [behaviour Z] is making them violently angry to feel free to say exactly that, and also to say, if it’s happening, that this anger is provoking them to wish a unspecified horrible retribution upon a person exhibiting [behaviour Z].

        However, I don’t want them to go on to graphically describe the imagined horrible retribution in terms of violent acts and/or death wishes. That violent rhetoric is, as I understand it, where the potential triggers for others mostly lie. At the very least, there should be a Content Note or Trigger Warning on violent language, which when understood as part of our netiquette here would probably prompt most writers to dial it back somewhat in any case.

        Those who are not fans of whimsy/levity/absurdity as a displacement strategy do not have to use it. In other forums I have seen it act as a circuit breaker for threads which are becoming very raw and heated, so I think it is *one* possible strategy the commentariat could add to the array of options when expressing anger without wanting to trigger others.

        1. @tigtog,

          I do understand the balancing act you are trying to navigate here. Before I bow out of this conversation I want to suggest checking out bell hooks *Killing Rage.* She explains powerfully and brilliantly why rage is necessary and how the suppression of rage is part of a systemic oppression.

    5. I know I’m just a lurker here, but I guess part of why I lurk is because sometimes the expression of violent fantasy can be pretty triggering. (Like even though I agreed with some of the messages the OP of the post that brought this discussion about, I still had to stop reading because of the language she used.)

      I’ve always been a fan of the absurd approach to expressing your frustration though. Violent rhetoric is something my abusers used against me, so it’s never really been a very…radical? approach to venting frustration over oppression, if that makes sense. That and it runs the risk of punching down rather than up, which I’ve seen altogether too many times happening. (I mean, most of my blogging is over on tumblr, where they’re a big fan of that sort of thing, and lord have there been some issues because someone decided to use violent rhetoric against the wrong person…)

      Plus, just for myself, wishing someone could go step on legos or cat sick or whatever, is a lot more satisfying. Just ruins your day! Either way though, it’ll be interesting where this discussion leads, because some folks are already bringing up good points, such as Ms. Kristen J.

      1. I don’t know, I’ve stepped in cat vomit, and it hasn’t ruined my day. I just say “Ew ew ew” and hop around for a moment or two and then clean up and go about my business. I tend to want worse things for the people I’m angry at, particularly politically.

    6. I make a point of never, ever expressing violent fantasies on the Internet in any manner (which isn’t generally so difficult because I’m not prone to having them in the first place except with respect to one particular historical situation).

      Because, to be blunt, trans women aren’t allowed to say such things. If they do, then both they and all trans women (because the principle of collective guilt always applies), are always accused of thereby demonstrating their purportedly innate violent tendencies, and purportedly innate and ineradicable maleness. Because “real” women never think such thoughts or say such things!

      So it’s a good thing for everyone that Sarah Elizabeth is (I hope) not a trans woman. I don’t even want to imagine what certain people would say about a trans woman expressing violent fantasies about choking naked feminists.

      However, to the extent I do ever express anger (although not in that particular homicidal way), it’s a serious thing, and I’d hate to have to blunt and trivialize it by translating it into absurdist language. This is what trigger warnings and content notes are for, I thought.

      1. it’s a serious thing, and I’d hate to have to blunt and trivialize it by translating it into absurdist language.

        Yes, this. It would be like having to say “Gosh darn it” and “Jiminy Crickets” when I was well and truly furious.

        1. For clarification, I’m absolutely not suggesting anything so milquetoast. Foul/obscene language per se is still totally acceptable to me as a way to angrily emphasise a point, so long as it doesn’t progress to violent rhetoric of the sort that qualifies as threatening language if directed in person.

          Only when one comes to the point of threatening language in one’s violent fantasies am I suggesting that displacement is required.

          1. Having taken a look at the long discussion being hashed out over at Pharyngula, I’m finding myself nodding hard at the consensus they’re reaching towards, which is that since the goal is to avoid gratuitously distressing fellow readers, the basic guideline is emerging that when expressing anger at situations, and particularly at individuals, then creativity is encouraged and vivid descriptions of realistic violence are discouraged.

    7. I’m interested in working through some thoughts about violent fantasies expressed rhetorically by some of our community.

      I’m…wondering whether this is something you’ve been receiving complaints about? The issue with Sarah Elizabeth is that she hadn’t been part of the community, at least as far as I knew, and on her very first introduction to the readers of the site, she expressed vivid desires to brutalize a group (“feminists” by which she meant “feminists who disagree with me about sex work”) to which many commenters belong.

      Have there been other instances recently? I really hate speaking in abstractions; what are the real-life situations that we’re talking about here? It’s hard to think about good policy in the absence of specifics.

      1. Me too, tbh. I’ve never seen commenters on here say things about choking or clawing or spitting on other people, I really haven’t. At least in terms of commenters who didn’t get banned or whatever. Hell, even when I said “fuck you with a tree” to someone I got warned (rightly imo; there is colloquial language that might be ok for me ranting at my computer in the privacy of my room, but are categorically not ok for screaming at other people where anyone can see). Literally the only time I’ve seen this has been Sarah Elizabeth’s post. Gods know I have my violent fantasies – is there anyone not a saint who doesn’t? – but I keep them off here, because I sincerely believe that what happens in my head is my right, and whatever comes out my mouth is my responsibility.

        That said I feel like that “go fuck yourself, you disingenuous shit-swilling immature asswipe” is on a different scale of personal attack than “I want to slap you” or “kill yourself”. I can’t articulate the difference clearly, but it’s very very defined in my head.

        1. go fuck yourself, you disingenuous shit-swilling immature asswipe”

          I agree with you that this is qualitatively different from the kind of very specific, hyper-realistic violent fantasy we’ve been discussing — in fact, it is somewhat absurdist, if you think about it.

          Nonetheless, be careful never to say anything like that to a certain notorious TERF I’ve mentioned here before, if you ever have the misfortune of running into her. The mind boggles at what she’s recently been saying (and actually doing in “real life”) to people who confront her on the Internet.

        2. There was a comment on the Patriarchy Is Dead piece that was partially redacted so I feel like this was sparked by that as well as the Sarah Elizabeth thing… I didn’t see the comment before it was altered though.

        3. I saw that comment and I didn’t read it as a violent fantasy; Karak wasn’t wishing the experiences of the young woman raped in Steubenville on anyone. She was doing a more explicit, detailed version of “How would you like it if it happened to you? You wouldn’t feel it was so harmless then, would you?” That’s a really different rhetorical device.

          1. Willemina calling for a giraffe on karak’s comment, in the wake of the criticisms of the violent language in Sarah Elizabeth’s guest post, is what provoked my questions/suggestions here. I agree that karak’s rhetorical intent was different than Sarah Elizabeth’s, but the words used were equally vivid and such graphic descriptions of violent acts should, IMO, at the very least have a trigger warning and ideally be avoided entirely.

        4. I confess I may have made a comment recently (I think on the SIFWW thread?) about metaphorically smacking She Who Shall Not Be Named in the metaphorical mouth. I used the word metaphorical to indicate that I wasn’t actually entertaining the commission of actual violence.

          So I will apologize if that came off as triggery for the violent tone of it. I was trying to express the depth and intensity of my anger, and I think it may have been a fail.

        5. I saw that comment and I didn’t read it as a violent fantasy;

          I disagree, I think (a rare event, to be sure!) — I did see it as excessively and graphically violent, and it reminded me a little, even if that wasn’t the intention, of the people who wish prison rape upon rapists, which I always find quite creepy and unacceptable. Nobody deserves that kind of treatment, no matter what they’ve done and no matter what kind of “lesson” anyone thinks will be taught.

        6. I saw that comment and I didn’t read it as a violent fantasy

          “I’ll happily X, Y, and Z the guy, then see how he feels,” has nothing but failure modes. My old mod hind-brain chugged in to activity, especially with how individual pieces of the act were described to avoid actually calling a cat a cat. Like Donna I got whiffs of the old rape culture chestnut that ya know, some people really do deserve rape. Not on.

          My personal editorial line for publication is between name calling (juvenile and shameful I know, but oh so satisfying), and threatening or encouraging real action. I think the magic of fuck (noun, verb, adjective, adverb) is a wonderful thing in this instance. An actually achievable action can get you in deep shit. It’s probably no clearer than what you’ve said mac, but I think the idea is similar.

        7. Eh, that’s fine. I’m not committed to my reading of the comment being the only one possible; I still didn’t read it as a violent wish on the dude, but if others did, they did.

          I do think we need a more nuanced policy than just thumbs-up or thumbs-down on violent fantasies, or a focus on piano keys being marshmallows. I would be happy if sexual violence/assault was always off-limits, with other things being judged by graphic-ness or something like that, with encouragement to err on the side of “X is a fucking asshole” rather than “I hope X is [fill in the blank; I myself am thinking of the famous scene is the Karloff/Lugosi flick The Black Cat].”

      2. I’ve been chastised (rightly so) for talking about castrating rapists, but fuck if I’m going to wish them to step on legos.

        I saw Karak’s comment before it was modded, and had to NOPE on by it when I realized what it was. It was just needlessly graphic.

      3. That guest post stunned me, I have to admit. It was disturbingly graphic and I assumed it had the support of the site owners (as guest posts are often “things that need to be said but we don’t have the skills to say them the way we want them said”). So yeah, I’ve taken a wee break from reading the site.

        Personally, I don’t read violent fantasies and try to avoid reading reports of actual violence. Yes, that does mean not reading a lot of “news” reports. So I’m clearly in a small minority already. That said, occasional cartoon violence works for me (Calvin and Hobbes level, not RoadRunner, admittedly)

        But I’d be sad if Feministe went down the “violence and thoughts of violence are ok, but only if women are doing them” route. I suspect there’s a tricky balance in there around revenge is ok, but it has to be revenge for direct violence” or similar. At what point does it become ok to just say “I hate X and want to be violent, here’s exactly how”.

        Can’t you stick with the “feminist analysis and discussion” side of things? That’s the bit that I really value.

        1. I assumed it had the support of the site owners (as guest posts are often “things that need to be said but we don’t have the skills to say them the way we want them said”)

          The Feministe collective is nowhere near as organised as people often seem to think (nor as we would like to be). Guest posts might well be sometimes as you describe them, but more often (particularly since we initiated the Pitch Us A Guest Post feature) someone sends us a pitch or a crosspost for something the current bloggers would not have thought of writing about, but which seems like it would be interesting to the readership and commentariat.

          So, guest posts are supported by the author collective as a change from the normal author roster’s viewpoints, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that we fully agree with every single point made by every Guest Blogger (after all, we don’t agree with every single point made by our existing co-bloggers). We don’t just want Guest Bloggers to write what we’d like to write if we had more time etc, we want to encourage a range of very different voices and views, because we’re very aware of how limited the viewpoints of only a handful of regular authors necessarily must be, and we want the site to reflect the wider variation in experiences and views from a more diverse range of women’s lives.

          As I said upthread, as an editor I dropped the ball on this one. The powerful raw emotion of the piece, and its difference from anything we’d had on the site before, appealed to me, and I thought our readers would find it interesting to discuss. I missed the full impact of the violent fantasies, and I should have caught them while going through editorial and not published them in their original form.

    8. I wouldn’t take someone seriously if they said “I wish you had to walk barefoot on half-melted marshmallows” in the middle of a heated political discussion. It’s the sort of thing I’d say to someone who cut in a line, and then only in that Whedonesque “I know this has no teeth to it, but I also know that dorkiness is often endearing to other dorks and dorks are my audience at the moment” sort of way.

      I find the sheer combativeness and invective at Pharyngula triggering, though I understand why that atmosphere exists and I’m 99 percent in agreement with the Horde’s worldview. Does that mean P.Z. is wrong to allow anything other than whimsy and sweetness?

      I find “idiot” far more hostile than “re[dacted]”, and that’s not because I’ve never experienced marginalization along those lines. Does that mean Feministe should ban “idiot”?

      I find “piece of shit” much more triggering of past abuse than “kill yourself”. How can counter-intuitive triggers like that be accounted?

      I like content notes. Why not prohibit language that has a clear ethical or legal violation, then trust commenters to add content notes/trigger warnings to emotionally heady comments as appropriate?

      I think unpleasant rhetoric can be effective in non-academic discussions. As a long-time lurker, I think most of the regulars here wouldn’t have a problem remembering to include notes/warnings when needed. The mods can step in where individual comments fail. I’d just hate to see anyone’s words defanged by rules that privilege lego-stepping and marshmallow keys.

      I conclude by acknowledging that it’s not my blog and I have no cache around here and so on and so forth.

      1. Why not prohibit language that has a clear ethical or legal violation

        Not everyone here shares the same legal, much less ethical, code. What’s legal or illegal in the USA isn’t necessarily the same as in Australia or Canada or elsewhere. And that assumes commenters and bloggers even know what is or isn’t legal, which isn’t likely. And that’s not even delving into differences in what bloggers and commenters might consider ethical.

        Any policy would have to explicitly spell out what’s unacceptable, rather than relying on a reference to some (complicated or unarticulated) outside standard.

        1. Oh, I wasn’t suggesting that anyone alter the comment policy to include that exact quote.

          The mods can find common ground on ethical commenting. Is it okay to reveal personal information? Is it okay to encourage fundamentalist Christians to commit suicide? Those questions are probably easier to agree on than the question of whether a particular insult is whimsical enough to avoid triggering unknown readers.

          I’m not quite stupid enough to believe that Feministe’s mods know everything about every law the world over. I’m pretty sure, however, that there are things a blog is wise not to publish lest a legal entity descend upon said blog. I think at least one of our hosts might have a partial understanding about what some of those things might be. That’s all I meant to say with the “legal” bit.

          My parent comment as a whole may be better phrased as something like: “The hammer of the mods should be used only for the biggest nails. Encourage (or demand) the use of trigger warnings on nastier rhetoric, but trust each individual commenter to judge whether or not such rhetoric should be included to begin with. Mods would still be able step in where judgment or conscience compelled them to do so.” I have no idea if that’s a good idea for Feministe in particular, or if it would have prevented the “Dear Feminists” mistake, but in theory it has the benefit of not making big issues seem small. That’s a benefit inaccessible to whimsy.

  5. Wow, I missed a lot. I specifically asked to be told if anything needed editing because I knew there was quite a bit of swearing, implied violence, etc… Had I been told I would have certainly removed it or rescinded the post altogether. It was an angry, impassioned time in my life and hell yes i was such an angry woman. For myself as a sexual abuse survivor (which I talk about in my blog) this post was both personal and cathartic for me. It came at a time when I was just beginning to face my own history. My work has been both personal and cathartic, as well. It was simple, raw emotion. I thought sharing it with others would be a good thing for us to discuss, in a space created for us, regardless of our politics. It has had the opposite effect. I didn’t even think about the trigger it could have because I was too busy wanting to share the painfulness of it. I deeply apologize for that. This is not the space for it, it was certainly very raw. I’ve no arguments if Feministe would like to remove the post to keep the peace of the regular commenters. Indeed, I am not a known face around here.

    1. Thanks for this comment and apology, Sarah Elizabeth. I wish to confirm that you did indeed ask whether anything needed editing, and I’m the one who said it was fine as it was, because I too saw the catharsis and missed the potential triggers. I deeply apologise for missing this and distressing the commentariat.

  6. Just curious about why my comments from last night in the Intactivst thread are still in moderation even though comments that have come in after them (judging from the thread order) are out. Have I done/said something bad?

    1. Hard to imagine, given the content of some of the approved comments in that thread, like the one essentially saying that anyone who has their son circumcised is a “pervert”!

      1. Yeah that one was really…

        I mean…

        I don’t even really feel that infant circumcision is a good thing, and I still don’t think people get their kids circumcised because they’re perverts.

        Not to mention, isn’t there a whole pedophile-Jew racist meme out there? Or am I confusing it with something else?

    2. Jill said she’d moderate that thread, and I’ve left it to her. I presume she’s approving things in batches as she finds the time and will to wade into the mod queue. Your comments submitted prior to your comment above do appear to have been approved now?

    3. Re: the Intactivist thread.

      Can anyone explain to me what Jill’s goal was in posting that article and leaving comments open?

      I’m not disagreeing with her points, or her complaint about “Intactivists” swarming posts on FGM and derailing.

      However, since she was basically saying that it would be impossible to have a useful discussion (=comment thread) if FGM or [male] circumcision were mentioned (or any topic that could somehow be connected with them), what’s the point of having a comment thread?

      One approach, I suppose, would be to allow comments, but say that any comment that referred to male circumcision would be summarily deleted (or not allowed through moderation), including responses to such comments, but Feministe doesn’t seem to have a practice of flat-out banning certain subjects. (And it’s probably a fair amount of work for whoever mods the thread.)

      1. Sorry for the moderation delays! I’m modding that thread and there are tons of comments (I’ve deleted dozens) so it’s taking me a while.

        And my goal for that thread was the goal I have for every other post on this blog: To open up an interesting, thoughtful discussion. It may not have worked — it may never work on posts about circumcision — but I’m not going to shy away from certain topics just because some people are assholes.

  7. Hey mods, can I ask where the Dear Feminists post went to? I wanted to double-check something in it and I cannot find it in the archives, nor any note that it was being removed.

      1. Is trying to make history vanish like that, disappearing not only the post itself but every single one of the comments pushing back against it, really the best way to proceed?

        People who know better than I about such matters can probably answer the question of whether the post is the kind of thing that can be found via the wayback machine.

        1. We’re wrestling with that question ourselves, Donna. For the time being the post has been un-published, but not deleted from our database.

          We knew the post’s absence would soon be noticed, and that the internet is forever. There will definitely still be a googlecache of the post for the next few weeks for anybody who wants to download their own local copy, and as for the wayback machine it depends on when it last took a archive-snapshot of Feministe.

      2. Thanks for replying. It would have been nice to have had a note somewhere stating that the post had been pulled, though.

        1. Apologies for the delay on getting back to you on this, movidemaedchen. I’ve got hellacious hay fever which is affecting my eyes, so I’m limiting my screen time.

          The author wrote to me privately asking for the post to be rescinded because she was being bombarded by hatemail and other forms of harassment/intimidation, including death threats, and felt unprepared and overwhelmed. I didn’t want to give undue publicity to such intimidation tactics, because in my observation that tends to add fuel to the fire, encouraging others to join in. So I waited for the question to arise here on spillover, as I knew it inevitably would.

        2. I don’t suppose the author being female had anything to do with the volume or nature of the harrassment.

          No, of course not.

          (Oh, yeah: \end{sarcasm})

        3. Hey all, I am the author of the post you all are discussing. I just wanted to say I asked them to take down the post because of the massive amount of emails I was receiving, both supportive and critical, but what made me ask the author to take down the post was when I received the threats. Feministe was gracious enough to oblige. I wasn’t prepared for that.

          When I wrote the post I was new to the field and I wanted to share that newness with readers. The shock, the anger, and the way the sex trade operated in my city.

          Racist, classist, assholish? Probably. I’m not above my own faults as a privileged white girl, although I do hope my self awareness is enough to learn from others, including yourselves, through critique and honest feedback.

          I also recognize I find it hard to reconcile how survival sex, trafficking, and exploitative sex work through pimping will diminish through legalization. That’s one I still am mulling over. I don’t see many answers coming from Europe, either. Or maybe I just haven’t read what others have?

          I think there is a hierarchy in the sex trade, with intersections of privilege and benefit just as in any other sector of society. The area of the sex trade that bothers me most, and may have many see me as racist and classist and whorephobic? Is in the pimp game, survival sex, and trafficking, which is made up of a large number of poor women of color.

          I also want to clarify that I DO NOT think sex workers of any part of the trade should be criminalized, arrested, etc… The contradiction I think many of you tapped into and criticized was that I say I don’t want sex workers criminalized, but then I don’t want the sex industry legalized, either. The conundrum for me is in not wanting to legalize the aspect of the sex industry that exploits, degrades, and traumatizes. Anyway, my post was not a scholarly article by any means, and wasn’t meant to be.

          If I could make the laws I would want the hierarchy addressed. Where dominatrix, literal sex therapists, those in business for themselves without a middle person, could operate legally while the aspects of the industry that exploit are decriminalized and focus on those doing the exploiting.

          As far as the violent fantasies, I have no excuse and need to simply take accountability for the fact that I was irresponsible in a public forum. That post was the first I’d ever made with such a mass audience.

          Lesson learned.

          Thank you for doing what you do and holding me accountable for my words. I do think the only way we grow and learn is through honest reflection on the feedback we receive. I know I have a lot to learn when it comes to this topic.

  8. From Becca’s statement on the Trans-Inclusive Feminism thread:

    Also, isn’t it true that you gender people you don’t know on a daily basis just based off their appearance (including gendering pre-verbal babies. The brainwashing process starts young).

    Okay, given that my most-used language is English, which unlike some of my other languages is deeply gendered, how do you expect me to effectively convey a description of someone without gendering them? Like, if I were speaking in Tamil I could use “avaa”, which has a gender-neutral association of “that person who was there”, and I actually usually do use gender-neutral pronouns when I speak Tamil, but if you think I’m going to say “my cousin had a baby who appears to have genitalia commonly associated with the male sex” to the rednecks here in central Alberta, you’re hilarious. I don’t expect people to say “this character in a novel who has not been explicitly declared to be of the white race but whose canonically described platinum-blond(e) hair, pale skin and blue eyes, as well as their possession the stereotypically Nordic surname of Svensson, leads me to believe that the character is intended to be perceived as white” in order to feel like people aren’t oppressing me for being brown. WTF.

  9. Omg, it’s everyone’s favorite douchecanoe, HUGO. (His name is the content note.)

    From the very bottom (keep hitting “read more” or whatever it is) of this link:

    @hugoschwyzer: Hypothetical: if a disgraced one were to find redemption as a conservative would the takedown lessen or intensify? Asking for a friend.
    6:47 PM – 23 Sep 2013

    @hugoschwyzer: @KatMcKinley if you know an evangelist like Paul to the Athenians, hook a brother up
    6:15 PM – 23 Sep 2013

    @hugoschwyzer: @KatMcKinley on many issues I could easily cross over

    He just doesn’t stop.

    1. Does this mean that his next stop is as a redeemed right-winger who’s finally seen the truth about how awful feminists are? He’ll make a mint that way.

  10. (Content note: sexual… something? nonconsensual. incest.)

    So… the post on sexual assault made me think of something but I don’t want to derail it.

    I experienced a thing at the hands of someone to whom I am related that I don’t know what to call it. The physical action was sexual assault, it was repeated (non-penetrative, ftr) a few times over several years. Basically, it was having my clothes yanked off/around to “check if I was wearing underwear”, and/or being groped to find out if I was wearing underwear. The person in question had a hangup about it, obsessed over whether I was wearing a bra/underwear (which is sometimes hideously painful because disabilities). But I also believe sincerely that she did not think of it as a sexual assault and that she had no sexual intention. I talked about it briefly with my mother, who was horrified, but agreed with my assessment. Other than her and my wife no one knows who it is. This person’s been really emotionally abusive to many people in my family. And I just… what the hell do I call that? Sexual abuse seems too strong; sexual assault seems to describe something much more sexually intent on the perp’s part. I’ve heard and liked the term ‘sexuality abuse’ for other things but this feels…I dunno… squickier. (This person also accused me of being braless in my bedroom in order to hit on my uncle(!) and that he was perving on me, which he most definitely has never done, holy shit.) I just don’t know what to do with it. I think about it sometimes and I just feel… angry and sad, I guess. But I’m not hurt or anything, it hasn’t left any lasting damage, just anger, and I don’t know if I’m just making a mountain out of a molehill. I feel like I’m largely “over’ my sexual abuse history, some lingering issues with the idea of my own desireability aside, but this sort of feels… incompletely dealt with. And I don’t even know why. I don’t even know why I’m talking about this here. I just. Fuck it.

    1. this sort of feels… incompletely dealt with

      If that’s how it feels, that’s probably how it is.

      I appreciate that calling this sort of experience a sexual assault can feel weird, but fwiw, I would categorize it that way mostly for two reasons: 1) as you note, whether or not a groper is motivated by sexual gratification, the behavior is the same; and 2) while it wasn’t about getting off, from what you describe it still sounds sexual in nature. More specifically it sounds as if this person were trying to police the “presentation of your sexuality” by making sure your parts were covered up like this person believed they ought to be, your own desires and boundaries and consent notwithstanding.

      Consider the context of a sexual relationship in which one partner thinks s/he doesn’t need consent to forcibly perform random physical checks of another partner’s body for evidence of cheating — that’s not about sexual gratification but it IS about control of someone else’s sexuality, and you’d likely have no problem calling that a sexual assault.

      Therapeutically, if you’re not finding it helpful to treat it like a sexual assault because it just doesn’t feel effective with respect to dealing with the emotional fallout, it might be helpful to consider treating it more like a form of “emotional incest”. When I was a child, my mother was my primary abuser, and while she never molested me, the way she related to me was abusively intrusive and I was never allowed to develop healthy boundaries. It wasn’t a classic case of emotional incest, but enough elements were present that the concept really helped me work through some anger/resentment, some fear/confusion, and some boundary issues.

    2. And I don’t even know why. I don’t even know why I’m talking about this here.

      Well, I hope getting it out helped in some tiny way. I know that feeling of incompleteness…

  11. So I just joined up with an npo that does alot of work with victims of sex trafficking; also does quite a bit of advocacy as well as some tandem stuff with LE. Anybody here been doing this sort of work for awhile? I would appreciate any advice y’all might have, particularly in regards to how a man should conduct himself in helping the trafficking victims.

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