Writers of Color 50 Book Challenge

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Policy Discussion: Insults, etc.
Escher Snakes
sanguinity wrote in 50books_poc
I'm elevating this to a new post, because the mod team is small and we want a wider range of input than what we can bring to bear ourselves.

The topic under discussion is whether or not insults, mocking, jeering, and/or personal attacks are acceptable on the comm, in what context, and directed toward whom.

First: that's probably not a complete list. One of the things I'm noticing in the comments and pms is that people have different characterizations of what is in dispute here.

Second and related: not everything in the list above may be comparable to everything else in that list. We might choose to give a pass to some of the above and yet reject others.

Third: I'm expecting that there might be some context dependency in these decisions. My gut sense is that insulting an author is not the same thing as insulting another comm member. Being white and being POC is not symmetric. Being the original poster and being a non-OP commenter in an exchange may also change the context. There may be other factors.

So let me lay out some of the issues that the mod team has been discussing.

Because of the way the tone argument gets used, we have been reluctant to implement a blanket "no insulting, no jeering" rule. There are times when it is more important that something gets said than how it gets said; there are times when the clearest and most straightforward way to communicate an idea is to mock the original statement. Additionally, any given demand for politeness or patience made by this community is happening in the context of numerous asymmetric demands for politeness and patience; as mods, we strongly dislike the prospect of increasing those burdens as the price of participating in the comm.

We are trying to negotiate two conflicting chilling influences: one of them is the chilling effect of someone knowing that they might encounter insulting or jeering comments if they post; the other is the chilling effect of a "don't say it any meaner than this" rule. The latter can make people walk away from a comm just as the former can. (I personally have walked away from a comm because it wasn't worth it to me to deal with the emotional stress of trying to negotiate such a rule; I have heard more than a few similar stories from others.) What particularly worries us as mods is that who walks away because of either environment is often asymmetric along axes of privilege.

(Obviously, I would prefer a policy that doesn't have people walking away, if we can swing it.)

I additionally have concerns about how this plays into our sense of who the community is "for". There are at least three distinct ways that members use this forum. Some are using it for personal improvement, trying to correct biases or lacunae in their own personal education, environment, or knowledge. Others are using it as a tool to focus attention on authors of color, who face systemic biases in the publishing, reviewing, reading, and fan communities. Others are using this community as a social refuge, as a place where conversations about books are not forever reverting back to white authors and white norms. (Obviously, these uses are not exclusive to each other: there are many people who use this comm in two or more of the above ways.)

I am not at all sure that the comm serves the last group well. In the process of setting policy on this, I would like to avoid making this community serve those people less well. Unfortunately, it is not clear to me what would or would not do that.

So, the questions we have for you:

What constitutes a personal insult?

Are they never acceptable, sometimes acceptable? Are some more acceptable than others?

Does it make a difference if the insult is directed at an author or at another community member? Where another community member is concerned, does it make a difference as to whose post it appears in the comments to (your own, or someone else's)?

Do we want one blanket policy of acceptability for the entire comm? Should OPs moderate their own comments as they see fit? Some combination of the two?

Are we correct to be worried about an asymmetric effect on white and POC/chromatic members of the comm? And if so, what kinds of policies do you specifically see being a problem? What would be acceptable?

What are we missing?


If you wish to reply privately, you are welcome to PM me or send me an email (this username at gmail).


ETA (6/29): I've turned anonymous commenting off -- there's at least one person who is harrassing people. If you have something to say and need privacy to say it, you've got my pm and email.

ETA2 (6/30): My draft position on some of the interactions under discussion, specifically some of the earlier posts about N.K. Jemisin's books. Re everything else, I'm still reading, still digesting. I haven't begun replying to pms yet, but I'm reading those, too.

ETA3 (7/5): FYI, we're still working on the policy post; we hope to (but cannot promise!) to have it posted by Friday.

ETA4 (7/9): progress updates here.

ETA5 (7/13): Policy post is now up. Comments here are locked.
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Thanks for being so proactive on this issue!

I read the reviews here and a significant proportion of my book-buying decisions are based on them. (FWIW) Personally, I'd prefer not to see any comments about authors (good or bad). Tell me about the book, what you loved, what you hated, what yanked your chain, what pushed your buttons. Judge the prose, the cover art, the characters, whatever. Leave the author out of it. A bad book does not equate to the author being a bad person, any more than a good book equates to the author being a good person. I don't care what the author looks like, who they sleep with, what their politics are, or why they wrote what they wrote.

Ditto for comments about commenters. If the reviewer loved a book and a commenter says they hated it, this does not mean either of them are bad people or stupid people or uneducated readers or whatever.

My $0.02
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That is exactly how I was thinking about this. It's a book discussion comm, plain and simple. Something relevant I've learned in working with kids is to separate the behavior from the child--when speaking in negative terms, stick to the action or end product, don't insult the child.
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"This is a place where WOC can relax and vent their spleen. It is not a place where we will attack each other. It is meant to be a restful space free from having to argue over the basic tenets of anti-racism, feminism, and related subjects. Remember that when you attempt to join us."
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I don't think the tone argument should be used as a shield or an excuse for an "anything goes" policy.

What's wrong with keeping to the simple guiding principle that posts and comments should be topical and appropriate to the primary purpose of the comm? Which is, according to the FAQ and the profile, getting more people to read works by people of color (bold emphasis per the profile page). I'm not sure how personal insults directed toward either an author or a fellow comm member would achieve that purpose. (Happy to be corrected with an example, but I'm skeptical.) If it doesn't serve that purpose, it should be considered off-topic and inappropriate, and swiftly shut down.

Otherwise, the mods or OPs or whoever gets appointed for the task will have to police every post and comment to determine whether something is "more acceptable" or is asymmetrically upsetting white people versus POCs. In my opinion, that kind of debate makes more sense in a discussion space with a broader/different focus than this one. (Also, I really don't like the idea that comm members would have to be "counted" for race purposes.)

As for what constitutes a personal insult, I think the distinction between attacking a person and attacking a statement or action of that person is a helpful one.
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I think there is a group of words that means, in one way or another, "serving to perpetuate or defend oppression in one of its forms," that are necessary parts of any anti-oppression discussion, bui that are also often interpreted as insults. "Racist," "sexist," etc. White people particularly get our panties in a twist over the word "racist," or any implication that points to that word, which makes discussing racism with us extremely tedious for many POC, from what I can see. So I think any suggestion that "insults are not ok" would need to have some kind of clarification that calling someone privileged or invoking -isms are not insults, or not usually anyway.
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I haven't seen any of these conversations, but I mostly lurk and note down interesting-looking books for my reading list. :-/
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I don't know what I've been missing that this has become a problem, but for me, explicit insults are almost never the problem in a comm like this. By explicit I mean stuff that the person who said it would cop to "damned right I was insulting them that was the point." Bitch/slut/whore on the gender axis; faggot/dyke/etc. on the queer one; I'm not going to make a list of racist ugly since I'm on the privilege side of that (un)equation, but y'all know what I mean. Or stupid, lazy, rude, selfish, to get out of the group and into the individual.

In my experience, which is obviously not complete, people who want to engage in that kind of obvious name calling almost never also want to engage with any of the goals of this community. (With the possible exception of ableism-as-metaphor.)

The problems for me arise mostly in trying to get into other people's heads. Which we kind of have to at least try to do, if we're going to understand what they're saying, but it's very easy to become reductionist or condescending in summing up what you see as someone else's point, especially if it's one you disagree with.

And defending their point sometimes isn't all that much better, especially if it's on the grounds of their experience shaping their beliefs -- not that all our experience doesn't, but somehow there's something disagreeable about hearing that of course somebody WOULD think that, given where they came from, as if they had no free will and could not rise above their circumstances -- perhaps it is the implication that the speaker is not similarly the sum of their parts.

There's also the "you must not understand" stance, which is so popular because it is supposedly less insulting, but it does sort of assume cluelessness/ignorance on the part of the disagreeing person, and imply that anyone who understood would have to agree with the speaker.

I dunno. I tend to feel that where there is another comm member who can speak for themselves involved, it is better not to assume you can guess what they were thinking other than what they said. I don't feel quite so strongly about that when it comes to authors since they probably won't step in to clarify.

But then again, I also want people to be able to called on their BS if it is chronic, and i don't want a situation in which being oblivious or in denial about the implications of your words gets your off the hook for their harm.

Personally I'd rather be insulted than worry about rules about what is insulting to someone else, but I don't know that my preference should really count here much. First, because I'm white, and second, because I have big honking personal issues about when and how much I am allowed to speak my mind if someone might be hurt by it. This makes me both paranoid in holding myself to a probably inappropriately stringent standard, and probably too touchy about being held to someone else's. But this is all the remnants of my Daddy Issues and not something that a group for public discourse by reasonable grownups needs to take into account.


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It was the previous post on Fury of the Phoenix.
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This is really simplified, and I both apologize for and acknowledge that (I'm unfortunately short on time and brain power rn), but basically, here's my take:

What I think's fair game to criticize: one's actions and arguments.

What I think's not fair game: a person's identity/personhood (e.g. sexual orientation, religion, ethnicity, physical/mental abilities).

I think winterfox did a fantastic job in dismantling the fuckery that is Pon's Fury of the Phoenix. I LUXURIATE in the vitriol 'cause fuck the tone argument--what needs to be said SHOULD be said and politeness be damned. What the hell has being polite done for oppressed folks except keep them in the same damn place? But calling Pon a "stupid fuck" (emphasis mine) is ableist, and there's where I'd draw the line.

Calling people out on their bullshit doesn't and shouldn't have to be at the expense of others.

So, I pretty much see it as a respect v. ~courtesy issue: feel free to give a person hell if/when they deserve it, but respect that the person is, y'know, a person and avoid demeaning them or others on terms of their gender/class/what-have-you.
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Background: I am a white woman. I acknowledge the inequalities to which authors of colour are subjected, and thus I listen at this community to pick up recommendations I might otherwise miss. I am not active in the literary blogosphere. I am also a sexual assault survivor living with PTSD.

Even though I rarely read YA, I checked multiple bookstores in my area for Cindy Pon's Silver Phoenix based on the glowing reviews I read here.

Just to check to make sure I wasn't misremembering, I went through 190 reviews tagged "young adult" and another 230 tagged "sf/fantasy," going back to 2007 in both cases, and found five other mentions of the book. None of them mention the graphic attempted rape or the extremely problematic ways in which it is handled.

And yet winterfox -- the one who finally pointed this out and spared me the triggering experience of reading the same sorts of things people told me about my own assailant -- winterfox is the one a mod is calling out for sexism? That post, even though no one has challenged its central arguments, is the one spurring the mods to ask if we need new rules about not saying mean things?

This does not make sense.
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I don't post/comment here a lot (OK, ever, apparently) so take my contribution with a grain of salt.

But what I think is relevant is engaging with the book/story you're talking about, and making it possible to engage in further productive discussion about it.

I don't much care about being insulting to authors (whatever that means). Scans-daily over on DW has a specific rule about not making personal attacks on creators (that is, "This enraged me so much I wanted to hit him"), and while it's well meant, it's one of a number of factors that's been arguably problematic, over the past few years.

I mean, I /prefer/ it if people take down a text with a certain flair that is more dispassionate than actively vicious or gleeful, but that's a personal style preference and nothing more.

(I don't know how this would change along the axis of POC author/white reviewer; obviously, it would change /somehow/. That's something I'll have to ponder more.)

I do care far more about posters actually engaging with each other at least vaguely as if they share common community. I don't care if you harsh someone's squee, tromple over their favorite author, or take down their post logically, point by point. (Fuck, please do.) I do care if any of that has a chilling effect on discussion, which is hard to pinpoint in the heat of the moment but can be clear in the long term. And though I'm aware of the

I don't think specific rules are useful there. I do think long-term moderating is. And that moderating can address trolling/abusiveness while still observing the reality of problematic inequalities.

And to answer this one specifically: Are we correct to be worried about an asymmetric effect on white and POC/chromatic members of the comm?

I'm white. I haven't fuck all idea, frankly, which I've found generally tends to eventually mean, "Yes, in fact, you should be worried." Because you know, I can not notice the general trends in communities and groups quite effectively.

But I don't know how that plays out in a community trying to be aware of it.

nimgnoyk said some things that resonated, too.
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Re: vague natterings.

:: Scans-daily over on DW has a specific rule about not making personal attacks on creators (that is, "This enraged me so much I wanted to hit him"), and while it's well meant, it's one of a number of factors that's been arguably problematic, over the past few years. ::

Could you elaborate, please, on what has been "arguably problematic" about it?


:: And though I'm aware of the ::

I know it's been nearly a week, but do you remember how you intended to end this sentence?

(Yes, I'm going through the comments again, asking for clarification as I need it.)
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I think it should be possible to write a scathing review of a book without launching an ad hominem attack on the author. As hesychasm said, there's a difference between attacking a person and attacking something that that person said.

I also think that being rude to other users is (or should be) unacceptable. If someone has an issue with a comment made by another user, I would prefer them to take it to the moderators and have the moderators deal with it as they see fit.

Thanks for clarifying the different ways that people use the comm - I mainly fall into the "using it as a tool to focus attention on authors of color" category, and it's easy to forget that other people don't look at it that way.
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ETA: that should say "if someone has an issue with a comment or post..."
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I'm in the com for the book reviews. Knowing the reviewers' biases helps me decide whether I'm likely to share their opinion of the book or not. ::shrugs::

In general I've been comfortable, so far, with the modding here. I know modding is generally a thankless task. Thank you.
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there are times when the clearest and most straightforward way to communicate an idea is to mock the original statement.

Can you expand on your reasoning behind this or give some examples? I don't think I agree but that could change if I understood the logic behind it.
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[Disclaimer: I'm not sanguinity, nor do I play her on tv....]

Western-style satire and parody depend on mockery. What we might term "clowning" is a respected tradition in several non-western societies. Whether any individual example of mockery meets any of the definitions of those terms (or other valid terms for similar activities) tends to be context dependent.

/2p
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Sorry, the comment that was here got posted in the wrong place - not sure if that was LJ's malfunction or mine. I will repost where it was originally meant to go.

Edited at 2011-06-29 04:17 pm (UTC)
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I was a mod of LJ Feminist for over a year, and one thing I learned is that there are some people who are just gaping assholes and will take advantage of any anti tone-policing rules in order to be complete dickheads to anyone they disagree with.

It's a tough line to draw, because tone-policing is absolutely a problem, one that was well on display in the comments to the previous post where things that were in no way, shape, or form personal "attacks" go labeled as such. OTOH, that same poster has a history of being incredibly aggressive towards other commenters who disagree with her responses to the books reviewed here.

FWIW, I use this comm as corrective action to my own buying patterns. I'm a multi-racial but mostly Asian-American identified woman and my fiction reading is distressingly white and male. I skim reviews, click comments if the book looks reasonably interesting to see other people's take on the book, and often find myself impulse buying something based on a review here. I don't write reviews because I'm rubbish at them and I rarely comment because I've rarely read the books under review.

With my comm usage in mind (ie, take this with a grain of salt since I lurk rather than participate), vitriolic, or even directly insulting, reviews don't bother me. Again turning to the recent post as an example, the only part of the review that bothered me was "you dumb fuck" since I definitely saw that as a racialized & gendered insult.
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I think that winterfox has some very good points - for instance, I think she's right about the danger of this community becoming a place for white people to show off and ask for ally points, and she's probably right about Fury of the Phoenix as well, although I haven't read it.

I am, though, troubled by her possible ableism - not just because of the "stupid fuck" thing, but also because she asked rachelmanija "how do you cope with the internet or real life" (here) and that's a thing I've heard slung at people with PTSD and anxiety disorders all the fucking time, and directly challenges their right (and that of any other anxiety-disordered person reading it) to exist in public at all.

I completely support anyone calling me on a kyriarchal problem with something I've said or done in whatever tone they need or want to, and I think preventing that would be bad for this community.

BUT. If people are allowed to make personal attacks for other reasons than calling someone on their kyriarchal shit, such as because they like 'trashy romances' or YA, then I'm going to have to stop posting here, because I have social anxiety and the idea that someone could attack me for just posting or commenting even if I haven't done anything wrong is just too triggering.
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that is an interesting perspective. i have anxiety issues that get triggered by by tone policing and the idea that i'm "too messy" and "too much" (as an "angry brown woman") when calling out an issue irl; i found it kind of invalidating that people focused more on one or two lines and the overall tone and hardly at all on why the book was offensive, although i think it's fair to point out problematic language and request changes.
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I move that this house turn off anonymous commenting on this post (if it hasn't been already) so any passing gutless wonders can't harass com members who have a stake in this discussion.

I wouldn't want anyone upsetting any of the members with mental health issues. /oh the irony
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Winterfox's critique of Cindy Pon's writing is useful and relevant. I think people are focusing on one or two lines in the post not because they're trying to discredit the post, but because they don't in fact have an argument with most of it. Or, anyway, I don't have an argument with most of it -- it makes statements about the work and cites patterns or events from the text to back them up.

I do have an argument with calling an author a "stupid fuck" and a "worthless human being" in a public discussion (I'm not interested in how people discuss other people in private with friends). Those are not evaluations of the work. They are personal insults. They injure the discourse the way abuse and insults aimed at female bloggers/gamers/readers/writers always injure discourse, and they are part of systemic and societal devaluation of human beings, especially when they are aimed at women, even more especially when they are aimed at women of color.

No, it does not improve matters for me that they were made by a woman of color. Winterfox has repeatedly [ed. -- I think only once, actually] said she doesn't have racial privilege "over" Cindy Pon because they are both Asian women, but I think that's an incorrect and unhelpful framing. Oppressions are not (only) personal relationships, they are systems. That is one of Winterfox's main points of argument: that Pon's work perpetuates this system even though this system also oppresses her. Devaluing the personal worth as a human being of a woman of color perpetuates the system in a lot of different directions.

That said, if the mods decide that this kind of language is acceptable in a review, I would disagree, but I would probably continue reading the comm. What would make me stop reading is if the mods decide that the kind of interactions winterfox has with fellow comm members in many of the comments linked here. Disagreeing about books is fine. I actually disagree with rachelmanija about the "Support LGT Friends" line. But I am not okay with a comm whose policy supports strongly implying fellow comm members have no taste; are trite, mediocre, and prone to over-hyping; and sarcastically mocking other comm members for expressing different opinions. This is bullying and abusive behavior justifying itself as social or literary critique.

I see that some people (generally but not uniformly white) have said that this behavior triggers social anxiety or flashbacks to abusive or traumatic situations for them (in a sense that's what I'm saying myself). I have seen some people (generally but not uniformly people of color) say that prohibitions on this behavior or this language triggers *their* social anxiety or flashbacks to abusive or traumatic situations for *them*. I don't see an easy answer to that, because these are equally legitimate and perhaps irreconcilable accessibility demands which intersect with race and gender in complicated ways.

But for me -- when I see behavior I would call abuse without hesitation if a person directed it at their boyfriend/girlfriend/spouse/domestic partner, I tend to think it is still abusive when a person directs it at other members of their community. Less of a betrayal of trust because of the significantly less intimacy. But still abusive.

(I am also, personally, having a very strong reaction to the pressure being applied to people to disclose their race. It does make me feel like someone hostile is attempting to make me give them personal information against my will -- the issue is the less what that information is [I disclose my race ALL THE TIME] than the sense of an attempt to control my behavior, to exert power over me. I am not sure this reaction is justified, though.)

[Edited to remove Dreamwidth coding because I am so unused to LJ now.]

Edited at 2011-06-30 02:40 am (UTC)
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But I am not okay with a comm whose policy supports...

That was in fact a lot of what I was getting at when I talked about caring "about posters actually engaging with each other at least vaguely as if they share common community," earlier.

I wasn't sure how to put it without tageting Winterfox, which is hardly the point. Any given policy can't focus on the individual situation, it has to focus on the general trends. But I'm not /too/ terribly comfortable with trends that involve consistent mockery and disrespect.

(On the other hand, I don't have your issue with the race disclosure stuff, which simply means there's different opinions going on. Shocking, that.)
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I found winterfox's review informative, and it saved me the effort (and emotional stress) of having to read the book for myself. Personally, I don't see anything wrong with expressing anger over misogyny and internalized racism. I have read several books that have caused me to have a very strong, visceral reaction to the way that marginalized groups were portrayed.

Anger is a valid reaction to have in this case and imho expressing it towards the author who generated the work in question is fair game whether or not the author is "present". And I bet some of them do read this comm.

What has made me uncomfortable is the ad hominem comments towards other comm members for having different opinions. It doesn't add anything constructive; it derails the discussion away from the books themselves and makes people defensive and hesitant to post.
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Background: I read the community for recommendations and reviews of books by authors of colour and interesting discussions. I review and comment very rarely because I am not a particularly good at reviews and rarely have comments that I feel add anything. I'm white.

Generally I'd prefer moderators (and the community) to police community members for racism, sexism, ableism, heterocentrism (which I've newly learned can be grouped into kyriarchal issues, thank you) rather than for insults/comments that don't fall into those kinds of categories.

I considered that the review of Cindy Pon's Fury book was excellent and thoughtful. On reconsideration I did object to the term "you stupid fuck" for the author but in my initial response I overlooked the ableist connotations and so my objection was outweighed by all the other words and thought in the post. The post was beneficial both as a book review and a response to the culture perpetuated by the book. So essentially the post has now been amended to exactly suit my preference.

To draw a line with respect to insults in reviews (after assuming that racist, sexist able-ist language is out) I'd be influenced by whether the insults are relevant to the writing (which includes not just the words written but beliefs and public face etc) and whether the insults are (at least arguably) true and useful. I think strong language (with an ear open for systemic oppression and isms) is fine and sometimes necessary.

In the present case I think "stupid fuck" is not true. A more precise "rape-culture-perpetuating worm" would have been truer? "Fuck" used there is not particularly problematic to me, because I don't associate it with any particular gender or relationship. But I have seen arguments opposed to that and accept I may have only half the story.

I felt that "I support my LGBT friends" was usefully mocking someone's public stance versus their actual actions - and was funny. I assumed "no talent for anything whatsoever" was referring to writing skills and though badly phrased was appropriately harsh.

With regard to insults in relation to comments or insults to other members of the community. Like anyone, I would prefer that my comments are not mocked or diminished. However I'd not expect the moderators to police whether I am hurt. I'd rather the moderators focus on pointing out to me when I'm being a racist fuck.

I am in a situation where I wouldn't feel shut down by someone mocking my opinions, though of course there'd be a painful moment. But if it was deserved mockery then I'd need to fix it and if undeserved then I can step away.

But I have the privilege of generally feeling safe in social situations alongside the privilege of being able to (if I wish) compartmentalise and distance myself emotionally from conversation within this community. So if someone unkindly mocks my comments and ideas I can probably overlook it. There are several reasons stepping away is not possible for others.

It's so different for different situations so my comments are kind of uselessly specific to me. But I figure that way we get more idea of general views.

I have been impressed by the moderation of this community.
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First: I really appreciate the care that you're taking with this. I'm still trying to make up my mind on some things, but where I stand right now: I believe that you're correct to be worried about an asymmetric effect on white and poc/chromatic members of the comm, but I'd be wary about a comm policy that required others to racially identify themselves.

I think what constitutes a personal insult is at times dependent on context, and that a lot of times someone calling out hierarchy-enforcing language or action is taken to be personally insulting. I agree with Trinker's statement here, and I'd like for there to be room for such critiques in this comm.

That said, and accounting for the way hierarchies affect our perception, I still prefer personal insults (which I view as distinct from pointing out that a text or action is racist/sexist/etc) be kept out of discussion forums, whether they are directed at the author or another comm member.

As to personal insults directed at the author specifically: While the difference between attacking the racism and sexism (and other isms) in a text, and personally attacking the author herself, might seem blurry at times, I think when Winterfox called Cindy Pon a "stupid fuck" with "no talent at anything whatsoever", she had shifted to doing the latter. And it was a shift I was uncomfortable with, especially considering that Cindy Pon is a woc. It brought to mind a resonances to how race and gender hierarchies ensure that, as woc, we have to constantly prove that we are worthy of being treated with respect, to how we are often personally attacked when we say or do something that others disagree with (and by this I mean, not just having our words and actions attacked -- which might or might not be warranted -- but attacking our intrinsic worth as human beings, as deserving the least modicum of respect).

For this reason, I'm glad that Winterfox seems to have edited her post to remove the quoted statements, and I'd prefer there to be some mod policy against personal insults toward authors as well as other members of the comm.

(And I will stop editing & reposting this now! I think.)
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It brought to mind a resonances to how race and gender hierarchies ensure that, as woc, we have to constantly prove that we are worthy of being treated with respect, to how we are often personally attacked when we say or do something that others disagree with (and by this I mean, not just having our words and actions attacked -- which might or might not be warranted -- but attacking our intrinsic worth as human beings, as deserving the least modicum of respect).

This. Thank you for putting it so clearly.

I wonder if one of the culture clashes underlying this is whether people live in white-dominated countries or countries with a poc majority/government? It's obviously not universal, but so far the people who have argued most strongly for the racist/sexist implications are the former. It's an even more omnipresent white gaze, and white elevation of intra-poc conflict in media.

Edited at 2011-07-01 11:31 am (UTC)
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I get the feeling I'm going to regret commenting....

I've been reading the comments here and I understand and respect many of the various (and even opposing) perspectives.

One thing I wanted to discussing is race identifying. I completely understand why for POCs being asked to identify their race is sometimes painful and frustrating. I get it. I truly do. And they aren't wrong for feeling that way.

However I don't think what many people realize is that it's also a necessary evil in many cases, specifically in regards to white members needing to identify themselves.

The problem with white-dominated social justice spaces, particularly anti-racism spaces is that there are too many speshul white peepul who think because they've voted for Obama, like Will Smith and know who George Clinton is that they have an all-access pass to show their privileged asses and whitesplain to POCs.

I can't tell you how many times I've had some white person talk down to me about racism on anti-racism cites and engage in more racefail than you'd find on a KKK site. Hell, I can't tell you how many times cis straight white folks try to straight-splain to me how homophobia works and attempt to police me.

Last month alone, my friends and I have discussed how we've had to drop white-dominated anti-racism, feminist, queer rights sites and have decided to set up our own space because of the consistent fail.

When you're a POC who gets whitesplained to enough times (or a queer person who gets talked down to by cis straight white folks), eventually you can usually tell if the person engaging in the fail is straight/white.

That isn't to say that all POCs are in lock step or hive minded. There might be other POCs who disagree with me and vice versa and they might be right and I might be wrong or I might be right and they could be failing something fierce. That's fine. But at least if I decide to invest energy in engaging with them (and decide they're worth my time), I feel I should know whether or not they have an authority to speak on these issues if they're POCs or to check their privilege and shut the fuck up if they're white. Because it's not a matter of if a white person is going to overstep their bounds on spaces like this, it's a matter of when.

Look I'm not saying pro racial profiling white members or anti racial profiling. Whatever the mods decide or the community as a whole, I just think that needs to be taken into account as well.

That's my take on the situation. Your mileage may vary.
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Thank you for commenting, and I sincerely hope you don't regret it.

I agree that asking white people to remember that they're white works right until it doesn't, and the odds of "until it doesn't" are eventually 1.

But putting my cards on the table: we're leaning hard toward "no questioning the racial identity of other posters." In addition to the arguments against it that you've seen in these comments, there's been significant non-theoretical pain in some of the pms I've received. While whitesplaining can send me from zero to rage in nothing flat, and yes, it can leech all value one might find in a forum, I'm not aware of it slicing straight to one's quick like questioning someone's racial identity can.

Am I underestimating the harm of whitesplaining?
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