Some Words On “Making Peace”
Edited for clarifying links to the AMO communication style post.
Making peace is great. No one wants to be at war constantly. The battles are tiring, there’s always casualties, and often you’re stuck doing things that you may not be pleased with to win.
And then there’s the people who confuse “making peace” with “stop being pissed off at me (or them) while I (or they) continue to step on your neck, all because I (or they) were somewhat apologetic.” (if you don’t want to give business to Failerico by clicking on that link, and I can’t blame you, my comment is below.)
Yes, I know, another Failerico update. But you see, this goes beyond Failerico. This is a consistent trope among Appeaser type activists (Appeaser archetype of communication in activism, see the Activist Modus Operandi Post on communication styles for information on Appeasers, Nukers, Logic Bombers and Emoters) who’ve lost sight of what their aims are and among privileged folk who find the heat of marginalized rage a bit too hot to handle. This is the minimizing. This is the qualifying. This is the excuse making. No one’s immune to it. Everyone’s done it at least once. Even Nukers have, when they fuck up on a different axis. Everyone I know on twitter (and I mean everyone, even you.), in the blogosphere (yes, everyone, even you), IRL, hell, even I myself have fucked up like this several times. Everyone has had a situation where they (or someone or something else they care about, Rebecca is speaking more for Bil and Failerico here than herself) has fucked up and they seek to downplay the fuck up so that it’s easier for everyone to be happy and get along again. These cases are less of a “must protect my bigotry so I can fuck people over” and more a complete fucking brain dump where you completely forget what the hell you’re supposed to be doing here.
This is the Appeaser Archetype’s nightmare, when everyone is pissed at each other, rage is flying, the Nukers are on automatic and it looks like something important to the Appeaser will get shrapnel killed. And (not to pick on appeasers, like I said, everyone’s done it at least once, but Appeasers are infamous for it) that’s where the forgetting comes in. People will forget (and it’s easy to do this) that our job is not to make peace. Our job as activists is to make sure that this shit gets solved. That privilege is not allowed to rampantly obfuscate the (or our) experiences of (or as) marginalized people. That bigotry, -ism bullshit, and fuckery is not allowed to propagate against us or other marginalized folk. That attitudes and views that dehumanize are not tolerated, not unanswered and not given validity. That is our job.
That is what human rights activists do. That is what marginalization activists do. We fix these social problems. We do not make everyone love each other and hug a lot. One can make everyone love each other and hug a lot to solve those problems, but in the end, it is our job to fight those problems as activists. As soon as you start elevating making everyone best friends over solving these problems and fighting these problems, you’ve stopped doing your job. You’ve stopped being an activist and started being a peacemaker. This doesn’t work.
It doesn’t work for a lot of reasons. Let’s use Failerico as an example. Bil and the editorial staff allowed a blatantly transphobic, horrifyingly illogical and irrational bit of nastiness through their fine editorial fingers, and onto the front page of a well known GLBT opinion site. Rebecca mentioned that it’s basically the Huffington Post of GLBT and that’s a fairly good analogy. It’s a big site, well known and has a huge impact on the entire community, especially trans folk. It has a history of serious transphobia problems and other issues, like victim blaming in the Polanski case. Failerico (Bilerico if you’re not saavy) is not called Failerico by us for no reason. It has been a plethora of fail, especially on trans issues.
Bil’s first response to the trans community’s rage was to downplay it as fine and put up disclaimers. Our rage merely heightened. So his next response was a bunch of excuses and a fauxpology, after taking the post down. Pretty clear that he’s covering his ass, doesn’t give a shit beyond the fact that he could be losing readers and largely doesn’t think he did much wrong besides get caught. At the very least, the fauxpology and his conduct strongly suggests these things to be true. Rebecca’s post is where peacemaking comes in. Like in the comment I wrote below, there is a lot of excuses made. Chocking up Bil’s mistake to “respect for Ron Gold’s age”, “compassion for him”, “underestimating the backlash and hurt it would cause” and a host of other little attempts to downplay what was going on. It would be understandable if she sought to explain and then fully shot down what he did as unacceptable. Explaining why someone fucked up is useful after all, it’s the best way to figure out how to address it and what will prevent more. Someone who is ignorant and does something cissexist is still in a big heap of trouble, as much as someone who malevolently did something cissexist. That person still fucked up intensely. But ignorance means education will solve it, whereas malevolence means the person needs to be kicked to the curb. If she wanted to explain why Bil fucked up, then she should have avoided downplaying the actions themselves. The actions were unacceptable. He deserves no leeway, no one does for what he did. But the difference between Bil and Ron Gold (if Rebecca is correct) is that Bil only has to be educated whereas Ron is a lost cause that needs to be dumped. If she had taken that approach, then the post would have been fine.
But she didn’t.
She tried to make peace. Instead of holding Bil accountable, instead of saying, “hey, we have these serious problems here and its time to fix them and this is what’s gonna happen to fix them” she tried to make peace. She tried to get us to come back, to all be friends again. And she centered that over accountability, over fixing the problems, over even stating what the problems are. In fact, she pretty much didn’t do any of those things. Just tried to make peace.
This is merely further evidence that Failerico is not Bilerico but Failerico still. This is a problem everywhere, and a major component of what makes it so easy to marginalize. If they want my trust, they need to avoid this pitfall and fix the issues. That’s just the way it is.
The comment I left on Rebecca’s post:
I feel that you are giving Bil too much credit. His experience, the trans people he could go to get advice on this before putting it up, the level of knowledge he should have as the person running a major LGBT site… no, this is inexcusable.
Too much compassion? Hardly. Compassion isn’t selective. Stabbing the trans community through the heart is not something you do out of compassion. What Bil did as an editor was just as indefensible as what Ron wrote.
Beyond that? No, I don’t think Bilerico should be written off for one post. If it was just one post, I’d agree with that. But it isn’t just one post and it isn’t just transphobia either. I’m still reeling from Brynn’s rape apologism for Polanski more than 3 months later.
This site has a plethora of problems that need to be solved. This was merely a spike, an obvious explosion of issue among a subtle aura of problems with transphobia, victim blaming, ableism and probably a good chunk of other issues that I can’t see due to my own privilege axes. For instance, I don’t know how much racefail has been here, but good god would I not be surprised if there was a lot.
But even that doesn’t make me feel this site should be written off. I don’t think the multitude of transphobic crap that feminism is poisoned with makes it unsalvageable either. What it does make me think is that you folks are going to need a lot more than apologetic words and taking down one post to fix things. Especially when those apologetic words are tainted by excuses made. It is learning time, big time. Bilerico has a lot of work ahead of it, a lot of consulting with trans folk that it has previously ignored, a lot of looking back through the archives of posts for where serious mistakes have been made and revising guidelines and standards for what is allowed here. There’s no single easy solution, because there’s no single problem. It’s a multitude of little things that makes this site lose the trust of those it tries to speak to.
This site, like much of GLBT, operates closer to GL….b….(t?) much of the time. Fix this if any of you want the trust of the community. Ron Gold did nothing more than show how far down Bilerico has gone.
And no more of this excuses bs and “well they mean well” or “respecting one’s elders” or “I’m trying to challenge you” or “he was just compassionate to an older man”. None of that. Call this what it is. Ignorance, privilege and bigotry. Bil has it. Much of Bilerico has it. Having trans contributors, like yourself, doesn’t change this. What this site needs to do right now, without excuses, qualifiers, ass covering, public relations image protecting, is admit that it has a problem. That the editorial staff has a problem. That Bil has a problem. That some of the contributors have a problem. And that this problem is ignorance, bigotry and not checking privilege. First step to fixing an issue is admitting it’s there. Time for them to work on that.
I appreciate you trying to make peace. But one cannot make peace in such a way that will allow one to continue to be walked on without discretion, without remorse, only a light apology as our bones are crushed by steel toed boots.
Filed under: activism | 37 Comments
Tags: cissexism, drama, infighting, issues, kyriarchy, marginalization, transgender