Intent! It’s Fucking Magic!

23Jan10

Crossposted to Questioning Transphobia

Warning: This post is sarcastic to such a point as you may actually slip in the pools of sarcasm that are dripping off of it. Please walk carefully. The caution cones are there for your protection. Also, we totally didn’t intend for you to slip so we’re not responsible if you do.

Today, someone said a slur. It actually doesn’t matter what slur it was, because you see, he didn’t intend to hurt anyone and therefore it couldn’t possibly be a slur. Much like how intent magically protects the actions of all privileged fuckjobs, intent means that anything you say, no matter how many groups it hurts, what awful views it enables, no matter what systemic bigotries it props up through the usage of language that enforces social concepts that crush a marginalized group, it mystically negates all of that.

So if you out a trans woman? Your uncanny intent wraps around her and protects her from murder, harassment, degendering and objectification by the people you just outed her to! If you say something ableist, you’re not actually contributing to the system that demeans PWD because your intent will gird your words with alchemical shields, made of eldritch power themselves, that prevent the words from creating and furthering social associations between disability and being bad, wrong, broken or unwanted! I know? Isn’t it grand? I love magic!

See, the great thing about this thaumaturgy is that it protects anything a privileged asshole says! So it fits in line completely with that glorious sense of entitlement that privilege tends to confer, basically, the idea that you can say anything you want and should never have accountability for what you say! Because you see, all privileged people have this ancient eldritch power called “Intent”. In fact, intent is one of the primary elements of the world (see figure 1). Like fire, water, wood, metal, air and earth, Intent helps make up an important part of the very existence of the universe. So when you invoke its ancient might, its tendrils of ephemeral power shift in the very fabric of the ‘verse, creating a magic so powerful that you can manipulate thousands upon thousands of threads of fate, just to protect the person you just said or did something supremely privileged and horrible to.

chart of taoist elements, including intent

So say, if you make a bunch of racist jokes, instead of contributing to the systemic oppression of POC, the bewitching might of Intent (I’m capitalizing the I now, to give it proper respect as a primary element) spreads out, blocking every single person from fully hearing the awful racist shit you just said, further preventing them from internalizing it and using it to justify actions. It also prevents it from creating an environment where racist behavior is seen as more acceptable, by twisting the very threads of fate there as well! And, the best part? If you say it in earshot of someone who’s offended or hurt by it, the occult powers of Intent change everything! Now, instead of hearing a hurtful slur or sentiment that reminds of past abuses at the hands of privileged fuckjobs, the marginalized person in question only hears the beautiful natural sound of birds chirping. Or whale noises! Because you see, Intent is just that powerful. It literally keeps anyone from getting hurt by your fuckery!

But you see, it goes further than that.

Intent is so unbelievably epic that it doesn’t just cover slurs. No, it covers actions as well! Because you see, the very threads of fate are not immune to this otherworldly flow of what you meant to do or say. So if you kick a trans woman out of a homeless shelter into the cold because she didn’t fit your views of what a woman should be and she didn’t want to be put in with the menz (who would likely rape and murder her, or at least harass her), your Intent literally changes the tapestry of fate so that instead of freezing to death in the cold, she actually is heated by an unexpected fire, lit by a lightning strike from clear skies, onto a pile of garbage that can’t spread the fire to anything else, right next to where she just happened to fall in exhaustion! I know! Isn’t it awesome?!

Intent is a power that you only have if you believe in it. Because so many marginalized people don’t believe in the power of intent when it comes to their/our marginalizations, few of us are able to call on its supernatural strength. Some rare marginalized folk are able to, but only in given situations and generally only in relation to themselves.

But you see, it isn’t even limited to the fuckery of kyriarchy, self applied -ism and/or privilege. It works everywhere else too! Made a really bad business deal that bankrupted your new business but didn’t intend to screw that up? Intent will magically negate the effects of the business deal on your finances! Drove during a foggy night while drunk as fuck and accidentally ran down a college student with your car going at high enough speeds to instantly kill him? Intent’s eldritch power will restart his heart and heal his wounds! Intent has the ability to change everything and anything you do and say to match your intent. That is simply how strong it is as one of the primary elements of the universe. It’s why we’re so darn unreasonable for being mad at the fuckery of privileged assholes, or for even calling them assholes. They didn’t intend to hurt anyone! They didn’t intend to do anything bad! And clearly, due to that Intent, to that thaumaturgic sorcery that spills forth from the mindset of the asshole who claims its power, any harm or bad shit they caused is magically negated!

Because you see, Intent is the ultimate alchemy. It doesn’t change lead to gold, it changes harmful, negative or damaging actions into happy, fun, “everyone hugs and no one is oppressed”, magical unicorn actions. It dips its eerie powers into the pools of time and space and counters each and every ripple of fuckery and pain created by the actions of an unthinking douchebag who was too privileged or self absorbed to see that their actions were a problem.

Isn’t that magical? I sure think so.



178 Responses to “Intent! It’s Fucking Magic!”

  1. All of the actions described in this blog post are cruel and it is unfortunate that mess ups still occur.

    But, (oh, here comes the disagreement), as a writer and actor(well, in training), I mst say that what happens behind the action is as important as the action itself. The thoughts and considerations do not negate the the action, but, in my opinion, it is better for an action to not be intended to be hurtful(doing something out of naivete or ignorance) than intended to be so.

    I am probably alone in this poinion, but being a writer/kinda of a actor does that to you.

  2. I think I might have just fallen in love with you a little bit.

  3. An intentionally malicious action is certainly worse but that’s only from the bad intent being added to the bad action. The action is still bad and damaging even if the intent is good. It just isn’t worsened by bad intent.

  4. 5 Nick Manna

    Just gonna throw this out here (and it’s not to diminish the rest of the post, which, btw it FREaKIN AWESOME and HILARIOUS)

    but the characterization of all men as rapists is completely sexist.

  5. Um, where did I do that? o_O

  6. 7 Sas

    Does anyone have a write-up for the Summon Intent Elemental spell? I’d like to include it in a campaign.

  7. I forgot to one of the most important pieces of my opinion to my post(ADD be damned):

    I also do not believe that a terrible action makes the person a terrible person. I believe that every person is the summation of all of the actions, intentions and independent thoughts they have throughout their entire lifetime, not just one action.

    Anyway, I am going to cease being difficult and get back to maintaining my own blog(no posts since Dec 22 >.<).

  8. It’s a philosophy I only partially share, in that certain actions have such intensely damaging cascades of events that they can overweight the rest of what a person does in terms of resonance.

  9. I absolutely loved this. The nerd girl in me also squeed at the extended fantasy-magic metaphor. ::grins::

    At the end, where you drew the connection to intent-based fuckery that has nothing to do with oppression, that was very well stated and is one of the primary ways to rebut the “but I meant this and that!” whining that privileged people use. Just like whinging about political correctness means a privileged person is applying a double standard vis a vis respect, using intent as a defence is applying a double standard to responsibility. Because a lot of us are raised to know that the road to hell can be paved with good intentions and that it doesn’t absolve you from the need to apologise or make amends.

    What I usually say, and what I said in a recent argument with an ‘ally’, is that if you step on someone’s toes when you’re trying to hug them… politeness and decency demands an apology, and an attempt to get it right next time. You don’t go complaining about how the pain of the stepped on toe doesn’t exist because you *meant* to hug the person. You just say sorry and try your damndest to lrn2hug.

    The same standard must apply everywhere. Intent isn’t a Get Out of Jail Free card, understanding the intent behind a screwup is a largely academic matter. The concrete, tangible concerns, and one’s responsibility to fix the screw up remains constant regardless of intent.

  10. 11 Nick Manna

    Paragraph six (including the warning note and the one line paragraph). It’s the part where you discuss kicking out a MtF from a woman’s homeless shelter-she didn’t want to live with the menz because they would probably rape or at least harass her.

    Anyway, I’m just sensitive as a gay guy dating a FtM who looks like a Mountain Man/creepy/scary rapist guy. I’m always a bit concerned in my interactions with women cause I just have that serial killer/rapist look about me (on the inside I am an adorable, cuddly brown bear but w/e).

    Anyway, your blog is awesome and I totally love what you write about-keep it up!

  11. Hmm. It didn’t really read as a statement on all men to me. I’m not sure how you got that from it. I certainly don’t think every man is a rapist or even a rapist in training, no matter what sexuality. I am cautious (in that men don’t wear signs, so I don’t know who’s a rapist or who isn’t) but since cis women rape trans women at pretty high levels too I’m actually that level of cautious with all apparent cis folk. And obviously caution should never be, “omg all men are rapists!” because that’s just ridiculous.

    If you want advice on how to make it clear you’re trustworthy around the wimminz, I can give some pointers, if you’d like. Having a fearsome appearance can be a definite detriment and since it isn’t our job to risk ourselves by dropping caution with guys we don’t know are nice, you tend to be stuck an awful lot.

  12. 13 Sadderbutwisergirl

    I loved this post. No matter what someone’s intentions are, it doesn’t really block the potential effects of whatever ignorant things are going to/are being said. An acquaintance of mine, just after going off on a tangent about how curing autism was bad and having me give input, said, after I walked just a few paces away, that he thought autism was caused by “flawed genes.” In that remark, the point is missed entirely. Ever since genes were discovered, several members of minority groups have been victim to “cleansing” by virtue of scientists pronouncing them to have bad genes to fit their own political agendas. The acquaintance intended to be more progressive than most people are about autism, but he missed the point.

  13. I have to say I agree with Austurias, but it also works the other way around: if you think badly of a minority group, yet go out of your way to pretend you’re an ally (at least, in the presence of people of your “beloved” minority group), that could turn your actions into fuckery. This is also what I have against “preferred” language (ie. avoiding oppressive terms): is it okay to crack jokes about marginalized groups if you do it in incomprehensibele made-up euphemisms so that they can’t tell you’re mocking them? I don’t think this makes you any less guilty of racist/ableist/whatever jokes, and yet it is mostly your Intent that makes these jokes ableist/racist/etc. Similarly, if people act all nice when around a minority, but it is all out of malicious/antisocial Intent, are these people not malicious until they’ve come out as malicious (ie. until they’ve committed some harmful action)? Don’t think so.

  14. 15 GallingGalla

    I don’t have much to add to what the others have said here, but I loved the post and the snarky tone. It does frustrate me how many people pull the “intention” argument (and I have done so myself wrt my axes of privilege).

    @ Sadderbutwisergirl: My father pulled the “bad genes” argument on me the other day. Apparently the fact that my mother’s parents were first cousins is the cause for all these supposed “defects” and “fragilities” in the family, including my being autistic and a trans woman.

  15. 16 Sadderbutwisergirl

    @GallingGalla: That has no scientific bias whatsoever, what your father said. There is no proof that breeding between cousins will cause a person to be autistic or transgender. Not only that, but the description of the states of being autistic and transgender as defects depicts hierarchical thinking combined with blindness by privilege. Do you have any blogs of your own on WordPress?

  16. Oooo, I should do that.

  17. This was excellent. I was brought up in the Mahayana Buddhist tradition that puts forth the notion that motivation determines everything.

    Your article here really opened my eyes to the validity of what I grew up learning.

    I’ve been ‘outted’ by nice people who didn’t “intend” on outting me, it just happened – and of course they didn’t intend on the shit storm that followed their outting either.

  18. I really only have a problem with intent being a determiner when people think it means their actions don’t do any harm or they don’t need to stop.

  19. This is one of the problems that most western students of Mahayana Buddhism (particularly the Tibetan tradition) fail to understand. Often they jump in and assume if, in their mind, their motivation (aka intention) is good, well then their actions will inherently be good. I fell into this trap when I belonged to a Buddhist cult…

    For me, your article has set me to thinking about the whole motivation/intent notion presented the Western perspective of Mahayana Buddhism.

  20. It doesn’t seem surprising that Westerners would twist a non Western religion all out of whack.

  21. Wow, so maybe the fact that I have ancestors like 4 or 5 generations back who were first cousins caused me to be a trans woman, too? That would be so awesome. We need more first cousins having children together. *eyeroll*

  22. 23 Mike

    There’s an excellent example of the MAGICAL POWERS OF INTENT being mocked over here right now. I’m linking to the discussion instead of to the actual problematic group, since that group will hopefully be gone soon and I want this comment to make sense.

    Check this out: “i think black chicks should be required to wear muzzles.except the hot ones.theyre cool.(no racism in my comment by the way)”. By simply adding “no racism in my comment”, you can say the most racist and misogynistic (although, to be fair, the author never claimed anything about misogyny) things and get away with it! Because clearly, as long as you say that you aren’t being racist, you really aren’t!

  23. My wtf levels… they have reached the toxicity threshold. Imma gonna go die now.

  24. Wow! What a great deal!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    -_-

  25. 26 Waxeye

    Yes!! Yes!!! This! Thanks so much for this comment; it is a super useful turn of phrase for explaining the thing and it will be definitely used <3

  26. 27 Laura

    Super-late, but just saw this entry linked to at Alas.

    What happens behind the action is only important to the actor. It makes no difference to the person affected by the actor. (“Actor” meaning one behind the action, the “doer,” in this case.)

    The affects of their actions are not changed by their intent. The hurt or damage is not minimized. The only thing that relies on intent is whether or not the actor is a “good person.” So if someone accuses you of harm and you start arguing about intent, all you’re arguing about is whether you are a good or bad person, not about whether you caused harm or not. And the people who are calling you out usually don’t care! Therefore, statements of intent are irrelevant, except to make to yourself, privately. “I didn’t want to hurt someone, but I did, how can I behave differently next time?”

    (Also, ignorance can cause someone with good intentions to cause harm, which according to the previous paragraph doesn’t make them bad people, but willful ignorance is irresponsible at best, so it’s not a complete conscience cleanser in any way!)

    And I know that “good people” and “bad people” aren’t that meaningful as categories. Hopefully the ideas come across – “good people” meaning the status that people feel is threatened when they defend their actions with statements about intent.

  27. This is post is a thing of great and terrible beauty.

  28. 29 Evie

    Another one of the interesting things about intent is that it’s a legal term! Crime only exists in its full capacity if coupled with “intent,” so if there’s no intent, there’s no crime!

    That’s not strictly true, obviously, but “accidentally” hitting a bicyclist with your car is only “vehicular manslaughter” and apparently carries a fine and community service (in Washington anyways) whereas TOTALLY ON PURPOSE hitting someone means jail time.

    I think that’s interesting, don’t you?

  29. Unfortunately, law is rarely perfect. Or even very functional.

  30. 31 anna

    Just a warning: I’m about to agree with you. Some people on the Internet are confused by this, so I like to give a heads up.

    If I may borrow from Buddhism for my terminology, Right Action can only follow from Right Intention. If the Right Intention isn’t present, then the action is not Right Action, even if it seems so on the surface.

    In other words, Right Action implies Right Intention. By the contrapositive, Wrong Intention implies Wrong Action.

    Even if it seems right on the surface.

  31. I think the stipulation that intent can make things worse but can’t make it better is pretty much all that needs to be said here.

    If one has bad intent, well yes, that’s bad in and of itself. But if someone did something bad, their intent doesn’t change that bad thing done, nor does it excuse it. That’s what I’m getting at.

  32. 33 Chris C.

    Wow this post is amazing. I may link to this often, if that’s ok with you.

    Honestly, it seems like every online discussion I come across about [race/privilege/disability/etc] is just riddled with apologists crying “But they didn’t meeeeeeeean to!!1′.

    So this is very refreshing. :)

  33. Link as much as you’d like. I don’t mind. XD

  34. 35 L

    I just fell in love with you a little bit, too.

  35. 36 Barney

    Intent is a legal term, but, at least as its used in England and Wales, it doesn’t offer much of an easy excuse.

    If you know what you’re doing, and decide to go ahead and do it, I think that’s pretty much all you need for intent. The defence of not having the required intent for a crime is pretty much just there to prevent people being punished for genuine accidents.

    I think the fucking magic intent (or lack of intent) discussed here is a different one, whereby people can decide to do something, knowing that it is likely to be harmful, while not intending to cause harm.

  36. This is mostly dealing with people who use their intent as an excuse to get out of being called out for mistakes they made.

  37. 38 Barney

    It seemed like it was also aimed at what I think is probably quite a large contingent, people who use the idea of intent to get out of being called out for not caring enough to avoid causing harm. The intent they describe when accounting for their actions may not hold up to scrutiny.

    I’m not convinced that its possible, generally, to kick someone homeless out of a shelter in freezing conditions without intending to increase their risk of freezing to death or getting sick, but people who do that would certainly like to imagine that they don’t have that intent.

    Although people who use their intent as an excuse to get out of being called out for genuine mistakes they made probably may be deliberately avoiding learning from their own mistakes, and so they’re choosing to continue making them.

    I think there might be a distinction with someone who makes a mistake and accepts being called out, makes an effort to understand, and show that they understand what they did wrong, and then also expresses a lack of intent. That’s trying to limit the intent making things worse, rather than expecting intent will make things better.

  38. Of course.

  39. I got this as a trackback, and I couldn’t find a link to your post as well.

    Thought you’d appreciate it, though. :)

  40. omg that’s amazing. My month has been made. XD

  41. “she didn’t want to be put in with the menz (who would likely rape and murder her, or at least harass her)”

    Oh, OK

  42. Have something to say? Don’t be shy.

  43. Loved this post. Loved the diagram (again!) and repeated use of “fuckery.”

  44. OHHHH I get it. So when my friends make a horrifying hand-flapping motion accompanied with groaning noises, they don’t INTEND to invoke individuals with disabilities and compare their lives to a bad/wrong/disagreeable thing that has happened to them! I was just confused! I must be impervious to intent. Thanks for finally showing me that *I’m* the problem…. they kept trying to tell me that but I didn’t understand that they were using Intent!

  45. I’m nothing if not a helper. *nodnod*

  46. ooh, Lisa beat me, i was going to comment here with a link to my blog!

    regardless, here it is with more photos and background than there is on flickr – http://craftydame.blogspot.com/2010/02/fucking-magic-pillow.html

    thank you so much for such a kickass awesome post and for the inspiration!

  47. Unlike many posts on the internet, this was fun to read and gave me some valuable input. I will have to put a backlink on my website. Regards. J

  48. And thank you for the giving me the opportunity to call myself a muse for something that awesome. XD

  49. 50 GhotheGirl

    OMG never read your blog before, but fuck this is awesome.

    Sarcasm is a difficult sword to weild, when used improperly it can come off as smarmy and often alienates the audience. You however weild it very deftly, and you enable us to laugh while still making us aware of our own imperfections.

    I’ll be looking through some more of your entries then :3

  50. 51 SKW

    I just wanted to say that I loved this entry. So many times when I point out to someone that what they said was offensive, the power of Intent is called upon to protect them from taking any responsibility for what they said. And when I point out that, arguably, they’re acting like even more of an ass for not at least holding themselves accountable, I’m just “being too sensitive.” It’s just refreshing to see that no, I’m not [edited for ableist language ~RP] for thinking that even good people can do and say bad things, but if they were REALLY a “good” person, they would own up to it. Admittedly, even I said and done bad things without meaning to, but I tried to apologize, learn better, and move on. It’s really not all that difficult.

    I actually linked it to my profile page on my LJ, if you don’t mind. I just got sick and tired of a couple of people invoking the powers of intent on my blog, but you explained it better that I could have (and with great sarcasm). Thank you for writing this!

  51. Just needed to point out that the use of “crazy” that way is ableist and psychophobic. Other than that, glad I could help. XD

  52. 53 M&M

    How do you tell what language is ableist and what language is not? I don’t really want to offend anyone, but I don’t think it’s possible for me to become fully knowledgeable on EVERY topic of discrimination, so are there any general ways to tell if language might be ableist or not? Over so much time of using a word, we come to accept it as normal and often do’t even think twice that it could be offensive, so I imagine it must be a difficult thing to train yourself against doing, but it’s still worth aiming for.
    Also, a little OT, but how does one go about being a proper ally for the TIG community? I have definitely been trying to do my homework on transgender and intersex issues, traversing blogs, reading books, etc., and trying to question what gender actually is and not to take anything for granted (I’m also in a Language and Gender class right now, which is quite interesting) and I always try to educate people when I hear them say things like “There are only males and females” or “There is something wrong with transgendered people” or things like that, and explain more about it, but I have definitely noticed 9 times out of 10 they don’t even care. I’ll still try though, mind you. It’s worth it for that 1 out of every 10 people who was merely ignorant. But a great deal just blow me off and continue to say such hurtful things that erase or belittle trans or intersex people. =( I’ve even noticed this with some of my gay friends (cismale) as well, and it puzzles me, because you’d think they would not be so rude and ignorant, knowing firsthand what it feels like to be discriminated against for something you have no control over. It just seems so hypocritical to me. Ugh! I’m trying to be an ally here, but I feel like so many people who have these wrong impressions have no desire to change. I wish I could just get through to them. Well, I guess I’ll just have to keep fughting. Maybe I can’t always do a lot, but sometimes doing the little bit we can can help. My newest protest has been taking my sex off Facebook (or gender… the US version says sex and the UK version says gender, further complicating matters by making the two seem equivalent), not because I don’t feel I fit in the gender binary, but because I want to take a stand for those who don’t. I wonder if I could try getting some of my friends to write emails to Facebook in protest… usually it requires enough people making noise about an issue before any real change can occur.
    Well, sorry for getting a little OT. The part about ableist language is actually on topic, I think, though.
    -Megan

  53. It can be tough to figure it out. Generally ableist language has a certain history (ableist roots) and then has usages that reflect parts of that history or at the very least is still used negatively now. There’s a few blogs on disability out there, the best one on the history and structure of ableist words right now is FWD/Forward. While there’s some trans erasure issues there and some accountability issues too, FWD is an excellent resource if you check their ableist word profile (google search “FWD ableist word profile”, because I won’t link them). Just be careful of whatever is written there about trans issues unless it’s written by kaninchenzero (who I find trustworthy as a contributor and didn’t appear to have any involvement in the erasure and accountability problems).

    And yeah, people can be awful about trans and IS people. What you’re facing here is what trans folk face every day. Prolly the same for IS folk too. Part of your privilege is knowing that you can walk and be fine, whereas every break we take from the shit requires escaping from all of society, so we never get a break. But yeah cis gay guys are prolly some of the worst in terms of trans hate. It is ironic, definitely, especially since they steal so much trans history. But yanno, that’s just the name of the game. There’s a reason why I don’t trust cisGLB. Glad we’ve got allies fighting the good fight. It isn’t easy, but it’s the right thing to do.

    As a quick note, binary trans folk do fit the gender binary, your protest is good for nonbinaries/genderqueers though.

  54. 55 SKW

    I’m sorry for typing that.

    See? It’s not that difficult, people!

    I honestly didn’t think of how it was ableist, so thanks for pointing it out. I suffer from mental illnesses myself, so I should have known better.

  55. 56 M&M

    Okay, I’ll look up FWD/Forward.

    Are there any good books you would recommend for learning about trans issues? I’ve been trying to use Google to get some books to read, but obviously if you have suggestions, I’m sure yours would be very good, seeing as you know about the issues firsthand.

    ————-
    “”And yeah, people can be awful about trans and IS people. What you’re facing here is what trans folk face every day. Prolly the same for IS folk too. Part of your privilege is knowing that you can walk and be fine, whereas every break we take from the shit requires escaping from all of society, so we never get a break.””
    ————-
    =( Sometimes I just get sickened by humanity. I watched a trans issue movie the other day (the Boys Don’t Cry one) and by the end I was crying and was just in general hating humanity as a whole.

    You’re definitely right that that is my priviledge, that I don’t stand out. This is further compounded by the fact that I am white (white priviledge) and thin (thin priviledge, but I have no regrets about that one–I used to be obese and worked my butt off to get healthy, to get to a healthy weight). I do deal with some erasure sometimes though, because I have made a conscious decision (for my OWN conscious reasons and not because of societal pressure) to adapt a very stereotypically feminine persona (lots of pink, skirts, makeup, etc.), because I like feeling beautiful, and to me, in some odd way, it feels empowering, to be able to take myself and present myself in a way that would be stereotypically attractive to men and turn it around on them and deny their affections, define my femininity in an environment independent of and not needing the male persona. In the gay community, that can kind of make me slip into oblivion, though. I don’t even have any lesbian friends, actually. Most of my friends are straight females, not too many males either.

    I tried getting into the gay community when I first entered college (we have a club that meets once a week called LGBTI Coffee Hour) and I discovered I didn’t fit in with them. I obviously can’t speak for ALL gay communities, but the one at my school made me feel extremely out-of-place. They were so cliquey and only hung out with other gay people and talked about being gay ALL the time, almost in a way like they were superior to straight people. Yeah right. Oh, and there was the whole bi erasure issue too, which just ticks me off. I can’t STAND biphobia in the LGB community. And, liking women is important to me, don’t get me wrong. But I have other things in my life I like to talk about too. I just didn’t feel like I resounded well with them, I guess. I feel that the few LGB friends I have made that AREN’T in that community, I can relate to so much more. But oddly enough, the ones I feel I can really relate to are people that have issues with gender, whether it be issues with the gender they were born in, not fitting in the gender binary, etc. It is kind of strange I feel like I can relate to them better, considering I cannot directly relate to them at all, not having experienced what they have experienced. It might stem from the fact that most cisGLB people I meet are like, “yeah, I like the same sex, WOOO,” but I get the vibe that most trans, IS, NB people go a little deeper than that, actually thinking about what things like gender actually mean, actually examining our society and what gender really is. And to me, that is much more… relatable, because I have always had a dissatisfaction with the social construct of gender and its supposed innateness, and with the idea that somehow what’s between your legs is SUPPOSED to match what’s between your ears (because obviously, that is not always the case). And most GLB folks don’t seem to give a rat’s ass. Many I have talked to about it don’t even really seem to care about thinking about these kinds of things more in-depth, so I get frustrated. I have the same issue with most of my straight cis friends too though, to be honest. People who just GET me about those kinds of concepts and even agree, it’s just a breath of fresh air.

    By the way, I apologize for being long-winded. If you hadn’t noticed, I have a habit of rambling on when I feel impassioned. =]

  56. 57 M&M

    And I forgot one thing. I actually DON’T have white priviledge anymore, so I can kind of relate to that one, unlike most white people in the US. I’ve lived in Hawaii for the past two years, and the biggest racial discrimination is aimed towards white people here. We get called haoles (pronounced how-leez) and get a lot of rap from the “authentic locals” (aka born in Hawaii AND pacific islander/asian) who can get very discriminatory against non-locals, ESPECIALLY if you’re haole. Not all locals are like that, but it’s still quite prevalent.

    I think I’m mostly just dissatisfied with gender because I think I never got socialized properly. My brother has a very severe form of Aspherger’s and will probably never be able to live on his own, and in the past two years, I pieced together that I probably have a very mild form of it, though I am very fortunate for how mild it is. I get people mad at me a lot, because they communicate with me indirectly, through body language, etc., I don’t pick up on it, and they get mad. It makes me so sad because I never do it on purpose. But many gender things too.. I feel like I never picked up on them “correctly,” and I had to teach myself consciously instead. So sometimes I’m a little off with it, or I end up learning things far later than most girls would have, even now that I’m in my 20′s. But because of this conscious effort I had to make to learn my own gender role, I became very sensitive to it and didn’t see it as innate as everyone else, since I myself was unable to pick it up “properly.” So that may be why I feel the way I do today. In that case, even though it causes problems sometimes, I would find it hard to find my possible mild Aspherger’s as a bad thing; I think it’s made me a better person. =)

  57. 58 SKW

    I’m reading FWD right now. Thanks for mentioning it. Honestly, I’ve used a lot of ableist language, but no one has pointed it out to me before. I also found the “First, Do No Harm” blog. It’s really awesome.

    With the other, I can’t even imagine what trans people go through every day while confronting people who just don’t get it and say hurtful things all the time (without “intending” to). But when a transgender person chooses to confront the offensive things people around them say, I’ve noticed that they’re often dismissed as “being too sensitive” or taking things “too personally.” Well, yeah, it is personal. They’re just completely derailed.

    When privilege people choose to confront it, they might be dismissed as being “politically correct,” but the dismissal doesn’t really hit on the hard, personal level as it does with someone who isn’t privileged. And other people from other marginalized groups can indeed say hurtful things because otherwise, they can be privileged. It was hurtful for me to hear one of my gay cis male friends making sexist and racist “jokes” all the time in front of me. When I tried to confront him, of course, I was being “too sensitive.” He also mentioned that he was gay so he TOTALLY knew how I felt completely as a biracial, bisexual woman. He’s probably still wondering why I dropped him as a friend.

    I try to confront language too when I spot it, but if it’s something racist, sexist, or homophobic, I have a very hard time confronting that because I KNOW the conversation will not end well. It’s easier for me to just walk away. Admittedly, I have an easier time confronting transgender issues as an ally (though I don’t know every issue out there…I’m reading your blog, though :)). But I know that’s because I’m coming from a privilege standing on those issues. But even then, I know that not everybody will be convinced or even care about what I say. All you can do is try, but unfortunately, there’s no controlling other people’s apathy or hatred. That’s really up to them.

    As far as actually saying something offensive against a group, I just try to live and learn. It is impossible to know every single term that’s racist, sexist, ableist (my case), and it’s almost inevitable that you can say something offensive to somebody. No one’s perfect, and you can (probably WILL) hurt somebody without meaning to. It doesn’t make you a bad person when it happens, but just try to learn from it and apologize. And don’t try invoking intent.

    Bleh, I’m typing too much, but this comment just made me think a lot ;p.

  58. Typing in the right direction though. XD

  59. I never really saw my gender role as innate, I pretty much just ignored gender roles in general. For me, my transness manifested as bodily dissonance. Male bits hurt, female bits don’t hurt. Hence, I changed my body. The social stuff was more a matter of practicality.

  60. As a note, not all of us do have a stronger comprehension or innate comprehension of gender. Some trans folk are pretty much just as ill informed on how gender can work as cis folk. There’s a wide variety of us out there and it isn’t wise to make blanket assumptions, even if they’re positive ones.

  61. 62 M&M

    You know, that’s actually so true, about being easier to defend something if it doesn’t involve you yourself. I tend to be VERY quiet on gay rights issues, because I’m too afraid of people thinking I’m just being too sensitive. I never really thought about it before though. But that makes perfect sense!

  62. 63 M&M

    Good point. ^^ Thanks. So may I ask a question then? What is the exact difference between transgender and transsexual then? I always thought that transgender meant feeling like your gender doesn’t match your physical sex, so it was a matter of gender, whereas transsexual is feeling your sex is wrong and wanting to change it? I… I’m confused on the terminology. I don’t want to use them incorrectly and offend people…. when you say just “trans,” can it impy either?

  63. A transgender person is an individual who’s gender expression, gender identity, or bodily identity does not match their birth assigned sex or physical structure. (opposite: cisgender)

    A transsexual person is a transgender individual who specifically seeks out or requires adjustment of bodily structure, gender assignment (from whatever assignment they had at birth) or social transition. Transsexuals are transgender, not all transgender people are transsexual. It isn’t required that the person actually obtain what they require (like say bodily modification), only that they require it, so as to avoid classism in the definition. (opposite: Cissexual)

    Trans* is often used to discuss the entire community as a shortened word.

  64. 65 M&M

    Oh okay thank you! That makes so much sense! The “gender expression, gender identity, or bodily identity does not match their birth assigned sex or physical structure” part was what I was most unclear on; I have never been able to have a good explanation on what elements one must have to be transgender, and how many must be present. That makes sense now. Thank you.

  65. 66 Argo

    Honest question: When I refer to myself as crazy, because of my mental illness, is that ableist? Or is it okay because I’m just talking about myself?

  66. I guess it depends on why you’re calling yourself crazy. If you’re reclaiming the word, trying to make it positive for you, then no, it’s totally fine. But if you’re using the word to hurt yourself or to demean yourself then that’s pretty bad in general for you, not just ableist.

    It’s the difference between me calling myself a tranny in “I’m just one badass tranny chick, fucking up your shit” and “god I’m such an ugly disgusting tranny”.

    One is reclaiming and the other is just self directed hate. Makes sense?

  67. 68 Argo

    Yes that makes a lot of sense. I do use it in a reclaiming sort of sense, as in “I’m an adorable crazypants.” I do also call myself a tranny, as in “I’m a badass tranny boy.”

  68. As a note, tranny is more commonly used for trans women then it is for trans men, in a slur sense. So it would prolly be good to be careful about it around trans women even in a reclaiming sense, since it may trigger some of us pretty badly.

  69. It didn’t really read as a statement on all men to me.

    In other words, you didn’t intend it that way, right?

  70. No, in other words, he’s wrong about it being a statement on all men. And he’ll continue to be wrong until he or someone else can logically prove his interpretation valid.

    Good try though, skippy. Seems like you actually put some work into it. XD

  71. 72 Jordan

    Thank you for this. I struggle a lot with explaining to people why the things they say are not okay even though they “didn’t mean it like that.” This is supremely helpful and something everyone needs to hear, in one form or another.

  72. 73 anc

    See also the magic spell known as “I was just joking!”

    What, you uptight feminist bitch-face can’t take a joke?

    Nope, guess I fucking can’t.

  73. OMG Kinsey, thank you so much for writing the rant that has been boiling inside me for years. You have articulated the problem much better than I ever could.

  74. 75 Valkyrie607

    Just a note for those who are curious about where the “cis” in “cisgender” comes from. (Because I was curious too once upon a time.)

    “Transgender” is pretty easy to understand. It’s a person who perceives their own gender differently than the one society would assign hir based which bits zie has. But what about a word to describe people whose bits and perception DO match?

    This comes from chemistry, and the classification of organic molecules. “Trans” molecules describe molecules whose non-C, H, or O atoms stick off on either side of the molecule, whereas “cis” molecules are molecules whose non-C-, H, or O molecules stick off the molecule on the same side. (Recall that organic molecules are composed primarily of Carbon, Hydrogen, and Oxygen, and any other type of atom in there is both an anomaly and a way of identifying the molecule.) I don’t know who started this assignation of “cisgender” to people who aren’t transgender, but I’m pretty sure zie took an organic chemistry class at some point.

    In other news, this essay was fucking brilliant and I’m going to put it in my bookmarks so I can link to it every time some asshole says, “Geez, I was just joking, I didn’t MEAN to hurt anyone’s feelings!” Thanks!

  75. Thank you for articulating what I’ve been thinking!

  76. 77 HalleBerry

    The snark is this is just great I loved this post LOL!! Another one that gets me is ‘taken out of context’ and what context was that you are a racist,sexist,homophobic,ageist prick?! The problem is is that this mentality is what sells if Howeird Stern only talked about helpful positive things or fighting the ggod fight[not that he porbably would anyway]he’d be off the air faster than you can say jack rabbit jum. Being an asshole brings in the big bucks don’t you know and if you are a conservative one with a bent towards the most arachaic of racist propoganda cough Limbaugh cough then all the better. It also is OUR fault for not calling people on thier bullshit because I think most of those people have an agenda too. Like white gay celebrities who obviously REFUSE to attack Eminem and his hateful bizarre sexist beyond belief homophobic lyrics. Ellen even DEFENDED that pig or the feminist who stayed quiet as mice for the sleazy Kennedys and rushed to protect Clinton depsite him being a womanizing jag-off. Or black people who try and justify Quentin Trantino’s shameful disgraceful use of the n-word by calling it ‘artistic’ WHAT THE FUCK?!! We need top put ourselves in check and stop defending assholes who do shit that we know is wrong.

  77. Bitch – you rule!!! Loved it and how you broke it down baby! Keep on rockin’ in the “free” world. From Canada with Luv.

  78. 79 Anon

    Am I the only trans person here who thinks this is all kinda extreme?

    If one of my friends makes a joke at my expense, even if it’s related to my sexuality, I just laugh along with them. I wouldn’t try to make them out as some kind of closet bigot.

  79. @Anon

    The intent post doesn’t really make people out to be closet bigots. Just really silly because they think their intent means no one gets hurt. And just cuz you can take the shots doesn’t mean everyone can. We’re not you, Anon.

  80. 81 Finbarr Ryan

    This is the most awesome thing I’ve read all week. Bookmarked. :D

  81. 82 Brian

    Isn’t saying that bad intent makes doing something bad worse the same as saying that absence of bad intent makes doing something bad less bad?

  82. @Brian:

    The whole post is pretty discussing Intent as a derail, that people seem to think if their intent comes up then discussion of the results is no longer relevant. But one’s intent doesn’t change the harm caused by one’s actions or words and so it is a derail, bringing it up isn’t useful during a call out (which is used to show you how you did bad actions, not your intent). It’s useful after the callout when you’ve already apologized and a discussion of the future comes up, then your intent shows if this will be a repeat issue.

    It’s not a statement of intent being wholly irrelevant, after all we use intent to determine whether or not someone is a worthless asshat or not.

  83. 84 Bertie

    Thank you for the awesome rant!

    Boss made me wait several extra days for my paycheck, and then BOUNCED said paycheck–a wholly avoidable occurrence. Barely any apology, and then when I got upset, he said “Hey, I didn’t INTEND to bounce the check.” But he didn’t intend NOT TO, either. What a fuckwit! (As is someone who outs someone w/out their permission and basically says “oopsie, my bad!”)

    Whatever the situation, acting with intent means taking responsibility for making the things you want to happen actually happen the way you want them to. Accidents also happen, so I do believe in giving someone a second chance. But saying there was no intent to do harm doesn’t automatically make it all ok.

  84. “No, in other words, he’s wrong about it being a statement on all men. And he’ll continue to be wrong until he or someone else can logically prove his interpretation valid.”

    I didn’t catch this before. You’re sounding a lot like a hypocrite. How can someone be “wrong” about interpreting the statement, “she didn’t want to be put in with the menz (who would likely rape and murder her, or at least harass her)” as referring to all men (or at least to homeless men), since it is a general statement referring to “menz” in a homeless shelter, which you portrayed as “likely” to rape and murder someone (for fuck’s sake!). Likely? This needs some qualification, don’t you think?

    Obviously you didn’t intend to be sexist (or domesticist), but you were. The mere fact that your statement could be interpreted that way justifies complaint (after all, saying the interpretation is “wrong” is merely protesting that you didn’t intend to come across that way–which, you know, directly violates your original argument). Your choice of language had a bad effect, one which two people have already complained about. It does no good to say it was misinterpreted, unless you think you are above complying with the standards you have prescribed for others.

    Now maybe you could put some teeth on your essay by apologizing to all the men and homeless people you’ve victimized (whether it was through latent bigotry or through careless language). Alternatively, you could back off the judgmental rhetoric a bit. But you can’t have it both ways: you can’t be harshly critical of others and careless regarding your own behavior, unless you’re prepared to be rightly called a hypocrite.

    (By the way, I agree with your basic point about intent, especially as you’ve clarified it in the comments, and I mostly enjoyed your post.)

  85. Intent may not be magic, but it does matter. Accidentally run over a man in a crosswalk at night while driving and you’re at worst up for manslaughter which is bad, but not as bad as intentionally running him down for fun which puts you up on murder charges. Here in TX the accident has you in debt for the rest of your life, and in prison for a couple of years. The intent to kill has you strapped to a table with needles in your arms while you say your last words. The difference is intent. And it does matter.

  86. @Dan: we’re aware. The post pretty clearly is lambasting the usage of intent as a way to avoid accountability or to claim that you didn’t hurt anyone. That guy you ran over? He’s still just as ran over by your car whether you intended it or not. Intent should come into play after accountability has been admitted and apologies made, etc. At that point, you wanna know the intent of the person to know if they’re worth keeping around or someone to walk away from. So intent becomes important later on. But to bring it up when someone says, “you hurt me” is bullshit irrelevancy.

    More clear now?

  87. @Casey:

    Did you seriously just say, “how can someone be ‘wrong’ about interpreting a statement”. I mean really. You honestly just spouted that ridic bullshit? Of course people can be wrong when interpreting a statement. There are interpretations that are simply ridiculous, that are so completely absurd based on even a basic understanding of the language that it’s not worth even bothering with them.

    The statement (that men have a high chance of raping and/or murdering and/or harassing a trans woman, something that is true, regardless of whether they’re homeless) was clear. Two (maybe three, if you’re the third) people interpreted it that way out of the multitudes of people who came through here and on the other sites it was posted at. Intent doesn’t come into play here at all. What comes into play is you being wrong and the person you’re defending also being wrong. And please, do try to justify this bullshit: “after all, saying the interpretation is “wrong” is merely protesting that you didn’t intend to come across that way”. No, it is clearly stating that you didn’t comprehend the statement, a statement that pretty much everyone else had not an issue with. That’s on you, not me. (Note also that no one else thought it was a statement on homelessness, since it was clearly separating men as the main variable).

    Also, jackass, it is not possible to be sexist to men, since sexism is systemic and men are privileged on a systemic level on the sexism axis. Amusingly enough, this offers a clue into why you had your misinterpretation and lack of comprehension, feeling like a true statement (that men are more likely to rape, murder and harass trans women) is false due to already denying privilege through applying sexism to men as a concept. At least the other guy was just uncomfortable with people assuming he was dangerous cuz he was big (something that, in the end is really not the problem of women since men don’t wear signs saying IS SAFE) a pretty understandable reason to be upset, if not a good reason to criticize the statement.

  88. 89 Ian

    I don’t think I would trust a big man wearing a sign that says “IS SAFE.” Methinks the dude doth protest too much.

  89. @Ian:

    The dude doth indeed.

  90. 91 Lily

    Firstly, I adore this post. I’ve forwarded it around, posted it, and bookmarked it for future sending to “But I didn’t mean it that way!” offenders. The snark is glorious on so many levels, and the extended magical metaphor had me laughing and cheering in my geeky soul.

    However, as a woman, a feminist, and the daughter of transwoman, I have to agree that your responses to people’s issues with the “menz” statement are a bit hypocritical. (not hugely so as the types of people you’re lampooning in this post, but a tad hypocritical nonetheless) Why? Because by every accepted scholarly definition I’ve found thus far, sexism is discrimination based on sex. The majority of scholarly articles I’ve read on the subject define it as the application of stereotypes based on sex – any sex! It covers misogyny AND misandry, as well as a whole assortment of other sex and gender based forms of discrimination. Just because men have historically and currently been the source of much of the most harmful sexism doesn’t mean that directing sexism back at them is ok (whether you intended to do so or not).

    Personally, I didn’t interpret the statement as attacking all men, but please remember that your whole point was (I thought) that you cannot control the interpretations and effects of your words and actions. You think their interpretations are ridiculous – I invite you to pause for a moment and remember that most “unintentional” slur-users think that our interpretations are ridiculous. Their reasoning is very, very close to yours. I am not trying to attack you in saying this, but to make you aware of what you are doing.

    I understand that you were trying to make a statement about a statistical average, that you were not trying to make a hurtful generalization about a group of people. However, in the lovely sarcasm (I mean that unsarcastically) you were using, that was lost – your intent was obscured by what may arguably be called poor wording.

    All that said? I’m with you on this post. I love it, I completely agree with it, and as far as I can tell I interpreted it exactly the way you intended us to. Rock on!

  91. @Lily: In the sociological standpoint, any ism is power + privilege + bigotry.

    So sexism is power (man supremacy) + privilege (man privilege) + bigotry (stereotypes about gender). So one can not be sexist against men in any of the contexts that I have ever used that word or anyone else in the egalitarian discourse has used that word. So I didn’t direct sexism at men. I can’t. It’s simply not possible in a world where men have the social power. So you’re wrong. Plainly, simply, wrong.

    As for interpretations well, the basis for my labeling their interpretation as absurd is because linguistically what I wrote was clear and truthful. Only two guys had an issue with it, one due to be sensitive about some really unfortunate backlash from misogyny where he’s not likely to be trusted cuz he’s big and another cuz he’s an MRA esque bullshitter that worked very hard to erase that statistical majority.

    No. Not average. Majority. Most rapes are performed by cis men. Some are performed by women (more by cis than by trans) and trans men (moreso than by any women), but the mass majority are performed by cis men (there’s no data for nonbinary folk). Whereas people who use slurs unintentionally? The reason why they think we’re being unreasonable is not because we misunderstood what they said but because they deny the existence of oppression (something we have shown to exist) and the connection between word usage and oppression (something science has shown to exist). Comparing these two situations is really just not viable.

    I appreciate your attempts to make peace and whatnot but they (the people who interpreted my statement that way) are wrong and you are, in your defense of them, also wrong.

  92. Sorry; for the purpose of clarity, I’d like this paragraph:

    “The statement, as it is, reveals either your bigotry or that of your protagonist, since it boldly states exactly what the statistics do not show: that the presence of men increases the likelihood of a rape occurring.”

    to reflect the following changes (in bold):

    “…that the presence of men makes the possible occurrence of a rape “likely” (as you put it).

    That should be more clear. Thanks.

  93. 94 Zoidfarb

    Hey actually every feminist with the slightest sense of awareness or ethics agrees that patriarchy hurts men as well, and that it is worth noting, exploring, and undoing; and acting as if equality were a competitive team sport and pretending that things happening to men don’t actually count is the nadir of intellectual dishonesty. Reinforcing the notion of men as dangerous rapists is harmful to men AND women and even if it was not harmful to women it would still be wrong.

    But I suppose none of this matters, because the alchemy of your Intent says that since you think a statement shouldn’t be offensive, it is objectively inoffensive no matter what anyone else thinks.

  94. @Casey: Thanks for the correction. It doesn’t change anything, but it does make your point clearer.

  95. @Zoidfarb:

    You’re building such a wonderful strawperson army. It isn’t a competitive sport, I never said it was. Patriarchy does hurt men, I never said it didn’t. I said patriarchy does not oppress men. Men are still privileged in the end, that is the plain and simple fact. And there’s a big difference between not trusting men and acknowledging the dangers of being around men due to the ridiculously high number of rapes perpetrated by men and claiming that all men are dangerous rapists. One is acknowledging that you don’t wear signs (aka there is simply no way to tell if there’s a rapist among a group of men, a chance that is rather high, statistically) and that one should be wary. One is making a blanket statement that is categorically untrue. I made the former. Not the latter.

    Intent doesn’t come into it. What comes into it is you being wrong. And me being right.

  96. 97 Zoidfarb

    Someone else says a thing they don’t think is offensive, but someone else does: “Intent is not fucking magic you privileged idiot, you are just trying to derail things and cover up oppression, you disgust me!”

    You say a thing you don’t think is offensive but someone else does: “You’re building a straw man you privileged idiot, I am objectively fucking right and you are objectively wrong, you disgust me!”

    Well, at least you have some kind of consistency.

  97. @Zoidfarb:

    When has it ever been about offense? Word usage and whatnot is a problem because of oppression and how they work into oppression. I couldn’t give two shits about offense. There are many Christians who are offended by my existence as a queer trans woman. Offense is not objectively something to avoid.

    I guess this really kinda proves how well you pay attention when folks doing social justice work talk or write. Just keep providing evidence that you have no idea what’s going on. That’ll help your case tons. XD

  98. 99 doe

    great. thank you for this.

  99. Spot-on.

  100. This is one of the most amazing things I have ever read. Me and my fiance recently got into an argument about the intention behind slurs (in our case it was me getting really upset by people saying ‘that’s so gay’ to mean dumb/stupid/wrong/bad and him saying that he didn’t think that people intended it to be offensive or to make fun of gay people). I will be sharing this with him when he gets home from work.

  101. This is basically amazing. As a survivor of sexual abuse who has to put up with things exactly like this, it’s wonderful having a big “fuck you” to show parties involved in privilege denying bullshit.

    Intent does matter, but it does not magically erase all harm done. In fact, it does barely anything healing except for the person who claims it. When you do stupid, privileged things, and someone calls you out on it, you admit you were wrong– you don’t defend yourself.

  102. 103 TyphoidMary

    Oh my god I burst out laughing when I saw Figure 1.

  103. 104 ThoughtWander

    Someone posted a link to this website on a gaming news site and I wandered over. I loved this post and enjoyed skimming through the comments just as much. Also, I’ve never heard the term “cis” before, so thank you for educating me on that word. I’m a… let’s see if I say this correctly… cis Queer male, and I try very hard to talk about sexuality in as correct a format as I can. I also work very hard to keep my speech from being ableist, but you’ve reminded me I need to also consider gender as well.

    I’m from West Virginia, and I’ve met people who have had little exposure to people of different viewpoints. They’re genuinely ignorant that what they say is offensive. I think it’s important not to get mad at those people, but instead to focus on education. Being ignorant is not bad. It’s just a state of being. however, I totally agree with you that once the person has moved from ignorance to understanding and still says offensive things then they can’t hide behind “innocent intentions” because the it’s not innocence it’s stupidity. Stupidity is a bad thing. This post has definitely invigorated me to argue with any of my privileged friends who speak in offensive language while masquerading as humorous.

    The only way to live is Positive Intentions for Positive Actions.

    Much love!

  104. I partially disagree with the view in this article.

    Although to be fair, I’ll clarify first that a lot of the more powerful examples in this article have to do with things like outing a transgender person or whatever, and I’m in no way disagreeing with that, because that’s ridiculous.

    But my point is, a lot of the examples that you’re expressing distaste about have bad intent behind them anyway. Where’s the good intent in kicking a transgender person out of a homeless shelter?

    What I’m saying is, *non-personal* (that’s a big part of it) words or actions shouldn’t cause hurt. Whatever happened to “sticks and stones can break my bones but words can never hurt me”? I’m of the philosophy that the more you taboo a word, the more powerful a tool it becomes for hate. For example, all of my African American friends use the n-word all the time. I use it too, it’s not a slur to us, because we don’t intend it to be a slur. If everyone treated it like a slur and banned it from their vernacular then it would only be a much more powerful slur. It’s the actual hate that should be the focus, the enemy. Instead of focusing on things like language, and getting upset about it, people should focus on emotion.

    If you can’t tell, I hate political correctness and love racist jokes xD (I’ll even crack them about myself). Of course these things all have their place, for instance I’d never say a racist joke in a formal setting, and I’d never use the n-word around people who I didn’t know personally, but that doesn’t really speak to the ignorance or harm of intent or lack thereof, but more towards basic social aptitude, lol

  105. @Armando:

    Oh geez, where to start with this one? Many of the examples I used were examples of the use of slurs, including in jokes and such. Which as you illustrated yourself don’t have malicious intent behind them (i.e. lol slurs are so humorous, wait why are you hurt? I DIDN’T INTEND TO HURT YOU!). Even the transgender woman being kicked out of a woman’s shelter has with it the intent of “protecting” the cisgender women from the transgender women. Just because the person is dead ass wrong about who needs protection in that case and apathetic about the trans woman doesn’t mean that their intent is malicious. They’re wrong through bigotry and dangerous as a result.

    With that out of the way, let’s address this ridiculous statement that non personal words or actions shouldn’t cause hurt. It is ridiculous by the way because of how human society works. You used the n-word as an example. I’m going to use shemale as an example. Shemale is a word that, by its very structure, modifies and even negates the womanhood of the individual it is applied to. This is not just due to the roots of the word but the usage in general society. Regardless of your intent (and that’s the point of this post, that intent doesn’t change results) that word will have certain associations in people’s heads. Psychologically it will continue to give folks the subconscious association of whomever you called a shemale as not being truly a woman or being some sort of combo-gender (and there’s nothing wrong with nonbinary genders it’s just that a transgender woman is fully and completely a woman).

    Even worse, the word shemale will evoke images of transgender women (either the oversexualization of porn actors or gross out factor with cis society of folks that don’t pass as cis that well) even if it isn’t used for anyone in particular. So by using that slur, even if joking, you’re still boosting all these damaging mindsets in the people around you. Which leads to actions. Which leads to harm.

    You share responsibility for that harm if you’re privileged because when you say the word it will be listened to more than if we say it (especially if we’re trying to reclaim it as a positive identity word).

    It isn’t about political correctness or offense or intent even. All of that is irrelevant to how words and minds work.

    I’d prefer that you’d take any further comments regarding words, political correctness, offense, slurs and language over to the post I linked and stick to discussing whether intent actually changes the results of actions or words on this post.

  106. Thank you for this post. I just love the fact that you just show me the right way to deal with some of the deepest issues of being mtf. You rule!

  107. Let’s say I’m on a forum and I make a probably-racist comment that I didn’t mean in a racist way, so I add “btw no racism intended.” Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that the theory of Intent works. But think about it. I KNOW that my comment might offend someone. I tell myself I don’t mean to. But instead of changing my comment to make it less racist, I just say I don’t mean it that way—and that in itself renders any theoretical effects of Intent completely void. There are no longer any excuses: I’m online, with all the time I need to think about what I’m going to say, and if I’m able to correct myself, ignorance is no longer a factor. There is in fact an element so powerful that it eclipses all the amazing powers of both Intent and Ignorance: the Internet.

  108. @Rose: You realize the whole post is a sarcastic mockery of people using their intent as an excuse right?

  109. 110 Rose

    I’ve been reading this a couple times a year for about three years now and I keep seeing new uses for it. I could use it so hard on the GOP right now. And, well, on the internet.

    What I hate about the intent argument is how anti-trans, anti-POC, anti-LGBT “feminists” who call themselves “allies” twist it up in knots so they can present as experts on those groups, and speak for us. Then, when we speak for ourselves, they first “other” us by viewing us as white, cis, het, etc. (because they are, and just like the world they criticize, they too see that as “default,” which is to say “person”), and then they lecture us on how WE need to deal with privilege and how WE should “check our privilege.”

    What bull. Far as I’ve seen, the women using the “intent” argument are the most privileged assholes around. They literally live in a world where they are assured they’ll never come into contact with thoughts, concepts, or PEOPLE who challenge or criticize them. They are always right. To engage with them at all requires reading 3 years’ worth of blog entries (at minimum) to make sure all of their likes and dislikes and triggers and sore spots are known and committed to memory. They are strictly ableist and classist as well, making no allowances for people who have to earn a living, or have chronic illness, or have ADHD or another cognitive issue, and so who literally cannot afford to read 3 years’ worth of material.

    Must be nice, sitting up on the throne of intent. Whether it’s Femonade or Sh*kesv*lle (I will not give a certain person the dignity of using my comment as fodder for stroking their own ego), or Scum-O-Rama, or anywhere else, it sure looks high and mighty up there.

  110. 111 Rose

    (p.s. I am not criticizing your argument. I am criticizing the way “it wasn’t my intent!!” is used by the types of jerks I mention. Sorry if I wasn’t clear.)

  111. 112 TransNewsWire

    For three years someone at work used the wrong pronoun in front of customers and staff. I wrote two letters to the company but it was OK because he didn’t do it “intentionally”. Beside, I was the one who changed, he’d just got into the habit during the 1 year previous.

    In the end I had to “intentionally” drop a copy of a 25 page detailed sexual harasment complaint on his desk before he started to “intentionally” refer to me only by a non gender specific employee number.


  1. 1 Weekend Link Love « The Feminist Texican
  2. 2 Feature Blog: The Feminist Texican | The Angry Black Woman
  3. 3 friends and allies. « Love | Peace | Ohana
  4. 4 M. Knight Shyamalan plays B!NGO: Racebending & The Last Airbender « Florence Ringo
  5. 5 Murderer? Then you’re autistic « Jem’s Lair
  6. 6 Link Love: Objectification, Intent, and Writing About Africa « She Has My Eyes
  7. 7 Points in the sky « That's What Ze Said
  8. 8 Privilege « Let the Moose Run. Eat Some Blueberries.
  9. 9 One Lovely Blog Award « After Gadget
  10. 10 My experience isn’t yours, and that’s beautiful. « That's What Ze Said
  11. 11 Your experience isn’t mine, and that’s beautiful
  12. 12 Apologies « Jem’s Lair
  13. 13 HIPSTER-BASED EPIPHANY « Pocochina’s Weblog
  14. 14 links for 2010-10-22 | Racialicious - the intersection of race and pop culture
  15. 15 Understanding People « Jordan Wyn
  16. 16 When questions are arguments: transgenderism and cissexism « Gendersense: thoughts for trans liberation
  17. 17 This Weeks’s Linky Things are Linky « Alyse.org
  18. 18 anti-ableism, in real life « LOVE-NOS
  19. 19 On Pants and Fat Shaming « senno ecto gammat
  20. 20 Privilege…so thick…can’t breathe… | A Division by Zer0
  21. 21 Intent! It’s Fucking Magic! (via Genderbitch: Musings of a Trans Chick) « The Book Slut's Musings
  22. 22 sorry, I don’t stop being feminist because it’s fandom « Fangirl Saves the World
  23. 23 Defending Our Validity | My Blog
  24. 24 Transfeminism | My Blog
  25. 25 On slut-shaming, deleting comments, and respectful discourse | Official Shrub.com Blog
  26. 26 Sunday Reads « Andrés & Candice
  27. 27 Some reactions from HoN neckbeards. Racist Apologia Gallore! | A Division by Zer0
  28. 28 Quote of the Day: Definition of Sexism | A Division by Zer0
  29. 29 Quickhit: 1day.co.nz are transphobic asshats « Ideologically Impure
  30. 30 Do Intentions Count?
  31. 31 Fun With Fundies: On Victim-Blaming And The Bacani Conundrum | Filipino Freethinkers
  32. 32 My Rebuttal, or, the 5 Most Hurtful Things I’ve Heard Since Coming Out « I am the Motley
  33. 33 Monday Musings: Why words like “overweight” bother me. | Katje van Loon
  34. 34 #30 It doesn’t matter if you didn’t intend to be sexist. « More Women in Skepticism
  35. 35 What autistics want – may not be what you think « Jem's Lair
  36. 36 Monday Musings: I am a terrorist. | Katje van Loon
  37. 37 Privilege & Activism « Inquisitive Spark
  38. 38 Open Thread And Link Farm: It’s Fucking Magic Edition | Alas, a Blog
  39. 39 Questions about Vulvanomics « Feminists with Female Sexual Dysfunction
  40. 40 Overstepping Allies: The False Assumption of Privilege Acknowledged, or “Let Me Explain Your Oppression to You” | bunnika's blog
  41. 41 DylanFox.net
  42. 42 On Unicorns and Cleaning the Stable: Why Even “Male Feminists” Need to Actively Check Their Privilege | bunnika's blog
  43. 43 Why “Just don’t watch it” doesn’t work. « Alana Skye
  44. 44 Some Introductions to Privilege (for those who desperately need them) | Chimaera
  45. 45 “That’s so lame!”: Selective Prejudice and How Even Liberal People Flippantly Oppress Minorities « bunnika's blog
  46. 46 “But I’m an Ally!” - Queereka
  47. 47 The Fat-Shaming War Continues — News From the Frontlines « Innocence and Immanence
  48. 48 How To Exclude Women Without Really Trying | Geek Feminism Blog
  49. 49 Guest Post: Craig Gordon Media and Representation of Gender and Race « Which Way to Hollywood?
  50. 50 Doctor Who: A Town Called Mercy « A Random String of Bits
  51. 51 Comment Policy + Community Guidelines | Shadow's Crescent
  52. 52 On Rapists Who Have No Idea That Rape Is Wrong – Ozy Frantz's Blog
  53. 53 Guest Post: Craig Gordon, Media and Representation of Gender and Race « Which Way to Hollywood?
  54. 54 Re-post: How To Exclude Women Without Really Trying | Geek Feminism Blog
  55. 55 No, I Don’t Care That You Mean Well « Fat Carries Flavor
  56. 56 How do you get them to stop asking? - Empty Closets - A safe online community for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender people coming out
  57. 57 The perils of funny feminism
  58. 58 On silencing anger to silence minority voices » Blag Hag
  59. 59 Cispologizing | Transilhouette
  60. 60 Who’s laughing? | Crommunist
  61. 61 Misgendering | Transilhouette
  62. 62 Angry or ignorant. If you don’t pick one, you’re ignorant. | She's That Bitch
  63. 63 Compliments and Intent | GenderTerror
  64. 64 I am a terrorist. | Amoeba Kat Musings
  65. 65 Why words like “overweight” bother me. | Amoeba Kat Musings
  66. 66 Radical Ethicism 101, Part 2: Ethic of Consent, applied « Maybe Maimed but Never Harmed

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