Friday, September 05, 2008

Allies, criticism, etc.

There have been some really great posts in the Fatosphere lately that have me thinking.

Lindsay made a thoughtful post about leaving the Fatosphere.

Anonymous and Tara both posted really good entries over at about Marilyn Wann's 1000 Fat Cranes project.

The first thing I want to talk about is criticism and the perceived evils of anything negative.

I have probably said this before but I believe it bears repeating.

In any collective group who want something in common, whether it's Fat Activism, Anti-Racist activism, Feminism, Patriotism etc this is what I tend to see happen.

Person A voices a dissenting view, or a concern.

Person B says, "OMG why are you being so negative, DON'T DOOOO THAT"

Person A "I just don't agree with (insert thing here)"

Persons C, D, E chime in upset because person A said something "negative" and decide that Person A's criticism constitute a "personal attack". Others jump on the band wagon.

Person F chimes in that it's a criticism and not a bomb.

Sound familiar?

I believe this happens for several reasons.

A lot of people want to only use "positive" and be positive etc. I personally don't because I believe in the value of critique and the squeaky wheel.

Negativity has a place. In and of itself a negative statement, or disagreement of the proscribed ideals is not such a bad thing.

It is my firm and serious belief that if you are really invested in change and yes revolution you have to be willing to criticize what you stand for. You have to be willing to question those in a (actual or perceived) position of power.

And when you do criticize someone often it is not actually a personal attack. There is a difference between asking important questions about a stance someone takes, or the actions they take and calling them an asshole.

I've seen this kind of thing happening in the Fatosphere more often than I'm comfortable with personally. I understand though.

Especially in the Fat World many of us have spent our entire lives nit picked, picked on, screwed with and as many of us come to Fat Activism we grow a protective streak. That is not a bad thing. What is a bad thing is the silencing of dissent because it's either an unpopular opinion, a questioning of our leaders or makes people uncomfortable.

I hate to break it to you but, if you cannot get into and through these things within a movement chances are that movement is going to fail.

Moving along.

The 1000 Fat Cranes Project.

Frankly I haven't kept up with that at all. I saw the mentions of it in the Fatshionista community on LJ and elsewhere but it didn't really catch my attention.

Aside from the cultural insanity what I don't like is the lack of (at least for the resources I found) context and explanation. And by explanation I mean something more than well the Japanese government hates fat people so do this.

The other thing that disturbs me is that as Tara pointed out not a lot of people have spoken up about what bothers them.

I think unfortunately most people just don't know how to speak as an ally.

The easiest thing to say is something like this, "This bothers me. I don't know why exactly but this leaves a bad taste in my mouth and I don't support it."

Then engage in discussion along the way.

You don't have to have fancy academic language, you don't have to personally know any of the people you think are being offended. You don't even have to be able to eloquently defend your apprehension or dislike.

We all know I can't speak for everyone but that is how I feel about being an ally.

And if you say something fucked up, ask someone what you did and why it was offensive if you can't figure it out. Don't apologize out of hand because you're supposed to. Don't get defensive and above all shut up and listen.

One thing about the Fatosphere (no I'm not picking on anyone) I don't respond to well or enjoy is the fact that all too often the atmosphere of cheerleading and big upping can lead to leaving no room for questions and criticisms.

My personal stance for my wee sandbox here, is that I don't moderate comments. I don't delete comments unless they are obviously spam for Super Fantastic Viagra that will make my non existent cock hard. Other than that have at it.

At heart I am now and always have been a fusspot. I am a seeker and a questioner. And I am proud that I do in fact have the Big Clanking Brass Ovaries to question things when the going dogma rubs my fur the wrong way.

When it comes to activism I don't believe in Safe Space. Activism is hard. Activism is dirty and it can get ugly.

If you can't hang that's okay.

If you can, put on your protective cup and come on in.

I think that's about all for now.

I am trying to write a fucking essay and it is in fact whooping my ass.

Creative non fiction is hard.

Also hard, my fabulous long dark purple fingernails.

Homo Out.


Anonymous said...

Thank-you for this article, particularly this bit: "The easiest thing to say is something like this, "This bothers me. I don't know why exactly but this leaves a bad taste in my mouth and I don't support it."

Because that's exactly how I felt when I heard about Marilyn Wann's project but I didn't say it because I couldn't be eloquent or specific about what bothered me. I didn't understand the cultural significance of the cranes and wondered if Wann did herself. I wondered why Wann felt herself responsible for Asia's problems when there are still so many here. See, I still can't articulate myself right... but it felt weird to me. Yet knowing now that's okay... that I just need to get that feeling out there makes being a good ally seem about a million times more doable.

While I disagree with you that people can't have a "Safe Space" when it comes to hard activist work, I have to agree with just about everything else. Thanks again for such an awesome article! :D

Anonymous said...

I keep hoping for more sexy advice too.

Tara Shuai said...

Hey there, Tara from here!

I also appreciated this post, and I also agree that negativity, or in more diplomatic language, challenging whatever status quo there is, is necessary for a successful movement. I wish that allies would get that using someone's tone to ignore the content of their argument is not only not ok, but a classic tactic to silence and dismiss discussions of racism.

Anyway, thanks for posting this!

AnnieMcPhee said...

The crane project is NOT racist. It isn't. You are a nattering asshole if you think it is. It's NOT.

And yeah activisim is ugly but fuck you - It is NOT that.

So go ahead token. You're a token of the race wars in thew fatosphere. No one gives w fuck.

Anonymous said...

Damn. I was all set to say something but then I read AnnieMcphee's diatribe, and my head exploded.

I want to be optimistic, but I tend to look at the glass and realize it's half-full of shit like that, and I don't know.

Nudemuse, I can't remember if I've commented before, but I just wanted to say that I like your blog (and, as a fanfic and slash writing FA woman, I appreciate the mix of FA-stuff and the erotic focus alongside the glitter).

In any case, AnnieMcPhee's dead wrong. I give a fuck. And I'm not alone.

AnnieMcPhee said...

Well, I for one would like to say I'm very sorry and I was completely, 100% wrong. I just wish I remembered doing it; it's not the way I think, it's not the way I feel, and I have no idea how it managed to come out of me. Even being blackout drunk, I still don't understand it. I wouldn't have believed it was me except for this thing about it coming from my profile (whatever that means.) I don't even read this blog. I will be deeply ashamed of this as long as I live. That doesn't mean I'll "shut up and listen" all the time, but I won't forget it.

Naturally I don't expect to count any of you among my friends - not that most of you were anyway - or to be forgiven, and that is fine. I won't be going away, and believe me I'm just as glad that this blog author wouldn't be going away either. No matter what I was thinking, it wasn't an attempt to scare anyone, I can guarantee that.

Though I look forward to people tracking down my IP and trying to get me fired from my job, since that is the MO of more than one of you when you believe you've found a racist or some other kind of hatemonger. Have fun.

Lindsay said...


Please get help. I'm not being mean or sarcastic or otherwise ill-intentioned when i say that. I'm saying it because if you're drinking to the point of blacking out and saying things you wouldn't normally say? There's a problem. Don't do it for me, don't do it to make up for what harm you may have caused (be it here or elsewhere). Do it because it's what's best for you. Please.

AnnieMcPhee said...

Oh boy. I knew that was coming. I'm still not convinced it was me for a lot of reasons. I've never said things like it, and I have never forgotten something so utterly that I don't remember even a scrap. This blog has never been on my radar or given me a second thought - what would I have against her to come here and attack her? It makes no sense. Lastly, you have no idea what was going on in my life yesterday that caused me to wish to get really really drunk, nor am I in the mood to share. Be angry with me, call me names, tell me like all the rest of the posters that they REALLY never liked me anyway and were just veiling their contempt with friendly-sounding words (like I couldn't perceive the condescension), tell me I'm a big fat racist, but please, don't give me the pity/you're in trouble shit. Anything but that. Trust me, you really don't know anything about it.

Lindsay said...

Annie, if you think i'm all about pity and condescension, then you haven't been paying attention.

I've lost more than a few friends because i'd rather piss them off than go to their funerals. May sound melodramatic, but it is literal truth.

You are talking about blackouts and drunken loss of memory in a way that implies you have prior experience with it - you're familiar enough with this territory to recognize a difference in the pattern. That you are THAT familiar with alcohol-related memory loss is indicative of a problem.

If you're so touchy about concern and condescension and pity and therapy-related words, then here is in plain terms: if you are so used to people trying to talk gently to you that you automatically recognize it as condescension and pity, then perhaps we should just jump right into your native language of Stupid Bitch. So here it is: you are fucked in the head, and i don't give a rat's ass about the WHY of it, because going through hard life shit is never a good excuse to take it out on anyone else. If you don't want to hear people saying that you need help for a drinking problem, then next time be sure to not use it as an excuse for your shitty behaviour.

Or, better still? MAKE IT NOT A PROBLEM. Fucking crazy idea there, i know.

AnnieMcPhee said...

Well that's more like it. Yes I do prefer straight talk. The only time alcohol has affected me that way was if I was in imbalance with my minerals, and I actually am seeing an endocrinologist shortly for that. At any rate I've apologized, I've taken my whipping, I see now how people were only pretending not to hate me when really they couldn't stand me, so might as well get hung for the cow as the calf right? So I'll own the words whether they were mine or not. What more would you like me to do? Unless of course I'm going to be the next Rachel Moss who starts getting real life calls - don't think that stuff slipped by me then, and now the same people are mad.

For what it's worth, drinking once a week is not what I consider a drinking problem and I'm certainly not going to seek help for it. I work too many hours and have too much that I go through to give up my few vices. If the worst I did was say something dumb on the internet? Or even nasty and rotten? That I don't remember? If that's the worst that can be said? There are lots of worse things, so.

Lindsay said...

I don't hate you, Annie. Don't now and haven't before. I have no intention of creating any offline problems for you: i've never done that sort of thing before, and i see no reason to start now. I wish you all the best, and hope things go well for you.

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