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About That Hate Crime I Committed at University of Chicago
June 12, 2014 7:13 AM   Subscribe

Dan Savage, the University of Chicago, free speech, and LGBT slurs.
posted by roomthreeseventeen (354 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
It's gross to make fun of trans people by pretending you're confused about what gendered words to use in referring to them. The bit about kings/queens/monarchs is gross. I'm not saying nothing else about this is gross. I just tripped over that too hard to let it lie. Shame shame I know your name.
posted by prefpara at 7:21 AM on June 12


I am a linguist. I teach courses on language, race, and ethnicity and language, sex, and gender. These courses occasionally to frequently requires discussion of offensive language. My students get a disclaimer at the start of the term, saying that we will be doing so, and that it will be done in an academic manner.

But, if a student were to come up to me and say "Hey, I know this is a discussion, and it's not aimed at me, but the use of the word X makes me really uncomfortable" I would not use that word.

Be a f*cking person, Dan Savage.
posted by damayanti at 7:24 AM on June 12 [29 favorites]


I believe this is the petition in question, which I did not see a link to.

I wonder how Dan Savage and IOP feels about some of their "supporters" like Fire or Illinois Review...
posted by muddgirl at 7:26 AM on June 12


The Use-Mention distinction.
posted by kandinski at 7:26 AM on June 12 [36 favorites]


The funny thing about spoken presentations, sometimes the lack of punctuation can change meaning quite a lot. Just in the initial reading, I'm like, wait, did he say he "used to make jokes about [slur]" or did he say he "used to make jokes about '[slur]'"? Quotation marks matter when you're turning something like this into the printed word. I can be that charitable.

But, like entirely too many cis white guys called out for edge case kind of behavior, instead of behaving gracefully about it, he seems to be throwing a bit of a tantrum. It's marginal improvement over some his past tantrums, but it's still leaving him the one looking childish and petulant. I get the idea that some of the stuff going around now among the college-age set is a bit much. But as a queer person in my 30s, my job is not to tell them how to do them any more than 30-somethings should have been telling me how to do me when I was 18. Some of it they'll grow out of, and some if they won't, and the world will be different in another decade than it is today.
posted by Sequence at 7:28 AM on June 12 [3 favorites]


First, when you find Reason, the National Review, Glenn Beck, and FIRE are all in your corner, you have to ask yourself "Where did I go horribly wrong?"

Second, Savage needs to be honest with himself - he hasn't exactly had the best track record when it comes to transgender issues. Yes, he's gotten better, but there's a reason why trans activists might look askance at him.

Third, that particular word is nowhere near being reclaimed in the same way as queer. Furthermore, the baggage on it is a lot more complex than that of queer - for one, it's a LOT more sexually charged.
posted by NoxAeternum at 7:28 AM on June 12 [15 favorites]


The Use-Mention distinction.

Thanks for that. I know not enough about the topic at hand to unpack most of the rest of this subject matter but that link seems useful and cogent.

posted by RolandOfEld at 7:29 AM on June 12 [1 favorite]


He should have come to the point a lot faster. That point being that the he felt the person behind the accustations was making a stunty, self-aggrandizing, rather than sincere, display of language policing and was too ignorant to be taken seriously. Slogging through the first part just kind of made it confusing.
posted by anazgnos at 7:30 AM on June 12 [18 favorites]


Dan Savage is right and attacking allies for quibbles is useless. If you can't use a word in a discussion about why you can't use a word you are beyond common sense objections.

I'll leave this here from his blog post. "It and its friend are young. And foolish. And playing games." Exactly right. Equality is not a game. You cannot win activism. Grow up.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:31 AM on June 12 [90 favorites]


I'm going to argue the other side. I'm so glad i'm not in university anymore, or any other hothouse of eager indignation, where people's intentions and purposes of languages have no bearing whatsoever. Dan Savage is probably the most (blank)osexual-friendly force out there.

The other day, I was stuck in a lane of unmoving traffic. I started to do a u-turn to go into the empty lane the other way. Far, far in the distance was a cyclist peddling away. I indicated, started my 3 point turn while he was still very distant, and from where any car would have seen my move, and afforded me the time to get out of the jam

The cyclist accelerated rather than slowed, dipped behind my reversing car by inches, and began screaming at me about having right of way. That's what this feels like. An eagerness to be offended, a chip ready to be shouldered, a righteousness desperate to be felt.
posted by C.A.S. at 7:31 AM on June 12 [64 favorites]


And, really, this is college now? Professors, fellows, and guest lecturers need to clear their vocabulary with first-year students?
...
This student became so incensed by our refusal to say "How high?" when this student said "Jump!" that this student stormed out of the seminar. In tears. As one does when one doesn't get one's way. In college.

Way to fight the kyriarchy, Dan!
posted by thirteenkiller at 7:32 AM on June 12 [1 favorite]


Here's a supplemental link - a student perspective on the issue. It was linked in Dan Savage's article but stands on its own. In particular, this quote stands out to me:

I believe the approach these students are taking is unfortunate, questionable, and destructive. It is akin to transforming important, under-discussed topics into minefields—mines that even LGBTQ allies will, and already are beginning to, fear setting off too much to even broach the subjects. If this is the sort of response speakers and attendees can expect at any kind of event about LGBTQ issues on our campus, even allies will be reluctant to participate. Indeed, such reluctance is already setting in. In the aftermath of the seminar, I have heard many of my peers express concern about being branded transphobic, and thus avoid discussing trans issues altogether.
posted by LSK at 7:35 AM on June 12 [37 favorites]


Publicly calling out a guy who has a history of using a trans slur, who is presently "mentioning" the trans slur, is not "grandstanding." That's him getting called out on his shit. If he wants to mention the word, why not say "t-word" the way we say "n-word"?

There's no reason, at this point, for Dan Savage to address the trans community, or the t-word at all. His admitted self-identification in no way compasses a transsexual identity. He pokes at people and then gets self-righteous when they poke back. What a jerk.
posted by muddgirl at 7:36 AM on June 12 [22 favorites]


Agreed with anazgnos. Dan Savage appears to be poorly handling this, which does reflect badly on him, but ultimately this seems to be a case of college kids trying to exert language control over situations - the first situation being the t-slur, the second being Dan's (correct) pronoun use, as overheard by strangers.

Language and desired pronouns is very important to discuss, understand, and respect, but everyone here just kind of sounds like an ass.
posted by special agent conrad uno at 7:37 AM on June 12 [4 favorites]


That's what this feels like. An eagerness to be offended, a chip ready to be shouldered, a righteousness desperate to be felt.

Has there ever been a point where college students weren't a bit like that? Especially the ones interested in anything like social justice? I'm not dismissing their feelings on the basis of youth, I just mean, going on about this is taking on a distinctly "kids these days" sort of tone. I picked up Young Ones again after awhile due to the recent passing of Rik Mayall, to see them making fun of young people for exactly the same thing in 1982--"Are these lentils South African?"

It's the responsibility of those who are old enough to know better to know better. If you are a 49-year-old man and you think you should be responding in kind to an upset teenager, you've missed something about this whole adulthood thing. It's the job of the young to get upset about things to get the attention of their elders; it's the job of the elders to take the anger in stride and help to make that positive change a reality.
posted by Sequence at 7:38 AM on June 12 [43 favorites]


That's not how we do journalism out here in the real world, Maroon. Please consult your faculty advisors.

it is so hard to get past his constant smugness sometimes to ever get to his points. also, his transphobia and misogyny (trans and general) has a pretty lengthy history. i respect a lot of what he's done, but his blind spots are huge and getting further entrenched all the time.
posted by nadawi at 7:39 AM on June 12 [26 favorites]


I don't know, you guys. It's so hard to agree with Dan Savage even when he's right, because he really does seem to relish being an asshole to certain groups. Like trans people, and fat people, and women. I'm kind of over it. There are other sex-positive advice columnists out there, I don't need to rely on this guy, do I?
posted by palomar at 7:45 AM on June 12 [60 favorites]


If he wants to mention the word, why not say "t-word" the way we say "n-word"?

Because grown-ups shouldn't be expected to engage in wink-wink "I won't say what I mean but you know what I mean" silliness. Either mention the word or don't mention the word.
posted by Longtime Listener at 7:47 AM on June 12 [55 favorites]


I believe the approach these students are taking is unfortunate, questionable, and destructive. It is akin to transforming important, under-discussed topics into minefields—mines that even LGBTQ allies will, and already are beginning to, fear setting off too much to even broach the subjects.

Yep. And marginal allies are being lost entirely, because they think: This is simply insane, I will be no part of this whatsoever.

The idea that Dan Savage is now the enemy - this is why the left never has, and never can, amount to anything: Purity tests.
posted by kgasmart at 7:47 AM on June 12 [63 favorites]


OK, I'm NOT trying to wade into the trans-feel space and I'm not qualified to comment on it.

I'm commenting as a person who cares about the U of C.

Was this beef worthy of a U of C trained text-parser? Maybe. When you are at U of C, there is the expectation that any and all terms can be used and unpacked. Then they get debated and you might get your ass handed to you. But rarely did I ever see an emotional firewall go up.

When that did happen, it usually came about because the folks in attendance were fully prepared for topic A and instead topic B came about in an undisciplined way. Which may describe the beef we're reading about. (Still rare though.)

If that was the stated topic, then as a Midway dweller you are expected to buckle up for that specific event and duke it out. Otherwise how are you supposed to hone your skills to change people's orientation on the topic?

If DS ambushed the crowd with the topic, then yeah, ask him to change the subject, but you do that in the interest of keeping topic A productive and keeping it moving.

So I'm not saying that these kids today shouldn't have asked DS to change up, I'm saying that there's a U of C way of doing it that I was used to and it seemed to work out.

Now if the event is more like 'hey lets grab some wisdom from a person in the trenches' that's another thing entirely. I saw Dick Gregory there in the late 80s, and his language was not at all guarded. It was well attended and received, because we all kind of knew what we had signed up for by going.
posted by drowsy at 7:47 AM on June 12 [4 favorites]


Dan Savage is probably the most (blank)osexual-friendly force out there.

If this were true, then god help us all.
posted by winna at 7:50 AM on June 12 [32 favorites]


I didn't notice Dan Savage being anti-women, that was news to me, can anyone provide the case evidence?
posted by C.A.S. at 7:51 AM on June 12 [2 favorites]


dan savage is not "the enemy" - he's a dude who does awesome on some topics and not awesome on others. this is not about "the left" or all lgbtq activism and people's efforts to twist it into such to then dismiss all liberals or lgbtq people is pretty gross.
posted by nadawi at 7:52 AM on June 12 [29 favorites]


Because grown-ups shouldn't be expected to engage in wink-wink "I won't say what I mean but you know what I mean" silliness. Either mention the word or don't mention the word.

But adults ARE expected to use euphemisms situationally. We do it all the time. What makes this situation different?

For example, the phrase "the n-word" is incredibly common and I would be shocked to hear a white speaker say the original word, especially in a context that is merely referencing some different activist history as seemed to be the case here.
posted by muddgirl at 7:53 AM on June 12 [12 favorites]


Referring to Dan Savage as a "misogynist" or as "transphobic" evokes for me Orwell's essay, "What is fascism?" Labeling someone like Savage with those terms essentially renders them meaningless. Why subvert the meaning of useful words instead of just coming out and calling him a bully?
posted by touchstone033 at 7:53 AM on June 12 [13 favorites]


I hate college students and their self righteousness as much as the next person, but you know who I hate a lot more? Dan fucking Savage and his grossly misogynistic, trans-phobic and bi-phobic bullshit.

This happens over and over again. Savage is offensive, people are offended, Savage is a smug prick about it, people continue to be offended, and then a bunch of other people tell the offended people that Savage is ~*TEH BEST ALLY EVAR*~ and if people are criticizing him, then they're just looking for reasons to criticize people and are clearly overreacting.

I'm so tired of Savage, and I'm so tired of the thing where he's presented as, like, the magical fairy godmother of the sex-pos community and the One True Gay Dude Who Gets It. If a bunch of gay white dudes (and, let's face it, an untold number of straight white women) want Savage for their mouthpiece, that's fine. They can have him. But I feel like the rest of us need and deserve someone better than this.
posted by MeghanC at 7:53 AM on June 12 [75 favorites]


The idea that Dan Savage is now the enemy - this is why the left never has, and never can, amount to anything: Purity tests.

Have you followed conservative politics recently? Did you notice that the very conservative #2 Republican in the house just got dethroned for waving generally in the direction of immigration reform?

Purity tests are by no means the sole domain of the left anymore.
posted by leotrotsky at 7:54 AM on June 12 [24 favorites]


Dan Savage is probably the most (blank)osexual-friendly force out there.

Provided the cause advances the interests of Dan Savage Inc.
posted by Pudhoho at 7:54 AM on June 12 [5 favorites]


But, like entirely too many cis white guys called out for edge case kind of behavior, instead of behaving gracefully about it, he seems to be throwing a bit of a tantrum. It's marginal improvement over some his past tantrums, but it's still leaving him the one looking childish and petulant.

Well, my other thoughts about this incident notwithstanding, consider the following from his account:
I stated that I didn't see a difference between saying "tranny" in this context and saying "t-slur." Were I to say "t-slur" instead of "tranny," everyone in the room would auto-translate "t-slur" to "tranny" in their own heads. Was there really much difference between me saying it and me forcing everyone in the room to say it quietly to themselves? That would be patronizing, infantilizing, and condescending.

The student who objected interrupted: as neither Cox nor I were trans, "tranny" was not our word to use—not even in the context of a college seminar, not even when talking about why we don't use the word anymore. I asked the student who objected if it was okay for me to use the words "dyke" and "sissy." After a moment's thought the student said I could use those words—permission granted—and that struck me a funny because I am not a lesbian nor am I particularly effeminate. By the not-your-word-to-use standard, I shouldn't be able to use dyke or sissy either—or breeder, for that matter, as that's a hate term for straight people.
I wasn't there, and I don't know what his tone was like or what his exact words were, but let's assume for the moment that this is a relatively accurate summation of what happened. He was asked to euphemize, and to ignore the use/mention distinction, by someone who admitted that the issue was not that they found his use of the word triggering or anything but because it was not Savage's word to use, even though other words that also don't apply to him were somehow okay. He did not (at least from this account) insult the student during this exchange - he just explained that he didn't believe substituting the phrase the T-slur for the word tranny (when discussing, not using, the word) was reasonable, and he outlined his reasons for thinking so.

For this, two students informed event organizers that he committed a hate crime.

I agree that his response has not been exceptionally graceful, and his huge lead-in about the student's chosen pronoun is quite petulant, but I also have never had to contend with being accused of a hate crime for something that isn't even, by any sane estimation whatsoever, a crime at all, let alone a hate crime. I'm not saying that going apeshit is the correct response, but I guess I'm seeing where his lack of unimpeachable aplomb here is coming from, at least.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 7:57 AM on June 12 [85 favorites]


it is so hard to get past his constant smugness sometimes to ever get to his points.

when i was in my twenties i found his smugness obnoxious. in my late thirties i find it kind of endearing. incidentally, i own a lawn now.
posted by echocollate at 7:59 AM on June 12 [9 favorites]


I'm ready for the next Dan Savage. But I like the one we have now as well.
posted by josher71 at 8:00 AM on June 12 [2 favorites]


weird - i went the other way. in my 20s i loved it, in my 30s i cannot fucking stand it.
posted by nadawi at 8:01 AM on June 12 [8 favorites]


But adults ARE expected to use euphemisms situationally. We do it all the time. What makes this situation different?


That's true. There are words I would not use in front of dear old Aunt Gertrude that I might use in the locker room. But when the situation is a discussion about the word itself, then it's ridiculous to tiptoe around it. You are talking about the word. So use the word you are talking about.
posted by Longtime Listener at 8:01 AM on June 12 [16 favorites]


Purity tests are by no means the sole domain of the left anymore.

Right, and now would seem to be a golden opportunity for "the left," whatever that may consist of these days, to exploit those divisions.

But instead of focusing on pocketbook issues that affect everyone, what I see is a left consumed - in some cases, almost entirely - by identity politics. And here, in this instance, in this thread, is that phenomenon writ large: Dan Savage used the term "tranny" in the context of why he USED to use the term "tranny," and a person named "Hex" who identifies as "it" "felt unsafe," and people are now insisting that Savage hates trans people and has therefore failed the purity test and must be rhetorically (or more) disciplined for this.

On the basis of this, you know what? Dave Brat's going to win. Ted Cruz is going to win. Conservatives are going to win, as the left occupies itself with ludicrous arguments like this, effectively neutering itself.

And you know what: If conservatives DO win, trans people and everyone else on this side of the fence will have a ***hell*** of a lot more to worry about than Dan Savage.
posted by kgasmart at 8:02 AM on June 12 [32 favorites]


People should be called what they want to be called. That's just good manners. Let's reserve the hate crime rhetoric for those times when it's actually warranted.
posted by Cash4Lead at 8:03 AM on June 12 [4 favorites]


Bringing up "the n-word" as a comparison point is a bit ironic considering how that went over here:
but can we just agree, as a community, not to put the n-word on the front page?

Veto.
posted by ericost at 9:45 AM on January 4, 2011 [56 favorites +] [!]
posted by 0xFCAF at 8:04 AM on June 12 [1 favorite]


The use-mention distinction is important.

However, even a mention of a slur can be a bludgeon, particularly if it is used more often than needed for the discussion at hand. I think we've discussed this before on mefi regarding a 4-letter word starting with c used to refer to women.
posted by nat at 8:05 AM on June 12 [5 favorites]


So... everyone who uses the word "tranny" in this thread is committing a hate crime, right?
posted by desjardins at 8:05 AM on June 12 [5 favorites]


I don't know if he's right or wrong, I just know that he comes across as a complete dick with increasing frequency and that whenever I open his column I find myself worrying I'm about to read something mean-spirited.

Does anyone have a suggestions for specific alternatives to his column/blog? I just want to read the occasional weird and funny sex question, not have a 10% chance of opening up some nasty-hearted trolling directed at some already shat-upon minority. He may be ironic or post-ironic or sarcastic or making a point or something, but at this point I'm either not smart enough to get it or not patient enough to care.
posted by Benjy at 8:05 AM on June 12 [9 favorites]


and people are now insisting that Savage hates trans people

people didn't decide that dan savage was transphobic based on this incident - people who have that opinion have a lot of history to point to.
posted by nadawi at 8:06 AM on June 12 [14 favorites]


Dave Brat's going to win. Ted Cruz is going to win. Conservatives are going to win, as the left occupies itself with ludicrous arguments like this, effectively neutering itself.

Bull.
Fucking.
Shit.

Dave Brat and Ted Cruz will win because they live in places with people who have hated the left since time immemorial. The left has been under physical and philosophical attack for decades from their own government and large portions of society in a fashion that the right has never and will likely never see. You have absolutely zero proof that the left and what arguments it chooses to have are in any way related to how conservatism exists and thrives in this country. It's a particularly pernicious myth, and the sooner it dies away the better.
posted by zombieflanders at 8:06 AM on June 12 [23 favorites]


I think a lot of this can be traced to how different elements of society view Dan Savage:

To a lot of straight people, he's one of the big, public faces of gay rights. The "It Gets Better" campaign alone was wildly successful. A big-name, popular author who pushed for gay marriage and gay rights.

To some trans people, he's basically Anne Coulter-level poison. A trans person I know said he's basically "Rush Limbaugh, but less open to fisting"

Rectifying those two views on a figure is confusing to many, because to a most people gay = not-straight.
posted by lattiboy at 8:06 AM on June 12 [9 favorites]


I picked up Young Ones again after awhile due to the recent passing of Rik Mayall, to see them making fun of young people for exactly the same thing in 1982--"Are these lentils South African?

Just to put this into perspective, the anti-apartheid movement and the boycott of South African goods helped end apartheid. So all those jerks who were making fun of activists for caring about this issue in the early 80s should feel really bad. This shit mattes.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 8:07 AM on June 12 [34 favorites]


But instead of focusing on pocketbook issues that affect everyone, what I see is a left consumed - in some cases, almost entirely - by identity politics.

Turn off Fox News, bro.
posted by zombieflanders at 8:07 AM on June 12 [9 favorites]


Wasn't Savage having a private conversation that was overheard and Tweeted?
posted by KokuRyu at 8:07 AM on June 12


Language is language. It is not a bludgeon for the simple fact that no one can make you feel anything that you do not choose to feel.

Groups are continually claiming offense so as to not take responsibility for their emotions.
posted by gsh at 8:07 AM on June 12 [3 favorites]


our trans members have asked us repeatedly to try to not repeat slurs when discussing slurs and it'd be awesome if we just found ways to structure our arguments that didn't rely on constantly repeating them.
posted by nadawi at 8:08 AM on June 12 [41 favorites]


KokuRyu - uh, did you read any of the links? It was a seminar attended by ~50 people.
posted by desjardins at 8:08 AM on June 12 [4 favorites]


It does indeed seem like the Left is more interested in rooting out heterodoxy than forming alliances. I would say that the Right is better at smoothing over differences of abstraction, but then again the Tea Party is proving that by forcing supposed allies to tack hard right, you are setting yourself up for failure with the vast sea of moderates out there.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:09 AM on June 12 [2 favorites]


Groups are continually claiming offense so as to not take responsibility for their emotions.

Ah, the old "why are you hitting yourself?" defense.
posted by fight or flight at 8:09 AM on June 12 [15 favorites]


I agree that his response has not been exceptionally graceful, and his huge lead-in about the student's chosen pronoun is quite petulant, but I also have never had to contend with being accused of a hate crime for something that isn't even, by any sane estimation whatsoever, a crime at all, let alone a hate crime. I'm not saying that going apeshit is the correct response, but I guess I'm seeing where his lack of unimpeachable aplomb here is coming from, at least.

Along the same lines, if a 49-year-old man got into an argument with his 18-year-old son in the course of an argument and calling him names, I could totally see the source of the lack of calm. Teenagers can be infuriating. But the thing about being Dan's age, the thing about being even my age, is that I am not 18 and even if that's my first impulse, I'm supposed to be able to exert some self-control. By 49, you should have mastered the art of writing your first rant, throwing it away, and then writing a second rant that's a lot less hot-headed. If you are a 49-year-old famous blogger/podcaster/writer, and the other party is an approximately teenage college student, then if your first response, period, is to think that you need to use your gigantic media platform to retaliate against said student for saying something that was very arguably an overreaction?

You're the one who's wrong, period. And Dan ought to know this because he's got one of those teenagers himself, now, doesn't he? Maybe his kid's the sensible one.
posted by Sequence at 8:10 AM on June 12 [18 favorites]


It does indeed seem like the Left is more interested in rooting out heterodoxy than forming alliances.

This isn't about forming a political party. This is before that. Its pre-capital-P-Politics. Its about treating fellow humans with basic respect.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 8:11 AM on June 12 [7 favorites]


gsh, it's a matter of intent in the speaker, too. If the speaker just wants to say the slur a lot, they can get around the societal rule not to say slurs by instead mentioning it. The use-mention distinction can give someone an excuse to say a slur a bunch of times, for free.

It isn't free, words have meaning and history, and the use-mention distinction isn't a get-out-of-jail-free card.
posted by nat at 8:13 AM on June 12 [2 favorites]


I followed the nadawi trajectory on this one. In my early twenties I found some useful stuff in what Dan Savage was saying. I needed, deserved, and was glad to have found, a sex-positive queer-positive voice that had some reach out in the world.

Eventually, as I kept learning and reading and listening and growing up, I realized that what he was clearing was like, the lowest possible bar. What I needed, deserved, and still have not found is a sex-positive queer-positive woman-friendly trans-friendly bi-friendly fat-friendly voice with that kind of reach. I'm not sure if Dan changed or I did (probably both), but at this point in my life he's not the voice I need and not the voice I want representing the queer community.

It sort of feels like I grew up and he didn't. And he has no excuse in the world for not having done so, at this point, after this many dust-ups and this many people saying "the way you use your platform hurts me and people like me." If he hasn't started to deal with this better by now, it's because he has no interest in doing so, and so I have no interest in continuing to read/support what he has to say.
posted by Stacey at 8:13 AM on June 12 [42 favorites]


For this, two students informed event organizers that he committed a hate crime.

From what I can tell, the students informed event organizers that both Ana Marie Cox AND Dan Savage used hate speech, as described in the petition to organizers (it's interesting that Ana Marie Cox's part in this is being minimized by both Savage and conservative reactions to the situation) The reporting from campus newspaper The Maroon does not mention "hate crime." I can't find any current reference to a "hate crime" except from Savage himself.
posted by muddgirl at 8:15 AM on June 12 [6 favorites]


gsh, it's a matter of intent in the speaker, too. If the speaker just wants to say the slur a lot, they can get around the societal rule not to say slurs by instead mentioning it. The use-mention distinction can give someone an excuse to say a slur a bunch of times, for free.


Especially if the speaker in question has had a history of actually using the slur as a slur. Which makes buying the "It's mention!" argument difficult.
posted by damayanti at 8:15 AM on June 12 [2 favorites]


Also, Savage has always been an asshole.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 8:15 AM on June 12 [10 favorites]


weird - i went the other way. in my 20s i loved it, in my 30s i cannot fucking stand it.

i can understand that as well. in my twenties i was full of righteous indignation disproportionate to my lived experience, perspective, and good judgment. i was ignorant if well meaning and prized a good cutting retort over good-faith engagement with difficult or uncomfortable ideas.

i look back on me then and see a kid whose heart was in the right place but was punching way above his weight class, and if adult me had to engage with young me, day in day out, on sensitive topics, my impulse would be to slap him down hard. the faster we get over ourselves, the better we can contribute to the conversation in meaningful ways.

i realize others would object, and i anticipate arguments that, as adults who have been through it, we should be more sympathetic, or that as adults who know better we should be more generous and less volatile in our reactions. but really, i just find myself sympathizing with the guy who has to put up with that shit.
posted by echocollate at 8:16 AM on June 12 [8 favorites]


It's so hard to agree with Dan Savage even when he's right, because he really does seem to relish being an asshole to certain groups.

I can acknowledge that, but I also appreciate that (a) he's directing the vast majority of his fire at the conservative activist forces that are bent on making life dangerous for those who don't conform to their worldview and (b) he's willing to reconsider and change his stances. Not always as fast and as graciously as he should, but he does.

Is he the only expert who should get attention and hold sway? By god, no. But I think his overall influence has been a net good.
posted by psoas at 8:16 AM on June 12 [14 favorites]


It sort of feels like I grew up and he didn't.

I agree. I can remember reading his old column in The Stranger (he may already have been syndicated by then, I don't know) and finding it relevant and useful. That has not been my reaction when I see his stuff now.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:18 AM on June 12 [6 favorites]


Can someone explain to me what an "off the record Fellows seminar" is? It seems to me like "off the record seminar" is used to mean there will be no transcripts or recordings, but Savage seems to believe this means that no one should discuss what happened in the seminar to people who didn't attend? For example, in the sciences off-the-record seminars would be used to discuss research that wasn't yet published, but they would still generally be open to the public.
posted by muddgirl at 8:20 AM on June 12


From what I can tell, the students informed event organizers that both Ana Marie Cox AND Dan Savage used hate speech, as described in the petition to organizers (it's interesting that Ana Marie Cox's part in this is being minimized by both Savage and conservative reactions to the situation) The reporting from campus newspaper The Maroon does not mention "hate crime." I can't find any current reference to a "hate crime" except from Savage himself.

From his account of it:
with two student participants having already violated the confidentiality agreement (they told organizers that the confidentiality agreement was voided when I "committed a hate crime")
He appears to be quoting what the two students told event organizers. I'd be more prepared to think he was using scare quotes except he does not use them when the phrase "hate crime" comes up elsewhere in the article.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 8:23 AM on June 12


That is covered in the first link. "IOP seminars are off-the-record affairs. Participants—speakers included—agree not to write, blog, or tweet about what is discussed during these closed-door sessions. The IOP wants high-profile political and media figures to speak openly and candidly with its students and this confidentiality agreement is designed to facilitate honest discussions—sometimes brutally honest discussions. "
posted by desjardins at 8:23 AM on June 12 [6 favorites]


Can someone explain to me what an "off the record Fellows seminar" is? It seems to me like "off the record seminar" is used to mean there will be no transcripts or recordings, but Savage seems to believe this means that no one should discuss what happened in the seminar to people who didn't attend? For example, in the sciences off-the-record seminars would be used to discuss research that wasn't yet published, but they would still generally be open to the public.

Hard to know without seeing the NDA.
posted by josher71 at 8:23 AM on June 12


But I think his overall influence has been a net good.

I used to think that. But as a member of a group that he regularly shits on, to this day, I have a hard time believing it.
posted by palomar at 8:24 AM on June 12 [11 favorites]


he's directing the vast majority of his fire at the conservative activist forces

I don't want to support his bullying anyone, even if they are conservative or whoever. One reason Dr. King was right that "hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that" is because a habit of using bullying tactics turns into friendly fire too often, like in this instance. No one is required to support an "ally" who refuses to act like an ally.
posted by Bentobox Humperdinck at 8:25 AM on June 12 [3 favorites]


I started when seeing a link to the Chicago Maroon because I always think of "maroon" as a racial slur... I am assuming the school paper's name refer to the school colors, which is a good example on the question of use and context.
posted by chapps at 8:26 AM on June 12


It is not a bludgeon for the simple fact that no one can make you feel anything that you do not choose to feel.

This is such shit, though. I mean, would I buy that no one can make a straight white, masculine-presenting, middle-class-or-better dude feel anything he doesn't want to feel--yes, sure. Because it's been made clear to him his whole life that the people who'd be making him feel uncomfortable things aren't as good as he is, and that he's the one with power there.

So let's pretend that generic you is not a straight white etc dude! And let's also just point out that for gay people and women and trans people and black people--which is to say, the kind of people who tend to be upset about slurs--they've spent their entire lives being told that they're not good enough, or not as good as other people, and that who and what they are is shameful and bad and dirty. Many of us have been assaulted by people who used various slurs as weapons--for example, one time I was raped by a guy who spent the whole time telling me that I'm a nasty fucking dyke who's going to hell, etc. Which--hey surprise--is a thing to which I have an emotional response.

One of the interesting slash depressing things about people is that if the same lie is presented frequently enough, and reinforced from enough angles, they'll come to believe that lie. It's why propaganda works, and why people confess to crimes they didn't commit. Is it really that hard to believe that if you're told over and over for your whole life that basic aspects of your identity mean that you're not as good as other people, that you're shameful and wrong and gross, that you'd internalize some of that?
posted by MeghanC at 8:26 AM on June 12 [21 favorites]


You know, if I were Dan Savage and I were well-intentioned, I would just let the whole thing fucking go, not write about it, mention it only if asked, etc. It's really difficult to know how this actually went down without having been there, because with all this stuff, there's so much in the air: What is the campus environment like? What are the GLBTQ student organizations like? What is the particular social circle of activists like? What tone of voice did Savage use? What was the mood in the room? Who was in the room? I'd argue, too, that the overall class, race and gender make-up of the campus modulate how this kind of stuff plays out. What I'm saying is that on a small campus where activist culture rules and the norm is a lot of status jockeying over who is more radical an event is going to play out really differently than on a campus where queer and trans students are marginalized and campus culture does not favor them. Plus other tiny dynamics.

I'd say I've spent much of my activist life in the trenches of....ultra-leftism? PC thuggery? This sort of thing, anyway. And I've known activists to be really right on, and I've known activists to be lying liars who are full of bullshit. And all points between.

I'm not impressed when a grown-ass adult tries to bring down the forces of anti-PC on a bunch of college activists. Regardless of what actually went down and why, that's well in excess of requirement.
posted by Frowner at 8:26 AM on June 12 [31 favorites]


But instead of focusing on pocketbook issues that affect everyone, what I see is a left consumed - in some cases, almost entirely - by identity politics.

Perhaps instead of reading about comments on university guest lectures by a sex-advice columnist, you should be reading about Moral Mondays, the occupy movement, election reforms, and primary campaigns instead.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 8:26 AM on June 12 [14 favorites]


Dan Savage is right and attacking allies for quibbles is useless.

Belatedly, you're a pretty shitty ally if you think your alliance means you get to dictate to oppressed people exactly how you get to ignore or minimize or insult their complaints.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 8:29 AM on June 12 [12 favorites]


That is covered in the first link. "IOP seminars are off-the-record affairs. Participants—speakers included—agree not to write, blog, or tweet about what is discussed during these closed-door sessions. The IOP wants high-profile political and media figures to speak openly and candidly with its students and this confidentiality agreement is designed to facilitate honest discussions—sometimes brutally honest discussions. "

Ok, that's a new angle on it to me. To go to an event like this and then violate the NDA you signed bc you didn't like what you heard? That seems like spoiling for a fight.

Is this student going to be welcomed at future IOP seminars on campus? Does the school have an academic honor code?
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 8:29 AM on June 12 [6 favorites]


what I see is a left consumed - in some cases, almost entirely - by identity politics

Yeah, I think that says more about what you are reading than what is actually happening, and taking an incident that involves college students and a newspaper columnist as somehow emblematic of "the left" is weird.
posted by rtha at 8:30 AM on June 12 [10 favorites]


Belatedly, you're a pretty shitty ally if you think your alliance means you get to dictate to oppressed people exactly how you get to ignore or minimize or insult their complaints.
True, but that's not what happened in this instance.
posted by FreezBoy at 8:32 AM on June 12 [4 favorites]


Actually, also, I think "it" pronouns are pretty neat.

I find it annoying that Dan Savage sort of relies on "this person is such a weirdo that they use this pronoun, therefore their arguments are invalid".
posted by Frowner at 8:32 AM on June 12 [10 favorites]


I'm not sure why I'm having such a different reading of this situation than the majority of people in this thread, but I agree with Dan.
posted by josher71 at 8:33 AM on June 12 [7 favorites]


Has any mefite attended one of these? Students and other attendees explicitly agree to an NDA? or is it more of a cultural expectation?

Here's the description of the event, by the way:
May 22: Social media saving lives

In September of 2010, columnist Dan Savage made a video in response to a story about the attempted suicide of an Indiana teen bullied because he was gay. He and his partner simply explained that for gay youths, "It gets better." The clip went viral; the theme expanded beyond coming out of the closet to address the alienation felt by any teen who feels "different" and bullied because of it. Organizations like RAINN (Rape, Abuse and Incest National network) can circumvent the shame associated with reporting abuse by making counseling available via chat and text. The National Suicide Lifeline monitors Twitter for opportunities to intervene. Are there opportunities for government agencies to follow similar models
Like I said before, it seems to me like there was no pressing need for either Cox or Savage to use the word itself or even a euphemism as any part of this discussion. Transgender rights and transgender activism are not Savage's specialty nor were they the intended topic of discussion. I can see why a transgender student would be upset to attend a talk with Dan Savage on the "It Gets Better" project only to be confronted with a discussion of when and why Cox and Savage used slur words.
posted by muddgirl at 8:33 AM on June 12 [1 favorite]


Just to put this into perspective, the anti-apartheid movement and the boycott of South African goods helped end apartheid. So all those jerks who were making fun of activists for caring about this issue in the early 80s should feel really bad. This shit mattes.

Assuming one hasn't seen the show in question, I don't think that the intention at all at the time was to portray such activism as a bad thing. The character isn't there to make fun of activists, he was one of four college-age kids sharing a house and, as one that age is wont to do, sometimes taking such activism to ridiculous extremes. The same gag could have been done at any point in history with whatever the cause of the moment. But that kind of enthusiasm is a necessary part of the process. For all people up there talking about how this represents some kind of part of continuing failure of "the left", I live in the midwest and on gender, sexuality, race, basically every possible measure, where I live is miles ahead of where people were thirty years ago. Not that there isn't a long way to go, but progress is clearly being made regardless of how polite people are about raising their objections.

But part of how this works is that at some point we all have to grow up, stop saying the first thing that comes to mind, and hold ourselves to higher standards than we hold others to.
posted by Sequence at 8:34 AM on June 12


"OP seminars are off-the-record affairs. Participants—speakers included—agree not to write, blog, or tweet about what is discussed during these closed-door sessions. The IOP wants high-profile political and media figures to speak openly and candidly with its students and this confidentiality agreement is designed to facilitate honest discussions—sometimes brutally honest discussions. "

So this was Dan Savage's 47% moment?
posted by Pudhoho at 8:35 AM on June 12 [3 favorites]


That's what this feels like. An eagerness to be offended, a chip ready to be shouldered, a righteousness desperate to be felt.

Okay - I was actually in college during the highwater of the actual "political-correctness" movement when it was on campuses, and I am so right there with you when it comes to whether some students maybe over-react to things. (I had a column in the school paper my senior year and once spent a panicked 20 minutes with the editor trying to come up with a way to rephrase something I'd said in a column about laundry because someone joked that my comment could be re-interpreted as being supportive of Nazis, and we got scared enough to think "wait, what if that actually happens?").

The thing is, though, that sometimes the things that those students are getting all bent out of shape about actually do matter. And this is pretty much one of them.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:38 AM on June 12 [3 favorites]


I'm not saying "hate crime" is accurate or warranted (although it seems like that was an exaggeration on Savage's part, which honestly, wouldn't surprise me), but this
And as I've written previously: "False accusations of engaging in hate speech are themselves a form hate speech—particularly in the hothouse environment of LGBT activism." It and its compatriot and QUIP owe me, Ana Marie Cox, IOP, and all the students at U of C an apology.
is a bit much, and frankly signals to me that Savage has a long way to go in learning to be accountable for his words/actions.
posted by likeatoaster at 8:45 AM on June 12 [5 favorites]


I guess we have to decide if people are irredeemable. Savage stopped using the word in his column and podcasts 3 years ago after trans activists asked him to. He didn't bring up the word in the IOP seminar we're discussing now; he was responding to a co-presenter's question.

He was smug and kind of dickish in his response but I think he was correct in defending himself and his accusers shouldn't be given a pass because of their youth; rather they should learn a lesson about context and intent. I also thought everything was black-and-white, cut-and-dry when I was 19. Life has since taught me otherwise, and not by coddling my misconceptions.
posted by desjardins at 8:48 AM on June 12 [60 favorites]


Does this get us closer to the part where we get to stop talking about how totally amazing Dan Savage is and directing every other Ask OP to a Savage Love podcast? Because he's actually not that great, particularly to trans people, bisexual people, asexual people, and the many, many people for whom it does not actually get better. Oh, and you know, women.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:50 AM on June 12 [30 favorites]


he was responding to a co-presenter's question.

It's unthinkable to say, "Let's not talk about that. Let's talk about my work on It Gets Better?"

Or even, "Please don't use that word."

I think it's unfair to ask the students to use this as a learning experience without asking Savage to be thoughtful and reflective about his own actions.
posted by muddgirl at 8:53 AM on June 12 [4 favorites]


I think that it's useful to consider this stuff from the point of view of outcomes. You don't have to agree with someone to not be a jerk - Savage can think whatever he likes about language. But if you know that something inconsequential to you is going to upset a bunch of people and derail from your main point, why wouldn't you skip the inconsequential thing? I think it's possible for honest people to disagree over how language gets used, but it does not reflect well on someone's character if they are unwilling to use language appropriate to group and setting.

Also, the whole thing is a good reminder to those of us who are Not So Young As We Used To Be that things do change. Language and ideas that quite genuinely were perfectly okay or even progressive in the past do not always serve the needs of the present, and we have to be real about that rather than clinging to the familiar. (I feel like Dan Savage is really resistant to letting his basic understanding of the world be changed by time.)
posted by Frowner at 8:54 AM on June 12 [9 favorites]


I don't want to support his bullying anyone, even if they are conservative or whoever.

I could have been more explicit, but by "his fire" I was referring to his shining a spotlight on local, state, and national legislatures (and their allies) who are attempting to roll back civil rights & liberties; I hardly think he's in a position to "bully" them.

But as a member of a group that he regularly shits on, to this day, I have a hard time believing it.

I hear you. That sucks.
posted by psoas at 8:55 AM on June 12


Does this get us closer to the part where we get to stop talking about how totally amazing Dan Savage is and directing every other Ask OP to a Savage Love podcast?

Really? Every time his name comes up here we get to hear about how much of an asshole he is.
posted by desjardins at 8:55 AM on June 12 [18 favorites]


Does this get us closer to the part where we get to stop talking about how totally amazing Dan Savage is and directing every other Ask OP to a Savage Love podcast?

I sure hope so. That or the addition of a "crappy advice" flag.
posted by Pudhoho at 8:55 AM on June 12 [4 favorites]


It's unthinkable to say, "Let's not talk about that. Let's talk about my work on It Gets Better?"

And then the complaint would have been "oh he's an awful person for dodging the issue about his past use of the word."

I don't even especially like the guy, but I don't think he could win in this situation.
posted by desjardins at 8:57 AM on June 12 [4 favorites]


Dan Savage bullying a conservative who attempted to roll back civil rights and liberties.
posted by Bentobox Humperdinck at 8:59 AM on June 12 [1 favorite]


True, but that's not what happened in this instance.

Bu Savage? Or in this thread?
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 9:00 AM on June 12


Actually, also, I think "it" pronouns are pretty neat.

I don't at all. I don't think I even have it in me to refer to a person as "it". It seems very dehumanizing to me--I mean, that's how Buffalo Bill talked to his victims in Silence of the Lambs FFS. I really hope "it" doesn't become the standard; I know it's not up to me but I just can't do it.
posted by Hoopo at 9:00 AM on June 12 [11 favorites]


I think it's unfair to ask the students to use this as a learning experience without asking Savage to be thoughtful and reflective about his own actions.

I'm actually pretty disgusted by what to me appears to be the infantilization of college students. These are bright students at a top university. If they want to get up in someone's face, bravo to them, but then they should also learn to handle the push back.

The entire thing strikes me as another example of a progressive auto-immune disorder. Meanwhile, in the actual world outside, a rising tide of autocratic assholes is arguing that states should be able to pass laws supporting death by stoning for homosexuals.
posted by mondo dentro at 9:00 AM on June 12 [27 favorites]


I want to be clear that I think Dan Savage's remarks about trans folk were not kosher, and I don't think anyone should be belittled or called names because of who they are.

But Dan Savage is a pundit. He's in the business of being outrageous. That's his persona. While I used to read him a lot 10+ years ago, the only time I even think about him how is times like this.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:01 AM on June 12


If people want to be called "it," call 'em "it." "It" will probably never replace "the standard." Jeeze.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 9:02 AM on June 12 [1 favorite]


It's actually very encouraging to see so many people in this thread agree with Dan Savage. Because sometimes mefi reminds me a bit more of those students.
posted by Edgewise at 9:02 AM on June 12 [34 favorites]


It's not a new conflict, and it matters in that mainstream gay and lesbian politics often says that issues of concern to trans people are a "next step" to be tackled at some future date.

A fair chunk of this is on Savage's shoulders, not just because he says or does the wrong thing, which happens. But because he responds to disagreement with periodic click-bait snark about how people who don't share his sexual orientation and gender identity hate him rather than engage in other activism.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 9:03 AM on June 12 [4 favorites]


Guess that's the end of those off-the-record seminars, eh?
posted by smackfu at 9:04 AM on June 12


Actually, also, I think "it" pronouns are pretty neat.

In fairness to Dan Savage, the main thrust of his point doesn't seem to be that choosing the pronoun 'it' is too weird, it's that it's kind of inconsistent with the stance that certain ways of talking about trans people are too upsetting even to reference.

I feel like Dan Savage is really resistant to letting his basic understanding of the world be changed by time.

I'm not really sure where this is coming from, perhaps the fact that he doesn't tend to do a big recant but just changes the way he talks about things. The way he talks about, in particular, bisexuals and trans people, is massively different now to the way it was a few years ago, although none of that was exactly announced. I'm pretty sure he's quietly changing his tune on asexuality as well. I think his views on cheating are actually changing for the worse, but that isn't generally something that comes up in these discussions.
posted by Acheman at 9:05 AM on June 12 [10 favorites]


I don't at all. I don't think I even have it in me to refer to a person as "it". It seems very dehumanizing to me--I mean, that's how Buffalo Bill talked to his victims in Silence of the Lambs FFS. I really hope "it" doesn't become the standard; I know it's not up to me but I just can't do it.

But you find it dehumanizing because of your particular ideas about what constitutes "human". It's really worth putting pressure on those ideas, I have found - I find that the more attentive I am to the use of uncommon pronouns (ze/zim, it, ec) the more it chips away at my unconscious attachment to the gender binary.
posted by Frowner at 9:05 AM on June 12 [5 favorites]


"It" will probably never replace "the standard."

What's with the quotes here? Is there some kind of problem with using the word "standard" to refer to whatever a commonly accepted pronoun might be?
posted by Hoopo at 9:05 AM on June 12


The entire thing strikes me as another example of a progressive auto-immune disorder. Meanwhile, in the actual world outside, a rising tide of autocratic assholes is arguing that states should be able to pass laws supporting death by stoning for homosexuals.

Can we get a flag for this type of argument?
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 9:06 AM on June 12 [14 favorites]


DR;TL: See Jerk Theory
posted by Captain Chesapeake at 9:08 AM on June 12


What's with the quotes here? Is there some kind of problem with using the word "standard" to refer to whatever a commonly accepted pronoun might be?

To be frank, I'm not real interested in arguing whether my scare quotes were appropriate. "Use the pronouns people say they want you to use, even if they make you uncomfortable," seems like a pretty solid rule all around. I don't know why you'd object to it. That said, I agree with FAMOUS MONSTER above.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 9:09 AM on June 12


I'm not really sure where this is coming from, perhaps the fact that he doesn't tend to do a big recant but just changes the way he talks about things. The way he talks about, in particular, bisexuals and trans people, is massively different now to the way it was a few years ago, although none of that was exactly announced. I'm pretty sure he's quietly changing his tune on asexuality as well. I think his views on cheating are actually changing for the worse, but that isn't generally something that comes up in these discussions.

The texture of his writing and public speech, mostly. Like, if you're an older person and you routinely find that your young constituency thinks you're basically a clueless dick....that's not on them, it's on you. With this whole "I'm going to say 't*****' as a provocation when I talk about how I don't say 't*****' anymore" - that strikes me as a serious misreading of his audience. He thinks it's okay to joke and be "transgressive" about stuff in a way that - for whatever reason - would have been largely unremarked ten years ago, but which brands him as a big jerk now. And he wants the rest of us to be okay with it too. In addition to being jerky, it feels really dated to me - and it's typical of a certain type of activist "elder" who wants to be cut a lot of slack.

I'm the Old Person in a number of activist settings since they skew so young. Affect, context, appropriate subjects, assumptions - that stuff all changes over time. And while you don't want to be a total chameleon with no beliefs truly your own, you also don't want to develop into a crusty old embarrassment either.
posted by Frowner at 9:11 AM on June 12 [14 favorites]


To be frank, I'm not real interested in arguing whether my scare quotes were appropriate

OK then, I'm out.
posted by Hoopo at 9:12 AM on June 12


Considering that I can directly trace the attitudes I had about sex where I thought I owed a partner sex and that if I didn't want to perform certain acts I was broken to having Savage as the be all end all sex-pos voice and those attitudes made me easy to sexually coerce and I'm still figuring out how to erase those attitudes, I'm deeply suspicious of people who put him on a pedestal.
posted by NoraReed at 9:13 AM on June 12 [16 favorites]


It's actually very encouraging to see so many people in this thread agree with Dan Savage. Because sometimes mefi reminds me a bit more of those students.

Not everyone gets to sit on the Crest side of the class.
posted by Pudhoho at 9:13 AM on June 12 [1 favorite]


With this whole "I'm going to say 't*****' as a provocation when I talk about how I don't say 't*****' anymore"

This seems open to interpretation as whether it was meant to provoke.
posted by josher71 at 9:14 AM on June 12 [3 favorites]


But if you know that something inconsequential to you is going to upset a bunch of people and derail from your main point, why wouldn't you skip the inconsequential thing?

In my view, the problem lies in the threshold for what any given individual finds offensive. Context matters. Intent matters. There has to be a balance between not intentionally being offensive on the one hand and performing the basic human necessity of enduring offense on the other hand.

Otherwise all language, all debate, all norms end up hamstrung in the obsessive pursuit of not giving offense to anyone ever. As an example, refer to pretty much every MeFi thread on race, gender, or sexuality.

The very idea that no one should have to weather offense, or hurt, or shame and that curbing that should be the highest priority in any discussion hurts my brain. We can't socially engineer away all pain and discomfort, which is not to say we can't or shouldn't be empathetic and accommodating, within reason, toward others. We should. These things are not mutually exclusive.

But if we have to consider every utterance for the unintentional effect it might have on the feelings of others, regardless of intent or individual level of sensitivity, we'd never be able to discuss anything in good faith.

Edit: tl/dr "If every word a person says has to be right and balanced and fair, I will jump off a tall thing onto a hard place." —Louis CK
posted by echocollate at 9:15 AM on June 12 [14 favorites]


Number of states passing laws supporting death by stoning for homosexuals in the last year: 0

Number of states passing laws supporting same-sex marriage or striking down bans in the last year: 17

Quit failing so hard, progressives! At this rate, you'll get a--GASP--federal law passed!
posted by zombieflanders at 9:16 AM on June 12 [11 favorites]


Man, Dan Savage contains multitudes. On balance, I like him, but as is mentioned above, he is far from perfect, and the brass-balls IDGAF attitude that has served him well and appropriately as a strategy for dealing with the overwhelmingly homophobic and sex-negative attitudes in this country is really, really fucking wearying when it's applied to people who are also beaten down by that same power structure. He's a good activist but a shitty ally, IMHO, and part of that is his choice to be loud about being right but quiet about being wrong.
posted by KathrynT at 9:17 AM on June 12 [25 favorites]


I'm actually pretty disgusted by what to me appears to be the infantilization of college students. These are bright students at a top university. If they want to get up in someone's face, bravo to them, but then they should also learn to handle the push back.

I agree, and Dan Savage is a bright person with a weekly national column and paid speaking appearances, not to mention a hugely successful anti-bullying activism campaign. If he wants to get up in people's faces, bravo to him, but he should also learn to handle the pushback.

Incidentally, what makes you think that these students aren't handling the pushback? They seem to be doing OK to me. During the seminar itself, Hex reportedly both apologized for derailing the seminar, and left after becoming emotional rather than derail the seminar again. Those both seem like appropriate, adult responses. Afterwards, students decided to advocate for a policy on offensive language use in seminars. Again, this seems like an appropriate, adult response. People can disagree that such a policy is necessary or warranted, but disagreeing with the action of circulating a petition in general seems petty and strange.
posted by muddgirl at 9:18 AM on June 12 [6 favorites]


If you made a mistake or held bigoted views once, is it more important that you did that once, or more important that you have changed?

I used to be like Mr. Darcy - "My good opinion once lost is lost for ever." Hell, maybe I'm still that way. But I try not to live so much in the past, and especially to allow people to prove themselves by their actions now. I have known a lot of people who have become less prejudiced in their actions. If they're a public figure, it's the actions they take now that decide whether someone gets hurt.

Another question. Was the point of the discussion to make Hex feel comfortable, or was the point to cover Savage's experiences and ideas?

Many traditional age students are not very good listeners, and spoiling for a fight - especially if they've discovered issues of disparity and prejudice, or libertarianism, for the first time. Some of them really are looking to be offended, just like some of them never grow out of that in adulthood. Hex's concern is not completely ridiculous, but it was not a hate crime. Hex's views are also not fully-formed - we can tell from the comment that it was OK for non-lesbians to use the word "dyke".

I don't think Hex or anyone else should be disrespected, but I also think students have to learn - especially now! - how to deal gracefully with those they disagree with. That we have not made this a priority in our society is very evident - all you have to do is read comments on a news site, or turn on cable news.

Also, I disagree that having FIRE in your corner automatically means you did something wrong with your life. FIRE has supported some real numbskulls, but others who have been fired for specious, ridiculous reasons. They link to one in that article: two friends (one black, one white) were forced to take sensitivity training at Lewis and Clark, and put on probation, because someone overheard their private jokes about themselves in a beer pong match, for example. Or the professor at Brandeis who explained what the slur "wetbacks" meant and why it was so offensive, only to get censured after a student complained. Yes, a horrible slur, but I think it's helpful to at least know why it and other slurs are offensive, and the context in which they sprung up.
posted by mitschlag at 9:18 AM on June 12 [14 favorites]


This whole discussion is interesting to me, and I thank the OP for posting the links. I'm not trans so maybe I shouldn't have an opinion, but I do find the "t-word" as euphemism part interesting - I tend not to use euphemisms in other areas of life (when my grandfather died I said he died, not that he passed away - stuff like that) so I wonder if some of the differences in reaction to that point comes down to culture-of-origin ideas about polite ways of speaking. Ask culture v guess culture stuff.

I didn't listen to or read Savage for years because of his bi-phobic-ness (I'm bi) but that I do listen to Savage Love somewhat regularly now, and he has done a 180 there. He says stuff I disagree with a lot (usually to do with being a guy and not having a clue about what it's like to be a woman) but he's pretty good, on balance, most of the time, about having more qualified speakers on to address the areas he really doesn't know much about.

I feel like I really enjoy the Savage who does the podcasts but find anything he writes super annoying and smug. Either his persona changes a bit or hearing it in his voice helps, I don't know.
posted by joannemerriam at 9:18 AM on June 12 [3 favorites]


This is a textbook example of "the perfect is the enemy of the good." If people in minority groups insist on criticizing those who are trying to help, they will never make any headway with those who are discriminating against them. If you insist on impeccable (and impossible) standards of conduct from the people who support your cause -- particularly in a field like gender studies which is constantly evolving -- you will never get anywhere.

Throwing a fit about the use of term in a conversation about why he doesn't use that term anymore is unhelpful and does not advance your cause.

Yes, Savage is abrasive, and his tangent about "it" was petulant and unnecessary, but if you insist on alienating people who are trying to help you, you will find yourself alone very quickly.
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 9:20 AM on June 12 [5 favorites]


I don't often bother with Andrew Sullivan any more, but he hit this on the mark:
All of this is to be buried in a ghastly, quivering, defensive crouch of affirming claptrap, with trans people whining to teacher that someone said a naughty word, and incapable of taking in even a completely benign discussion without collapsing into trauma and tears. There is only one word for this and it is pathetic. I’m all in favor of avoiding words that some people find distressing if at all possible. It can get in the way of an argument, or simple manners. But I am more in favor of free, bold and fearless speech and argument, in which every t and l and g and b can give as good as they get, and in which this sad and pathetic recourse to fathomless victimology is called out for the disgrace it is. It is entirely self-defeating. No one else can give you the self-respect you may want. No one else’s words have any more power over you than you decide to give to them.

When you think of the courage so many trans people have demonstrated over the decades and centuries, when you think of all the brilliant, funny and sharp ways in which trans people have described their world and ours over the years, this craven emotional blackmail and language monitoring is particularly tough to take. It is not some kind of high-point for gay maturity and tolerance. It’s a sad and tawdry failure to live up to the heroes and heroines – and standards – of the past.
posted by crayz at 9:20 AM on June 12 [23 favorites]


I don't think "died" vs. "passed away" is a good comparison, though. "Died" is not a term that anyone considers to be offensive, just socially abrupt.

If people in minority groups insist on criticizing those who are trying to help, they will never make any headway with those who are discriminating against them.

The unstated assumption here is that Savage is trying to help the transgender community. How has he demonstrated this?
posted by muddgirl at 9:21 AM on June 12 [6 favorites]


I'm not really sure where this is coming from, perhaps the fact that he doesn't tend to do a big recant but just changes the way he talks about things. The way he talks about, in particular, bisexuals and trans people, is massively different now to the way it was a few years ago, although none of that was exactly announced.

I don't know. Savage has no problem tooting his own horn about these changes when it comes to describing bi and trans activists as obsessed with him.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 9:22 AM on June 12


Context is so important, as are motives.

Was the student really upset, or was the student trying to make a point that was important, but not germain to this particular argument? (I'm not wading into that pronoun hornet's nest.)

Was the panel discussing the word in earnest, or were they being snide, snark-machines?

It's a mess now and those of us who are typically snide, snark machines we do tend to get our back's up when we think we're being hilarious, and someone doesn't get it, or does get it, but still thinks we're being assholes about it.

Thin line.

I understand the student's point of view. You grow up feeling like an outsider, and rejected and everything that comes along with being transgendered, and you find a place in the world for yourself, and you start using your voice. And you work up the courage to challenge someone about what you perceive as a slur. So you say something.

Now, that thing you said, may or may not have merit, and the way you said it may or may not have been nice, or well stated, or even accurate, but you're going to stand your ground on it.

At what point does the panel have an obligation to view the student as a young person, with a different perspective, and a different total context and perhaps concede that the student may have had a point?

What do I think? In this case, it's unimportant. I wasn't there, I don't understand the context, I'm not informed by my personal experiences so my opinion would be third-hand, and shop worn.

Rather than being defensive, I think that if people disagree with each other about a point, that it may be more productive to acknowledge each side's merits, and to work together to reach an accord.

tl/dr: Pissy student and snarky writer should try to understand each other.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:22 AM on June 12 [2 favorites]


Allies who are alienated by being called out were not allies to begin with.
posted by NoraReed at 9:23 AM on June 12 [13 favorites]


Disclaimer: cisgendered, straight, white, male, boomer, Savage fan. Feel free to ignore, attack, whatever.

That said... what on earth does the fact that Savage can be a snarky jerk have to do with the substance of the debate? To keep harping on what an asshole he is is the worst sort of ad hominem. This is the University of Chicago we're talking about. How one engages in conflict over ideas is crucial. This wasn't some presentation made to people in a hospital to, say, assault survivors with PTSD (though some might have been there). It was a discussion in a forum on politics and society that by design is supposed to engage controversial topics.

On top of that, Savage was criticized for using certain words in the context of saying how important it is to reclaim slurs. And on top of that, many in the LGBT community agree with him.

It is a real stretch to call what he said "hate speech". In fact, it undermines the very notion of it, which is why right-wingers are giddily jumping all over the story.
posted by mondo dentro at 9:23 AM on June 12 [33 favorites]


Andrew Sullivan, as ever, dumber than a shit ton of bricks. Way to miss the point.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 9:23 AM on June 12 [11 favorites]


What's with the quotes here? Is there some kind of problem with using the word "standard" to refer to whatever a commonly accepted pronoun might be?

I can't and won't speak for Frowner, but I don't necessarily see this as a case where different trans* people are putting forth different pronoun choices but eventually we're going to settle on a standard which will be used for all trans* people and that all trans* people will agree on.

I mean, that'd be easiest for us cis people—we could just use the standard, and then we don't have to worry about learning about each trans* person's individual preferences. But I don't think we should assume that that's the way it's going.
posted by BrashTech at 9:24 AM on June 12


Instead of talking ad nauseum about people who suck at fostering conversations about trans* issues, why don't we talk about the ones who are fostering healthy discussion that tries to improve understanding, without resorting to the bully pulpit?

I've linked them before, but GLAAD's trans101 and Transgender media guide are fantastic resources, and a brightly shining example of how to foster productive discourse about gender. It's framed from the perspective of "You're probably not familiar with any of this, and that's understandable..."

They don't pretend to speak for everybody; they don't point fingers and shame people who are unfamiliar with the issues; they're not condescending; and most of all, they speak with a firm, but dispassionate tone*.

Tone arguments are often bullshit, but by golly, if you're trying to win over neutral outsiders or marginal allies, it's pretty helpful. Transgender acceptance is unfortunately still in the phase that requires a "soft touch," compared to the broader sexuality/bullying debate, where it probably is more productive to take the "Fuck you, kids are dying" stance. In particular, I find that impassioned debates over language are automatically pre-doomed -- convince people that trans* individuals are real people who deserve compassion and protection, and they'll become more conscious about the language stuff on their own...)
posted by schmod at 9:26 AM on June 12 [5 favorites]


Allies who are alienated by being called out were not allies to begin with.

This sounds good on a bumper sticker, but it's essentially saying you're with me on purely my terms or you're against me, and it's a good way to find yourself alone fast. I'll leave it up to the individual to determine how well that advances any given cause.
posted by echocollate at 9:27 AM on June 12 [15 favorites]


Andrew Sullivan has been a really nasty piece of work lately on trans* issues, imo. I don't think he's worth listening to.
posted by naoko at 9:27 AM on June 12 [9 favorites]


Savage took the first 10 minutes of this week's Savage Love podcast to address this too; the spoken version is pretty much the Slog column verbatim.

Leaving aside the rights or wrongs -- the way he's expressing himself comes across very much as bully-pulpit punching-down:
I missed the memo.

And, really, this is college now?

It and its friend are young. And foolish. And playing games.
It's full of defensive argument-from-authority -- "I'M SUCH A GOOD ALLY HOW DARE YOU QUESTION ME" -- and that tone pretty much obliterates whatever points he's trying to make.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 9:27 AM on June 12 [7 favorites]


desjardins: Actually, it's easy for him to win - he just needs to show some genuine contrition for his past actions. The fact that he has such trouble in doing so says much about Savage.

The problem is that a lot of people see "GLBT" as a monolithic group, ignoring the fact that their name is an acronym specifically because it is a coalition of communities. Furthermore, one of the internal problems has been that historically, the "BT" part of the coalition has been given short shrift, for a number of reasons. Unfortunately, there's been a push for all that to get swept under the rug these days, instead of acknowledgement and contrition.
posted by NoxAeternum at 9:28 AM on June 12 [1 favorite]


For example, the phrase "the n-word" is incredibly common and I would be shocked to hear a white speaker say the original word, especially in a context that is merely referencing some different activist history as seemed to be the case here.

This is totally true, but "the t-word" is not incredibly common, or even common at all. This is actually my first time hearing anyone, trans or not, use that phrasing. Usually it's not brought up at all, but when it is, it's usually just to say that it is very offensive, here's why. The word was used, for what it's worth, at a recent LGBT training given by an LGBT center that I was at.
posted by corb at 9:31 AM on June 12


zombieflanders: "Quit failing so hard, progressives! At this rate, you'll get a--GASP--federal law passed!"

As a gay man, I am: Dan Savage is a good LG activist, and a marginal BT ally (as are most of the high-profile activists).

We are not fostering a productive discussion by turning every thread about transgender acceptance into a referendum about Dan Savage or Andrew Sullivan.
posted by schmod at 9:31 AM on June 12 [14 favorites]


muddgirl: The unstated assumption here is that Savage is trying to help the transgender community. How has he demonstrated this?

In the first link, Savage discusses what he has been doing to raise the profile of activists in the transgender community:
I curated a five-night speakers series at the Pen World Voices Festival in New York City that featured a trans woman. (All the speakers were women except me—misandry!) I was one of four executive producers of an online video series profiling seven prominent LGBT Americans—including a trans woman. (Laverne Cox's video isn't up yet. But please go check out the amazing videos featuring Jason Collins, Jayne Lynch, and Tegan and Sara.) I invited M. Dru Levasseur, a trans activist, attorney, and cofounder of the Jim Collins Foundation, an organization that funds gender-confirming surgeries for trans people, to give advice to a woman dating a trans man in "Savage Love," and I taped an episode of the "Savage Lovecast" with trans activist, writer, and porn star Buck Angel, who gives advice to a lesbian about loving her fiance through—and being open to marrying him after—his transition.
Sure, it's not Rosa Parks, but it seems clear that he's not anti-trans. So I'm just saying that it makes more sense to save that passion for the people who are actually against you.
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 9:32 AM on June 12 [5 favorites]


You know what's fun? Mefi threads about trans people with tons of comments about "progressive auto-immune disorder" or about how trans women aren't focused on what cis white dudes think they should be focused on (because trans women can't do more than one thing at a time) or where all the usual people get to snark about the vampire castle being inside the house and all kinds of tsking about how trans women are just never going to accomplish anything with that tone. Like there hasn't been enough of this on the internet proper the last few months?

And on preview, a majestic quote from Andrew Sullivan, who I somehow never see out crusading for the big anti-gay slur to be used but seems really eager to tell trans women they should be happy to hear anti-trans slurs.

Yeah, y'all are talking about me. Savage is talking about me. Andrew Sullivan is calling my close friend, who was beaten up by a trio of cis men yelling anti-trans slurs earlier this year, "pathetic" and "sad and tawdry" for not "reclaiming" them. I can assure you that the way she's handled this - with great strength - is anything but "pathetic."
posted by Corinth at 9:33 AM on June 12 [46 favorites]


Mind you, Dan Savage still seems like a dick.
posted by corb at 9:34 AM on June 12 [1 favorite]


For example, the phrase "the n-word" is incredibly common

Sure, but not in academic discussions of the history of racism. I would be as shocked if a professor talking about the use of the word "nigger" were to say "the n-word" as if I heard a professor of anatomy lecturing his class about the structure of the Vajayjay and Mr. Winkle.
posted by yoink at 9:35 AM on June 12 [28 favorites]


corb I am like 99% certain that at some point you have participated in a thread on the blue in which I used "t-word" to avoid typing the actual word.
posted by Corinth at 9:35 AM on June 12 [3 favorites]


I think Frowner pretty much nails it - it's possible to be bleeding edge progressive for only so long before your own (once bleeding edge) biases catch you. The trick is to be mindful that it's happening, but when you're an Authority, it's too easy to convince yourself and others that it's the kids that are wrong, not you.

To me, being able to see when your perspective is being overcome by events is the difference between being in the right place at the right time and actually being a leader.
posted by Mooski at 9:37 AM on June 12 [2 favorites]


Sure, it's not Rosa Parks, but it seems clear that he's not anti-trans.

"Some of my friends are trans!" has never been an acceptable defense. I don't think Savage hates trans people (I think few people argue that), but that doesn't mean he's an ally or a trans activist or even "trying to help."

Sure, but not in academic discussions of the history of racism.

This talk was not an academic discussion of the history of racism, for pete's sake. And as a former college student I would expect a professor to bookend a discussion on the history of racism by discussing the use of the word with students, just as we did in all my history and literature classes when we encountered that word for the first time.
posted by muddgirl at 9:38 AM on June 12


Corinth - That may be the case, and I'm sorry that I didn't recall it if so.
posted by corb at 9:38 AM on June 12


Corinth, how does your appeal to emotion address the substance of what actually happened?

We aren't here talking about the importance of being sensitive to the language we use when describing or discussing oppressed classes in the abstract. We're discussing something that actually happened, and in which multiple people who are likely in the same position you are in have spoken up to support Dan Savage.
posted by mondo dentro at 9:39 AM on June 12 [4 favorites]


Andrew Sullivan is calling my close friend, who was beaten up by a trio of cis men yelling anti-trans slurs earlier this year, "pathetic" and "sad and tawdry" for not "reclaiming" them.

Really? You don't think that Sullivan can tell the difference between using a word in an academic discussion and having it yelled at you as a slur?
posted by desjardins at 9:39 AM on June 12 [4 favorites]


To clarify, Hex asked the Savage and Cox to use the phrase, "t-slur" when referring to that word. It does not appear to me like Hex expected them to know that terminology, or castigated them for not knowing.
posted by muddgirl at 9:40 AM on June 12 [1 favorite]


If you read this:

"I curated a five-night speakers series at the Pen World Voices Festival in New York City that featured a trans woman. (All the speakers were women except me—misandry!) I was one of four executive producers of an online video series profiling seven prominent LGBT Americans—including a trans woman. (Laverne Cox's video isn't up yet. But please go check out the amazing videos featuring Jason Collins, Jayne Lynch, and Tegan and Sara.) I invited M. Dru Levasseur, a trans activist, attorney, and cofounder of the Jim Collins Foundation, an organization that funds gender-confirming surgeries for trans people, to give advice to a woman dating a trans man in "Savage Love," and I taped an episode of the "Savage Lovecast" with trans activist, writer, and porn star Buck Angel, who gives advice to a lesbian about loving her fiance through—and being open to marrying him after—his transition."

And your response is this:

"Some of my friends are trans!" has never been an acceptable defense. I don't think Savage hates trans people (I think few people argue that), but that doesn't mean he's an ally or a trans activist or even "trying to help."

Then I think you're not engaging in good faith in this conversation, because that's absolutely not what he's saying by any interpretation of anything.
posted by kbanas at 9:41 AM on June 12 [17 favorites]


How do you get from here: That said... what on earth does the fact that Savage can be a snarky jerk have to do with the substance of the debate?

to here: How one engages in conflict over ideas is crucial.

without any apparent recognition that one has crossed the River Irony?
posted by rtha at 9:42 AM on June 12 [7 favorites]


We're discussing something that actually happened

As far as I can tell, so is Corinth. Or are you saying that her lived experience as a trans woman doesn't count as much as Dan Savage's hurt feelings?
posted by fight or flight at 9:43 AM on June 12 [5 favorites]


I write this from a privileged perspective, I realize, but I feel like saying, I'm on your side but I'm afraid you'll get mad at me for using the wrong words to say that.

Also, I don't think it's appropriate to compare the n-word and the t-word. The n-word is almost universally reviled. Rupaul used the t-word on TV recently. I personally am still getting used to the idea that the t-word is not okay. I don't know what I'm supposed to say instead. But I'm working on it.
posted by kat518 at 9:43 AM on June 12 [1 favorite]


Sure, but not in academic discussions of the history of racism. I would be as shocked if a professor talking about the use of the word "nigger" were to say "the n-word" as if I heard a professor of anatomy lecturing his class about the structure of the Vajayjay and Mr. Winkle.

As mentioned upthread, I'm a linguist, who teaches classes that talk about language and racism. When I teach undergrads, no, I do not use that out loud, at least. I will, however put the full word it on my slides, have readings that use it, etc. That's because, as a white person, I'm not comfortable saying it and I don't want to potentially alienate or offend the (possible only one) black student(s) in my class. (And I'm sure as hell not going to take the route of my 12th grade English teacher who, when we read Heart of Darkness asked the one black student in class in front of the entire class whether or not they were comfortable with us reading certain passages out loud.)

N.B. that I generally don't say 'the n-word' either, and I'll use other avoidance strategies and euphemisms (the term, the slur, that word, etc.). It's possible to be professional and academic without having to use "silly" euphemisms.
posted by damayanti at 9:45 AM on June 12 [9 favorites]


This is a great example of a debate in which I feel no desire to be on anyone's side at all.

I don't read Dan Savage anymore, because he's much too selective for me in his distribution of empathy, but I can understand why he's angry and why they were angry and why people are angry on his behalf now and why people are angry on the students' behalf now.

Bad, sad.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 9:45 AM on June 12 [15 favorites]


Ben Trismegistus, totally. And nobody should have ever objected to Piers Morgan misgendering and sensationalizing Janet Mock because he's not "actually against us" either. And nobody should ever call Andrew Sullivan on his shit. And nobody should ever call RuPaul on his shit. And so on, and so forth. It's impossible to expect more from cis men, why can't we just be happy with what they trickle down to us?

desjardins, you are obviously unfamiliar of the context of Sullivan's pro-slur writings, and that's fine. naoko has a link to his "Kevin Williamson is not wrong" piece (in response to the National Review's transphobic rant against Laverna Cox), and he's also written a pro-slur piece defending RuPaul. I am not drawing solely on his already-bad-enough response to this particular incident.
posted by Corinth at 9:48 AM on June 12 [5 favorites]


Also, in response to: So I'm just saying that it makes more sense to save that passion for the people who are actually against you.

Because someone who claims to be "on my side" must always be immune from criticism? I can't be angry when they say and do harmful things, even when they "mean well"? No. Being an ally doesn't mean you're always right, and it doesn't mean people in the communities you're trying to be an ally to have to support you 100% no matter what. They are allowed to be angry at you when you fuck up, and to express that anger. You don't get to not be criticized just because you're generally a good guy and not a bad guy.

We end up telling marginalized peoples what they're allowed to be upset about and how to express that upset, and why they are stupid for being upset about something that is less harmful than being killed. Jesus.
posted by rtha at 9:48 AM on June 12 [15 favorites]


This is such shit, though. I mean, would I buy that no one can make a straight white, masculine-presenting, middle-class-or-better dude feel anything he doesn't want to feel--yes, sure.

Why is one class of human beings exempt from being human exactly? I don't know how you can assume all the benefits of "privilege" to a category of people uniformly, just because they fit a broad description. You don't know if they were abused as kids, or had alcoholic parents, or felt ashamed or not fitting into a paradigm even if they can be defined by the terms you attribute to your oppressor. I think the sooner we all stop making assumptions, even if someone is "masculine" or straight or white or male, the better off we ALL are

Also, again, I would be interested if someone could point out to me the case for Dan Savage's misogyny. Someone's link to him being an asshole above, was to his support for Iraq. He's already addressed that, but I'd like to know more about his being anti-women.
posted by C.A.S. at 9:48 AM on June 12 [8 favorites]


Rupaul used the t-word on TV recently.

Yeah, and people rightly got mad. But the controversy over Rupaul could be its own thread, and the conversation under that thread probably wouldn't be any better than the one under this one. I agree with Linda_Holmes.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 9:49 AM on June 12


Savage was criticized for using certain words in the context of saying how important it is to reclaim slurs. And on top of that, many in the LGBT community agree with him.

You know, though, the thing is that the LGBT "community" isn't really much of a community. When you say "many in the LGBT community", you're basically talking about a bunch of dudes who feel that various slurs that have never been applied to them should be reclaimed, but you know what? I don't care what the LGBT community thinks. I care what the people who are the targets of those slurs think. And, frankly, even if those slurs are reclaimed, it's generally still not ok for people outside of that demographic to use them. Like, this is not a new concept.
posted by MeghanC at 9:50 AM on June 12 [10 favorites]


This talk was not an academic discussion of the history of racism, for pete's sake.

It was a seminar at the Institute of Politics at the University of Chicago. Yes, by any standards imaginable, that's an "academic discussion."
posted by yoink at 9:51 AM on June 12 [3 favorites]


At the U of C you can sit in meetings and watch people who more or less agree go at it like cats and dogs for as long as anyone will let them because they do not agree that they could agree. Because that's what we do.

That said, I've read Dan's column on and off for years. What's always bothered me is he routinely plays the "don't people understand this is entertainment not advice?" card when he's handed out a particularly bad piece of advice or said something stupid, instead of just owning up. You can have gravitas, which is what he seems to aspire to, but you can't have gravitas if you keep playing that card.
posted by lagomorphius at 9:51 AM on June 12


The fact is, the bigots who beat people up aren't around to care about being called out for their language, nor would they care if you could find them. Dan Savage has to respond to the criticisms of the groups he is trying to represent. He's taken it upon himself to be the GLBT guy so now it is his responsibility to respond, just like since Colbert is the liberal joke guy so he has to respond for making a edge-dancing ironic racism joke.

After my harsh response earlier I think I 've come to understand more why one might get more mad and more protesty with a DS (or a Colbert or etc etc) than with a Santorum, when you're in a group so marginalized nobody even knows what to call you. Santorum can't even see you. His supporters refuse to believe you exist. Being a provocateur must seem like the only thing that works, and it does in that respect. I'm just glad there are also activists that value reason (many in this thread) who can bring the rhetoric back to down to earth about what meaningful change might actually look like in the real world, and what people can do to work together rather than write each other off.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:53 AM on June 12 [4 favorites]


kat518: "The n-word is almost universally reviled. Rupaul used the t-word on TV recently."

And this is why we've asked for Logo to stop airing the word on his show. I don't give a fuck if RuPaul uses the term endearingly with his close friends, but on national TV he's teaching people like you that it's okay to call trans women the t-word. And it is not.
posted by Corinth at 9:54 AM on June 12 [7 favorites]



I care what the people who are the targets of those slurs think. And, frankly, even if those slurs are reclaimed, it's generally still not ok for people outside of that demographic to use them. Like, this is not a new concept.


Yeah, I'm kinda shocked by how confused some people are about the t-word. I feel we're pretty much all on the same page with the n-word. Let's just go with that! Done!
posted by lattiboy at 9:54 AM on June 12 [1 favorite]


You're right, kbanas, I am minimizing somewhat the fact that he also engages with trans people on a professional level as part of his LGBT activism, and i apologize for that. Still, I think that engaging with trans people as part of his LGBT activism is literally the minimum expectation I have for Dan Savage. For example, not making mock-references to mysandry in the very same sentence (in a way that appears to make fun of feminists for objecting to predominantly-male panels) where he is trying to prove his bona-fides would be, to me, a good next step. Heck, how about he confronts the actual issue that students are objecting to, rather than setting up metaphorical straw-men like the entire first section of his article where two imaginary activists get mad at him for an imaginary conversation in an imaginary coffee-house?

I personally am still getting used to the idea that the t-word is not okay. I don't know what I'm supposed to say instead.

As a cisgender person, I can't imagine a situation where I would use the t-slur at all. If someone is a cross-dresser and I need to refer to that fact, I use the word cross-dresser. If someone is transsexual I say that. if they are transgender I say that. If they prefer the term "drag queen" then I say drag queen.

It was a seminar at the Institute of Politics at the University of Chicago. Yes, by any standards imaginable, that's an "academic discussion."

I agree that it was an academic discussion, entitled Social Media Saves Lives. It was not an academic discussion of the history of transgender bias, so your analogy doesn't work.
posted by muddgirl at 9:55 AM on June 12 [8 favorites]


rtha: "We end up telling marginalized peoples what they're allowed to be upset about and how to express that upset, and why they are stupid for being upset about something that is less harmful than being killed. Jesus."

Well put. This strikes me as a gender version of the Noble Savage argument, or maybe White Man's Burden.
posted by scrump at 9:55 AM on June 12 [3 favorites]


This is totally true, but "the t-word" is not incredibly common, or even common at all. This is actually my first time hearing anyone, trans or not, use that phrasing. Usually it's not brought up at all, but when it is, it's usually just to say that it is very offensive, here's why. The word was used, for what it's worth, at a recent LGBT training given by an LGBT center that I was at.

It's the first time I've heard it, too.

A while back, in one of those "What has MeFi taught you?" MeTas, I relayed a story about how I learned that "Because it's hurtful" is a good enough reason not to do or say something, and how I was able to use that to convince someone that they shouldn't use the t-word. Except I used the actual slur in my retelling.

The comment was positively received -- I'm sure the context helped -- and I will continue to tell this story because it was such an important lesson, but from now on I will use the euphemism instead. Maybe someone else will hear it for the first time, too.

And I apologize if my original comment was hurtful to anyone who read it.
posted by Room 641-A at 9:56 AM on June 12 [4 favorites]


naoko has a link to his "Kevin Williamson is not wrong" piece

OK, I guess we're reading it differently because he says quite clearly that Kevin Williamson IS wrong. "Williamson is just as wrong in his brutal, even callous, denunciation of transgender people as acting out “delusions”. And he’s wrong not because he politically incorrect, but because he’s empirically off-base."
posted by desjardins at 9:56 AM on June 12 [1 favorite]


As far as I can tell, so is Corinth. Or are you saying that her lived experience as a trans woman doesn't count as much as Dan Savage's hurt feelings?

By all means, feel free to point out where I said anything like this. You will fail. And I don't give a rat's patooty about Savage's feelings. He's a grown man and can take responsibility for himself--I've got enough of my own problems.

More importantly, though, what effects me and my lived experience are overwrought, and in this case arguably dishonest, arguments that undermine a larger social project that I feel is important to the world my friends, family, and loved ones will be dealing with long after I'm gone. Equality and social justice are not just important to the transgendered, so let's not act like they are.
posted by mondo dentro at 9:58 AM on June 12 [1 favorite]


it's generally still not ok for people outside of that demographic to use them. Like, this is not a new concept.

Neither is the "use/mention" distinction linked in the first few comments, and conflating the two things escalates this conflict considerably. Dan Savage does not actually use this term in this conflagration, and in fact this whole thing happened because he tried to respond to a question about why he doesn't use the term anymore.

If you think he was wrong to even mention the term, that's totally fine and there are a lot of good arguments to that effect in this thread! But conflating "use" and "mention" and claiming he was "using" this term is misleading and just takes the discussion in a bad direction where people will argue past each other all day. Nobody is arguing that they should be allowed to use the word, only that he shouldn't be castigated for mentioning that word in a conversation about that word.
posted by dialetheia at 9:59 AM on June 12 [13 favorites]


Equality and social justice are not just important to the transgendered, so let's not act like they are.

By all means, feel free to point out where anyone said anything like this, etc.
posted by zombieflanders at 10:01 AM on June 12 [1 favorite]


I agree that it was an academic discussion, entitled Social Media Saves Lives. It was not an academic discussion of the history of transgender bias, so your analogy doesn't work.

It was an academic discussion where the moderator asked about Savage's history of using the term and his subsequent decision to stop using it. At that point it became an academic discussion of the history of transgender bias.
posted by tkfu at 10:02 AM on June 12 [4 favorites]


Huh, I always referred to RuPaul as "she." I am confuse.
posted by desjardins at 10:02 AM on June 12 [1 favorite]


That said... what on earth does the fact that Savage can be a snarky jerk have to do with the substance of the debate?

If the claim on the table is that conflict among LGBT people harms LGBT activism, then Savage's habit of click-bait drama-production is entirely relevant. Just as much so as a handful of students engaged in a possibly overzealous objection and a petition that's going nowhere fast. A kerfuffle of campus politics already handled by administration in a manner favorable to Savage's perspective isn't an issue for the international LGBT community, except when Savage and Sullivan choose to make it so.

Never mind that only one of the linked sources even approximated journalistic due diligence. I'm not going to trust a bunch of opinion columnists with axes to grind on what happened in a seminar and a closed campus meeting.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 10:05 AM on June 12 [3 favorites]


Dan Savage is right and attacking allies for quibbles is useless.

Ally, my ass. He's not an ally or an advocate of LGBTQ people just because one of those letters applies to him. He has a long history of being shitty about the Ts and the Bs and the Ls and the Qs and then brushing off any criticism of that shittiness.

Also: "Attacking"? Really? Telling someone to stop being shitty is not an attack.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:07 AM on June 12 [17 favorites]


I was going to ask what the consensus was on venerable drag club t-----shack, but then did a little Googling and lo, they are changing their name.
posted by grumpybear69 at 10:08 AM on June 12


Huh, I always referred to RuPaul as "she." I am confuse.

It's complicated with drag, and moreso when talking about RuPaul, because it's kind of unusual for a drag persona to use the same name as the person performing her, so if one attributes a quote to RuPaul, one could either be talking about the character RuPaul, who is a woman, or the real person RuPaul Andre Charles, who is a cisgendered man.

If there were a style guide for this sort of thing, it would probably suggest that you should refer to RuPaul as she when talking about performances as the character RuPaul, and as he when talking about times when he appeared out of drag.

That would be the normal standard, anyway. With RuPaul it's even more up in the air because he has said that he really doesn't care what pronoun a person uses to talk about him. In his own words, "You can call me he. You can call me she. You can call me Regis and Kathie Lee; I don't care! Just as long as you call me."

THE SHORT VERSION: "She" is fine.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 10:11 AM on June 12 [5 favorites]


Potomac Avenue, a lot of it is that we're never going to get the attendees of a Santorum rally to see us as people. But Colbert's audience already has gay friends. With a little bit of nudging and an example to follow, they can "get it" about trans people, too. So it matters how Colbert treats us in terms of naturally adding trans acceptance to platform of the party of people-who-are-generally-progressive-on-social-issues. Santorum and his ilk still preach the same anti-gay hate they did ten years ago. But gay acceptance is now the norm on the other end of the spectrum, and if we can roll trans and bi acceptance into that we plug into the extant zeitgeisty coalition instead of having to start from square one.


desjardins:
And so Kevin Williamson is not wrong, I think, to note the way in which politics has eclipsed the English language here and that language itself has become enmeshed in a rigid ideology:
The obsession with policing language on the theory that language mystically shapes reality is itself ancient — see the Old Testament — and sympathetic magic proceeds along similar lines, using imitation and related techniques as a means of controlling reality.
Being against racist and homophobic slurs? Totally not language policing. Objecting to transphobic slurs? Oh my god, that's a bridge too far, politics has eclipsed the English language. I'll also note that Williamson's conceit of "magic" here that Sullivan has included in his quote is a key part of Williamson's dismissal of trans identities, and the idea that something has eclipsed the English language is Williamson's excuse for misgendering Laverne Cox.

mondo dentro: "More importantly, though, what effects me and my lived experience are overwrought, and in this case arguably dishonest, arguments that undermine a larger social project that I feel is important to the world my friends, family, and loved ones will be dealing with long after I'm gone. Equality and social justice are not just important to the transgendered, so let's not act like they are."

Oh, jeez. Now the shrill trans women aren't just ruining it for themselves, but everybody else too? I'm awful sorry.
posted by Corinth at 10:11 AM on June 12 [22 favorites]


Potomac Avenue: “After my harsh response earlier I think I 've come to understand more why one might get more mad and more protesty with a DS (or a Colbert or etc etc) than with a Santorum, when you're in a group so marginalized nobody even knows what to call you.”

I really feel like this is a microcosmic playing-out of the strife between two minority communities that have had tension for a long time.

The thing that annoys me about Dan Savage is that he steadfastly seems to deny that there's ever been any tension at all, I guess because that would mean admitting that there have been a lot of people in the gay community who have not really done right by trans people.

It would be better if he saw himself as an ambassador in that realm. Instead, all I ever seem to read are articles where he "defends" himself. He can't even post a news item about trans issues, it seems, without snarkily chiding trans activists for having disagreements with drag queens. "Attacking allies" – yeah, that's a bad idea. I just sort of feel like snarking at allies, accusing them of petty bickering, dismissing their concerns – all these things count as attacking allies, too.

And I wish he wouldn't, because I like Dan Savage, and I think he's in a position and has the capacity to do a huge amount of good.

That's really all I have to say about this.
posted by koeselitz at 10:15 AM on June 12 [10 favorites]


It was an academic discussion where the moderator asked about Savage's history of using the term and his subsequent decision to stop using it. At that point it became an academic discussion of the history of transgender bias.

That sounds to me like a personal discussion happening in an academic setting.
posted by muddgirl at 10:19 AM on June 12


As in, I feel there is a big difference in expectation between "Here is how the t-word has been used throughout time" and "here is how I have used the t-word, and how I think people should use it in the future", which is apparently what Cox and Savage were discussing when someone objected.
posted by muddgirl at 10:25 AM on June 12


Oh, jeez. Now the shrill trans women aren't just ruining it for themselves, but everybody else too? I'm awful sorry.

Nope didn't say that, either. Not only that, but I never characterized you or anyone else here as "shrill trans women"--was that rhetorical flourish intended to be a sort of jiu-jitsu guilt by association? Instead, in response to the claim (from someone else, not you) that I was somehow not validating or valuing your lived experience (which I wasn't at all--I am far, far more interested in the opinions of someone like you who has actually dealt with a difficult life experience), I just pointed out that everyone has lived experiences, and I don't think some trump others, nor do they confer some sort of exemption from a standard, universal expectation of fairness and accuracy in debates.

I'm very open to hearing how anyone's actual lived experience indicates that the way people treated Savage during and after that particular event were justified in doing so. I have yet to see such a thing in this thread.
posted by mondo dentro at 10:28 AM on June 12 [2 favorites]


Also, again, I would be interested if someone could point out to me the case for Dan Savage's misogyny. Someone's link to him being an asshole above, was to his support for Iraq. He's already addressed that, but I'd like to know more about his being anti-women.

I posted a "let me google that for you" link but it was deleted. If you actually want the information you're asking for, instead of asking for it to be delivered to you, do yourself a favor: use Google. It's really not that hard.
posted by palomar at 10:28 AM on June 12 [3 favorites]


I totally understand asking that people not walk in and demand to be educated on 101 stuff, but if someone is accusing someone else of being a misogynist, I think the burden of proof is on the person making the accusation.
posted by dialetheia at 10:36 AM on June 12 [4 favorites]


And this is why we've asked for Logo to stop airing the word on his show. I don't give a fuck if RuPaul uses the term endearingly with his close friends, but on national TV he's teaching people like you that it's okay to call trans women the t-word. And it is not.

I'm thankful that Dan Savage and RuPaul are allies in the queer community. Those two individuals have done more concrete work to advance our rights in the last few decades than a bunch of shouty people on the Internet.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:36 AM on June 12 [17 favorites]


If we're having a discussion in which participants are describing Dan Savage as misogynist, why exactly do I have to go google the argument rather than have the person who says he's misogynist just say, Dan Savage once did this/said this/views things this way?

Make a case. That's not hard either
posted by C.A.S. at 10:37 AM on June 12 [2 favorites]


Your Fave is Problematic -- Dan Savage
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 10:42 AM on June 12 [6 favorites]


The idea that Dan Savage is now the enemy - this is why the left never has, and never can, amount to anything: Purity tests.

It's not even remotely self-evident that Dan Savage (italics yours) should be given the benefit of the doubt on this subject. He might be a good ally to gay men (probably somebody will debate this too) but he was an unapologetic ass about trans people (all sorts of people who aren't like Dan Savage, actually) in the face of, you know, actual trans people telling him so, for years. If he's apologizing now that's good but he should probably slow his roll about being the one being persecuted and keep apologizing for a while.
posted by atoxyl at 10:48 AM on June 12 [5 favorites]


For the record, I'm actually not any of the people in this thread calling Dan Savage a misogynist. If your problem is with that, take it up with one of the people that actually used that word. I dare you to search through this thread and find an instance where I said "Dan Savage is a misogynist." What I actually said was that he has problems with certain groups, women being one of them. Many other people here seem to have the same opinion, and evidently they managed to find their own evidence of this without depending on me to spoon-feed it to them. Maybe some of you demanding links could try helping yourselves.
posted by palomar at 10:52 AM on June 12


Blazecock Pileon, I'm excited for you that you have two people you feel have represented you well on the national stage. (I'm only just now seeing people I feel the same about - Laverne Cox and Janet Mock.) But the fact that you like these men doesn't mean that they don't also contribute to a culture of transmisogyny. Both of these things can happen at the same time.

In fact, if one of the things you enjoy about now vs. decades ago is that people aren't carelessly tossing around anti-gay slurs, that's a thing that I would like to be able to enjoy for slurs aimed at people like me.
posted by Corinth at 10:54 AM on June 12 [14 favorites]


> That's not how we do journalism out here in the real world, Maroon. Please consult your faculty advisors.

The Maroon has no faculty advisers. True fact. It has an adviser, but they are not faculty.
posted by halonine at 10:58 AM on June 12


Corinth: Ben Trismegistus, totally. And nobody should have ever objected to Piers Morgan misgendering and sensationalizing Janet Mock because he's not "actually against us" either. And nobody should ever call Andrew Sullivan on his shit. And nobody should ever call RuPaul on his shit. And so on, and so forth. It's impossible to expect more from cis men, why can't we just be happy with what they trickle down to us?

I'm not saying that at all, but thanks for the sarcasm.

I'm suggesting that maybe, sometimes, it's a good idea to view a particular perceived transgression in context (like, for instance, "here's why I stopped using this offensive word"), and let something slide, for the purpose of advancing the larger conversation.

My point is that, after a certain tipping point, outrage has diminishing returns, and hurts rather than helps the cause. Case in point: I am in favor of animal rights, but won't have anything to do with PETA, because of a laundry list of actions I consider to be beyond the pale.
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 11:06 AM on June 12 [1 favorite]


"Fuck you, got mine" seems to be a distressingly common attitude everywhere these days.

AKA: "Intersectionality? What's that?"

(See also Michelle Goldberg's terrible article in the Nation that Dan Savage was also super gung-ho about.)
posted by kmz at 11:07 AM on June 12 [6 favorites]


Look, gay people don't get to tell the trans community shit about how they should behave. Gay activists in the 90s and 00s made a very deliberate political decision to throw the most vulnerable community in the queer umbrella under the bus in order to advance the middle-class gay agenda.

The fruits of that decision are trans rights lagging 20 years behind gay rights. The last high-profile gay hate crime murder was Matthew Shepherd 15 years ago, and virtually nobody today would say that that was okay. Trans people are murdered just for existing, thrown in the wrong prisons when they fight back, and a sizable portion of the gay community thinks this behavior is A-OK.

Trans issues are just now finally beginning to gain some traction but the same gay activists that decided they weren't worth protecting 20 years ago are standing by saying that trans issues don't matter even now. RuPaul, the only person from gay subculture to rise to the mainstream, is on TV in 2014 telling straight people that it's perfectly fine to use the t-word.

Gay people need to learn their history and learn why trans folks are so mad at them, and to stop obstructing trans folks as they fight for their own rights since we utterly failed to do it for them.
posted by zug at 11:07 AM on June 12 [33 favorites]


gsh: Language is language. It is not a bludgeon for the simple fact that no one can make you feel anything that you do not choose to feel.

Groups are continually claiming offense so as to not take responsibility for their emotions.

Counterpoint.

You are wrong.
posted by IAmBroom at 11:13 AM on June 12 [2 favorites]


Trans people are murdered just for existing, thrown in the wrong prisons when they fight back, and a sizable portion of the gay community thinks this behavior is A-OK.

What? Can you find a single quote where a gay person thinks it's A-OK to straight up murder a trans person?
posted by desjardins at 11:14 AM on June 12 [11 favorites]


Language is language. It is not a bludgeon for the simple fact that no one can make you feel anything that you do not choose to feel.

Wanna test that?
posted by MartinWisse at 11:16 AM on June 12 [2 favorites]


Groups are continually claiming offense so as to not take responsibility for their emotions.

This doesn't even make any sense.
posted by palomar at 11:22 AM on June 12 [2 favorites]


My point is that, after a certain tipping point, outrage has diminishing returns, and hurts rather than helps the cause.

So what exactly are you doing to help the cause (whatever cause it is we're talking about at this point)? Is it just telling other people to stop being mad about something they actually have a right to feel mad about, or are you doing other things, active things?

You - general you and specific you - are pretty much never required to be personally outraged about anything. It does get pretty tiresome to have someone like (specific and general) you tell (specific!) me what I really should and should not be angry about, and how, because I can't possibly understand my own experience in my own communities around my own causes.
posted by rtha at 11:22 AM on June 12 [4 favorites]


Remember when Homer was wearing the rasta hat and the hullabalooza girl shouts "hate criiiiiime!" at him?

I mean, Homer was being a clueless jerk in that scene, for sure. But the joke was that when these hypersensitive 90s college kids just start screaming "hate crime" at anybody who steps over their obsessively guarded borders of politically acceptable behavior, the whole thing turns into a mess really quick and soon enough somebody's getting shot in the stomach.

If college kids these days are still doing this without even blinking, I guess The Simpsons has failed our culture as moral education.
posted by anazgnos at 11:24 AM on June 12 [1 favorite]


Blazecock Pileon, I'm excited for you that you have two people you feel have represented you well on the national stage.

They haven't represented me because they are men, they represent us well because they have done important and brave things to improve our lives, and they have done it for decades. I'm getting sick to death of the constant litmus testing our best people face when the main reason we all get improved treatment in society today is precisely because of heroes like them being on the front lines, for years, at times when it was not safe for them. You and I both — and many, many others — owe them and other heroes a debt that shouting on the Internet will not begin to repay.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:25 AM on June 12 [4 favorites]


Palomar, who's demanding links?

I'm not even talking to you. I made a general, good faith request that someone enlighten me as to why they (or others) were saying he was a misogynist. I'm not demanding links. Is Metafilter a conversation? Or a set of lifted Kottke.org links and a demand to google my own answers to a question asked in conversation. I merely asked someone to enlighten me.

Doesn't seem to me like you get the spirit of this place.
posted by C.A.S. at 11:27 AM on June 12 [5 favorites]


My point is that, after a certain tipping point, outrage has diminishing returns, and hurts rather than helps the cause.

I think that a college student getting into a protest over something is pretty low-hanging fruit when it comes to outrage filter. It's not hard to find a student protest over the abundance of aubergines on the dining hall menu. And yes, I am suggesting that calling a campus kerfuffle a "litmus test," an indictment of "the left," or even all that relevant to the larger ongoing issue of who gets to say the t-word on mainstream television is a ridiculous overreaction.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 11:30 AM on June 12 [1 favorite]


What? Can you find a single quote where a gay person thinks it's A-OK to straight up murder a trans person?

There's always some jerk out there, but I didn't mean that they directly say "let's murder trans people". It's that a sizable portion of gays don't care about trans issues at all and don't see any reason to care what happens to trans people or advocate for trans rights. I have repeatedly heard trans activists trying to talk about these injustices and being completely dismissed by gay people because they (typically middle-class white gay men) don't see the murder and imprisonment of trans folks as their problem.

Hell, trans activists can't even get the gay men in my LGBT softball league to include "trans" in the name of the league. The gay men on the board don't want to be bothered to change the name from "gay and lesbian softball" to "LGBT softball" even though the league has a large trans population and those people have repeatedly said they feel like they aren't especially welcome given the name.
posted by zug at 11:31 AM on June 12 [4 favorites]


I'm thankful that Dan Savage and RuPaul are allies in the queer community. Those two individuals have done more concrete work to advance our rights in the last few decades than a bunch of shouty people on the Internet.

In the process often deliberately trodding down those more vulnerable than them, though.
posted by MartinWisse at 11:31 AM on June 12 [8 favorites]


C.A.S.: You can find out if there is a Dan Savage/misogynist connection by Googling the string "dan savage misogynist".

Palomar: I suspect that C.A.S. may find a whole lot of chaff by doing that search, and thus it may not be a bad idea to suggest at least a trustworthy source of wheat.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:33 AM on June 12 [1 favorite]


[Palomar, either participate or don't, but knock it off with the scolding. ]
posted by restless_nomad at 11:41 AM on June 12


I just hope for a more positive and empathic attitude from a widely-known, wealthy, politically influential person who built his celebrity status off of giving people relationship advice and started an international campaign called "It Gets Better".
posted by Benjy at 11:42 AM on June 12 [3 favorites]


rtha: So what exactly are you doing to help the cause (whatever cause it is we're talking about at this point)? Is it just telling other people to stop being mad about something they actually have a right to feel mad about, or are you doing other things, active things?

You - general you and specific you - are pretty much never required to be personally outraged about anything. It does get pretty tiresome to have someone like (specific and general) you tell (specific!) me what I really should and should not be angry about, and how, because I can't possibly understand my own experience in my own communities around my own causes.


First off, I'm not talking about specific you. I don't know the first thing about you.

Second, I'm not telling you (specifically) or anyone how they should feel about something. There's a clear distinction between feeling outrage and expressing outrage. Feel free to re-read my comments, and you'll see that I never said anything about your or anyone else not having a "right to feel mad about" something.

By all means, get angry, get offended, get pissed, all you like. What I'm saying is, as one person fighting for inclusion and tolerance to another, it's worth being pragmatic and picking your battles. You (general and specific) have every right to be offended at Dan Savage using an offensive term if that's how you feel. The choice is about what you (general) choose to do with that feeling.

In my opinion, Dan Savage using an offensive word is a far smaller issue than legislatures failing to pass transgender anti-discrimination laws, or law enforcement failing to take seriously the murder of transgender people. But too much attention on the former will distract attention from the latter.
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 11:44 AM on June 12


You, the person who is upset, should pick your battles, but Dan Savage, the politically-powerful celebrity publicly quarreling with some college students, should be able to express whatever he wants.
posted by Benjy at 11:48 AM on June 12 [17 favorites]


Yeah, I think that says more about what you are reading than what is actually happening, and taking an incident that involves college students and a newspaper columnist as somehow emblematic of "the left" is weird.

I think it's kind of odd how much people in this thread, and the trader joes thread have focused on what is or isn't "the left" and tried to turn the discussion into some kind of battleground for that. It's not something i've seen all that much on mefi before, and it's just generally odd.

To those people; Why does every individual situation have to turn in to a referendum on the left. what point are you trying to prove?
posted by emptythought at 11:48 AM on June 12 [9 favorites]


It's that a sizable portion of gays don't care about trans issues at all and don't see any reason to care what happens to trans people or advocate for trans rights.

There's a strong difference between people who don't want to advocate for trans issues (such as anti discrimination law) and being okay with trans murders, which is what you seemed to state. I would argue, in fact, that most people are not okay with trans murders, regardless of activism status, because they are murders.
posted by corb at 11:52 AM on June 12 [4 favorites]


It's fairly common on the rest of the internet for any post about trans issues to include several highly upvoted comments that are essentially "I'm gay and I don't get these freaks," even on ostensibly queer sites. If you really want to find examples of this I recall a pretty high density of them below articles about Michelle Kosilek's fight for trans medical care while in prison, including calls for her death.

There were also a lot of cis gay men saying harsh things and sometimes advocating or referencing violence in the RuPaul debate. Drag queen Bianca del Rio, the winner of this season's Drag Race, on model Carmen Carrera, who had been advocating against the usage of anti-trans slurs: "I think Carmen Carrera should take whats left of her dick and shove it in her mouth." Drag queen Alaska Thunderfuck made a video about murdering trans activist Parker Molloy, who had also been advocating against slurs. The Huffington Post ran it, but pulled it later. The period at the end of this sentence links to Thunderfuck's apology and includes a graphic description (very serious trigger warning) of the video.
posted by Corinth at 11:55 AM on June 12 [19 favorites]


Blazecock Pileon: Disagreement is not a "litmus test." He can do his thing. I'll do mine. A key difference is that he's nationally syndicated, while people who have been outspoken leaders of my community for decades turn to crowdsourcing to get anthologies in print. I'll have to apologize for not kissing his ass for changing his mind in the last few years. I only have so much lip balm.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 11:55 AM on June 12


Considering that I can directly trace the attitudes I had about sex where I thought I owed a partner sex and that if I didn't want to perform certain acts I was broken to having Savage as the be all end all sex-pos voice and those attitudes made me easy to sexually coerce and I'm still figuring out how to erase those attitudes, I'm deeply suspicious of people who put him on a pedestal.

Christ on a bike. This is something i was just trying to explain to someone IRL about Savage fairly recently. I mean, he's a guy who was literally quoted as saying "Oral comes standard, any model that comes without it should be returned to the factory" and lots of similar stuff that's basically "you have to have sex like this or you're a bad person and not GGG(gasp!)".

There's a total cult of personality, and tons of people who will vehemently defend to the death that sort of stuff he sells.

I mean it doesn't really befuddle me that much that he's popular though. He's basically selling something a lot of people want to buy, which is "you're entitled to lots of sex like htis and if you don't get it it's the other persons fault!". He has a lot more in common with seriously regressive MRA ideology and shit when you really stare at it for a minute and think about the logical conclusion of his beliefs, like well, your experience with them.
posted by emptythought at 11:57 AM on June 12 [27 favorites]


I don't think "died" vs. "passed away" is a good comparison, though. "Died" is not a term that anyone considers to be offensive, just socially abrupt.

I'm sorry, I expressed myself badly. I wasn't saying that "died" is a slur or trying to equate it to the t-word. I just was wondering if part of the disagreement on using "the t-word" instead of the slur itself, was perhaps partially arising out of differing social expectations about the general use of euphemisms (for slurs and for non-slurs), just completely separate from the politics. If people from one part of the country, or a specific social class, or whatever, embrace euphemisms for lots and lots of things then I'd imagine they might find saying "the t-word" an obvious solution, and be baffled by people who object to it on plain-speaking grounds. And vice versa for people who come from sub-cultures that don't tend to embrace euphemistic speaking in general.

Basically I'm wondering if part of that specific facet of this discussion is being informed by more than what the speaker thinks about trans issues. I'm not saying this is the case, it's an honest question if that's a factor. Do the people who champion just using the slur (in the context of discussing the history of the word) also eschew euphemisms in general or is it just that specific euphemism they're objecting to?
posted by joannemerriam at 12:03 PM on June 12


Ben Trismegistus: "In my opinion, Dan Savage using an offensive word is a far smaller issue than legislatures failing to pass transgender anti-discrimination laws, or law enforcement failing to take seriously the murder of transgender people. But too much attention on the former will distract attention from the latter."

I gave input on language for and copyedited Forum For Equality Louisiana's nondiscrimination bill that was submitted in the Louisiana House this legislative session, which ended last Monday. This included an attempt to remove the unconstitutional state statute that criminalizes sodomy, which has been used to arrest gay men in Baton Rouge as recently as last year. I also spoke before the House Civil Law and Procedure Committee about a second nondiscrimination bill from Equality Louisiana.

I do these things and also work against culturally entrenched transphobia like slurs and transmisogynist jokes. It's extremely patronizing to assume that people objecting to slurs and background cultural transphobia either aren't working for change in any other capacity or that they have to prove they're active elsewhere for these concerns to be taken seriously.

I'm trying to find a link to something I read either today or yesterday that may have come from here. A western woman was talking about how she worked in a poverty-stricken country for a while and that women there, even though they faced much worse abuse from their husbands and even though rape was widespread etc. still stood up to men at the market making misogynist comments. I searched for a while but I couldn't find it and I had really hoped to link it here.
posted by Corinth at 12:33 PM on June 12 [26 favorites]


Corinth, you're thinking of this comment in MetaTalk.
posted by desjardins at 12:35 PM on June 12 [1 favorite]


I'm trying to find a link to something I read either today or yesterday that may have come from here. A western woman was talking about how she worked in a poverty-stricken country for a while and that women there, even though they faced much worse abuse from their husbands and even though rape was widespread etc. still stood up to men at the market making misogynist comments. I searched for a while but I couldn't find it and I had really hoped to link it here.

Was going to post a link to ChuraChura's comment in the misogyny MeTa, but on preview, desjardins got it. Hope that's the one you're looking for!
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 12:37 PM on June 12


That's it, thanks desjardins.
posted by Corinth at 12:40 PM on June 12


Corinth, why are you purposely misreading what I'm saying? Look at my words - "But too much attention on the former will distract attention from the latter." Show me where I suggested that people objecting to slurs aren't working for change or have to prove they're active elsewhere.

This is not a contest to see who is the best advocate for equal rights. I'm suggesting that maybe it's worth having a conversation about how to put outrage to the most productive use.
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 12:41 PM on June 12


I'm suggesting that maybe it's worth having a conversation about how to put outrage to the most productive use.

Yeah, and I'm pretty sure that even the Chicago students who are all outraged can also chew gum at the same time, and do so. Being outraged and expressing it are not preventing them from also doing other work.

We often have no way of knowing what will end up being "most" productive, or even being able to define exactly what productive means, and to whom. A whole lot of my friends cut their activist teeth on "outrageous" ACT UP protests and not only did the FDA end up changing the way they test and release drugs and who got the diagnosis of AIDS, but a bunch of those outrageous activists are now in pretty influential policy positions thanks to the things they learned on the barricades while their elders and betters sneered at their inability to pick their battles.
posted by rtha at 1:00 PM on June 12 [10 favorites]


I'm not working on a chalkboard trying to solve an optimization equation for directing my outrage. Sometimes I can channel outrage into other things. Sometimes certain things are so outrageous that I just spin in place outraging at them. My being tired of RuPaul teaching cis people how to clock my gender-variant body and that it's then acceptable to call me the t-word does not detract from the other things I do. If you're worried that it is possible to do trans activism more efficiently or productively than I'm doing it, I appreciate your concern and acknowledge that you're probably right, but I'm not assigning my efforts by committee so I don't really want to have a conversation about it. I do what I can do, and like in most aspects of life I sometimes (often) (okay pretty much all the time) operate below maximum efficiency. For example, I binge-watched all of the new season of Orange is the New Black this past weekend instead of doing trans anything.
posted by Corinth at 1:03 PM on June 12 [11 favorites]


To those people; Why does every individual situation have to turn in to a referendum on the left. what point are you trying to prove?

That "the left" seems now, more than I can ever recall, focused like a laser on gender and identity issues. I can honestly say I've never seen so much focus on these issues - right here on the Blue, Salon.com seems to have a new story every day, right now on the HuffPo front page is a story headlined "GOPer Could Become Nation's First Transgender State Legislator," and even, famously, the cover of Time Magazine.

Perhaps this represents the opening of the floodgates in response to greater acceptance of and legal recognition of gay marriage. Great, at the individual level! But what now seems to be happening is that the movement, if there in fact is one, is as or more focused on these issues than on pocketbook issues, or environmental issues, issues that affect everyone.

Moreover, when Dan Savage's use of the word "tranny" in the context of how he used it in the past and how he doesn't use it that way anymore is called a freaking hate crime - this can only seem, to Joe and Jane America, like utter lunacy.

Joe and Jane America have no freaking idea what "cis" gender is and aren't particularly interested in knowing. They get pissed off when you tell them to "check their privilege" because they're struggling just to stay afloat and this is just code anyway to devalue anything they've actually accomplished. Their jaws drop when they're told they need to ask each individual they meet if they'd prefer to be addressed as "he" or "she" or "it" or "they" or something else. And when it is insinuated that Joe, by virtue of being male, contributes in some respect to a culture of misogyny -

If this becomes "the left" or becomes the public perception of "the left," then those broader issues get tossed out the window. If, as a result of these "unenlightened" attitudes on their part you then call them idiots or rubes or "-phobic," as you surely will, not only have you not created allies, you've created enemies. And you may think that's fine because you wouldn't want to be on their side anyway, but lemme tell you, the Purity Police are winning no elections, and certainly no legislative accomplishments, on their own. The support is not broad enough.

That is my concern - that liberalism has been hijacked by identity politics. And that this, in turn, makes liberalism even more irrelevant, putting the things that most liberals - most Americans! - want even further out of reach.
posted by kgasmart at 1:12 PM on June 12 [6 favorites]


That "the left" seems now, more than I can ever recall, focused like a laser on gender and identity issues. I can honestly say I've never seen so much focus on these issues - right here on the Blue, Salon.com seems to have a new story every day, right now on the HuffPo front page is a story headlined "GOPer Could Become Nation's First Transgender State Legislator," and even, famously, the cover of Time Magazine.

The left = "a few sites i read".

I've seen your posts, i get where you're coming from. You think the focus has shifted off of things you see as bigger issues like income inequality. But the thing is, "the left" is not an organized strike force and that's fine. If anything, it's more like a corporation or organization that has a broad-striped mission statement with lots of individual departments. They may or may not 100% agree on everything, but generally agree with what the other departments are doing.

Just because the front page of Salon or HuffPo is focusing on gender and sexism issues doesn't mean that the other departments aren't hard at work on stuff that you are concerned with(i could drum up a bunch of other links too). If you talk to an individual person offline who brought up the kind of issues this thread is discussing, and mentioned something like 15now, it's extremely vanishingingly unlikely that they wouldn't know about it, and similarly unlikely that they wouldn't be excited and supportive.

I also think there's an argument to be made for rotating the public focus on "the left" to prevent care fatigue. Push something forward a measurable amount, then move on to something else and push over there because this is like a tower defense game. You can't just build up one corner, the others will start getting overrun.

Basically something to not let yourself forget is that there are people who, when the stuff that's frontpaging everywhere lefty right now isn't getting lots of constant attention are going "god dammit we've lost focus that was a HUGE thing". There are people working hard on the issues you brought up, and they've gotten plenty of airtime. Things have rotated a bit to give airtime to other issues.

No one has forgotten, no one has laid down their tools and arms, and people are still working on those things right now. The important thing to remember is that multiple projects can be accomplished effectively simultaneously, because there's different groups of people who are essentially different "departments".

This is easy to see in practice too that people don't forget about the other missions. People got thrown out of plenty of occupy/15now type rallies around here for saying stupid sexist shit or being assholes in that domain. The "walk and chew gum" thing applies here too.

Liberalism hasn't been hijacked because liberalism can deal with more than one problem at a time. It's not some godzilla like monolithic entity that can only be at one place smashing things at once.
posted by emptythought at 1:21 PM on June 12 [11 favorites]


What I needed, deserved, and still have not found is a sex-positive queer-positive woman-friendly trans-friendly bi-friendly fat-friendly voice with that kind of reach.

Sex Nerd Sandra. Seriously. She's done shows about every single thing you describe and has been nothing but accepting and charming in them. In a just world, she'd have twice the reach of Dan Savage.
posted by showbiz_liz at 1:27 PM on June 12 [10 favorites]


Inevitably, when someone starts talking about issues that affect "everyone", they mean "issues that affect people who are privileged and secure enough already that they are not affected by, for example, sexual assault, transphobic harassment and violence, police brutality, the prison pipeline, etc. "Everyone" should work on those issues, not on the issues that only affect "some" people, like women, trans folks generally, etc. "Some" people can just wait until after the revolution, I guess.

Or wait, that was what the Bolsheviks said, wasn't it? Right before Stalin, like, outlawed homosexuality and abortion? I think we've been here before - or at least "some people" have.

Seriously, your "marginal issue that derails the left" is my "would like to go through my day without being harassed and discriminated against".
posted by Frowner at 1:28 PM on June 12 [12 favorites]


FUN HOME EXERCISE

Swap your favorite -ist and -phobic slurs into a line from the meeting to see exactly when liberalism gets hijacked!
[Imaginary] Cox then added, “I used to make jokes about n-----s.”
No, objecting to that has been folded into liberalism.
[Imaginary] Cox then added, “I used to make jokes about f-----s.”
No, objecting to that has been folded into liberalism.
Cox then added, “I used to make jokes about t—-ies.”
Someone is objecting to that? Liberalism has been hijacked!
posted by Corinth at 1:33 PM on June 12 [12 favorites]


That is my concern - that liberalism has been hijacked by identity politics. And that this, in turn, makes liberalism even more irrelevant, putting the things that most liberals - most Americans! - want even further out of reach.

This is a thing that neither you nor anybody else has even bothered providing even the slightest bit of proof of. For all your ranting about Joe and Jane America, you have no evidence that they're even aware of it. And why would they? They don't read Salon or HuffPo; it's not reported on the national news or local broadcasts.

You want an actual fact about Joe and Jane America? Here's one: there is a majority of Joes and Janes in every single Congressional district in the country that supports a trans-inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act. That would be just one of many direct refutations of your claims that people are being driven away. What it does support is the fact that the problem here isn't activists or Tumblr or whatever bogeyman you have built up in your head, but rather the long-standing structural and institutional bias in the American power structure against any significant level of progressive organization.
posted by zombieflanders at 1:36 PM on June 12 [12 favorites]


To some trans people, he's basically Anne Coulter-level poison. A trans person I know said he's basically "Rush Limbaugh, but less open to fisting"

Well, they are welcome to think anything they want, but I don't think I feel bad about not giving your friend much credibility here.
posted by aspo at 1:39 PM on June 12 [3 favorites]


Well, they are welcome to think anything they want, but I don't think I feel bad about not giving your friend much credibility here.

I would think a trans person making a judgment about a person who uses trans slurs has plenty of credibility to make that judgment. Is there a reason you don't think that's the case?
posted by brookedel at 1:50 PM on June 12 [2 favorites]


There's a strong difference between people who don't want to advocate for trans issues (such as anti discrimination law) and being okay with trans murders, which is what you seemed to state. I would argue, in fact, that most people are not okay with trans murders, regardless of activism status, because they are murders.

Unfortunately, you would be unpleasantly surprised. I'm heavily involved in the rupaul's drag race fandom, which is largely gay, and after RuPaul used several trans slurs on the show the RPDR subreddit erupted in hatred, up to and including dehumanizing trans women and saying they should commit suicide and die.

Carmen Carrera, a trans former contestant, spoke out against Ru's usage of t-slur, and received a shitton of nasty hate and death threats in response. A lot of people in the sub said she deserved it.
posted by zug at 1:51 PM on June 12 [9 favorites]


That "the left" seems now, more than I can ever recall, focused like a laser on gender and identity issues. I can honestly say I've never seen so much focus on these issues - right here on the Blue, Salon.com seems to have a new story every day, right now on the HuffPo front page is a story headlined "GOPer Could Become Nation's First Transgender State Legislator," and even, famously, the cover of Time Magazine.

HuffPo for me has the World Cup, along with:

* Iraq
* speculation about Clinton
* student loans
* health care
* Ruby Dee
* dick jokes
* Bergdahl
* Ukraine
* minimum wage
* George Will on rape

Which are ten opportunities for a front-page post should you choose to compose one. In fact, I think we've had FPPs on all of them except for Ruby Dee. Savage isn't even on the HuffPo front page. He's not on the front page at Kos. He's not on the front page of Salon (where the current lead is the Cantor upset). He's not on the front page at Time.com (Bergdahl). He's not on the front page of the New York Times (World Cup). This kerfuffle hasn't been picked up by the Chronicle of Higher Education. You're talking about it because you chose this FPP out of dozens posted today.

Moreover, when Dan Savage's use of the word "tranny" in the context of how he used it in the past and how he doesn't use it that way anymore is called a freaking hate crime - this can only seem, to Joe and Jane America, like utter lunacy.

It's called a hate crime by Dan Savage. The word "crime" does not appear in the petition, the comments to the petition, or the Maroon article. As far as I can tell, it doesn't appear in any editorial about this that doesn't use Savage's account as its primary source.

If, as a result of these "unenlightened" attitudes on their part you then call them idiots or rubes or "-phobic," as you surely will, not only have you not created allies, you've created enemies.

Personal attacks and unwarranted speculation about how we interact with our family, friends, and neighbors are not worthy of you, or metafilter.

That is my concern - that liberalism has been hijacked by this. And that this, in turn, makes liberalism even more irrelevant, putting the things that most liberals - most Americans! - want even further out of reach.

It's not even an election year and we're already at liberals harm liberalism by advocating for liberal values where queers are concerned?
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 1:54 PM on June 12 [12 favorites]


The thought that Joe and Jane American would be profoundly influenced by academic discussions is just so funny to me. I wish it were!
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 2:02 PM on June 12 [2 favorites]


To Corinth and rtha: OK fine. But I guess I just still don't quite understand the underlying outrage here. Putting aside the fact that, yes, Dan Savage can be an asshole sometimes, is it really so terrible that he used a particular word in a conversation about why he no longer uses that word? So terrible that it merits a long argument on MetaFilter?

I'll accept that you, me, and everyone can feel and express outrage about anything we find offensive if we so choose, but aren't we in danger of losing a sense of proportion?
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 2:06 PM on June 12 [2 favorites]


Who is outraged? So far we only have accounts from people supporting Savage. And all the outrage I see is people outraged about how Savage was treated, not about the words he used.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 2:13 PM on June 12 [3 favorites]


but aren't we in danger of losing a sense of proportion?

Who is "we" in this? If it's "the students at Chicago," then I think you'd have to talk with them directly. If the "we" is a vague, handwavey "left" or "activists" then I think the question is pointless. And begging, since I don't see any evidence that a sense of proportion is being lost here. It really is possible to be and act furiously over something relatively minor (in the grand scheme) while also doing larger, longer-term and longer-lasting work. No one is prevented from doing [other thing] while also being pissed at Dan Savage and internetting about that.
posted by rtha at 2:33 PM on June 12 [3 favorites]


What it does support is the fact that the problem here isn't activists or Tumblr or whatever bogeyman you have built up in your head, but rather the long-standing structural and institutional bias in the American power structure against any significant level of progressive organization.

Well, the left is in rout in most of the world right now: ethnic nationalists and outright fascists on the march in Europe, the Arab revolutions collapsing into chaos or congealing into new dictatorships, the BJP taking outright power in India, crony capitalism cementing its hold on the former (and sometimes nominally current) Communist powers, etc., etc. So it may be a mistake to look at factors specific to the US, whether cultural or structural, as causes, rather than as epiphenomena of a global problem.

I don't know if the problem with American academic activist culture, or the whole ideological complex nebulously signified by "tumblr", is that they're happening, but that they're almost the only part that actually is flourishing of what should be the whole ecosystem of the left, which naturally leads a certain hothouse quality. They've certainly taken on an unhealthily infighting-focused and solipsistic tinge as they have developed, but perhaps that wouldn't be the case if there were a functional labor movement or socialist/social democratic political party to round the greater left out. Activist culture is deeply unsuited to fill that vacuum, but there shouldn't be a vacuum there to begin with.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 2:49 PM on June 12 [6 favorites]


Which, again, is less of the fault of the activists and more that of the institutional dismantling of the left in the US by the powers-that-be. The fact that it's not just limited to the US (excellent point, BTW) seems to support that thesis.
posted by zombieflanders at 3:12 PM on June 12 [1 favorite]


What people are called is something that people find very very important. If you don't think so— if you think that how people want to be named is a trivial issue— then you should use the words they use. If you make a big issue out of it, then it's not trivial, is it? If you think the left shouldn't fight abut these issues— then don't fight about them, just accept the new terms and save your energy for what you think is important.

The students were right to call out Savage, because he was and continues being a jerk about it. The use/mention distinction doesn't get him out of it. How many mentions do you really need in one particular conversation? With a slur, why is this number more than one? When someone says they're offended, why get defensive and double down on the mentions?

He's right that people reclaim old slurs But it shouldn't be hard to understand that that process is up to the people involved, and that even if it's done, it may still not be OK for outsiders to use the term.

Activists can be annoying, and in the heat of the moment maybe it was hard for him to switch gears. But he's had time to think, and instead of doing that he's decided to play the victim himself. Again, this shouldn't be hard for anyone on the left to understand: when you're called out for prejudice, that is not somehow a worse offense than whatever you did to incite it.
posted by zompist at 3:15 PM on June 12 [9 favorites]


I just still don't quite understand the underlying outrage here... is it really so terrible... So terrible that it merits a long argument on MetaFilter?

If it's such a small thing, so unworthy of MetaFilter's time, why not take people's word that they feel however they feel, shrug, and move on? It is a silencing tactic to ask someone to justify their feelings to you while you are the sole arbiter of whether those feelings are justifiable, or ask them to tamp those feelings down to the size that you feel comfortable encountering.
posted by Bentobox Humperdinck at 3:18 PM on June 12 [9 favorites]


I'll accept that you, me, and everyone can feel and express outrage about anything we find offensive if we so choose, but aren't we in danger of losing a sense of proportion?

I think the sense of proportion exploded when Savage and Sullivan made it an issue of national LGBT and liberal politics with a healthy dose of lol students and lol non-binary.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 3:22 PM on June 12 [1 favorite]


Holy crap. That first link is just awful. What a sarcastic, egotistical asshole.
posted by persona au gratin at 3:45 PM on June 12 [2 favorites]


Jesus he's a fucking dick.
posted by latkes at 4:12 PM on June 12 [1 favorite]


[Comment removed, please think twice about blind-linking button-pushing performance art routines in an already fraught thread.]
posted by cortex at 4:13 PM on June 12


I'm a member of a couple of oppressed or marginalized groups, nominally, and a person who does her best to be a solid ally to people in other marginalized groups. I say "nominally" because in my case, the problems associated with those affiliations are to a large extent balanced out by my social power. A fair amount of that power comes from being She Who Wields the Chalk in college classrooms. I know we like to envision classrooms and, by extension, lecture halls and conference rooms, as these fabulously Dead Poets Society democratic open Socratic utopias-in-miniature, where we're all about intellect and exploration and like no-holds-barred grokking of the knowledge, man.

But in actuality, those spaces are very risky, sometimes really personally threatening ice rinks for students. There are often intense power dynamics and interpersonal dynamics at play, and for the powerful folks in those spaces to dismiss that as students just being babies or something is really crappy.

In classrooms and in the world beyond, it's all too easy for people like me and Dan Savage, who are members of marginalized groups ourselves, who care deeply about advancing agendas of equity, who see ourselves as allies, and who are in positions of relative prominence and social power in those arenas, to mistakenly think that because we have experience of oppression, we automatically understand others' experiences of different kinds of oppression. We also sometimes unconsciously, mistakenly assume that as allies, we should get the same latitude in speech and actions that members of a group we're allied with would get. Y'know, Dan, I'm sorry, but no matter what your social justice credentials are, you are not and never will be an "honorary trans person," so stop presuming.

We also sometimes forget what it's like to be the least powerful people in a classroom or lecture hall. I think it's incumbent on the most powerful people in a lecture hall or round table or whatever to be especially mindful, circumspect, moderate, and sensitive in their language -- even just asking the other people in the group how they feel about mentioning slurs vs. using euphemisms BEFORE the terms come up. And it's also wise to realize that while you may think you're doing the "we're both oppressed, we're allies, so that gives me latitude" thing, the way that looks to the audience is, "I'm the most powerful person in this room; therefore, I can do or say whatever the fuck I want with impunity."
posted by FelliniBlank at 4:16 PM on June 12 [20 favorites]


FelliniBlank: It's one thing to screw up in front of a classroom or the like. It's another to go back home, reflect on it, and write what he did in that first link.
posted by persona au gratin at 4:33 PM on June 12 [1 favorite]


It's one thing to screw up in front of a classroom or the like. It's another to go back home, reflect on it, and write what he did in that first link.

Well, exactly. What you see there is a person who cannot cope with having their unexamined assumptions and power challenged.
posted by FelliniBlank at 4:35 PM on June 12 [7 favorites]


Most of the students at the seminar were surprised to learn that "queer" used to be considered a hate term.

Don't that make me feel old.

When/where I grew up queer was a hate term. I heard it most often when directed at straight people as an unusually nasty insult, something to be vehemently denied. It was one step short of violence when applied to gay people.

I can't hear the word queer without a sharp, immediate fight or flight response. Is someone about to be assaulted? Is it me? Am I going to need to defend myself against physical violence?

Now imagine how I feel about saying the word queer (or, to some extent, even typing it). It's like using the N-word for me.

I know the word queer's long since been reclaimed. I feel like a time traveller. My neighborhood (Davie Street, Vancouver) has gender politics that look more like The Culture than the town I grew up in. I don't think the word queer is ever going to be reclaimed for me. I can't imagine I'll ever stop cringing when I hear it.

It's nice to think of myself as part of the last generation for whom this will be true.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 4:47 PM on June 12 [13 favorites]


aren't we in danger of losing a sense of proportion?

Yes, yes we are. Because if we are worried that our reactions to an old man beating up on a kid who runs away in tears might somehow hurt liberalism, as though a political line of thought were the real victim here, we've lost our sense of proportion.

Savage says, "This student became so incensed ... that this student stormed out of the seminar. In tears. As one does when one doesn't get one's way. In college."

"In tears" works in two ways in that passage, two important ways. First, as an infantilizing put-down. Who cries? Babies cry. Oh, women too. The frail, the weak, those who must get their way or suffer oh so much emotional traaaaaauma. It is familiar rhetoric, and its archness is well-played here; those two two-word sentence fragments stopping us in our track, commanding, think about this, just think about this, would you? And then the punchline: You won't even believe what personal pronoun this kid picked.

But "in tears" works in a second way, as well, because it undermines what is being described as "an antic" or "playing games." Who cries? Well, not people playing games. Not people just bullshitting with you. A couple of paragraphs up, he's describing a straight guy, crying at something Dan wrote, at work. "OMG a straight guy who loves my work just called me a fag—I suppose that's a hate crime." No, Dan, a straight guy just described reading your article about your dead mother. In tears. (As one does when one doesn't get one's way. At work.)

The straight man's tears are evidence of Dan's virtue. The trans* kid's tears are evidence of its vice.

What is the correct sense of proportion here?

Can we say, safely, that anyone who chooses 'it' as a personal pronoun, has given it some thought? And that though we cannot read minds--and it would be insulting, in one of those gross "let's diagnose the queer person!" ways, to go too far with it--though we cannot read minds, we can safely say that the choice expresses an important discomfort with the pronouns our language provides? He, she, it--boy, girl, object--how is it that more people do not rebel from this? How is anyone ever comfortable calling themselves one particular gender?! And yet if I ran into such a person, the extra work required to refer to them as "it," the twists of cognition it would take to get it right, would be maddening! I would be furious all the time at this person! And what a wonderful fury it would be! What an important to examine fury, what a question yourself because you have obviously been discomfited by a two-letter word which is weird if you think about it fury. This person's choice is a perfect model of thought-provoking, because you cannot use "it" without giving it thought.

And can we assume, then, that having given "it" thought, that the fact that the pronoun wasn't brought up by it, but by its friend after it had left the room, means that this person was not nearly as manipulative and up-to-games as is implied by Dan's chronology? Because otherwise it would've brought it up then?

And can we make one further assumption, that when someone says to you, "that is not your word," that while a possible response is that words can be reclaimed, words can't be owned, whatever, that that person is making an important argument about words as property and is thus defending its property, an action that is ever fraught, an action that is dangerous, at the very least on an emotional level, and so should be understood as something more primal than collegiate riffing about words?

Maybe I am going too far. Fortunately, it doesn't matter; if I'm wrong, all I've done is felt sympathy for an illusion, made an incorrect interpretation of a person's actions. But when people talk about the politics of identity, and how it's taking over the left, what use is the left, what good is it at all, if it cannot help us deal with this? It--the person--had a word that it called its own, even if it wanted to stow the word away in a box so no one would ever use it. This little piece of property, taken away by someone with more power, someone who didn't even need the word, who wasn't even going to use the word. This isn't hijacking the left. It's the fucking point of the left.
posted by mittens at 5:44 PM on June 12 [20 favorites]


Don't that make me feel old.

When/where I grew up queer was a hate term. I heard it most often when directed at straight people as an unusually nasty insult, something to be vehemently denied. It was one step short of violence when applied to gay people.


That was true through my high school years, usually phrased as "you fucking queer." The reclaiming of the word arrived when I was in college, and even I, totally outside of that discussion, remember the intense feelings and arguments over that word.

I haven't heard it used as an insult in almost twenty years, even by openly homophobic people, which amazes and pleases me.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:11 PM on June 12 [4 favorites]


I would think a trans person making a judgment about a person who uses trans slurs has plenty of credibility to make that judgment. Is there a reason you don't think that's the case?

Yes. If your friend is saying Dan Savage are equally as bad as Rush Limbaugh, your friend has no sense of proportion and is categorically wrong. Just like people who say there is zero difference between Obama and Bush 2 are wrong. (Or who said there would be zero difference between Bush 2 and Gore.)

I get that when people who think should be your allies aren't sufficiently ally-enough it hurts. It hurts even more than when people you already know are your enemies are well, your enemies. But that doesn't mean the two are the same. And if you can't see that, well, then I don't respect your judgement. And that means if you now need to think of me as just as bad as Rush, well, ok then.
posted by aspo at 6:59 PM on June 12 [6 favorites]


I disagree with Savage on some key things but I'm glad he defended himself strongly here. Applause also to the U of C IoP forum for standing its ground.
posted by Bwithh at 7:22 PM on June 12 [2 favorites]


A very conservative (lifenews constantly on facebook) friend posted a link to Dan Savage with a comment about how great he was and my husband asked me what was going on because he only vaguely knows of Dan Savage through 'It Gets Better'. About halfway through my explanation, I threw my hands up and said "He's great and awful in different ways."

Savage's book The Kid was important to me as putting down very clearly how he felt about his kid's first parents and coming to parenthood with big doubts and social stigma. I read it when family members were telling me that I would be a terrible adoptive mother etc, and when I felt very unsure about my parenting choices that weren't mainstream at the time. I will always be grateful for his honesty in that book.

But argh, he is a - I'm struggling for a slur that is not gendered here - nincompoop for how he's handling this. Punch up, not down, dude.

And language matters when you are a minority. IMO sometimes it matters even more to trans-people because our physical social spaces are so often binary - gendered bathrooms and store sections - and words are a strong way to create a social space that brings people in.

And it is much easier to rise above a hurtful comment from an enemy than your friend. When your friend uses words that you say hurt you, then you have the double pain of both what is said and that your friendship is revealed to be less.

I'm reading about silencing rape survivors and one of the main fears they had (and was shown to be a realised fear in this study as it happened often) was that they would be doubted by their support network. It was better, they felt, to keep quiet than risk having someone they loved tell them they doubted their experience.

It's not enough to be neutral. We need to actively reach out to people to create an environment that is supportive of vulnerable people, and that includes adjusting language. Using language to welcome and support people costs me and Dan Savage very little compared to the benefits it brings to vulnerable people.
posted by viggorlijah at 8:16 PM on June 12 [13 favorites]


It's extremely patronizing to assume that people objecting to slurs and background cultural transphobia either aren't working for change in any other capacity or that they have to prove they're active elsewhere for these concerns to be taken seriously.

Related to the second part of this, some people only have the ability, for whatever reason, to go in on the small stuff where it comes up in their lives. Maybe they work a shitty exhausting job or have to take care of their sick aunt or are disabled or hate electoral politics or are kind of disorganized and flaky. I think it's GOOD if those people pass on to their families or Facebook friends that, hey, this word is a slur that hurts people, say that word instead. Or, hey, it's polite to ask people if they prefer "he" or "she" or something else. Like, that being the extent of your participation doesn't invalidate your point, and it's better than doing nothing, and it helps to normalize and validate trans people and trans identities.

I know some people have said they feel like it's fine to use the word to discuss the word and not using it is sort of coy, but to me, using it at all after you've been asked not to always comes across like the kid in elementary school who would wave his hands half-an-inch from your face while chanting, "Not touching, can't get mad, not touching, can't get mad!" It adheres to the letter of the law but not the spirit.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 9:10 PM on June 12 [6 favorites]


This is so easy to get right, I honestly DO NOT UNDERSTAND how people are saying they will be driven away as allies for fear of saying something wrong. Here's how this goes down when you are a real ally:
Marginalized person: When you say "X" it's hurtful, and I would prefer you didn't say it. I am extra helpful, and I will give you a term to replace it.

Ally: Thank you! I'm sorry that I used that term, and I'll stop.
That's it. That's literally the entirety of the entire conversation unless you dig in your heels about how "x" shouldn't be an offensive term. I have had this conversation on both sides. It SUCKS from both ends - both as the person doing the calling out (because something stung from someone you thought was on your side and you hope actually is) and as the ally (because it's embarrassing and hard).
posted by stoneweaver at 10:43 PM on June 12 [4 favorites]


Joe and Jane America have no freaking idea what "cis" gender is and aren't particularly interested in knowing. They get pissed off when you tell them to "check their privilege" because they're struggling just to stay afloat and this is just code anyway to devalue anything they've actually accomplished. Their jaws drop when they're told they need to ask each individual they meet if they'd prefer to be addressed as "he" or "she" or "it" or "they" or something else. And when it is insinuated that Joe, by virtue of being male, contributes in some respect to a culture of misogyny -

yeah i guess the problem with the american left is we let the feminists and trans people talk too much jesus christ
posted by atoxyl at 3:44 AM on June 13 [6 favorites]


Joe and Jane America have no freaking idea what "cis" gender is and aren't particularly interested in knowing. They get pissed off when you tell them to "check their privilege" because they're struggling just to stay afloat and this is just code anyway to devalue anything they've actually accomplished.

to paraphrase a way-too-true quote: First they came for the trans people, and I did not speak out— Because I was not trans. Then they came for the people of color, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a person of color. Then they came for the women, and I did not speak out— Because I was a man. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

If you're "struggling just to stay afloat", it's because they've gotten around to coming for you.
posted by oneswellfoop at 4:26 AM on June 13 [8 favorites]


TIL that Joe and Jane America live in a pre-70s sitcom and have ignored any form of social liberalisation or LGBTI and feminist dialogue.

What I have learned does however (ironically) smack a little of prejudice. I'm also not sure who has been swayed to support SSM if not that group.
posted by jaduncan at 4:34 AM on June 13 [2 favorites]


If your friend is saying Dan Savage are equally as bad as Rush Limbaugh, your friend has no sense of proportion and is categorically wrong.

I don't think it's at all clear that lattiboy's friend is saying there's a one-to-one Badness Correlation between Savage and Limbaugh. "Rush Limbaugh, but less open to fisting" is clearly joking in tone. I'm personally comfortable with the comparison as a rhetorical device: "You know how Rush Limbaugh uses his media platform to slur women and other disenfranchised groups, and we all recognize that it's Not Cool? Savage has used his media platform to slur trans people, and it's also Not Cool, but it's not as widely recognized because the community he's targeting is less visible."

And that means if you now need to think of me as just as bad as Rush, well, ok then.

As you're not a media personality slurring disenfranchised groups, it wouldn't occur to me to think you're just as bad as Rush. Or Savage, for that matter.
posted by brookedel at 5:05 AM on June 13 [1 favorite]


If you're "struggling just to stay afloat", it's because they've gotten around to coming for you.

In red state Tennessee, I see more and more Joe and Jane America types coming around to thinking of income inequality and social inequality as part-and-parcel of the same forces and getting pretty pissed about it. They aren't all trans allies, but I don't think we're far away - I feel like the conversations I have now about trans issues are super similar to the conversations I was having 10 years ago about marriage equality, all kinds of tentative "huh, ok, I never thought of it that way" moments. And I'm talking about co-workers and relatives, not just the awesome people I've chosen as my friends. As pessimistic as I am on economic issues, I'm really hopeful on social issues.
posted by joannemerriam at 7:13 AM on June 13 [2 favorites]


The entire "Joe and Jane America" concept is nonsense. LGBT people can come from blue or red states, from urban or rural hometowns, from rich or poor families (and everything in between). The idea that LGBT Americans all exist in some elite bubble and are fundamentally different and separate from "real" Americans who are just trying to make it through the day and put food on the table is total crap.
posted by naoko at 8:25 AM on June 13 [13 favorites]


That's literally the entirety of the entire conversation unless you dig in your heels about how "x" shouldn't be an offensive term.

A hundred times this.

I feel like this has been discussed many many many times. When someone calls you out for saying something offensive, even if it just offensive to them, don't take it as a personal attack against you, just agree and move on. One of the great things about languages is there are usually multiple words that describe the same thing. Pick another word or phrase, it's not that hard. If you dig in your heels, you need to really consider why that particular word, which is hurtful to that person, is so important for you to use.
posted by LizBoBiz at 9:17 AM on June 13 [1 favorite]


"Rush Limbaugh, but less open to fisting" is clearly joking in tone.

Clearly. As were comedian Bianca del Rio's non-serious-toned comments.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:52 AM on June 13 [2 favorites]


Using one kid's emotional outburst to justify your own self-entitled casual bigotry against an entire segment of the population? Classy, Dan.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 11:05 AM on June 13 [1 favorite]


It's hard for me not to see this debate—the larger one between Dan Savage and the college kid he's fucking bullying and the one taking place in this thread—as one about the merits of compassion.

Avoiding a word that causes someone pain or distress is a compassionate thing to do. It costs you nothing to abstain from using t----y, or n----r, or f----t. Entire English-language novels have been written without the letter e, for Christ's sake. You'll get by without a few lazy, ugly crutches in your personal vocabulary.

Likewise, deliberately using a word in front of someone after they've explicitly told you that word causes them pain or distress is—well, it's deliberately causing someone pain or distress, and that's pretty much the opposite of compassionate.

Should Dan Savage be more compassionate to trans people? Fat people? Bisexual people? Women? Should we? That's how this argument reads to me: yes we should vs. no we shouldn't.

And I'm pretty much always going to come down on the side of compassion. My conscience doesn't let me sleep very well when I don't.
posted by Zozo at 2:32 PM on June 13 [10 favorites]


Just wanted to thank Corinth and others for doing a lot of difficult, thoughtful, painstaking explaining-intelligently-without-getting-exasperated in this thread. Thanks very much for helping me understand. I'm with you.
posted by onlyconnect at 2:37 PM on June 13 [8 favorites]


having actually taken some time to think about this and reflect on, it sleep on it, etc before writing my thoughts... I can't really get past the fact that he essentially went far out of his way having done the same to misrepresent what they said, paint them as "hysterical" with the whole hate crime thing, and then try and not just knock down that straw man but get his fanbase to back him up on running it, and them, out of town on a rail.

this entire situation is just like... woah.

It's a personality straight out of house of cards. Like "fuck with me, and i'll invent a way to destroy you, the truth doesn't matter".
posted by emptythought at 3:28 PM on June 13 [1 favorite]


Clearly. As were comedian Bianca del Rio's non-serious-toned comments.

I...feel like it's pretty obvious that not all jokes are created equal? "A trans person once made a joke about an oppressor" doesn't seem to logically lead to "so now you can't get mad if anyone else ever makes a joke."
posted by brookedel at 4:30 PM on June 13 [3 favorites]


It's pretty obvious that not all jokes are created equal. It is not at all obvious that a cis man mocking a trans woman's genitals is a joke. I don't know why Blazecock Pileon is hung up on this.
posted by Corinth at 9:36 PM on June 13 [3 favorites]


Okay.

Whether a given person finds a joke funny or not, reasoning people understand that said words are not a literal description of reality, yes?

I really hope whatever reasoning people are left can agree on that, at least.

You understand you presented the words of a comedy drag queen as some kind of serious, non-joking representation of truth, yes?

You might want to step back and think carefully on if you're building your argument on a strong foundation of fact, when your position is based on the worst, most uncharitable possible interpretation of words issued by a queer comedian.

Further, if you presented this person as some kind of official spokesperson for that viewpoint, you should expect some kind of critical response.

We are beyond matters of simple hypocrisy here, when you and others interpret a joke as something it is not, and then act hurt and manipulative and pushy when called on it.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:30 AM on June 14 [1 favorite]


Yeah, and that video another drag queen made about violently murdering a trans activist was also a "joke." We sure do get our panties in a wad over the most benign, hilarious jokes!

You aren't the arbiter of when it is and isn't funny to mock trans people's bodies by referencing the "mutilated penis" trope. You aren't the arbiter of when it is and isn't funny to show the graphic murder of a vocal trans activist. You aren't even the arbiter of when we can and can't be offended by an anti-trans slur. You just aren't. Nothing you can say to us is going to make us go, oh, you're totally right, now we see it your way, we really should have been looking at this through the lens of a cis man and like this transphobia can be a real knee-slapper. So I don't know why you're trying, because I don't think that has ever worked for anything.

I haven't presented these men as official spokespeople (although they often function this way because their words and violent videos are run on enormous platforms like HuffPo), I've highlighted them as indicative of a pattern.
posted by Corinth at 9:54 AM on June 14 [1 favorite]


I am not the arbiter of whether jokes are funny or not funny (and neither are you) but if nobody has your permission to call out your statements that equate jokes with reality, then we are all in serious trouble on a site that is supposed to further discussion.

In any case, you are again forcibly putting words in my mouth I did not say, and that is pushy, and that is rude, and that makes me less inclined to seriously consider anything you say from this point forwards. If that was your intent, congratulations, but if not, you might possibly want to rethink your approach.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:08 AM on June 14 [1 favorite]


If a couple straight comedians used the prison rape trope and references to Matthew Shepard to "jokingly" describe what should happen to a gay or lesbian person, how would you react? Would it be exactly the same as how you're reacting to what Corinth is saying?
posted by zombieflanders at 10:23 AM on June 14 [1 favorite]


You are free to address the facts of my criticisms, or not, but I do not think you should be free to attack me for things I did not say nor positions I never agreed with. That is dishonest.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:33 AM on June 14 [1 favorite]


If that's an attack, then you've been attacking Corinth this entire time. She's telling you how she feels when violent words and images are used, how common those patterns are in attacks on trans people, and you're telling her that she's crazy and stupid for feeling that. All I did is ask if you would react the same way she did, and if you did would you characterize your feelings the way you're characterizing hers?
posted by zombieflanders at 11:49 AM on June 14


you're telling her that she's crazy and stupid for feeling that

I said no such thing. You are out of control.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:08 PM on June 14 [1 favorite]


And that's about as nicely as I can say that without ending up in Metatalk.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:09 PM on June 14


You're just insinuating that she's disconnected from reality, but not crazy or stupid. OK.
posted by zombieflanders at 12:17 PM on June 14


Guys, chill.
posted by cortex at 12:35 PM on June 14


Nothing you can say to us is going to make us go, oh, you're totally right, now we see it your way, we really should have been looking at this through the lens of a cis man and like this transphobia can be a real knee-slapper.

Once you get to the point in the thread where you're writing someone with your biology/identity will never convince someone with my biology/identity that you are right, the only thing to do is for you to listen to me because I am right you're basically just giving up on having a discussion and signaling that anyone who disagrees with your statements is going to be labeled a bigot.
posted by crayz at 1:26 PM on June 14 [2 favorites]


I thought his piece on This American Life about his mother was very nice, as was a piece he did on being a father.
posted by 4ster at 6:25 PM on June 14


crayz, other people aren't going to argue me out of the feelings transphobia gives me. That's the opposite of how feelings work. I talk about them on the chance that some people might not have a trans friend they can hear about this stuff from, but that doesn't mean that I'm opening the fact that I have them up for debate. I guess I understand if you feel like I'm breaking some kind of social compact by talking about something but not allowing a give-and-take about it, and I guess I understand how that can be frustrating. But I don't share this stuff with the hope that someone is going to be able to explain away my bad feelings.

That's pretty far afield but there is a kind of pattern of some cis gay men Not Getting It and then getting obnoxiously defensive while employing a huge power differential to back themselves up. Dan Savage is part of that pattern. Andrew Sullivan is part of that pattern. RuPaul and some other drag queens are part of that pattern. The problem isn't trans people pointing it out - it's the pattern.
posted by Corinth at 9:23 AM on June 15 [14 favorites]


A response from it's sibling.
posted by klangklangston at 8:43 AM on June 16 [10 favorites]


wow klang, that response and account--which as far as I am aware is the first from people who were there and aren't Savage or Cox--makes them out to be even bigger assholes.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 9:25 AM on June 16


Yeah, which may have been the point. I wouldn't go out on a limb over either party's description of details — both have pretty strong incentives to be self-serving — but I thought it was worth having as Savage got to have his say with a pretty big platform.
posted by klangklangston at 9:30 AM on June 16


It's good to know that it is receiving support from at least one family member.
posted by mittens at 9:32 AM on June 16


klang, that's really awful. Poor kid, that is definitely not the spin Dan Savage is putting on it but the sibling's version seems much more believable to me.

Ana Marie Cox sounds like a straight-up transphobe, I'm not sure how she is escaping any flack aside from the fact that she seems to be a complete nobody/random blogger (is she famous somewhere? Her wikipedia page which I assume she's written suggests the most interesting thing she's done is try to defraud her publisher in 2006).
posted by tinkletown at 10:41 AM on June 16 [1 favorite]


Holy cow. That response makes this all a bit clearer, and frankly the fact that it largely accords with Savage's account of the facts (if not the tone) makes it credible to me. The fact that Savage thought it was okay, when someone said "that word bothers me," to let loose with a barrage of other words and ask "do these words bother you too?" just shows how insulting and hurtful he was.

There's no pretense now. This isn't some special case with shades of meaning. There's just a guy who stood in front of students and treated one of them like utter shit for no reason beyond his own bitterness. This isn't a case where maybe "the left" needs to reconsider itself; this is just a case where one guy acted like a total asshole.

It's really, really simple. He wouldn't go to a gathering of black students and use the n word. He wouldn't go to a gathering of women students and use the c word. So why did he think it was okay to stand in front of an audience that included trans students and use the t word? That's fucked up, and no amount of lecturing from the perspective of queer theory about "reclaiming" words gets past that. I am a white guy; the n-word and the c-word aren't being reclaimed when I use them to describe people who are usually the object of those words as slurs. That's just not okay.
posted by koeselitz at 12:02 PM on June 16 [11 favorites]


It's really, really simple. He wouldn't go to a gathering of black students and use the n word.

If it were that "simple" you wouldn't need to frame it in such a tendentious way. No, he wouldn't "go to a gathering of black students and use the n-word." But he might very well talk about the history of reclaiming pejorative words to an academic audience that included black students and mention the word "nigger" without using a coy euphemism (because in an academic discussion, by and large, coy euphemisms are not seen as helpful for clarity or accuracy of analysis). He was not claiming the right to "call" people "trannies." He wasn't saying "all you trannies need to just grow a pair" or anything--he was claiming the right, solely, to use the actual word when talking about the word.

Now, you may or may not think that is an indefensible position, but it's extremely unfair to elide that distinction in discussing the case. He wasn't calling this kid a "tranny" or insisting that the kid should be happy to allow people to do so.
posted by yoink at 12:21 PM on June 16 [3 favorites]


Well, I don't know what happened in that classroom, and I suspect no one else in this conversation does.

I think Savage is an ass for linking a campus kerfuffle to the Southern Baptist Convention resolution with a "neener neener, why don't you care about this instead of me?" Even if his classroom manners were impeccable in context, making that news item about him is a dick move.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 12:28 PM on June 16


-he was claiming the right, solely, to use the actual word when talking about the word.

Which is something he sure as hell wouldn't do in a front of a majority black audience.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 12:50 PM on June 16


Following this harassment of being singled out in the crowd and hurled slurs at, Cox took over. She told my sibling that she “[felt] sexuality is a lot deeper than gender because you can’t tell a person’s sexuality from just looking at them.” (These quotation marks do not symbolise an exact quote from Cox, but a quote from my sibling, paraphrasing what it had been told in the crowd that Thursday.) My sibling told me on the phone that it tried to explain to Cox you cannot tell someone’s gender just by looking either, and it was at this point Cox said, “Publically, you can,” and then proceeded to misgender my sibling. My sibling became upset and tried to explain to Cox that you couldn’t tell its gender and Cox said, “I don’t really care.”

My sibling replied, “Yeah, I can tell,” and it was then, emotionally stressed out and in tears, my sibling left the auditorium. Not because it didn’t “get its way.” Not because it was “throwing a tantrum,” or whatever ludicrous reason Savage and his friends would like to spin this into. But because it had been singled out, harassed, multiple insults lobbed at it, and finally, misgendered massively by Cox after politely asking its safety to be considered.


This sounds too, too horribly plausible. I've heard people say stuff like that to anomalously gendered people. This gives me the creeps because I've got a friend who is probably a lot like this Hex kid, and I could just see someone pushing my friend and being an asshole to them in the same way, and stress leading to crying, etc.

Also, the kid is seventeen. Seventeen! I'm, like, more than ten years younger than Dan Savage and let me tell you, seventeen seems young. Big man, Dan Savage.

And in the age of the internet, why would you bring such a shitstorm down on someone over their pronouns? It occurs to me that at University of Chicago, everyone has got to know who this kid is. Which means probably half tumblr does, etc. And that's straight up setting someone up to get the vilest kind of harassment.
posted by Frowner at 12:52 PM on June 16 [6 favorites]


Big man, Dan Savage.

For real. Famous and famously snarky writer/pundit/columnist made a kid cry in front of a lot of other people, and then used his media platform to let his fans know he'd made a kid cry. Woo, you go, big man.
posted by rtha at 12:55 PM on June 16 [5 favorites]


Yeah, whatever actually happened, a 40-something successful dude getting ranty at a 17 year old does not make him look good, even if Savage was technically "justified" in using the t-word.
posted by desjardins at 12:56 PM on June 16 [1 favorite]


yoink: “If it were that 'simple' you wouldn't need to frame it in such a tendentious way.”

There was nothing tendentious about my phrasing. And you picked out the least obnoxious thing about the exchange. If there was any reason why I didn't really dwell on the simple fact that he used the word, it's because that in itself isn't the most terrible thing.

I mean, it would be annoying if he had used the word, then been asked not to, and said "sure, fine" and moved on. But by his own admission, he responded with a barrage of slurs, asking pointedly "can I use these words? Is that okay?"

Seriously, it's hard to imagine someone being more insensitive in that situation.
posted by koeselitz at 1:28 PM on June 16


Think of it this way:

If that exchange happened on MetaFilter, Savage's comment would get deleted pretty quickly.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 1:32 PM on June 16


I guess that one way we've been talking past each other (or at least that I have been talking past other people) is that this account is more or less the one I had assumed had happened to start with, because this is pretty much how I've seen these situations play out before. So when I read Savage's take, I kind of automatically de-Savaged it by using frog DNA to fill in the blanks to see the whole dinosaur. People who haven't seen these situations before weren't drawing from the same context that I was, so what was clear to me absolutely wasn't clear to them.

In the same vein, "all you t****ies need to just grow a pair" is pretty much exactly what I hear when I read things like this from Sullivan and Savage and RuPaul. RuPaul has said that more or less several times. Sullivan and Savage use so much right wing-style hyperbole and dogwhistles in their own pieces that they scan to me as just as bad as - if not worse than - actually using the slur. It really does boggle my mind that those two, specifically, don't connect what they're doing to the things that were done to them twenty years ago.
posted by Corinth at 1:44 PM on June 16 [5 favorites]


"I'm not sure how she is escaping any flack aside from the fact that she seems to be a complete nobody/random blogger (is she famous somewhere? Her wikipedia page which I assume she's written suggests the most interesting thing she's done is try to defraud her publisher in 2006)."

She's the founder of Wonkette (I don't know that it's accurate anymore to call her Wonkette). It's about the same level of fame as Josh Marshall or Markos Moulitsas.
posted by klangklangston at 5:40 PM on June 16


Savage might be a little cranky because this particular individual tried to get him written up for a hate crime and shut down his access to colleges, much like fundies are always doing. And perhaps because trans activists with poor senses of boundaries tried to do him serious physical harm in the past, which is actually more than any of the hate-crazed fundies have tries.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 5:41 PM on June 16


For those interested who don't end up clicking, ""serious physical harm" is Dan's claim that when he was glitter-bombed three years ago while in the very act of using the term "shemale" over and over again (and, let's be fair, saying "for lack of a better term, although some people say it's offensive") part of the glitter bomb was a "glass jar" thrown at his face.

It should be noted that other people have disputed the "glass jar," saying it was actually a light plastic jar of the type which sometimes holds peanut butter. I guess it would be possible to mistake the one for the other in the heat of the moment, so I'm not saying he's lying, only that he might be wrong. One of the people who says it was a plastic jar is the person who threw it in the first place.
posted by koeselitz at 6:50 PM on June 16 [3 favorites]


A better overview and response to Dan regarding the glitter bomb incident.
posted by koeselitz at 6:51 PM on June 16


That incident, taken with this one really makes it sound like he's the kind of person who acts like a little brother or something. "JOHNNY HIT ME IN THE FACE WITH A BASEBALL BAT!", when in fact, it was one of those flexible foam bats made for that, and it wasn't even swung very hard.

Which is to say, a tiresome whiny exaggerator.
posted by emptythought at 7:12 PM on June 16


Yeah, the ridiculous thing is that he's contradicting himself there. Earlier he said that he didn't press charges, that he laughed when the police called it "assault" because hey, it's only glitter. Then later he says, oh wait, there was a glass jar.

I don't know. It's odd, because this was 2011, supposedly the year he stopped using the t-word. But he is just as vociferous in claiming that he's a trans ally, that he's always been a trans ally, and how dare anybody think otherwise. You get the feeling this has to have been shifting ground; at what point did he actually get on the bus on these issues, and was he confused about it before? Is he willing to admit that?

It feels like it'd be very honest and worthwhile for him to admit that. But every time it comes close to coming up, he retreats into this "I am an ally! Look at my ally credentials!" stuff.
posted by koeselitz at 7:37 PM on June 16 [3 favorites]


Every time this happens these people play the ally credential card instead of listening, and it works for them because they have huge platforms and historical cred with the larger LGB movement. So their audiences believe them and then forget about the whole thing - because Dan/Andrew/whoever is a "good ally," they wouldn't do anything wrong, and so these incidents don't need to be noted and remembered. But trans people remember, because it hurts. So every time this happens again, trans people respond with a little more exasperation, and these jerks respond with a little more "look how shrill and unreasonable they're getting." And what sticks isn't the trans people's point about how this is happening again, it's Dan/Andrew/whoever's defensive "shrill and unreasonable."

This is how you get stuff like Andrew Sullivan berating Laverne Cox for refusing to talk to about her genitals and still getting lauded as a trans ally by cis people. This is how you get stuff like Dan Savage mocking a 17-year old trans kid and still getting lauded as a trans ally by cis people. This is the cissexist media meat grinder in which victims of slurs and bullying and transphobia get turned into the bad guys right under the nose of the theoretically inclusive LGBT coalition. If enough cis LGB people decide that another cis person is a good trans ally, actual trans people don't have the media reach or volume to get their objections respected.
posted by Corinth at 11:36 PM on June 16 [9 favorites]


The glitterbomb incident, much like the single violent tweet sent to Gabe of Penny Arcade and the single nasty blog post written about John Scalzi when took a picture of himself in a dress, is one of those things that gets repeatedly brought up here as evidence of the Violent Trans Conspiracy, and it really needs to stop. They have now all been thoroughly debunked as the cartoonish villainy of unnamed hordes out for blood that they were from the beginning. At least Scalzi (and to a lesser extent Krahulik) have had the good faith to note that instead of bringing it up whenever they want to rile up the mob.
posted by zombieflanders at 4:01 AM on June 17 [6 favorites]


shut down his access to colleges,

just to pick out one tidbit of bad faith in this comment full of bad faith:

What evidence do you have for this accusation? There's none in the links in the FPP.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 6:08 AM on June 17 [3 favorites]


[Comments deleted. Blazecock, sideways criticisms of moderation do not go here. You know this. Move on. ]
posted by restless_nomad at 11:40 AM on June 17


Is it acceptable to point out that the community as a whole lacks much objectivity when it comes to anything related to Dan Savage?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:44 AM on June 17 [2 favorites]


I think it would be better to just engage in the discussion and discuss this incident in the FPP.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 12:48 PM on June 17 [2 favorites]


Is it acceptable to point out that the community as a whole lacks much objectivity when it comes to anything related to Dan Savage?

The point would be what? You've made your lack of objectivity totally clear, and that's fine, but it's not like anyone else should be required to attain that mythical state in order to form an opinion about this incident (or any other). I think Savage has done and said good things throughout his career and also not good things. Making a 17-year-old kid cry is one of those not-good things, in my opinion.
posted by rtha at 1:01 PM on June 17


Is it acceptable to point out that the community as a whole lacks much objectivity when it comes to anything related to Dan Savage?

It would be acceptable, but fucking obvious as hell. We're like 10,000+ different people. The community as a whole isn't objective about anything.

Meanwhile, you're acting like not only the MetaFilter community, but the LGBTQ community -- hundreds of millions of people -- is insane to disagree with you.

It's ridiculous.
posted by Sys Rq at 1:08 PM on June 17 [1 favorite]


Does anyone else find it darkly funny that we're being criticized for not being objective about an opinion columnist?
posted by zombieflanders at 1:11 PM on June 17 [3 favorites]


The point would be what?

I was trying to respond to that part of the thread, but nonetheless, we now seem to be rationalizing homophobic statements and violent acts out of outrage. That's not a part of the LGBTQ community I am proud of. In the cases of Dan Savage and RuPaul, I see a combined five or six decades of improving our lot being thrown entirely out of the window. That merits some questioning and soul-searching.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:16 PM on June 17 [1 favorite]


In the cases of Dan Savage and RuPaul, I see a combined five or six decades of improving our lot being thrown entirely out of the window. That merits some questioning and soul-searching.

"Our lot" is more than just gay men.
posted by Sys Rq at 1:19 PM on June 17


we now seem to be rationalizing homophobic statements and violent acts out of outrage.

Who is doing this?
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 1:19 PM on June 17 [1 favorite]


"Our lot" is more than just gay men.

Agreed?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:21 PM on June 17


we now seem to be rationalizing homophobic statements and violent acts out of outrage

What the what?

I see a combined five or six decades of improving our lot being thrown entirely out of the window

If you're going to accuse everyone who disagrees with Dan Savage of directly sabotaging the movement you claim to represent, just come out and say it.
posted by zombieflanders at 1:22 PM on June 17 [1 favorite]


In the cases of Dan Savage and RuPaul, I see a combined five or six decades of improving our lot being thrown entirely out of the window. That merits some questioning and soul-searching.

But the thing is, folks are not writing a biography of Dan Savage, we're responding to a specific and rather unpleasant recent incident. If we were writing a serious biography, I don't see how we couldn't grapple with the question of who has benefited and who has been harmed by his various actions. We'd try to situate him, too, in a time period and a specific discourse, and this would have the effect, probably, of mitigating some of his actions. That's some of the work of biography, and from the very little "assess people as activists in terms of their whole careers" stuff I've tried to do, it seems very difficult and very complex.

I don't think it merits soul-searching to say "once again, Dan Savage was kind of a dick to a trans person while still beating the drum about what a great ally he is".
posted by Frowner at 1:23 PM on June 17 [5 favorites]


What the what?

The response to the glass jar incident has been to discount it entirely. It didn't happen, or even if it did, it wasn't glass. That's ignoring the language directed at gay people, referred to as a near monolithic block that want to see transgendered people murdered in one comment and then described as "you people" in another. In any other contexts, those kinds of comments would be inexcusable and swiftly condemned.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:34 PM on June 17 [1 favorite]


The response to the glass jar incident has been to discount it entirely. It didn't happen, or even if it did, it wasn't glass.

That's because the only person saying it was glass was Savage himself. To characterize pointing that out as a rationalization of acts of violence is pure bullshit and you know it and don't seem to care.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 1:47 PM on June 17 [1 favorite]


The response to the glass jar incident has been to discount it entirely. It didn't happen

No one said this.

or even if it did, it wasn't glass

Was there a police report or something? Because it seems like there's two versions of the story, but you regard the version you disagree with as factually false.

That's ignoring the language directed at gay people, referred to as a near monolithic block that want to see transgendered people murdered in one comment

You mean the comments that specifically identified certain individuals and used the word "some?" That looks to me to be on the opposite spectrum of "near" in terms of monolithic blocs.

In any other contexts, those kinds of comments would be inexcusable and swiftly condemned.

They don't seem to be considered inexcusable or swiftly condemned in the LGBTQ community at large. It's clear that a lot of cis and/or straight folks think that, yeah, Savage can be a bad ally, that Bianca Del Rio's joke was pretty fucked up, and that Alaska Thunderfuck's video was in really poor taste.
posted by zombieflanders at 1:49 PM on June 17 [1 favorite]


The response to the glass jar incident has been to discount it entirely. It didn't happen, or even if it did, it wasn't glass.

No one in this thread has done this.

Thinking Savage was an asshole in this particular incident is not throwing out fifty years of advancement. Jesus christ, get some perspective.
posted by rtha at 2:01 PM on June 17 [1 favorite]


Is it acceptable to point out that the community as a whole lacks much objectivity when it comes to anything related to Dan Savage?

This simply isn't true. There's a good spread of both defenders and detractors on here. I've seen plenty of both. This isn't like the Doctorow hate where it's basically a meme that gets repeated rote. Every thread that he brings up there's plenty of "he's a pretty good ally" and plenty of "he's a huge piece of shit".

And there's also plenty of people on both side exasperated that the entire site is against their view, because people post opposing views and they don't get deleted or something.

Personally, i think he's a turd, but i'm not advocating for the deletion of posts by people who support them or saying they're some supermajority.

Which to be clear, i'm not saying or implying you are doing. Just that this is a common enough refrain from both sides of the fence that i think it deserved to be called out a bit.

Was there a police report or something? Because it seems like there's two versions of the story, but you regard the version you disagree with as factually false.

I think if he wants anyone to take any version of his story seriously, then he should have been consistent with his description of the events. The fact that he wasn't lands it firmly in "nice try" territory. As i said above, it's like a younger sibling claiming they were hit then changing the entire parameters of the encounter the second time they have to explain it to dad. Backpedaling, frontpedaling, whatever. I realize this can and has been used as a silencing tactic, but if you want people to take you seriously get your freaking story straight.

Discounting it entirely was the right thing to do, because it's hanging chad level bullshit that doesn't deserve airtime. It's like something was thrown, maybe someone was hurt. No one was arrested or transported to the hospital. Everyone was an asshole.

I think the fact that there wasn't a police report or anything actually says a lot about the seriousness of this event.
posted by emptythought at 2:12 PM on June 17


Blazecock Pileon: "The response to the glass jar incident has been to discount it entirely."

Dan Savage is the one who dismissed it entirely. You should read his account of it here. In response to those who claimed he "got someone arrested," he says that he laughed when the police called it "assault" and talked about pursuing it legally because, in Savage's words, "you know, we were talking about glitter." Then six hours later he posted an addendum saying it was a glass jar and implying that he was actually in danger. I'm actually not sure there's anybody who's consistently claimed that it was a big dangerous glass jar.
posted by koeselitz at 7:50 PM on June 17


I think if he wants anyone to take any version of his story seriously, then he should have been consistent with his description of the events.

An account from someone who is neither Dan Savage nor the person who could (and should) suffer legal repercussions if it was a glass jar:

"The thing I find really bad on her part is that she threw the large heavy glass container at his head after she threw the glitter. It made a very loud "clunk" when it hit the floor that could be heard throughout the auditorium. After the talk some other students looked and there was a dent in the stage floor where it hit. It barely missed Mr. Savage's head. If it would have hit him, she could have done serious damage to him. A concussion or worse. She doesn't seem to be showing any shame on the blog post that this author, has linked to, but this was seriously dangerous."

I don't see how we couldn't grapple with the question of who has benefited and who has been harmed by his various actions.

By "his actions", I hope you include his tremendous amount of awareness-raising, fund-raising, and media activism around trans people and violence.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 8:03 PM on June 17 [1 favorite]


I hope you include his tremendous amount of awareness-raising, fund-raising, and media activism around trans people and violence."

Around and around we go, and where we stop I already know!
posted by Corinth at 8:15 PM on June 17 [3 favorites]


An account from someone who is neither Dan Savage nor the person who could (and should) suffer legal repercussions if it was a glass jar:

What matters less, perhaps, is the material the jar is made of, than that both a physical object of some weight was thrown at a gay man and that people are rationalizing that act because they feel he deserves some payback. I'm not sure where we will end up when the larger pendulum swings back against the queer community, but when this gets cheered this on, we are in trouble.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:02 PM on June 17 [1 favorite]


Yes, what matters when discussing the ways in which Dan Savage comes up short as a trans ally is a three year-old glitterbombing - the glitterbombing of a gay man, I remind you! Why isn't MetaFilter talking about the real hate crime here? Why won't Laverne Cox answer our special investigative committee's questions? First they come for your fun transphobic slurs, next they'll be forcing you to bake cakes for trans weddings! Wake up and roll out of your echo chambers, sheeple!
posted by Corinth at 9:43 PM on June 17 [5 favorites]


As noted a few times, neither Savage nor anyone else is that upset about the glitterbombing. The throwing of heavy objects at his head, that's a little bothersome.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 9:46 PM on June 17 [1 favorite]


Can't I think that no one should throw heavy glass objects at other people as a form of protest at a speaking event and also think that Savage was a dick to a young trans person who spoke up for itself under not-ideal circumstances? Because that's what I think.

I also don't think getting a glass jar thrown at you by one member of a community gives you a lifetime pass to treat every other member of that community however you want without consequence. Neither does helping some members of the community. I mean, is there some kind of coupon system, where for every fundraiser you organize you get to say three insensitive things without repercussion? At what point CAN we criticize someone for saying bullshit things? Like, if they've never made a sympathetic blog post, in that case they definitely don't have a coupon and we can call them on the carpet for it? That seems oddly tautological.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 10:51 PM on June 17 [12 favorites]


Blazecock Pileon: "What matters less, perhaps, is the material the jar is made of, than that both a physical object of some weight was thrown at a gay man and that people are rationalizing that act because they feel he deserves some payback."

That's a weird, insulting mischaracterization of the comments people have made in this thread. If anyone has said he "deserves payback," I'd like to know about it. I know I haven't, and I can't see anybody who has. This kind of inflammatory accusation is the problem here, I think.
posted by koeselitz at 12:40 AM on June 18 [4 favorites]


I also don't think getting a glass jar thrown at you by one member of a community gives you a lifetime pass to treat every other member of that community however you want without consequence.

Yeah, and the operating assumption of some who are commenting here when they harp on this singular act by a trans* person years ago, is that it is relevant to the discussion because trans* people are a monolithic group. Which is pure bigotry.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 6:34 AM on June 18 [4 favorites]


I also don't think getting a glass jar thrown at you by one member of a community gives you a lifetime pass to treat every other member of that community however you want without consequence.

Certainly not. Nor does doing some good give you a pass for being an asshole. But it does suggest that one is not motivated by bigotry against or contempt for trans people, but rather a sincere disagreement with certain ideas.

That's the core of the Savage-hate in some corners, I think. It's not that he made a 17-year-old cry; a factory smokestack in front of a sunset can do that. It's that he publicly and effectively disregards the methods and goals of many online activists, while demonstrating how real activism works. Savage has done a tremendous amount of good for queer and trans people, while being, from the start of his career, utterly contemptuous of the language-policing and feeling-defending that constitutes most online activism. A person who has done more good than most of those attacking him while loudly proclaiming those people's primary project to be without value is a greater threat than a fundie hater like Santorum, so he must be attacked much more aggressively, even physically, if that's what it takes to stop him from messing up people's categories.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 7:48 AM on June 18 [2 favorites]


I see history is already being rewritten so that Savage is the best thing to ever happen to trans people, even moreso than their own efforts, based on entirely unsubstantiated metrics of effectiveness. The attempts to paint anyone who disagrees with him (on- or offline) as philosophical quislings in the apparently inevitable backlash against GLBTQ people make a lot more sense now.
posted by zombieflanders at 8:07 AM on June 18 [1 favorite]


I wasn't aware that metafilter had become tumblr where every statement is a referendum on whether a person is damned or sainted.

Savage is a big boy, with a big megaphone. He can handle people disagreeing with him, invites it even.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 8:13 AM on June 18


Re

the operating assumption of some who are commenting here when they harp on this singular act by a trans* person years ago

and

I also don't think getting a glass jar thrown at you by one member of a community gives you a lifetime pass to treat every other member of that community however you want without consequence.

I think this incident has only been mentioned by two people in this thread who are defending any part of Savage's position. And it was only brought up very late in the thread. The notion that this is the go-to, get-out-of-jail-free card for all of Savage's defenders is a bit strained.
posted by yoink at 8:52 AM on June 18


ThatFuzzyBastard brought it up saying maybe the jar incident was what made him "cranky" about trans activism. Which is actually probably fair, even if I don't know if continued crankiness is justified.
posted by koeselitz at 9:06 AM on June 18


The notion that this is the go-to, get-out-of-jail-free card for all of Savage's defenders is a bit strained.

*sigh*

I agree. Which is why I said 'some', and did not say 'all', 'most', or 'many'.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 9:21 AM on June 18 [1 favorite]


It's not that he made a 17-year-old cry; a factory smokestack in front of a sunset can do that.

I can't make heads or tails of this sentence. What do tears of frustration and hurt have to do with tears invoked by beauty, in this context?
posted by brookedel at 9:26 AM on June 18


Yeah, and the operating assumption of some who are commenting here when they harp on this singular act by a trans* person years ago, is that it is relevant to the discussion because trans* people are a monolithic group. Which is pure bigotry.

Unlike some who get away with a FTFY style of commenting, I can only presume to speak for myself, but my "assumption" is that this incident is relevant to the discussion because some here appear willing to discount actual acts of violence — not just words — against gay people, if they feel sufficiently outraged. Which is real, actual bigotry.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:42 AM on June 18 [1 favorite]


some here appear willing to discount actual acts of violence

No one has even remotely done this, as koesilitz clearly demonstrated.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 9:46 AM on June 18 [1 favorite]


Because 17-year-olds are crybabies, see, so whatever it was Savage did couldn't have been so terrible, because anything will make crybabies cry.

That was my parsing, at least.

Unlike some who get away with a FTFY style of commenting, I can only presume to speak for myself, but my "assumption" is that this incident is relevant to the discussion because some here appear willing to discount actual acts of violence — not just words — against gay people,

I see. So now we have multiple people who are not just setting progress back fifty years, but have actually made clear in words that violence against gay people as a whole is okay. Can you please cite any of this? Or name the terrible people who are okay with violence against gay people?

What I've seen here is people mentioning the glitter bomb incident and then link to things where Savage himself says it wasn't a big deal. Surely you can point to people right here in this thread who are cool with violence not just against Savage but against all us gays?
posted by rtha at 9:48 AM on June 18 [1 favorite]


No one has even remotely done this, as koesilitz clearly demonstrated.

Some here seem awfully eager to agree with comments that say it didn't happen or that it didn't matter that it happened, for lack of a police report or injury or because of un-corroborated reports that the object thrown was made of plastic — as if that really mattered.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:54 AM on June 18


List of famous people who have been glitterbombed.

It's quite clear glitter-bombing is directed at individuals and their individual views, not groups and their characteristics.
posted by zombieflanders at 9:55 AM on June 18


The issue isn't glitterbombing.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:56 AM on June 18 [1 favorite]


You're claiming that people who have an issue with this specific person, discussing an incident which is entirely unconnected with him being gay, are actually supporting all acts committed against all gay individuals for being gay. This is the kind of stuff that I expect from the Sarah "Blood Libel" Palin corners of politics.
posted by zombieflanders at 10:05 AM on June 18 [2 favorites]


Is anyone saying it was ok to throw a jar at Savage? I mean really what the fuck are you on about? Sure people said it wasn't a big deal, and one of those people was Savage himself. Throwing a jar at someone is not an ok thing to do but what else is there to say about it?
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 10:06 AM on June 18


OTOH I feel like we are all suckers for taking BP's bait.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 10:07 AM on June 18 [6 favorites]


ThatFuzzyBastard: "from the start of his career, utterly contemptuous of the language-policing and feeling-defending that constitutes most online activism"

I am asking sincerely and not snarkily: can anyone link to Savage being utterly contemptuous of "language-policing" other slurs? And isn't "It Gets Better" kind of the ultimate online feeling-defending project?
posted by Corinth at 10:08 AM on June 18 [2 favorites]


Blazecock Pileon: “The issue isn't glitterbombing.”

What is the issue? What exactly is the connection between an incident three years ago and the topic at hand?
posted by koeselitz at 10:08 AM on June 18


can anyone link to Savage being utterly contemptuous of "language-policing" other slurs?

Here he is in 2006 about people being upset over the use of "faggot." In this case, he mentions that the context of the term's use is important: "I’d like to think intelligent people could see the difference but, uh, reading the comment threads on Slog over the last two days makes me wonder."
posted by mittens at 10:30 AM on June 18


What exactly is the connection between an incident three years ago and the topic at hand?

The connection is the homophobia in comments I cited and the continued inability to call a violent act what it was, for apparently similar reasons. Instead of just acknowledging it was wrong, people keep doubling down with one rationalization after another. I'm curious as to reasons why.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:40 AM on June 18 [1 favorite]


The connection is the homophobia in comments I cited

Where is this, please?
posted by rtha at 10:41 AM on June 18 [1 favorite]


I mean, you've gone from saying that Savage had a right to speak out against the way the incident in Chicago was being described by other people who were there, to accusing people right here of saying homophobic things. So, cite, please.
posted by rtha at 10:43 AM on June 18 [1 favorite]


[Blazecock Pileon, cut it out.]
posted by cortex at 10:47 AM on June 18 [1 favorite]


can anyone link to Savage being utterly contemptuous of "language-policing" other slurs?

Savage's column was originally titled "Hey, Faggot".

Instead of just acknowledging it was wrong, people keep doubling down with one rationalization after another. I'm curious as to reasons why.

Because acknowledging the truth– that witnesses have stated a heavy object was thrown at Savage's head, that Savage chose not to prosecute it but didn't dismiss it, and that Savage had his life endangered because of what he said– would require criticizing an activist's tactics, and most people here are so deeply marinated in contempt for "rules-lawyering" that they can't wrap their heads around the idea that there should be rules even for people they approve of.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 11:18 AM on June 18 [1 favorite]


Can't I think that no one should throw heavy glass objects at other people as a form of protest at a speaking event and also think that Savage was a dick to a young trans person who spoke up for itself under not-ideal circumstances? Because that's what I think. ...
posted by Snarl Furillo at 1:51 AM on June 18

Is anyone saying it was ok to throw a jar at Savage? ... Throwing a jar at someone is not an ok thing to do but what else is there to say about it?
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 1:06 PM on June 18 [+] [!]

Instead of just acknowledging it was wrong, people keep doubling down with one rationalization after another. ...
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:40 PM on June 18 [1 favorite +] [!]

Because acknowledging the truth...


I mean, you know we can do a CTRL+F here? People said it was wrong but were being attacked for failing to acknowledge that it was wrong?
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 11:32 AM on June 18 [3 favorites]


Instead of just acknowledging it was wrong, people keep doubling down with one rationalization after another.

It was wrong, the person responsible was arrested, and Savage agreed not to press charges. Which should be the end of it since we don't know that any of the teens in the seminar were involved.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 12:09 PM on June 18


MMA fighter Fallon Fox and writer/activist Parker Molloy writing for The Advocate about a different issue:
And really, what's the point in trying to tell our stories if they're only going to be ignored and reframed to fit someone else's preexisting idea of who we are? It's tiring being shouted down, discounted, and treated as though we're mere objects in some editor's thought experiment. So trans people are taught to smile, to not dare push back against misinformation for fear of not coming off as "understanding enough" or "polite enough" to the very people who refuse to empathize.

In public we put on a polite face while on the inside, privately, frustration and anger build. Pushing back, even in the most polite of ways, is interpreted as being "critical of our allies" and "not focusing on the 'real issues.'" Truly, though, being treated with respect and humanity is a "real issue."
posted by Corinth at 8:46 AM on June 21 [2 favorites]


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