For the asexually curious and the curiously asexual

Archive for September, 2011

Milking it

I’ve been browsing some of the tumblr stuff this morning. Short version: Some people are doing what looks a lot like privilege-denying- deciding that a group of people they know nothing about has no problems and no right to discuss their own experiences, and, with no sense of ironic self-awareness, using models of privilege to justify it. Some asexuals are still attempting reasonable dialogue in the face of a lot of people shouting really loudly that they’re being oppressed and ignoring all personal boundaries. I wish those asexuals luck, I don’t think I could have carried on for this long.

 

The main thought I want to share today is that there’s a really easy way to win this battle. We have all the tools to win right now. Because it’s important to remember firstly that these people who are so incredibly angry at the asexual overlords are a very, very small number of people right now. They’re a group of idiots on the internet in an ocean of idiots on the internet. And, secondly, that this overwhelming level of anger is easy to summon up when you’ve spent 5 minutes failing to read what someone has written. It’s harder when you’ve spent 5 minutes talking to someone.

The important thing is not really that this viewpoint is disproved. We can argue using logic all we want, but the reality is that someone who hears that asexuals are privilege-denying and oppressive will make that their default assumption about asexuals, at which point the onus of proof is on us. And often no level of evidence is enough to make someone change their mind, even if it’s a lot more than the evidence that got them believing the original thing.

So, if you, like me, don’t have the energy and determination to make a tumblr just to argue with people who will never concede an inch, here’s the top-secret plan to win this debate and get accepted into the LGBTQ community. It’s split into 2 sections, depending on how much time and energy you can commit:

1. Turn up at local LGBTQ groups (or online LGBTQ groups, I suppose, but personal connections are harder online). Introduce yourself to people. Make friends. Do it for you, primarily, and the asexual community second. Don’t be The Asexual, just be [your name], casually out. Homoromantic and trans asexuals, do this wherever the hell you want, and just make it abundantly clear that you think heteroromantics are LGBTQ as much as you are and won’t budge on the issue if it ever happens to come up in conversation. The point is not that you’re agressive and assertive, the point is that you’re normal. You’re clearly one of them. Heteroromantics, don’t loose faith. I’ve heard of heteroromantics ending up running LGBTQ groups, and the only group I have personal experience of has a heteroromantic* as one of the most regular members. A lot of people are seriously fine with all asexuals fitting under the LGBTQ banner, especially when their first interaction with an asexual is face to face.

This works best if you be yourself and remember to spend as much time talking about issues which aren’t primarily seen as asexual issues, things like trans rights and blood donation. That is, if the LGBTQ group you join is largely issue-based, and not just a socialising thing. If it’s just a socialising thing, just socialise.

*(The politics of which labels are adjectives and which are nouns is interesting here. In the same way that I have a worse reaction to the phrase ‘a Jew’ than I do to ‘a lesbian’, asexual as a noun is something I’m fine with. Heteroromantic as a noun is something I’m deeply uncomfortable with. Which I think speaks to how much this categorisation doesn’t make sense to us.)

2. Get actively involved in LGBTQ groups.

Take minutes, act as treasurer, bake a cake, co-blog, help mod a forum, come to campaigns. Organise campaigns (campaigns about LGBT stuff, not just ace stuff). Do a volunteer shift in LGBTQ charities. Be a really, really good ally to LGBT rights, even those that don’t intersect with your own. Obviously this only works if queer activism/community-building is something that appeals to you personally. But I know that one or the other is likely to appeal to a lot of the people who might read this. And the point here, by the way, is not to gain rhetorical points in arguments with trolls. We’ve given up on the trolls. The point is that every single person who sees you, knows you’re asexual and knows how hard you fight for the rights of other LGBTQ people is another person immunised from the rediculous idea that the asexual community is denying LGBT oppression. Also, that, if the topic comes up, people will be more likely to respect your right to be there as a heteroromantic, or your opinion that heteroromantic people have a right to be there.

 

This is about controlling the idea before it spreads. This is about acting fast and creating something positive. Because right now, the patchwork of LGBTQ communities, of LGBTQ minds, is like a long corridor of doors, one by one slamming in our faces. We can struggle really hard to open a door that’s been locked, we can sit in the hallway and bemoan the fact that the doors are slamming on us. Or we can go into the rooms which are still open. I firmly believe that to be most of them. Right now, we effectively have what we want. If we argue about getting it, people will notice and it will disappear. If we claim it and live up to it, we will have it forever.

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Life’s complicated, part II: Gender

Reverse sexism. Benevolent sexism. Hegemonic masculinity.

Doesn’t it kinda make sense that men are suffering in the equal and opposite to women? Where women are made too x, men too y. Right?

This is possibly the best example of the trope:

(A poster with a cartoon of a gender-nonconforming person in the top right, wearing half a pink dress and half white t-shirt and trousers. The rest of the poster is full of writing, sentences alternating black and pink. I’ll be looking at the written things later in the post)

I see this a lot on What About Teh Menz, as well. I was going to link to the comment thread of an early post, but that appears to have been taken down. I was also going to say that, while the commentators perpetuate this idea, the contributors tend not to. Then, this morning, they posted this.

The problem with this idea becomes obvious when you look at some examples. The idea that women experience slut-shaming and men experience the opposite, for example. Do you agree with this idea? I don’t have any concrete examples of men being shamed for having too much sex (not in ways which don’t combine with things like poly- and homophobia and prejudice against sex workers and such), but do you think that the constant repetition of this idea, that oppression and stereotyping is simple and gendered, helps them at all? And on the other end of the spectrum, the idea that it’s impossible for a woman to feel anything other than slut-shamed in our society, that women can’t feel pressure to be sexual, I think the best thing for me to do would be to link to the words of an asexual woman who laughs bitterly at your hypothesis.

I think I might go so far as proposing a counter to Ozy’s law. For every gendered stereotype that exists, there is an equal and opposite stereotype about the SAME gender.

Don’t believe me? Look at the above poster. When you read through it the first time, how many of the points seemed reasonable to you? For me, it was 100%. Let’s go through them:

For every girl tired of acting weak when she is strong, there is a boy who is tired of acting strong when he feels vulnerable.

This is actually the only one I have very little satisfactory counter for. Maybe the well-documented-by-feminism fact that girls have to be amazing where men can be just average?

For every boy who is burdened with the constant expectation of knowing everything, there is a girl tired of people not trusting her intelligence.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Image: Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger wearing cute woolly hats and laughing. It took me about 5 seconds to come up with this example of an alternate stereotype.

The best example of a stereotype that goes both ways. Because education fails boys, and I’d argue the pressure on girls to be academic and boys to underachieve is actually a greater stereotype.

For every girl who is tired of being called over-sensitive, there is a boy who fears to be gentle, to weep.

This one actually contradicts Ozy’s law on its own, and is completely true. Men and women are often judged for showing their emotions, men because it is apparently feminising, and women because they then fall into the ‘neurotic and unreliable’ stereotype.

Personally, I don’t think I can write about the alternate side of this, societal pressure to show a lot of emotion, in a way which makes it seem like a serious problem. It occurs to me that some of my readers are likely to be familiar with the autism blogosphere, so if you have any links which sum up this problem, please comment below.

For every boy for whom competition is the only way to prove his masculinity, there is a girl who is called unfeminine when she competes.

So there’s apparently research which suggests that young boys achieve social control through agression, young girls achieve social control through more manipulative methods. Either way, I think this only makes sense for a very limited definition of ‘competition’ (try googling ‘how to be the best’ and see what the predicted searches are). For example, girls who don’t get involved in the more feminine-coded competitions, such as fashion and social intrigue, are often at a massive disadvantage, while men are obviously discouraged from these competitions.

For every girl who throws out her E-Z- bake oven, there is a boy who wishes to find one.

Because, as we all know, cooking is dominated by women. All professional chefs are women, and it is very difficult for men to get involved in the business without having to push against sexist assumptions.

/sarcasm.

For every boy struggling not to let advertising dictate his desires, there is a girl facing the ad industry’s attack on her self-esteem.

So this was the bit that first made me read this poster critically. All the others seem reasonable at first glance, but this one is just really and obviously fucking sexist.

Women experience desire. Women’s desires are the stuff of adverts.

Men experience unhealthy pressures on their body. From advertising.

Men’s desires shouldn’t be framed as objectively harmful. (Eugh, can’t find a link for this one. Trusty commentors?)

Gay people exist. (No, no citation for this one, either. You’re just gonna have to trust me).

Also, I’m suprised I’ve managed to get this far without mentioning it, but not everyone is a man or a woman. (Again, trust me).

 The poster finished with: For every girl who takes a step towards her liberation, there is a boy who finds the way a little easier.

And it kills me to disagree with this, because it’s one of the most beautiful rallying points for my kind of feminism I’ve ever heard. But every girl?

Every girl who argues that heterosexual sex is fundamentally oppressive? Every girl who campaigns for fathers who don’t pay child support to go to prison, even if they have no money? Every girl who runs for the most powerful office in the world on the back of gender-normative ‘christian’ values? Every girl who, to pick an article from today’s blog feed, tries to erase men’s ability to consent? It’s how feminism should work, sure. To argue that that’s how it does work, that everything any woman does in the name of liberation is clearly better for men long-term, even if it looks worse, strikes me as a “We’re just vilifying you and undermining your humanity until we get our rights. Then we’ll come back for you.” argument that I’ve heard somewhere before… (spoilers: they don’t come back).

So pretty much everything on this poster is wrong. Or, not wrong, but so far from the whole story that it isn’t worth the writing. And I worry that this is what feminism that includes men’s issues is going to look like. Men are made x, women are made y. Because it looks right, and it makes pretty posters. And when the fact that these simplifications go utterly against reality becomes too much, maybe we could invent some new equasions where p = privilege and things get complicated around the intersections, but they’re still simple in the middle.

They’re not, by the way. They’re complicated right the way through.

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