Monday, July 28, 2014

Yet Another Post About Tone Policing

Since I started this blog and advertising the posts on my Tumblr account, I've been getting a lot of anonymous requests to "calm down" and stop being "so emotional." Part of this is due to the fact that my posts have been quite popular, so that makes me feel good, but DAMN PEOPLE STOP IT.

You Have To Stop
The worst thing about tone policing is that I get it from everyone. Yes, there are the anonymous messages that are blatantly from anti-feminists being all "calm down you [insert misogynistic slur here]" and the ones from anti-feminists who are pretending to be feminists all "I'm a feminist and I think you should calm down you [insert misogynistic slur here]."

But the worst are the ones I get from loved ones that are more gentle and subtle, saying things like "you'll get more allies if you're nice about it" and the old thing about flies and food ingredients (who wants to attract flies, anyway?).

There are a lot of things wrong with this, but here are the two big ones, lined up and published so I can just send people a link when they inevitably spout off those annoying lines.

Firstly, it's wrong. Being calm and nice does not help me get more allies. It might get me "allies." "Allies" meaning men who want to look good to feminists but are really misogynists who expect their every need to be catered to and will hold their allyship hostage any time someone says something they don't like. Do you have any idea how many times I've seen men who proclaim themselves to be allies or feminists advocate for the niceness approach, but the second a feminist is not nice enough to them, they threaten to stop being an ally? They start talking about how feminists "need" male allies to be successful and if they don't act how he wants, he'll take his ally ball and go home.

Did you know that this is a tactic of abusers?

I need "allies" like I need a punch in the crotch. But that's really all I get with niceness. People who have already decided that they're "not feminists" are not going to be persuaded by any amount of niceness. And trust me, I've tried. I've had discussions with friends of friends on Facebook so many times now, where out of consideration for my friend, I've kept it civil, calm, reasonable, fact-based, without strong language or emotion-showing of any kind. But all that happens is that the person gets frustrated because they can't deal with being wrong and they inevitably tell me that I'm what's wrong with feminism and I'm an extremist man-hater who needs to CALM DOWN.

Honestly, the best reaction I've ever gotten with niceness is someone privately saying to me "thanks for explaining that CALMLY, unlike THOSE OTHER PEOPLE." And that's always when it's about issues of race or sexuality or gender identity or wherever else I have privilege. That brings me to my next point.

Telling a person from an oppressed group to calm down about their oppression is oppressive.

Baby Says StopYes, if you've done that, I am saying that it was an oppressive action and in that moment, you were actively oppressing someone. If I get angry comments about this, I'm just going to tell you to calm down so that you can know what it feels like.

Anyway. The fact is that telling the oppressed that they're not allowed to get angry or they're bad for doing so has always been a tactic of oppressors to keep the status quo going. For my liberal friends, it's like how Republicans accuse us of "class warfare" when we have the gall to point out that rich people paying less taxes than the poor is shitty.

You get angry about that, right? And isn't that anger justifiable? Isn't your anger about how conservatives have lied and cheated their way to hijacking the democratic process the thing that spurred you into action, whether it was marching in a protest or signing online petitions or just sharing information with friends?

So why is it okay for you to tell feminists that they shouldn't be angry? That anger "doesn't help"? Anger helped me a whole lot. Anger inspired me to get educated, to become an informed feminist and to strive to educate others. And by "others" I don't actually mean men. I mean other women. I consider the education and inspiration of other women to be my top priority - the best thing I can do. What help are male allies if women themselves aren't liberated of toxic socialization and internalized misogyny?

And what's kept me going? What inspires me to continue to empower other women in the face of harassment and derision and calls to calm down? Anger. There is power in the justified anger of the oppressed about their oppression. People don't bus into the city to march because they're calm. They don't stand up to the opposition's violence out of love. Why do you think that the majority of people who tell me to calm down are anti-feminists? They hate my anger because they know it gives me power. And that power spreads to every woman I touch.

Feeling and expressing my anger is a radical act. It is a radical act for any individual who faces oppression. It is revolutionary. It is resistance. Anyone who tries to stand in the way of that is acting in the interest of the oppressor, and is therefore an oppressor themselves, at least in that moment.

Stop Sign Hits Reporter

Remember that not all anger is the same. Sometimes anger comes from fear, but the anger of the oppressed has nothing to do with that Yoda shit. Sometimes anger can be self-destructive, but the anger of the oppressed is liberating.

I will not calm down about misogyny. I will not calm down about the patriarchy. I will not calm down about rape culture. Not until it's gone. And I'll probably be dead when that happens.


Michelle White said...


Choux said...

How has it ever made anyone less angry when they're told to calm down? It is so rage inducing! If they're offended, maybe it's because you aren't there to tuck them into bed and night and read them a fucking story.
I will feel any and all of my emotions without shame because people like you inspire me to tell people that I don't need to calm down.