TL;DR, now with added tone:
Hey “social justice advocates,” not only is your privilege showing, so is your vile and pathetic misapplication of everything you claim to hold dear. Notably, your utter fucking hubris and perceived self-importance and self-worth is disgusting because, for the record, participating in your favorite form of group intellectual masturbation is just that: a meaningless, self-absolving distraction from just how big of a problem you really are. And you should know better. Killing yourselves is the best way you can stop being part of that problem, given your massively fucked up priorities.
A couple of months ago genderfight asked:
I didn’t answer immediately because I was traveling, and because I’ve been trying cut back on the Internet, and because this showing up in my inbox triggered the fuck out of me and I needed some time to sit with that before I said anything. But now I’m answering and, genderfight, I’m glad you asked.
I’m glad because insulting concern-trolling about my relationship with Maymay typically comes at me via private channels. I appreciate finally having an example to put on public display. This kind of bullying has been a constant intrusion into my life since Maymay and I started spending time together. I know from speaking with Maymay’s other close friends and intimates that several of them deal with similar harassment. I’ve received everything from ranting midnight phone calls from near-strangers, to “public service announcements” that Maymay can’t be trusted in relationships, to direct assertions from personal friends that my lover is “toxic” and going to hurt me. I’ve seen others accused of being “brainwashed” or “minions” when they stand up for Maymay in public, and heard it suggested of others’ that they only espouse certain politics because they’re sexually involved with Maymay. It took me a long time to figure out what was going on with this coordinated smear campaign, and I still feel intensely bitter towards those who tried to take advantage of me early on, when I hadn’t yet seen the pattern and was particularly vulnerable to those peoples’ headgames.
Pointedly, these attacks on Maymay are not expressions of genuine concern. Although Maymay is certainly disliked in many places, this harassment of their friends and partners does not come from all quarters. It comes consistently and exclusively from people connected to a particular social enclave with which Maymay has an established mutually-antagonistic relationship. As far as I can tell, these people want to gaslight potential allies into believing that a loving, respectful, mutually-supportive relationship with Maymay is impossible, in hopes that we will be scared off and Maymay will be left with zero social support. It’s crazymaking and I am fucking sick of it. So thank you, genderfight, for giving me the opportunity to talk about it openly. And fuck you for perpetuating it.
(By the way, if you’re one of the people in my life who’s expressed genuine interest in my relationship with May and I’ve snapped at you or gotten defensive in return, I apologize. I’ve had to put up with so much of this shit from people that I’ve become really, really touchy. Again, I’m sorry. It’s not you; it’s them.)
Now, let me actually answer your question, genderfight. There are two ways to read what you said:
1. “You seem like you have some good things to say about social justice. Why are you associating with Maymay?”
The answer to Question #2 is: Um. Context. Duh.
Also, when I critique Pop Social Justice bullying, I’m criticizing specific actions, not entire people. It is possible for me to support a person and their work generally, even if I’m not always 100% wholly supportive of all their actions. Still, generally speaking, I am extremely supportive of how Maymay rolls because I’m mostly looking at a given action in the context of a bigger picture — both of a human being and of a larger political strategy — whereas the same is not true about random social justice shit that comes across my dash.
I don’t expect strangers on Tumblr to take my critique as seriously as they would from someone they know personally, respect, are collaborating with, etc. so I don’t worry too much about making it perfect. It’s just information about one person’s reaction that they can collate with all the other information they’re using to make decisions. Meanwhile, don’t assume I have no questions about or criticisms of Maymay’s tactics. I don’t communicate my misgivings to Maymay by spewing invective across the Internet because I don’t have to. We talk over drinks and shit. They’re my friend.
And I guarantee you that I have a more positive influence on Maymay both personally and politically, and that they have a similar positive influence on me in turn, through our friendship than you have on either one of us by spamming my inbox. I’m sure you didn’t actually expect to persuade me that Maymay is some kind of cartoon supervillain, so I wonder who you were trying to impress with that caricature. Hopefully you’ll get lots of cool kid cookies from your little clique for it.
The answer to Question #1 is: Did you seriously just ask, “What’s a smart girl like you doing with a guy like that?” Fuck you and your misogynist bullshit. Don’t patronize me.
Let’s be clear: Social justice advocacy is, by and large, a pleasantly diverting and occasionally cathartic form of intellectual masturbation. It’s good for learning new words, sharpening one’s rhetoric and, best case scenario, it occasionally has a paradigm-shifting influence on someone’s self concept such that they feel empowered to make their own life better. Mostly, though, its positive impact is limited to creating tiny interpersonal bridges between various different social justice advocates that allow us, for just a moment, to feel like somebody else understands what’s going on for us. That’s lovely, and it’s small, a when taken too seriously, it becomes a distraction (or a way to hide) from doing more impactful kinds of work — on the world and on ourselves — that require getting our hands dirty.
For 98% of the people doing it, myself included, social justice advocacy is not a vocation; it’s a hobby. It’s a form of “serious leisure" in which the risk and difficulty of the activity is part of what is enjoyable about it. Even if you work in a field where social justice advocacy is your day job, what you’re primarily doing is having a job — and it’s very nice for you that you get to make a living doing what you’d do for fun anyway.
Like all serious leisure activities, social justice advocacy is associated with a subculture, a community of other hobbyists. Ours is primarily focused on developing social and rhetorical technologies for assuaging the guilt that comes with being an oppressor. These technologies range from psychological training to identify more deeply with our victim experiences than with our oppressor experiences; complicated systems of etiquette that facilitate projecting our own feelings of guilt onto other people both inside and outside of the “community”; and a clandestine trade in absolution-coupons called “ally cookies” that must be acquired through increasingly arcane channels and consumed only in private.
All of this is done under the banner of “being accountable for our privilege” but let’s be honest: On a world scale, the discrepancy of power between ourselves and the majority of the 7 billion other people on the planet is a chasm so vast it can not be bridged by 10 million empathetic Tumblr posts. The amount of resources being consumed by even the most oppressed person reading this blog is so disproportionate that the most efficacious way any of us could possibly “be accountable for our privilege” would be to kill ourselves. Anything short of that is basically just an awkward self-soothing behavior.
Does this mean I think anybody who is empathetic and ethical enough to care about justice should commit suicide? No. You’re not important enough for your death to make a difference, either. Social justice hobbyism trades on the notion that the more institutional power someone has, the less deserving they are of a full and fulfilling life — but that’s just more self-flagellatory bullshit. Everyone is, in fact, fighting a hard battle and everyone, everyone, deserves love. I am not encouraging martyrdom. I’m not even encouraging people to stop being social justice advocates. I’m not gonna. Like I said, it’s a hobby. People need hobbies to stay sane. And citizens of Rome like you and I will spend the majority of our lives engaging in leisure pursuits; they might as well be ones that get our hearts racing.
I’m simply encouraging re-calibrating your sense of proportion about how much it matters when someone calls someone else a “shitbag” on the Internet.
The work you are doing makes a difference to you, and probably to some of the people you love, and maybe to the occasional reader or follower or kid on the street. It doesn’t make a difference in terms of “social justice.” There is a very, very small number of people whose work makes a great enough impact that they are individually valuable to social justice. But we don’t call those people “social justice advocates,” we call them things like “whistleblowers” or “terrorists.”
So, please pardon my major eye-rolls when some avatar comes to me out of the blue and wants to know why I won’t publicly hate on my best friend for supposedly being “bad at social justice.”
Maymay is my partner, my lover, my favorite collaborator, my creative inspiration, and my friend. I care about Maymay’s well-being more than I care about whether you live or die. If that’s upsetting or triggering for you, go get support from your own friends about it. I hope to god they care more about your well-being than about whether I live or die. That’s their job.
Incidentally, I’m “leaving the Internet” for a while. I’m not flouncing; I’m going to massage school and I want to be 100% focused on what I’m learning while I’m there. This shit is a distraction. One reason it took me so long to get around to this post is that I’ve been busy closing other tabs. So, this is likely the last thing I’ll say publicly for the next six months or so. In the interim, this blog and several of my other public Internet personae will be temporarily out of service. (Except possibly to reblog pictures of cats.)
But hey, as last words go, I’m pretty happy with: “I love Maymay. Anyone who has a problem with that can go fuck themselves.”
P.S. Genderfight, you’ve been blocked.
I’ll miss you. I hope you enjoy massage school. ♥