Content warning: homophobic language.
Something I value greatly as an author and an advocate is precision. If you desire to equate two actions, those actions need to be actually be similar.
Several people drew my attention the other day to an article on the so-called phenomenon of “liberal bullying.” This article, written by white, cisgender wedding blogger Ariel Meadow Stallings at Offbeat Empire, is called, “Liberal bullying: Privilege-checking and semantics-scolding as internet sport.” It begins with an image of “Social Justice Sally,” a meme that decries how people opposed to fundamentalism supposedly act just like the fundamentalists they oppose. Stallings goes on to promote this stereotype, arguing that progressives or liberals who engage in “flagging potentially problematic language as insensitive,” are “basically the same as the GOD HATES F*GS guys.”
Stallings reinforces this equivocation between progressives/liberals and “the GOD HATES F*GS guys” a second time in the article. She says that “call-out culture” has become “like the ‘GOD HATES F*GS!’ sign-wavers”:
This is where it starts to feel like the “GOD HATES FAGS!” sign-wavers. While the political sentiments are exactly opposite, the motivations are remarkably similar: I WOULD LIKE TO DERAIL THIS CONVERSATION AND HAVE AS MANY PEOPLE AS POSSIBLE WITNESS HOW RIGHT I AM. I don’t care if your politics are progressive and your focus is on social justice: if you’re shouting at people online and refusing to have a dialogue, you’re bullying. I don’t care if you’re fighting the good fight: your methods are borked. It doesn’t matter if you’re fighting for the one true phrase that we should all use to describe the Romani people, or fighting for the one true God… if you’re fighting in a way that’s more about public performance, shaming, and righteousness, I’m not fighting with you.
In a previous short fairy tale I wrote, Elephant and Mouse, I drew attention to the fact that it’s careless (and marginalizing) to assume that people “shout” online and “refuse to have a dialogue” simply because they “WOULD LIKE TO DERAIL THIS CONVERSATION AND HAVE AS MANY PEOPLE AS POSSIBLE WITNESS HOW RIGHT” they are. Actually, when people’s actions and language consistently dismiss, erase, and/or harm other people, the latter have every right to — and sometimes have no alternative to — speaking as emotionally and loudly as possible just to be able to be heard. Such people’s needs, wants, and voices are regularly ignored. Thus it’s no fault of their own that getting heard requires a colossal amount of effort.
But the most problematic part of Stalling’s analysis is the equivocation between someone vociferously criticizing someone else for problematic language and people who use hate speech and public policy to disenfranchise a group of marginalized people from their fundamental rights. When we are speaking about “the GOD HATES F*GS guys,” we are referring to the symbolic image of the Westboro Baptist Church — in other words, people who publicly and vocally attack a group of people who have long lacked basic legal protections and rights. The people who carry around signs against gay people represent (and often are) the same people who support marriage, adoption, hiring, and housing discrimination against gay people. They actively contribute to the denial of LGBT* people’s rights — and then they add salt to the wound by showing up in person at LGBT* people’s weddings, burials, and support groups to bully and harass them with truly dehumanizing signs.
That’s the same as call-out culture?
You don’t have to like call-out culture. You don’t have to enjoy people who are zealous about intersectionality. You don’t have to agree with the social media tactics of social justice activists. But to compare your discomfort at people typing online IN ALL CAPS ABOUT YOUR OTHERING LANGUAGE with people who use hate speech and public policy to disenfranchise a group of marginalized people from their fundamental rights? There’s a vast disconnect there. All it does when you equivocate the two is show how tone-deaf you are to the very real pain of LGBT* people in the United States.
Unless the people who are typing IN ALL CAPS are also doing the following:
— Showing up at your best friends’ funerals and telling you your best friends are burning in hell
— Arguing that it’s not only moral, but righteous, for you to be bludgeoned to death by stoning
— Telling you that God hates the very essence of who you are and “F*gs will die or go to hell”
— Making it so that employers can discriminate against you
— Making it so that apartment complexes can discriminate against you
— Making bathrooms unsafe for your use
— Increasing your chances of being abused as a child
— Increasing your chances of being bullied as a kid
— Increasing your likelihood of suffering domestic violence
— Increasing your risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviors
…then it’s not your place to say that people who criticize you are the same as the “God Hates F*gs” people. You may not like being called out. The people calling you out may be rude (and their rudeness may or may not be justified).
Rudeness, anger, name-calling, and CAPS LOCK are not the equivalent of systematic discrimination and marginalization.
Liberal bullying may be a thing. But whatever thing it is, please stop comparing it to everything that a “God Hates F*gs” sign symbolizes. And for God’s sake, put an asterisk in “f*g” if it’s not your right to use that word.
Image courtesy of Elvert Barnes.