highlights

CN: codeine drama, gender issues (non-binary)

 

So many things, so tired.

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Compassion is indeed dead

CN: disability discrimination

 

Today I had a task – make appointment with specialist for urgent test.

 

I wrote out my letter, as I always do, with my name and that I want to make an appointment and asking for accommodations for my disability and for a copy of any forms so I can fill them out at home since I can’t write very well. Armed with my letter and the referral, I fought against rush hour traffic and made it in at around 4:45pm.

 

Well, first the receptionist took my letter and walked out on me.

Continue reading Compassion is indeed dead

Today, I Cried

CN: sexism, ableism, internet harassment

 

Today, I cried. It didn’t last long, but it finally got to me, and I cried.

 

Three weeks ago, I was participating in a discussion on a site I regularly go to, where I felt comfortable saying the a-word and the s-word, and the thread was stated to be closely moderated for things like the s-word, and harassment and.

 

I was, pretty much immediately, told that other people were allowed to have opinions too and if I couldn’t handle that I didn’t belong on the Internet. My actual post wasn’t referenced in any way; it was just a personal attack. I pointed out as much. The poster went off at me, calling me various names, outright stating that they didn’t think I was worth talking to as they’d decided I had a mental health condition, said it was weird I called them out because they didn’t actually say anything relevant anyway (you know, what I pointed out), claimed that the harassment was actually them sharing their privilege and I was silencing them by calling them out for it, and for the last two and a half weeks, it’s been the same comment, over and over.

And over.

Now, since the post was meant to be closely monitored for such things, naturally I assumed that reporting it would result in some kind of mod action, and in the meantime, kept explaining. I ran it past my mum, past people on Facebook, and I was both sure and reassured that he had actually screwed up. My mum pointed out that if I stopped replying, it looked like I ‘lost’, and asked where the mods were.

 

So it’s been three weeks of me receiving multiple comments a day where my mental health was called into question for standing up for myself, and then painting themselves as a victim (did I mention that they called social justice irrelevant?).

 

Today, I napped for an hour and came back to find another one, accompanied with a mod comment.

The mod comment boiled down to ‘I’m not saying he’s right, but I think he set up a bot to harass you so you should just move on because you probably have better things to do!’

 

And that’s why I cried.

Instead of taking action to stop or prevent the harassment of people like me, the mod position is ‘let it go’.

Because, of course, instead of speaking out when people deliberately act to hurt us, we should just take it, since they’ll be allowed to set up bots to harass us anyway (nvm that it’s apparently a bot that’s only online when he is, and has no regular scraping interval).

 

I don’t even have words for how wrong this feels, and that’s why I keep starting to cry.

 

Firstly, that it was allowed to go on so long, in a post where they explicitly said they were policing such things.

Secondly, being told to move on places the burden of dealing with this firmly on the victim (which is me). It says there’s a threshold for how much these things are allowed to hurt us, and a correct way of dealing with it. It minimises how these things affect us. Someone designs a bot specifically to harass you? Move on. Never mind that you can’t go anywhere online without it telling you you’re insane, feeding those little dark anxiety monsters in your head.  However, that’s not the point. The mod requesting action from me to end this, instead of taking action against the person who is hurting me, is displacing the burden of their actions on to me – it says they’re allowed to harass me, but I’m not allowed to show that it hurts me or explain why.

Thirdly, ‘lol it’s a bot it’s pointless because he moved on’. It’s a bot specifically designed to harass me. They didn’t move on. They explicitly took action to minimise the amount of effort to put into harassing me because that’s how much they cared about the effect of what they were doing. The mod is like ‘it’s pointless because he’s not reading it’. But that’s part of the point – that they can casually and simply harass people, and have a large impact from a small effort. It strengthens the already normalised and internalised structural inequality. It’s saying ‘lol it won’t work anyway so why try?’.

 

The mod’s actions here have compounded and crystallised the hurt I felt from the initial reply and subsequent harassment – by trivialising the ease with which the harassment was allowed, and placing the burden on me to deal with it in a way they feel is appropriate, they are tacitly approving of it.

 

Did I mention this is a gaming forum? Post-Gamergate?

 

The only words I had for the mod were ‘If that’s allowed here then I can’t stay anyway.’ Because after three weeks of someone targeting me specifically because I dared to be open about how I was being treated, I’m all out of words. I have spent my life being harassed, for various reasons. I started ignoring it sometimes around high school, and it became a game to them, to get worse and worse just to see if they could make me react. I learned that the only way to stop harassment is to make people understand what they’re doing is wrong; that’s not done by telling them directly, because they get offended and defensive, but by creating an environment where it’s not okay, where people are allowed to stand up for themselves and are made to feel safe about doing so. If people see that someone who is sexist, or ableist, gets called out, they will, eventually learn that is the consequence of hurting someone that way. People who don’t want to do that will learn not to do it; in this case, the person hurting me didn’t care, and they got away with it because I was the one being told to move on, to behave appropriately.

 

Because, you know, when someone hurts you, you’re meant to act the right way so as not to upset anyone else.

 

I can’t even make this make sense or adequately explain why this is the action that is so hurtful. I’ve said that it comes across as allowing the harassment, that it’s placing the burden on me to behave the acceptable way instead of expressing my hurt and saying why it hurt me, that it reinforces the privilege that lets people think they can do this instead of making a safer environment for everyone.

 

But this has hurt me, and if I can’t say it there, I’ll say it here: it’s not okay. It is not okay for a privileged person to dismiss my opinion as emotional because I am not male and therefore subject to such things. It is not okay for a privileged person to (repeatedly!) tell me that my opinions are not valid or worthy because they decided I have a mental health issue (that’s right, I’m not out there as neurodivergent, they just… came up with it on their own…). It is not okay for them to repeatedly dismiss and hurt me for pointing out that they hurt me.

It is not okay for the mod to choose to behave the same way instead of taking action against them. It is not okay to allow them to continue at the cost of hurting me.

 

‘You know, he doesn’t even have to put effort into how he’s hurting you! Just move on!” is how structural inequality is reinforced.

 

 

 

 

A Step Too Far

CN: sexual harassment/assault

 

There’s a lot of things going on. Specifically, there’s lots of men being disciplined, suspended, or sacked (or… resigning, prompted by a forceful request…) after being accused of, or having evidence of sexual impropriety released, in the media.

A footballer was suspended for sharing a picture of a woman without her permission.

Production was suspended on a TV show after the lead actor was accused of assault.

A producer resigned and parts of his company followed, resulting in withdrawals and shutdowns on several projects.

 

In one case, the only people affected were the perpetrator and the victim. The perpetrator was disciplined subject to the policy of his employer and their supervising company. The victim did not pursue charges in order to retain her anonymity since the picture was shared online.

In many other cases, there are more people affected; not just family members or friends of the people involved, but people whose only connection is that they had a job which is now on hold or gone. Their only fault, if they have one, is that they didn’t say no to taking the job, which in this climate, may not have been a viable option when juxtaposed with one’s need to have money for things like food. Some of those people did have the financial freedom and the knowledge to choose not to, and they chose otherwise in the first instance. But terminating that project now, even if it is a financial loss to them, is not a thing which just affects them.

Continue reading A Step Too Far

The Problem With Solidarity

CW: rape, PTSD, underage sexual grooming, sexual harassment, gaslighting

 

I am heartily sick of everything being a rainbow. (More particularly, I’m sick of people selling things with rainbows on it and saying they’re allies, because monetizing this whole travesty is ridiculous and offensive.)

 

That’s not what this post is about. Monetizing solidarity is a thing, and I do not like the thing, but what I also do not like is the concept that solidarity is mandatory and harmless.

It is absolutely dangerous and harmful.

It’s easy to like a post when the ACTU stick up a picture of Sally McManus’ head and say ‘workers united will never be defeated!’. It’s not easy to then get your job back after you’ve lost it, even though your right to participate in a union is supposedly legislatively protected. Disciplinary action based on employer monitoring of private social media pages and firings/warnings based on ‘not representing ‘our’ brand’ have been upheld as much as they have been overturned at FWC, and that’s just going to get worse the more integration is seen as necessary – as workers need to brand themselves to be attractive to employers, and social media representation and follower counts become part of that. That’s a financial consequence to solidarity.

That’s also not what I’m talking about.

 

Continue reading The Problem With Solidarity

Why Boycott?

CN: SSM plebiscite, politics, homophobia

 

Unless you’re lucky enough to live under a rock, you have heard -something- about the Australian Government’s “brilliant” idea of getting everyone to vote on whether same-sex marriage should be allowed. You probably also heard a bunch of people saying the vote is rigged, that it’s defeatist, that it’s probably illegal but maybe not, and that it’s homophobic and causing real harm to people.

Antony Green points out that voluntary postal votes have lower participation rates, particularly among groups that might be expected to have more people vote yes. Michael Kirby, former Justice of the High Court, called it ‘unacceptable‘. It’s been reported that the organisation tasked with managing the vote isn’t up to it, but no alternatives exist. And, of course, now we’re being told that if we don’t vote, it’s our fault if the result is no. But it’s also quite possibly illegal, so.

After my experience with last year’s census, and remembering how my vote wasn’t counted since I couldn’t write neatly enough, being disabled and all, I don’t trust the ABS, even if they’re held to AEC rules, to pull this off. A lot of the damage has been done already, while this issue has been dragged out over years, and people are continually treated as ‘different’ and being ‘othered’ for existing.

While I’m writing this, an interlocutory hearing for an injunction against the vote is being held. I’m hoping PFLAG’s application gets upheld, but Kirby isn’t on the High Court any more, so, I don’t know whether it will.

If it doesn’t, and the vote goes ahead, I intend to boycott.

Continue reading Why Boycott?

Eating Out Is Not A Team Sport

TW: harassment, mentions of rape

Okay, so one of the local papers back home has started pushing a new initiative, designed to create more conversation. “Encouraging conversation throughout the community,” actually. This is a local council funded and approved initiative, suggested, of course, by an old white man.

This initiative is a pale purple, business-card sized sign that said ‘Please join me’. It is designed for “single diners at cafes”.

Because, you know, there must be something wrong if someone’s eating out by themselves. And of course they want to not be alone, right? To the point of having to put an invitation out on the table for any old stranger to come and sit with them, no less.

Here are reasons someone might dine out alone:

  • They were shopping and stopped to eat something.
  • They are having alone time to recover from dealing with other people. This could be a parent having precious alone adult time away from dealing with kids and family, someone on their lunch break enjoying not dealing with co-worker gossip and pressure or just being away from a loud office, someone who just had a breakup and is reasserting their individuality… it could be anyone for any reason.
  • They want to enjoy food without having to make it a performative art.
  • They want to enjoy food without having to make conversation.
  • They are working while they are eating (particularly popular as the stereotype of writers in coffee shops, but this could still be anyone.)
  • They want to eat food they haven’t made themselves.
  • They want to.

The problem I see with this situation is based in my experience eating out alone, when that was a thing that was more possible than it is now. (Now I just get ignored at the counter unless they have a bell I can ding several thousand times.) And not just then, actually. I go out alone because I have no friends, right? Well, I went out alone when I had friends, too, and enjoyed it much more because I didn’t have to put up with people talking to me during movies, insisting on photos, complaining about my fidgeting/anxiety/whatever, running off in the wrong direction, stealing food off my plate and contaminating it (seriously, I was told off at family dinner where they insisted on having all the plates in the centre to share, and I insisted on taking my serve from the safe food first (and then found prawns underneath the vegetarian rice, wt?) and then my uncle was taking food off my plate because I wasn’t eating it fast enough. The night ended up with me in tears when we went to a zaharoplasteio for dessert and they just started picking things out and of course, there was nothing I could have, and then I threw up in the very sterile guest bathroom.). There exist people who won’t go to the movies unless they have someone to go with. Society still tells us that meals must be eaten in a group.

So when I am out alone, I get the following – all real examples:

  • “Is this seat taken?” Because, you know, when there aren’t enough seats at one table you just go take from others. Then I get told off for not responding correctly. One time, this escalated to a man complaining to event organisers that I did not talk to his wife, who was standing outside my field of vision, and resulted in laughing at how headphones should be banned. This exchange did occur where I could see it. Another time, it was a segue into the next one.
  • “Are you here alone?” This turns into either being hit on, or starts into a social commentary. “You’re so brave! I could never come to a gig alone. If my friends weren’t here, people would harass me all night! And I need someone to drive me home because I’m drunk. Are you drunk yet? Do you want a drink? No, you can’t not drink, it’s a gig! I’ll buy you a drink. Why don’t you drink? I know the singer. Did you know you can’t be vegan because occasionally bugs get caught in industrial factories and end up in food? So you shouldn’t try to be vegan, there’s no such thing. And there’s no God, either, because you eat bugs.”
  • “Oh there’s no room, I’ll just sit here, if you don’t mind.” And they are unpacked and taking up the entire table before any attempt at a rejection is made. And, of course, they talk. Because you have to talk, in social situations; you can’t be quiet because it’s creepy/rude/whatever. (I’m very creepy and rude. My brother called me scary because of how I dress. I’m proud of all of this, naturally.)
  • Being hit on. Yes, I mentioned it before. It is a thing that happens, a lot. “Are you waiting for your boyfriend? You don’t have a boyfriend? Why are you alone, then? A pretty girl like you can’t not have a boyfriend. You really don’t have a boyfriend? I’m not here with anyone, let’s hang out? And can I get your number? What are you doing after, want to go back to mine?” One time, in full view of all his friends (including two happily straight-and-engaged women), I was dragged around by my corset and adopted by a guy who refused to even ask my name (he looked like Tony Stark, so it shouldn’t be surprising). He wanted me to go home with him, made plans for me to cheerlead at his rugby games, and then started screaming at me for being too busy texting to pay attention to him when I was trying to type to him. The latter occurred after I got hit with a massive migraine, and one of the girls woke up and diverted the rest of his friends away so I could get out. He insisted on walking me out, reassured the bouncer that I was his and would be looked after (seriously, everyone can tell when I get a spike in the pain phase), and then started screaming at me in the middle of the street for not going home with him and not giving him my number. The fact that I didn’t want to be with him, repeatedly tried to get away from him, tried to leave without him… didn’t register for him at all.
    Another time I was at a concert, and I’d reserved seating. The venue screwed up and double-allocated the table, so I was there with five other people. One of them was very accepting and typed with me… and wouldn’t stop when the show started. I missed the entire show, because even putting my phone away and turning towards the stage wasn’t good enough – you don’t need to hear typing over a metal show, after all. Because men have learned now to text you before you leave and make you show them the text to prove you got it so that you can’t give them a fake number, and the only way he was leaving was if he had my number… it took about a week before he started sending me abusive texts about not responding to him fast enough.

Now, of course, you might be starting to see the issue. Compounded with the card being tiny, so that anyone would have to already be within your space to be able to read it… people who do not display the card now have an extra reason to be wary of people coming up to them. “Oh, I thought you had a card,” because their phone was the same colour. “You’re so pretty; I came to see if you had a card!” These lead to the most natural next step in any pushy, clueless, not-necessarily-entitled-male person’s playbook:

“Well, I’m here anyway, so…”

The one thing that can be established from my experience and those of the people whom I have been around, is the same thing that can be established from the not-so-recent trend of fake engagement rings… the people whom we most want to avoid are the people who will not take notice of such a signal. (And believe me, they don’t, and not just people who want the sex for themselves, trust me. That is, however, a story for another time.) The absence of a card doesn’t mean that people who are eating out alone won’t be bothered as they are now.

The presence of a card, however, is an invitation.

So far, I’ve talked about how people might want to be alone and be unable to deter people who intrude on that because people are either entitled or simply can’t comprehend that people might want to be alone.

But if you’re alone, and you’ve put out a thing which signals a blanket invite to engage with you…

  • Do you get to turn away the man who gives you vaguely unsettling vibes, whom you’d rather not know? Will he use the card as leverage to devalue your rejection?
  • If you’re about ready to leave and someone sits down, how do you extricate yourself easily? “I was just leaving, sorry,” is synonymous in film language for someone who is leaving to avoid someone, or to give privacy to someone else; what if someone doesn’t accept it as an excuse?
  • What if you start a conversation and then you become uncomfortable? You wanted it, right?

And so on.

Hopefully I don’t need to link people who read here to articles which relate incidents of rapists being acquitted because of various forms of invitation from the victim, not necessarily intentional or actual invitations. An actual card that says ‘please join me’? Well, it’s going to take a kind of judge we don’t necessarily have, and a very well-educated and enlightened jury to get past the rape culture and understand that isn’t ‘join’ in the carnal sense. The defence lawyers I know would certainly use it. The prosecutor I know? Raped me and only stopped because he said I wasn’t into it enough. So yeah, I think that’s going to become an issue.

The key issues in all this are, though:

  • An old white man thinks people don’t talk enough, so people alone in public have to signal that they’re alone and engage with strangers.
  • The inability of society in general, and men in particular, to accept that people may wish to appear in public alone, means that people (especially people who are in a vulnerable position compared to the ones who approach them, and/or identify with one or more minorities) can’t say no to company and expect it to be respected.
  • Because people can’t say no, or their no is ignored, expecting people to be respectable, civil people who can have an exchange that is like:
    “Excuse me, do you want company?”
    “No.”
    “Okay, have a great day!”
    is flawed.
  • The local council thinks all this can be fixed by encouraging people to not only signal that they’re alone (i.e. make themselves a target), but create an environment where people who don’t want to have a card and deal with strangers are treated with hostility. (And they are. I left a comment on the post expressing concern that this would affect people who don’t want company, and I was told that the council should make a ‘leave me alone’ card especially for me.)
  • The concept that we need to signal at all, either way. If someone’s alone, why do they need to be engaged in conversation at all? Why is it so bad to be alone in public that the local council feels a need to spend money to fix it? If someone is alone and wants to meet people, aren’t they going to be able to do that any other way? Like, for example, going up to people themselves and asking if they want company? Or are people so afraid of rejection becoming violent that someone deemed the card a great idea so that people know they won’t be rejected? Because if that’s the case, well… you know how the police say things like ‘don’t let your mail pile up while you’re on holidays because that might signal to burglars that nobody’s home’? It wouldn’t take much for someone to use the card as a way to case potential targets.

The last time I went out to a thing by myself, I went to the chemist and then to a movie (Ghost in the Shell! It was really pretty! I have opinions about whitewashing! I am white so I will keep them to myself!). On two separate occasions within the four and a half hours I was out, I was approached by two separate people-presenting-male on the street. I think one was telling me I was pretty, but I didn’t understand him, just that he started first from behind me then kept coming at me from the side. I was able to change direction and lose him. The other was calling out to me from a few metres away. I was able to keep limping on and lose him.

If I was displaying a card that said ‘please join me’, would I have been able to defuse those situations gracefully? Would they have taken it as an invitation to insert themselves in a way I couldn’t easily escape from? They were both bigger than me, and while by some miracle I have retained most of my strength through my body turning into not-my-body, I don’t have the flexibility or speed to realistically have expected to win a physical encounter. Would I have retained the choice not to engage? Clearly, the signals that I wasn’t interested – headphones in, not looking at them, not stopping – weren’t working. (And, therefore, my custom ‘leave me alone’ card, suggested, of course, by someone who lists their gender as male… probably wouldn’t either.)

Being alone, basically, is construed as an invitation in itself. I have countless more stories of being folded into groups or conversations against my will, which only violence or extreme rudeness would have gotten me out of, because saying no did not. Sometimes, they even hide it behind being protective – ‘You can’t take the bus alone at night! You’re only nineteen! You’ll get raped!’, or ‘It’s dark, I’mma drive you to your car even though it’s half a block away on a well-lit city street with a bunch of open restaurants, people, and cameras!’. We don’t need to give people an excuse to insert themselves into other people’s spaces when they do it anyway. We don’t need to be endangering people’s right to choose who they spend time with by “encouraging” them to issue open invitations.

It’s okay to be alone. It’s okay to want to be alone. It’s okay to enforce that.

My best meal out by myself was before I was vegan, after I went dairy free. There used to be this little cafe in the shopping centre, with green walls and a Greek name, between the newsagent and the jewellers. I used to get on the bus on my day off from uni and go to my shopping, and then go in there. Their chips were the best – fried, with breadcrumbs  dusted on them, in a way I’ve never been able to replicate. They let me have a bacon and egg sandwich with no butter and no cheese. If I didn’t eat it all, because even then a sandwich and a potato was too much for me, I was able to bring the rest home with me. I would go in and I had my spot in a booth with my back to the wall and I was able to see the whole cafe and the people walking past. There was always a paper to read.

I was never bothered by anyone.

One time I went to the movies, and I was polite to a guy in line who just kept bugging me. I gave him a fake name, I didn’t give any personal details, I deferred plans after, I kept trying to end the conversation, and none of it took. Because I had pre-bought my ticket online (back when this was new and VIP was new, I just remember the line and that I was there at opening for first showing, not the actual movie at all or even what it was), I wasn’t worried about seeing him inside, since he had also pre-bought his ticket and was in a different cinema.

Somehow, he made it past three sets of ushers and the VIP security door (because I used to love the reclining chairs until one time an usher decided I couldn’t recline them by myself and came, pushed my hand away, and put the leg rest straight up – less than two weeks after I had abdominal surgery… oooooooooooow…….. the manager thought a voucher would fix it! I went back only twice, once because I already had my ticket for the KISS live concert, and once because Kingsglaive) to come into my cinema, find my seat, and lean over to say he hoped I enjoyed the movie. I dodged a kiss and there were ushers waiting to escort him back out.

In neither case was I overtly signalling that I wanted company or didn’t.

I don’t believe the cards are a good idea. I also don’t believe that they will have the intended effect. All I believe they will do, based on my experience and knowing the type of people in the area, is provide a small veneer of justification to approach people and then not leave when asked.

I don’t like the implication that this is for “single diners” or the implication that people who are alone shouldn’t be alone.

And most of all, I believe they present a risk, of a nature that an old white man, who has spent his life being socialised to believe that his company is always wanted and valued (etc. etc.), simply cannot comprehend. After all, he’s much less likely to have been a target and much more likely to have been an aggressor, oh, and been praised for it.

He doesn’t have to consider the possibility that someone might come up to him and use the pretense of the card, or looking for one, as a way to insert themselves where they would otherwise be rejected. He doesn’t have to worry that putting out the card would lead to someone coming up to him and abusing him for the way he looks or who he is, and then using the card as an excuse not to stop. He doesn’t have to be afraid.

In a society where none of us would be afraid, we wouldn’t need a card anyway.

(Incidentally, this is all much the same reason I refuse to do things like carry a note that explains my disability, which apparently renders any and all complaints about being mistreated as a result invalid. Like, one time I was threatened at a concert and yelled at by the security guard for not leaving fast enough – two minutes after the show ended. I probably made a post about it? Broadcasting these things doesn’t make one safer. It makes one a target – just like mail in the mailbox when on holidays.)

 

Edit [6 April 2017]: And now it’s national news. No, really. And the longer story is even more ick. I have incoherent painragethoughts.