ONTD Political

Pretending You’re Oppressed: The New Internet Fad

11:27 pm - 06/24/2012
On top blogging sites like Tumblr and Livejournal, the biggest new fandom is no longer anime or evening fantasy drama, but that of “SJ,” a nickname for “social justice,” which refers to discourse on equal rights and how to, essentially, be kind and respectful to all people. As a trans person of color, I have used these platforms as a means of communication, of activism, and a way to maintain my own sanity in one of the rare environments in which I can sometimes feel both safe and totally myself.

Now, don’t get me wrong, there are many cases where it’s definitely needed. The recent shooting and death of Trayvon Martin at the hands of George Zimmerman, who was initially let go on self-defense despite a recording of Martin screaming for his life and well-documented violence and racist comments, would be one of those cases. The still-existing legislation in the U.S. that makes it possible to fire transgender individuals for their gender identity would be another. There are legitimate issues that need to be addressed in our society, there’s no denying that. The need spawned things like Occupy Wall Street and SlutWalk, major movements evolving out of small internet conversations.

But as everyone on the internet knows, where there is light, there is dark.

What started as a movement by people who are suffering to try to help those of us who are privileged to understand their struggle has now become a mockery, hijacked by people whose only tangible shared problem could be described — and recognized by anyone with common sense — as social ineptitude.

They sit, watching equal rights discussions, hearing the terminology and logic, and take it for their own purposes. They quote famous activists far out of context to add that elusive air of legitimacy where it just doesn’t exist. By carefully and secretly treating their “fight” as equal to racism, transphobia, homophobia and classism, they worm their way into the real issues and cleverly tilt words designed to protect to disregard those who are at actual risk for losing their jobs and their lives.

The base of this false movement is “identity.” You’ve probably heard the term “identity politics” used to refer to people who believe that identity colors one’s experiences, and this idea is not without merit. Identity is an important concept, and is essential to the fighting of bigoted stereotypes and ideas about marginalized groups. It is very easy for people who have never lived or seen a certain kind of oppression personally to believe that it just doesn’t happen, even despite statistics. But people who seek to misuse the term take that concept all the way down the slippery slope. According to them, as long as someone identifies as something, it is true. No exceptions.

Think about that for a minute.

Do you identify as a butterfly? Then you are one. Do you identify as a pie? Then you are full of buttery, fruitilicious goodness. If you follow the “to each their own” philosophy, one could almost wave the basic idea as long as it didn’t interfere with, you know, reality. But this is the dark side of the internet, and it devours all common sense like a black hole eats light. And we’ve already crossed the event horizon. Anything not mainstream is “oppressed” in this wonderland. Wielding identity as a weapon, one can entirely remove themselves from personal responsibility for their part in harming others, and ultimately, any negativity at all.

Ever hear of otherkin, or otakukin? They refer to people who “identify” as animals or anime characters. I’m pretty open, do whatever you want as long as you’re not bugging me. According to some, though, lack of widespread acceptance of otherkin is contributing to mass otherkin oppression. Oh? Otherkin are being rounded up from their homes and killed? No? Are they being fired from jobs for being otherkin? Not that either, huh? Are they at least being disproportionately arrested and thrown in jail with sentences 60% longer than non-otherkin? Well then what IS going on? They’re… being ostracized on the internet. Oh.

But otherkin and their ilk have been around for ever. Try googling “Final Fantasy VII House.” Pick a time to read when you have a few free hours and a lot of booze. Now, there are newer, even more mockable “oppressions” coming out. You’ve heard of transgender and transsexual, let me introduce you to the new trans people: transabled and transethnic. Transabled people are disabled people hiding out in perfectly working bodies. They “identify” as blind, deaf, paraplegic and quadriplegic despite having never been so a day in their entire lives, and are well-known for talking about how hard it is to want to be disabled but unable to be. Transethnic people are white people who “identify” as a non-white race or ethnicity. They’re weeaboos multiplied by a million, with bonus “I learned about your culture in a book I read once so I know more than you.”

But not all the ridiculous “oppressions” are this out there. What normal people call “mild inconveniences,” some have blown up into full scale witch hunts. Like “kinky oppression.” The belief that people thinking your love of handcuffs in the bedroom is weird is exactly the same as getting beaten in the street for being gay, which leads to the coined term “vanilla privilege,” the preference and favoring of those who don’t engage in any kind of kink in society. Or “body mod oppression” and “goth oppression.” Oppression is just as easy as shopping for overpriced skull-themed clothing at Hot Topic, hopping down to the local tattoo parlor, and getting that box of two dollar head dye from the corner shop!

My personal favorite of these new, ridiculous “oppressions” is when people cross so far into this realm that, to them, the norm is oppressed. Fundamentalist Christians have been complaining about their supposed oppression for years, how they are now the ostracized and marginalized in our harsh modern society, and some people have decided to take a page out of their book.

“Demisexuality” is part of the “asexual” grouping. I’d tell you what it means, but demisexual people are confused about it too (and you’ll find about 100 conflicting definitions out there), so I’ll give my understanding. Demisexuality is when people only feel sexual desire for those whose personality they like, or to whom they are emotionally attracted. In other words, they make up most of the population. But they’re very oppressed, if you ask some of them. Oppressed how, exactly? No one knows, but you can’t expect them to provide any evidence. That would be wrong.

Personally, I think they all suffer from plain old “being boring” oppression. You know, the kind where you’re dull and you watch too much TV and you feel a desperate need to be cool, different, part of a group. One could almost say that “interesting” people are oppressive, flaunting their interestingness in your face, telling stories of suffering and pain, while you know you live in a comfortable 2-bedroom apartment your mom and dad paid for, drive in a car that you’ve never had to personally get fixed, and the most harassment you ever received in your life was being told you were weird that one time you wore neon orange lipstick and spandex to your junior prom in high school.

But besides being all very ridiculous, it does have a clear-cut, damaging effect to legitimate oppression, those where people are actually dying, becoming homeless, being forced into prostitution, and living in dire poverty, unable to get a hand up. When you take the words of those who truly suffer, not because they feel emotions while sitting in their middle-class home behind their thousand dollar computer, but because they spent 15 years in jail on a trumped up charge they didn’t even commit, and are now unable to get a job due to stigmatization that doesn’t apply across the board, those people now receive less of the sympathy and help they need to survive. For every person that complains that a disagreement on the internet about their catbunnyanimusparklegirl status triggers them (despite them continuing the argument until the wee hours of the morning), someone who is so triggered they can barely breathe, curled up, reliving trauma, is invalidated, ignored, and not provided what they need.

Ridicule the silly internet people, make fun of and dismiss their claims of oppression as not worth your time, but remember as you do that they’ve stolen from people who do need your help. Just because everyone is shouting at once doesn’t mean there aren’t still real voices to be heard.

I discovered this transethnic crap last weekend and I'm still just...there are no words.


original ONTD post
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dearmisterecho 24th-Jun-2012 02:35 pm (UTC)
who is the fabulous mod who accepted in like less than 5 minutes?

come here so I can give you kiss cause damn
ladypolitik 24th-Jun-2012 05:18 pm (UTC)
chasingtides 24th-Jun-2012 02:40 pm (UTC)
I kind of want to hug this post, give it tea, and knit it cozy hats.
redglare 24th-Jun-2012 02:45 pm (UTC)
I just imagined Castiel knitting cozy hats and now I am full of all kinds of glee. What a cute mental image.
naroclie 24th-Jun-2012 02:45 pm (UTC)
This is great.
redglare 24th-Jun-2012 02:45 pm (UTC)
honestly whenever someone tells me they're demisexual i'm just like... oh, so you're trying to sound like a special and unique snowflake, basically? because only having sex with people you're emotionally connected to is basically society's perfect ideal of sex and relationships, when it's not "sex only with someone you're married to." you're not oppressed for being the fucking ideal. sit down. also, there's kind of something slutshamey about the whole concept, like, "oh, i'm not like all those oooother wh*res who just sleep with whoever they like! i need an EMOTIONAL CONNECTION!" pat yourself on the back, sweetheart, that makes you such a good and different person.

naroclie 24th-Jun-2012 02:46 pm (UTC)
yeah, p. much
evilgmbethy 24th-Jun-2012 02:45 pm (UTC)
hahaha oh man, great article. I just heard about the transethnic bs the other day and beyond being offensive, I'm just... really embarrassed for these people. I hadn't heard of transabled but WOW.

I know furries have been sort of co-opting the gay rights language for a while. It's frustrating when people can't distinguish between a fetish and someone's innate sexuality.

*settles into this post*
lozbabie 24th-Jun-2012 02:51 pm (UTC)
I'm reading the mothership post and apparently people who are 'transethnic' (and I can't stop lolling over this) are telling others they have 'cisethnic privilege'

title or description
ten_of_swords 24th-Jun-2012 02:53 pm (UTC)
http://watchful-entity.tumblr.com/ is a tumblr that reblogs all sorts of stuff like this from the tumblr realm. Also http://melted-snowflake.tumblr.com/ is a new tumblr by an ex-otherkin who is essentially calling the community out for being bullshit and they're all frothing at the mouth over it.
dearmisterecho 24th-Jun-2012 02:57 pm (UTC)
...who needs sleep, right?

*curls up with some veggie chips and begins reading through the lulz and rage*
a_leprechaun TW: transphobia24th-Jun-2012 02:57 pm (UTC)
I tend to think I'm pretty desensitized to internet wackiness. Don't feel a need to make a fuss about it. Even with stuff like otherkin, I shrug and say "Well, it's not hurting anybody, so do what you like," and move on.

Yet when I first heard the terms 'transethnic' and 'transabled,' I wished I could go back to five minutes earlier and stop the concept from ever being introduced to me. I yearned for brain bleach.

Like, seriously. Seriously. As if transgender and transsexual folks didn't already have to deal with the idea that we're just being silly or ~making it up to feel special~, now comes this fuckery. It pisses me the fuck off that someone decided to co-opt the word 'trans' in a way that can only be more damaging to a fight against actual oppression.

It's like that goddamn South Park episode come to life.
redglare Re: TW: transphobia24th-Jun-2012 03:04 pm (UTC)
The sad (and by sad I mean MY BLOOD IS BOILING) thing?

On a good portion of the internet, these people won't be harassed for IDing as "transethnic" or whatever, and in that same portion of the internet, a trans* or genderqueer person who's as open about their own identity would get harassed, sent death threats, and constantly have their identity invalidated.

eversofar 24th-Jun-2012 03:04 pm (UTC)
Personally, I think they all suffer from plain old “being boring” oppression.

pretty much. why be boring when you can be a transethnic japanese cat who is occasionally sherlock holmes?
popehippo 24th-Jun-2012 03:13 pm (UTC)
Transaged is also apparently a thing to. As in you're 16 but really you feel that you belong from the 1920s or something.

mycenaes 24th-Jun-2012 03:14 pm (UTC)
...o m g

that explains so much, somehow.
mollywobbles867 24th-Jun-2012 03:16 pm (UTC)
I read this on the mothership. I just can't wrap my head around any of this and I never will.
alicephilippa 24th-Jun-2012 03:18 pm (UTC)
These transabled folks are truly rage inducing. If they really could experience the disability they are appropriating for even one hour they'd never mention being transabled again is my guess.

As for the demisexuals, kudos on you for being like the majority of the population. But you really don't need to slut-shame the rest of us.
the_gabih 24th-Jun-2012 05:10 pm (UTC)
But you really don't need to slut-shame the rest of us.

Pretty sure that's not what demisexuality involves, actually. Granted, there are probably some douchebags out there, but most demi people I've met aren't like that at all.
castalianspring 24th-Jun-2012 03:26 pm (UTC)
They have a good point about demisexuals, but putting asexuals in scare quotes wasn't necessary.

Rest of it is spot on.
bowl_of_glow 24th-Jun-2012 05:49 pm (UTC)
They have a good point about demisexuals, but putting asexuals in scare quotes wasn't necessary.

lamardeuse 24th-Jun-2012 03:31 pm (UTC)
Transabled people are disabled people hiding out in perfectly working bodies. They “identify” as blind, deaf, paraplegic and quadriplegic despite having never been so a day in their entire lives, and are well-known for talking about how hard it is to want to be disabled but unable to be. Transethnic people are white people who “identify” as a non-white race or ethnicity.

I know I shouldn't be surprised at how assholish people can be, but...WHAT.
moonshaz 25th-Jun-2012 11:18 pm (UTC)
Assholery is the only word for this phenomenon. Total and complete assholery. I mean, what the everloving fuck?
evilgmbethy 24th-Jun-2012 03:33 pm (UTC)
also, thinking about it, this seems to be an evolution of/twist on Munchausen by Internet.
romp 25th-Jun-2012 06:18 am (UTC)
I thought that was just a clever phrase before I followed the link. Damn.
perthro 24th-Jun-2012 03:43 pm (UTC)
Didn't we see this South Park episode already? Where Kyle has a "negroplasty" to play basketball, and Stan's dad becomes a dolphin? The one where Garrison flips out because of his rigid definitions of womanhood? http://www.southparkstudios.com/full-episodes/s09e01-mr-garrisons-fancy-new-vagina

And these people take it seriously? How exactly does one become transethnic? As an oppressive factor?

Like, I've seen some serious "transethnicity" identifiers when I worked the Census. These were mostly folks who really were being oppressed, like the local Middle Eastern community who are legitimately scared shitless because of that one professors' arrest and terrorist trial years ago. They mostly IDed as "American" for good reason. Same for Cubans and some folks here without immigration papers. Because of how 'ethnicity' was legally identified by the Census, it could be defined as by racial lineage or country-based lineage, so people could choose either one. White people usually IDed as "white". They didn't have to worry about country of origin.

But to take this as "Oh, I'm white, but I FEEL black!" ... no, you don't. This is like when people say "OMG! You went to Japan! How does it feel to be Japanese?" ... Um, I don't fucking know. I'm not Japanese. How does it feel to be stupid?

chasingtides 24th-Jun-2012 04:10 pm (UTC)

I do... work where I get to ask you about your ethnicity when we talk. And I get a lot of, "I identify as American. No, just American," and while we do get some people who think that means white, there's a lot of people who think it's safer.
bnmc2005 24th-Jun-2012 03:48 pm (UTC)
This is a beautiful essay.

I was skipping through the radio stations the other day and I came across the voice of some young woman saying- with all the air of feigned martyrdom, "This is THE FIRST TIME in my life I've ever felt persecuted — and it was because I'm a Christian!" .

I screamed at the radio, ' This is the first time you've ever felt this way lady, REALLY!! WOW, what a blessed fucking life you have, bitch'.
bunnika 24th-Jun-2012 04:23 pm (UTC)
Just gonna go ahead and say that she's only been ignorant to her oppression if she hasn't "felt" it before, because she's been oppressed already as a woman by things like being attacked with gendered slurs, like you did right here.
shoujokakumei 24th-Jun-2012 03:49 pm (UTC)
No matter how many times I read about crap like this, it's still facepalm-worthy.
sparkindarkness 24th-Jun-2012 04:00 pm (UTC)
It's odd, i knew about all of these many many many many fuckeries

But seeing them all put together like this? My brain refuses. I can't have my faith in humanity reduced so low...
doverz 24th-Jun-2012 04:07 pm (UTC)
I didn't even realize stuff like this was going on. SMH.
jugglingeggs 25th-Jun-2012 05:57 am (UTC)
SAME! I had NO CLUE. I feel like I'm living in a different world. :/
planetariium 24th-Jun-2012 04:08 pm (UTC)
The most annoying thing about these people is that you can't use the tried-and-true method of ignoring them, because then they just talk louder and feel more "oppressed."

Also, slight nitpick: I wouldn't really say that demisexuality is related to asexuality.
momentsplinter 25th-Jun-2012 10:24 am (UTC)
Also, slight nitpick: I wouldn't really say that demisexuality is related to asexuality.

tumblr seems to think that it is. which doesn't really make sense, but y'know. it's tumblr.
sihaya09 24th-Jun-2012 04:12 pm (UTC)
vanillakokakola 24th-Jun-2012 04:17 pm (UTC)
the only one i even removtely believe is true is being "trans-abled", but real cases of that are few and far between. and it's not even being trans-abled per se, i'm pretty sure there's a real term for it, i just don't know what it is.

specifically, the kind i'm talking about is the one where people have a body part that is so alien to them that they try to convince doctors to allow them to remove it. i doubt any of these weirdos on tumblr has that.
bunnika 24th-Jun-2012 04:26 pm (UTC)
If you "doubt any of these weirdos on tumblr has that," there really wasn't any reason to make this comment. Hell, there wasn't a reason anyway, as it pretty much just derails legitimate calling-out of this behavior. Comments like this do nothing but extend justification to appropriating bigots, and as a wheelchair user, I can't tell you how desperately I don't fucking need anyone to grant validation to these fuckstains.
othellia 24th-Jun-2012 04:33 pm (UTC)
Is it just me or does the basic pattern seem to be (and I admit that it is a very very simplified version which doesn't apply to everyone):

Have a legitimate issue/oppression = ultimately want to belong while maintaining their identity without it constantly defining them in their day to day life

Have a self-diagnosed oppression = ultimately want to feel special by saying that they don't belong when they actually really really do
dearmisterecho 24th-Jun-2012 04:34 pm (UTC)
sounds about right!
poetic_pixie_13 24th-Jun-2012 04:34 pm (UTC)
Do you identify as a pie? Then you are full of buttery, fruitilicious goodness.


Although, to be srs bzns I just... can't with the transethnic/transabled stuff. I remember when I first found out what that was. I had honestly thought the internet could never truly surprise me anymore. Oh, to live in those sweet halcyon days once again. It's just so disgustingly appropriative of the experiences of trans folks, folks with disabilities and people of colour. It also assumes that disabled folks and people of colour have some kind of 'privilege' for being recognized as who we are. Y'know, the whole disproportional rates of poverty, incarceration and abuse, not being seen as a sexual being or as a viable romantic partner, the thought that you're somehow 'so brave' for living your life etc etc etc. That's apparently some kind of privilege. Just, no.

I don't like the scare quotes around asexuality either. Yes the idea of coming out as demisexual, or anything that's not homo/bi/panromatic is pretty ridiculous. But asexual folks still have to deal with unlearning the idea that everyone wants sex all the time and not wanting it means you're screwed up/have a past with abuse etc. Unlearning it can be really hard and painful. (I'm not trying to start asexual wank. I don't at all think asexual/heteroromantic folks are oppressed, but that it can often really fucking suck to figure out who you and and who you love and desire. Yes, the issues around sex and romance are a product of sexism and homophobia and not some special oppression that only asexual folks experience. But, again, it isn't always easy and I'd like to acknowledge that at least because it costs me nothing to do so and I always want to bake pies of rainbows and sunshine and have everyone be friends. Anyone who tries to start shit with this comment will get an inane bb animal or Saturday morning cartoon gif in reply. Jsyk.)

SJ warriors (or just social justice) can be so exhausting on Tumblr sometimes. It's all about policing each other to see who can be the most 'inclusive' and being unnecessarily hostile and just cruel sometimes. It's the assumption that if someone's experiences are in direct contradiction to your own they must be lying or interpreting things wrong because apparently there's only one way to experience oppression, marginalization and the intersectionality of it all. Instead of accepting and learning about each other's diverse experiences we tear them down out of the fear it invalidates our own experiences and, more importantly, invalidates the hurt and anger and sadness that often comes with those experiences and memories. It makes the spaces we try to create vicious and petty and alienating. Both for members of our communities but especially those who desperately need community and the feeling of belonging and acceptance. Folks who find they don't belong in our communities either because everyone has to use SJ warrior approved language that's so inaccessible to folks who don't have the time or ability to stay on Tumblr until four in the morning or go to five different uni classes. I fiercely want to create communities where we're supportive of each other, we listen and learn and actually act like we understand each other's common humanity instead of turning into bitter, spiteful people. It's not healthy for ourselves as individuals and it's toxic for us as members of vibrant, diverse communities that at the very best of times be so loving and wonderful.

Edited at 2012-06-24 04:42 pm (UTC)
elialshadowpine 24th-Jun-2012 05:17 pm (UTC)
Okay I am like half asleep here because sleep meds are kicking my ass and my eyes are crossing but I wanted to say THANK YOU for saying this. Again, you are made of awesome. (And since I have been saying this, like, lots lately, is it okay if I friend you?)

I will try to come back and leave a legible comment later, when I am more conscious type thing (to show how gone I am, it took me three times to not type that as couscous). ;)
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