I was just so livid with “my side” this morning that I couldn’t stand to wait to reach out to you until I got to a computer. I just wanted you to know that I do NOT approve of the violent, sexually-charged threats that were made against you. I am so sorry that you have to go through this – no matter how much we disagree, nobody, not a single person, should have to suffer that. I read those messages and my stomach churned. I felt even more sick when I realized that, while folks were celebrating your removal from Tumblr, not one. single. person. spoke out to condemn the actions of the person that threatened you like that. I could rant about your tactics until I’m blue in the face, but I would still turn right back around and defend you in this case. I know you would do (and have done) the same for others whose views don’t line up with your own. Because, no matter our differences, we’re both women who are pissed off and fed up with this kind of bullshit. The only reason I haven’t said anything publicly yet is because I want to give someone, ANYONE, the chance to join me in speaking up. If not, i have a whole new blog post to write. I hope you are holding up okay, i can’t imagine how you must feel. We’re both women, regardless of our views, and I hate to see a fellow woman hurting like that. I hope you understand that I mean this genuinely, I wouldn’t have contacted you otherwise. – a private message I received from a Women who is a third-wave feminist after a Man threatened to rape me on Tumblr. I am pretty sure she never said anything publicly.
In 1964, Winston Mosely murdered Kitty Genovese, a lesbian, in Brooklyn, New York. Mosley killed Genovese over the course of a half-hour. Numerous people heard Genovese’s cries for help, and did nothing. Psychological studies of this phenomenon demonstrates that the greater the number of bystanders who view an emergency, the smaller the chance that any will intervene.
This is The Bystander Effect.
Seeing this play out in The Real World is frightening. A few summers ago, as I was hanging out at a bar with an ex-girlfriend to see a show, we wandered outside at intermission with many other Baltimore hipsters to smoke. On the street were two large gangs, clearly in a fight. One of the men in one of the groups was wielding a 2 by 4. In the other group, a “woman” (she was *maybe* 15) pushed a baby carriage, with a baby in it.
I called 911. One other guy also did. My ex-girlfriend chided me for calling the cops. And the rest of the crowd – over 30 people – filmed the brawl with their cell phone cameras. And one particularly disgusting person (ashamed to say, a Lesbian) riled up the fighters by yelling “Kick some ass, dawg.” (BTW, this is ANOTHER reason to dislike Hampden).
The Bystander Effect. Seeing something clearly wrong, looking around to see who else sees the wrong, and acting according to what everyone else is doing.
How does The Bystander Effect happen? According to researchers, the presence of other people creates a diffusion of responsibility (so in my example about, all those hipsters in the street outside of Golden West). Because there are other observers, individuals do not feel as much pressure to take action, since the responsibility to take action is assumed shared among all of those present.
Additionally, people have an intense need to behave in correct and socially acceptable ways. When other observers of an event fail to react, individuals take this as a signal that no response is needed, or that your response is inappropriate (my ex telling me I was overreacting to the sight of a man wielding a 2×4 with the intent to hit someone with it). Other researchers have found that onlookers are less likely to intervene if the situation is ambiguous (you probably have experienced this; think about the times you’ve come upon a couple in the heat of an “intense argument” – is it an intense argument, or is he about to beat the shit out of her?).
The GLBT Community is currently in the midst of its own Ambiguous Situation/Abusive Event (or, perhaps, a series of them). What we have in the GLBT Community is a failure to consider the concerns, needs, wants, and desires of Lesbians, the L in the GLBT, vis-a-vis the T. The T’s encroachment into L space has gone virtually unchecked over the last 20 years, with Lesbians who have challenged gender identity ideology marginalized as man-hating kooks (BTW, they aren’t). This has happened in full view of all members of the Community. And I have had dozens of conversations with Community members who have expressed discomfort with some of the agenda items pushed by GLBT organizations, including gender identity, but still have not spoken out. Over the last few years, more and more individuals – mostly Women – have spoken out. These people have made space for this conversation to happen.
But we still haven’t overcome The Bystander Effect. There is still a collective inability by the GLBT Community to recognize that we have traveled down a path that places the needs of Women below those of Men, that subsumes the rights of Females to those of Male-born people, that denies Lesbians the ability to define our sexuality and control our spaces, and that cannot even condemn violent behavior and threats against those of us who are Trans Critical because, apparently, things would be easier/better if we just fell in line. Indeed, it seems that death threats and rape threats and threats of other physical violence are acceptable; that is, if you disagree with the pack, you SHOULD be threatened (because this is what Community members see when they look around).
The following statements bear repeating, because they are true.
Women are not bigots for wanting space away from Men.
Girlhood is significant.
Men cannot become Women.
Lesbians don’t want to have sex with Males.
Women have a 100% right to set a boundary based on sex and have it be respected.
Violent threats against people for expressing an opinion you don’t like are always wrong. Always. No exceptions.
Will you look away and pretend you don’t see what’s happening? Is that because it hasn’t affected you (yet)? Is that because you think Women are wrong to establish a boundary?
I recently read Female Chauvinist Pigs by Ariel Levy, and she said something with regard to Porn Culture that applies equally to gender identity.
“It’s time to stop nodding and smiling uncomfortably as we ignore the crazy feeling in our heads and admit that the emperor has no clothes.”
Bystanders, do you think Lesbians are bigots for not wanting sex with Males?
Do you think Women – an oppressed class – are bigots when we claim space away from Males?
Stop looking around to see what “your peers” are doing/saying/thinking/feeling.
“Your peers” have lost their collective minds.
Your peers say things like this:
“Feminism is about empowering all women, even those who may still have their penises intact.” – Jordan Gwendolyn Davis
“she probably masturbates while she writes all this bullshit. too bad that when she comes to terms with the fact that trans women are so much more awesome than her, she will have burned all the bridges and there will not be a single trans woman who would even come close enough to her to take a shit on her face, let alone have sex with her.” – Jackson Benjamin Robinson
(We could do this all day. See here.)
Here’s a thought – your peers are wrong and misguided. Stop looking to them for guidance on how to act or think.
Better yet, think for yourself.
Because you don’t have to be a Bystander.