Quickies

Skepchick Quickies 11.15

Amanda

Amanda is a science grad student in Boston whose favorite pastimes are having friendly debates and running amok.

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  1. From what I am reading at The Bilerico Project site (The Dan Savage story) the story as written may not be the whole story so to speak.

    From what I gather from those who were there (according to their accounts) the offensive words that were used by Savage were actually in the e-mail that he was answering and he was glitter-bombed before he had a chance to actually say anything in response to it.
    Again, I’m going by those on the site that say they were there.

    Is Dan Savage tranphobic? I think it’s hard to tell from this story as written but there are previous incidents where he was called out for anti-trans language (but to be fair he’s been called out for all kinds of language, just sort of his style). I would like to see a story that addresses the real (not saying this isn’t BTW) tranphobia that seems to be in the gay community (we know it’s in the cis community) and whether Mr. Savage is actually part of (or contributing to) that problem.

    There may be smoke here while the fire is evrywhere else.
    $.02

    1. He gets a lot of flack, as he is highly visible and it is easy to criticize just about any language choice. He does tend to use terms used in questions in his answers on his podcast, and does not seem feel any particular need to tie his language to the most PC option.

      As for the point about an arrest here vs other people who were glitter bombed, well how many of them were speaking at an event sponsored by MTV? I think that can go a long way to explain the arrest.

      It does seem to me to be similar to all the schisms and factious nature in the skeptic movement. Look at all the groups and fighting between groups that happens in the skeptic community vs spending that energy on something productive?

      Should he be criticized, maybe, but he gets criticized pretty much no matter what he does so he has gotten good at ignoring criticism.

          1. But he doesn’t just use those words when answering questions that contain them. Perhaps that was the instance in this case, but I’ve certainly heard/read him use them with no relation to the question he’s been asked.

            And balls is not a comparable term, as it isn’t meant as an insult. Pussy is an insult. Last I knew, he’d stopped using pussy as an insult and instead was using it as a replacement for having balls because pussies are much tougher.

    2. He was glitter-bombed while responding to the question. The question did use the words, but he then used them again in his answer. But you don’t get a “free pass” to use discriminatory language just because someone else did so first. “She started it” is not a valid excuse. His first response should have been to either address the problematic language, or to *immediately* shift to respectful terms, not to treat the issue as an afterthought.

      This also isn’t the first time something like this has happened.

      Given that he’s culturally positioned as sort of THE “voice of reason” on queer issues and alternative sexuality, and the only spokesperson for the LGBT community that many straight/cis people know, I think the standards he ought to live up to are justifiably high, and he ought to be making a much stronger effort.

      1. So what word should be specifically used for that genre of porn? Because the attraction is quite specific, there would be much less interest in the transwomen after they have genital reconstructive surgery.

        So as it is a specific sexual interest it should have specific term. And tramswomen who have not had genital reconstruction, or TWWHNHGR is a mouthful and not a good acronym either.

        1. Um… “pre-op” or “non-op” are the accepted qualifiers for a trans woman who either hasn’t yet had SRS or chooses not to. “Shemale” is NOT. Ergo, if you really, really need to refer to that genre of porn, you’d go with “porn featuring non-op trans women” or “non-op trans woman porn” or something. Not “shemale” or “chicks-with-dicks” or any other ridiculously derogatory term. That only serves to heighten the level of dehumanization already prevalent within the genre.

  2. Come on people you’re better than this. Is hate speech a legitimate issue? Yes. Is it a good idea to tear down a public advocate against that sort of intolerance at his mere mention of said hate speech in a discussion forum? Not particularly. Even before his response was posted, all you had to do was look back at his advocacy history to understand that he’s nothing remotely close to transphobic.

    This damages everyone involved. It hurts Dan’s credibility with the general public and it makes the movement seem petty and uninformed to attack someone who is demonstrably pro everything LGBT.

  3. Seriously? When Dan Savage says “tranny” I don’t feel like he’s really doing anything wrong enough to care about, although I appreciate that he’s tried to stop using it. Attacking him with glitter seems just a tiny bit over the top, although at the same time glitter attacks are sort of non-harmful and maybe that’s not too far out of proportion as well?

    I don’t know… it is all feeling like I’m not going to be invited to the Language Purity Ball this year, and I bought a fancy new pair of shoes and everything.

    1. What if he were saying “n****r” or “k**e” or “cunt” or something? THEN would it be “wrong enough to care about”? Or are derogatory epithets directed towards specific groups only “wrong enough” when it’s a group that you happen to give a damn about?

      1. You misunderstand me… because I wasn’t clear enough, and that’s mu fault. When it’s Dan Savage, it just seems like Dan Savage, using words in a Dan Savage context. When I hear a rapper say “nigger” or I’m listening to Marc Maron’s podcast when he’s talking about being “super Jewie” or I call a friend who is a fellow Hispanic a “beaner”… well, it IS a little different.

        I get that Dan Savage stepped a bit over the line, but he also seems to get it too. Knowing who he is means that I react a little bit differently to his use of certain language than I would when someone on Fox “News” and/or some Religious Right member says it. Not that I’m saying that Dan Savage gets a pass, but maybe he doesn’t need to spend three days picking glitter out of his clothes and skin either.

        Not excusing, just wondering at the severity of the response. I’m all about being proportionate this week.

        1. As mentioned above, “tranny” and “shemale” are NOT Dan Savage’s words to reclaim. He may be gay, but he is not a trans woman, has never experienced transphobia, and has never had those terms applied to him as terms of abuse or ridicule. The comparison to a black man saying “nigger” or a hispanic man saying “beaner” just doesn’t hold.

          1. Yeah, you’re probably objectively right, and I’m sure no one will miss me at the Language Purity Ball, and I’ll bet the cause is suffering greatly because of Dan Savage’s slip.

  4. It seems that nobody bothered to read the link that spackle posted, where Dan blogs about the incident, so I’ll post it again: http://slog.thestranger.com/slog/archives/2011/11/15/on-glitter-transphobia-and-hate-speech

    He says that he never used the word ‘tranny’ at all, and only used the word ‘shemale’ in direct reference to the audience member’s question. He then switched to the terms ‘transexual sex-workers’ and ‘transexual porn’ before attempting to explain why the word ‘shemale’ is offensive – at which point he was glitter-bombed.

    From Dan’s Blog:
    “DAN: [READING FROM CARD] My boyfriend is straight but he enjoys anal sex and he asks me to make love to him in his butt all the time. [ASIDE:] You have no one to blame but yourself. [READING FROM CARD] Also, he likes watching she-male porn. Could you tell me why he is acting like this? [ANSWER:] Um, I’m gunna go out on a limb here and say it’s because he likes shemale porn and he enjoys anal stimulation. He’s acting like this because he’s a very freaky boy. If you’re into him, and you’re willing to go there for him, there are a lot of straight guys who are into transexual sex-workers, transexual porn, she-males for lack of a better term, although some people think that’s very offensive—
    It was at that moment—just as I was beginning to address the problem with the term “shemale”—that I was glitterbombed.”

    I’m actually really surprised that so many skeptical people seem to have jumped on this without seemingly bothering to get the whole story.

    1. Oh, I’ve read it. But having heard Dan Savage use tranny and shemale in the past, I was unsurprised by the Bilerco Project report. I’m glad he’s apologized, and I hope he continues to be an advocate for the respect and rights of *everyone* under the LGBTQ umbrella. If he really was about to explain the problem with the derogatory terms, I’m sorry he was interrupted but he seems to have a good sense of humor over the whole glitterbombing incident.

  5. Yeah, Improbable Joe, we must worry more about The Cause, as opposed to actual trans women who are hurt by that bullshit. And I love how you’re making it to be a Language Purity thing, as opposed to vile fucking slurs that you’d better believe is the last word way, WAY too many trans women heard as they were murdered. For being trans.

    But no, keep patting yourself on the back for being a language maverick and being the only one who cares about The Cause.

    1. It’s been linked by a couple commenters. It’s available to be read and considered by whoever would like to. It’s not being ignored.

      I am appreciative of Dan’s apology, and think he’s responded fairly well to this.

      But as mentioned earlier, the fact that the words were initially used in the question isn’t an excuse for going ahead and using them again. As I said, the response should have been to *immediately* address the terms, or to shift to more respectful language, not to treat the issue as an afterthought.

      There are multiple sides to this, and multiple points to consider. No one is demonizing Dan Savage. It’s simply an issue worth addressing and talking about. Personally, I just feel that given the position he’s in, as one of the most prominent voices of the queer community and the supposed “voice of reason” for all matters of sexuality, he should be making a stronger effort.

    2. What’s more important is that he used a verboten word, which means he’s responsible for the murders of people associated with the word he used… or something.

      It is hard to deal with the whole wide world of people who fear and hate you and want you dead, so I guess it is easier to attack people who don’t fear or hate you and really want you to live but might occasionally and/or accidentally use a word you find hurtful. Let’s go after Dan Savage, instead of Rick Santorum, because obviously Savage is the real problem in American society.

        1. No, we can address multiple issues, but for the love of Satan can we address each one with along a sliding scale of severity?!?! I know that some people will always be unhappy with incorrect language, and while I think it is a less important issue I accept that it IS an issue. At the same time, I also know that when some people use offensive language they are simply tripping over their own feet and being minor jerks, and when other people use the same language that they are making a call for violence against the target of that language. Maybe we can all tell the difference?

          Or do you think that Dan Savage is an anti-transgender bigot calling for violence, versus a pro-transgender advocate who used language that some people find offensive?

          1. Perhaps you could explain why you think that a harmless glitter-bomb and simply discussing the issue is somehow a disproportionate level of severity? No one is howling for Dan Savage’s blood here.

        2. No no! Improbable Joe here has shown us the way! We’re supposed to sit quietly while people who are our “allies” (Because they say they are, dammit!) use any and all slurs against us! When, when they’ve gotten sufficient rights for themselves, they’ll come back for us! We shouldn’t be greedy here, we wouldn’t want to clearly be Republican supporters for asking to be treated like human beings.

  6. @Improbable Joe: it’s a matter of privilege. That the terms are offensive to the persons’ that they’re ostensibly describing should be reason enough to care about whether they’re used or not. I’m not quite sure why you think it’s a non-issue?

  7. On picking your battles: Calling out Dan Savage is a good idea because he’s likely to actually listen, and then become one less harmful voice in the community. Pick some battles you can easily win.

  8. I find it nothing short of staggering to hear a bastion of reason such as this site, failing to see any kind of nuance, any kind of subtlety and above all any kind of context in what Savage actually said.

    He read aloud one woman’s inquiry. He then went on to repeat the language she used to describe her boyfriend’s online sexual interests and then corrected her for her language as some may find it offensive.

    It is ABSOLUTELY different to use words like fag, nigger, kike, paki or tranny in a hateful way than it is to use them in a way that establishes that they are the language that is used to describe those groups of people. To remove any sense of nuance, you are essentially suggesting that those word can never be uttered, as if we all want to scream “VOLDERMORT” at the top of our lungs whenever we can. I can tell the difference between hate language and words. We have to allow a room for nuance otherwise we’d all be appalled that he calls himself a fag.

    Over here in the UK, if you call yourself a fag it raises little more curiosity because you’re essentially describing yourself as a cigarette. However, I understand that in America it’s seen as bad form to even describe your cigarette this way.

    How silly is that? If we strip all language down to sounds without intent we’re essentially stuck with the idea that you cannot put six letters in a row that happen to be n,i,g,g,e,r while at the same time we can rearrange them and be happy calling people ginger.

    To say a word is completely off limits is such a robbery of nuance because it does not take into account intent and there has never been a more obvious incident than this.

    “He used the word tranny? It doesn’t matter how he used it. The word itself is evil so just mouthing those words proves he’s trying to subtly communicate a hatred of transfolk.”

    Grow the fuck up.

    1. I think you’re projecting a whole lot more onto this site, and what anyone is actually saying, than what’s really going on. This is a quickie-link to something that some people may think is worth discussing or thinking about. There’s no big post saying “rawr Dan Savage is evil incarnate, there should be laws banning any and all use of certain words”. I’m afraid I’m just as confused with your reaction as with Improbable Joe’s claims about “degrees of severity”. This is just a link. To a story about a glitter bombing. I don’t understand at all the extreme reactions in some of the comments.

      1. P.S. Savage himself seems to have had a much more good-humoured and reasonable reaction to people addressing this issue than some of those defending him have. To be honest, I can’t help but feel like simply *pointing this topic out* being treated as some kind of histrionic, inappropriately severe, “hate speech” diatribe so immature that we need to “grow the fuck up” to be FAR more of an overreaction than anyone questioning Dan Savage’s language had. And I can’t help but worry about what may be motivating those extreme reactions. Is it really *that* awful that someone should simply treat this as a subject worth thinking about?

        1. I think part of the problem is understandably high emotions.

          My initial reaction was that this was a bit overblown, not because it’s not important, but because the original story had some of the facts wrong not out of spite but more out of a bad case of Chinese whispers.

          A friend of the original poster (a source) reported what he remembered happening and, human memory being what it is, got some of the facts a little off; for example saying that Dan had used the words “freaky tranny porn” when he hadn’t and saying that he had called the boyfriend a freak for liking trans-porn (calling him a freaky boy, I think we can agree, is wholly different even out of context).

          Dan did use the term she-male twice (outside of the original question which, I’m assuming, is not at issue), once in his initial answer and once more (with the qualifier “for lack of a better term”) when he was preparing to address why the term is offensive to some before the interruption.

          You are right that he does not get to “take back” a term that is not his; true enough. And while I am not making excuses for him I believe the repeating of the term in the initial answer was to remove any change in terminology to more directly answer the question. Given that he then planned come back to address the term is seems fair in context. Again, pointing out that this is not acceptable is more than fair and it is not to be excused. However, I do find it interesting that, when emotions get high, we rational thinkers can be just as prone to, well, emotions. And I wonder if the glitter-bombing hadn’t happened if there would have been an issue; in context and with the flow uninterrupted the offending term may have gone almost unnoticed.

          While @Improbable Joe didn’t make his case as clearly as he could have, I don’t think he was trying to dismiss anyone’s concerns or feelings and he didn’t say some of the things that he was accused of saying, at least not without a lot of uncalled-for inference.

          The original article was inaccurate so the anger was already a bit elevated; after all if he had said what was initially reported (and it didn’t help that they were things he had said before) it would have been worse and, as we know, correcting errors doesn’t necessarily correct our understanding. But we need to remember that unless someone is being unduly belligerent we tend to take gentle persuasion under advisement here so a simple correction and maybe a slight scold (or tease) is usually enough to set all but the unrepentant down the right path.

          I will add that I am putting this all in my reply to you not because you were being too harsh, you weren’t, but just because they came to me while I was typing my reply to you.

          tl:dr Unless someone is being a complete asshat, a firm correction should be more than enough to straighten out those who care enough to be here.

          1. I’m not sure I really did respond with any strong emotion, other than perhaps a bit of snark in my “groups you give a damn about” and “didn’t realize I’m only allowed to criticize one person” comments. Mostly I’ve just been trying to explain why this is something worth discussing.

            But the responses from Improbable Joe and Bemmie seem very strong, as though what happened here, at this site, was someone writing up a big huge angry ant-Dan rant about “hate speech”. But all that happened was posting a link to something some of us thought was interesting. So the level of anger coming in response from a couple people seems a bit disproportionate, and I don’t quite get what’s motivating it. And indeed I also find it a tad hypocritical since it seems to be criticizing the response to Dan’s language as being disproportionate.

            As an aside, I think it’s also worth noting that this isn’t an isolated incident. This is not the first and only time Dan has been called out on these kinds of things.

  9. 1. Using the term “shemale” is never OK, even if it is just repeating or rephrasing something somebody else said.
    2. Dan Savage used the term “shemale” while rephrasing a question that was asked him.
    Therefore:
    Dan Savage is a bigot who needs to be glitter bombed.

    ————-

    1. Using the term “shemale” is never OK, even if it is just repeating or rephrasing something somebody else said.
    2. Amanda used the term “shemale” while rephrasing Dan Savage’s rephrasing of a question that was asked him.
    Therefore:
    Amanda is a bigot who needs to be glitter bombed.

    ————-

    1. Using the term “shemale” is never OK, even if it is just repeating or rephrasing something somebody else said.
    2. snackcake used the term “shemale” while pointing out what he feels is a logical inconsistency in Amanda’s rephrasing of Dan Savage’s rephrasing of a question that was asked him.
    Therefore:
    snackcake is a bigot who needs to be glitter bombed.

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