Just thought I’d jot down a couple thoughts on this because it’s been popping up in the tags recently.
First, I’m not going to argue against the idea that the types of discrimination targeted at LGBT people can be much more severe - it’s a simple fact that while many queer people live with the danger of being attacked or killed, that’s not usually the case for asexuals (ignoring for now cases of identity confusion and intersectionality, which are no little thing).
On the other hand, whether or not you get killed is not the end all be all of discrimination. Because while anti-LGBT discrimination may be widespread, so is pro-LGBT support and education. But that’s not the case for asexuality, at least not yet.
See, I was lucky enough to be raised in a very liberal, pretty pro-LGBT community, and to go to university in an even more queer-friendly area. I’ve lived a lot of my life in environments where being anti-gay-marriage gets you dirty looks at least and no one would dare openly discriminate against LGBT or claim that they need to be fixed or cured. So even though I’ve had periods of time where I was basically taken for queer by people who didn’t know that I was asexual I’ve never had to worry that much about the disapproval of or mistreatment by any of the people I respect and interact with a lot - there was too much of a strong social imperative against the mistreatment of LGBT people.
But on the other hand, I have no such guarantees that people will respect my asexuality in such a way. Many of the same people who are so into supporting the LGBT community see no problem with mocking asexuality, or making jokes about how we must be socially inept virgins or mentally ill sociopaths. They see no problems with telling us we can’t be real, that we should go back in the closet or go to a doctor to “fix” our problems. When we try to discuss out own experiences we get accused of being special snowflakes - or worse, we are told that our experiences are “problematic” and a promotion of homophobia and rape-culture - we are attacked simply for existing.
I have many spaces where I know I can be safe and respected as a queer-identified person. Yet I have almost none where I can feel fully safe and secure coming out as an asexual.
See, discrimination against asexuals may be less severe in terms of magnitude. But unlike homophobia (at least in many areas), anti-ace discrimination is seen as totally acceptable. Laudable, even. Too many otherwise educated and decent people see nothing wrong with dismissing and degrading asexual people. And so long as people keep dismissing anything short of being murdered in the street, that problem will persist.
(plus, if severity of discrimination were the only thing that mattered, we should be shortening the acronym to the T and not caring about the rest…yet funnily enough, that’s the exact opposite of what usually happens.)
From a more practical viewpoint, for me it depends a lot on the context of how the phrase is being used. In general there are two main situations that I tend to see:
1. When describing to what kind of people are welcome or represented in *specific* organizations or spaces: Somewhat OK
One of the places I often see “ally” enumerated as part of LGBTQIA is in descriptions of organizations or events. For example:
"The Xavier School GSA is an LGBTQIA (lesbian, gay, bi, trans, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual, and ally) organization devoted to education and fun"
"AwesomeCon is an event open to LGBTQIA (lesbian, gay, bi, trans, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual, and ally) individuals for the discussion of gender and sexuality and other awesome things”.
In this case, since these are examples referring explicitly to populations of both queer* people AND non-queer allies, it’s fine for A to be included - especially in things like GSAs/QSAs which are explicitly about both queer people AND allies together.
However, that isn’t always true - for groups that are meant to be closed, queer*-only groups, for example. Which leads to the following.
2. When referring to the segment of the general population which is nonheterosexual and noncis: No
When referring to things like “LGBTQIA persons are more likely to face discrimination than heterosexual and cisgendered individuals”, in which the focus is on contrasting between queer and non-queer individuals it makes no sense to have “allies” suddenly be in both categories, so no, then it is not appropriate. (and it well screw up all your statistics to boot).
Also, as far as “A is for Asexual” vs. “A is for Ally”: well, first, there’s nothing to keep it from standing for both; though I do think that if “ally” is included then at the very least “Asexual” should be as well. (though not necessarily the other way around). Also, “Ally” has been used in acronyms long before asexuality was on many groups’ radars so it isn’t in any way supplanting asexuality by being there. (And it can even have the unintended benefit of making many groups more open to including mentions of asexuality since they have that A already sitting there…)
*(I’m using “queer” as shorthand here here to refer to LGBTetc. but not straight-cis-ally individuals for now, to avoid too much ambiguity, but it’s good to remember that “queer” and “LGBT” are not necessarily interchangeable)
Anyway, that’s a bit of a messy explanation but since I’ve seen a lot of talk about it recently I thought I’d share my two cents.
EDIT: For a more relevent nonhypothetical examples, I think things like this one that was being criticized earlier are actually totally fine (though I would like to asexuality added eventually as well). It makes no claims that allies face the same oppressions, it’s simply indicating that a student group is open to both queer people and allies.
…I almost want to punch someone in the face.
I am an aromantic asexual, and I would one day be interested in marriage. I may not be interested in “traditional” romanti-sexual relationships, but I am interested in some kind of long term, committed, intimate relationship. And the fact is that in this country, the only way to obtain legal recognition of that commitment - and access to financial, legal, and childcare benefits thereof - is marriage.
But in the state and time I live in, there is only a 50% chance of that being a possibility. If my partner happens to be of the “wrong” gender - which is just as likely, if not more, as having one of the “right” gender, we will be denied those rights just as much as any other queer couple. The groups that fight so hard to prevent marriage equality will not make an exception for me simply because I happen not to feel traditional romantic/sexual attraction. And if I do end up in a same gender partnership, people who take offense to that will not see a difference.
You see, for those of you who can’t conceptualize romantic orientations other than as watered down versions of other orientations - if we’re going to make comparisons, aromantics will probably always be closer to bisexuals than heterosexuals. I mean, for me, when questioning my identity, the first real thing I managed to establish was that I did not prefer men over women. It didn’t take long to figure out that the reverse wasn’t true either, and so for the period before I found out about asexuality, “apathetic bisexual” was the best mental descriptor I could find. On forced choice surveys that exclude asexuality, “bisexual” will always be the next best choice for me.
Why do people still seem to want to insist so much that we must be straight?
For a confusing metaphor to try and further explain the difference: Imagine life as a ladder that we try to climb. Advantage would be people giving you a hand up. Active disadvantage would be when someone kicks you down. Passive disadvantage would be when the ladder is covered in grease and you can’t pull yourself up.
And I think by separating it like this, it may be a little easier to understand how asexuality fits in. As asexuals, we tend to have fewer problems in terms of active disadvantages, but we do often have more passive disadvantages.
In addition, while we have fewer people kicking us down, we also have fewer people helping us back up as well. - this is what things like “the sexual advantage” and “sexual privilege” have usually been trying to articulate, even if occasionally in a problematic way. It’s important to remember though that acknowledging that a group has some advantages that others don’t doesn’t mean negating the fact that they may also have much more active disadvantages as well.
It is nuances like that that I believe “oppressed vs. privileged” fails to capture.
Well, seeing as “gay” meant “being happy” long before it meant “attracted to the same gender”, we better stop using that word. People might get confused.
Also, did you know that “bisexual” was first used in biology to describe organisms with both male and female sexual characteristics? I guess we have to invalidate that term too.
We also have to stop calling the heterosexuals “straight” - that term is already taken to describe line segments. Mathemeticians might get confused!
Oh, and don’t even get me started on the word “lesbian” - you’re just going to confuse everyone by making them think all these women are just from Greece!
<snipped for length>
*sigh* Guess we just had to get in one last round of the bi/pan wars for 2012, huh?
Okay. First of all, calm the fuck down. Have a cup of tea and take some deep breaths here. Second. let’s have a little chat about this fun and fancy little thing called root words.
Bi means “two”.
Poly means “many”.
Pan means “all”.
Are you still with me? I certainly hope so, because this is really, really basic.
Bisexual, going by root words, is the sexual attraction to two genders, ie Male and Female. Polysexual covers sexual attraction to many, but not all, genders. Pansexuality refers to the sexual attraction to all genders, hence its root word being “pan”.
Do you still follow me with root words here?
You see, the problem here is that you (general you) are trying to cram yourself into a label (for lack of a better term) that you do not necessarily fit into. There’s absolutely no need to try and redefine the word “bisexuality” to fit whatever you see your super special snowflake version of bisexuality being. Because bisexual already has a concrete definition based upon root words.
So you can be attracted to whatever the fuck gender you want, but don’t be labeling yourself as a bisexual if you’re not really a bisexual. Know why? Because there are other sexualities that you can refer to yourself as. There’s nothing wrong with changing your label (I really hate using that word). It’s why I, upon learning about more sexualities, nestled rather nicely in the niche known as pansexuality. It’s only a war if you choose to make it one, which you seem absolutely intent on doing.
Also, OP is a super nice person and responds better to people directly addressing her with their concerns rather than some social justice crusader bitching about something completely unrelated to the articles.
Ok let’s stop here for a second. As a linguistics student, I like words. I like seeing the words people use to talk about words. But here’s the thing about words: words derive their meanings from USAGE, not by whatever their distant roots may have meant. While roots can be helpful for guessing at the meaning of unknown words (SATs anyone?) they are by and far not the only deciding factor.
For a perhaps morbid example, consider the word decimate - originally derived from a roman military practice, a strict root interpretation means something like “to kill one in ten”, (from latin decem=”ten”); but in it’s usage now, it has expanded to mean any large loss(of life, or of a sports game, or whatever else), even if it’s more than 10% - because the meaning has broadened. Similarly, although “bisexual” originates from a word for “two”, it since has broadened to mean more like “at least two”
(Also, before some pulls out “but my dictionary says!”, it should be noted that reliable dictionaries are generally several years behind the current state of language, and their definitions will of necessesity always be oversimplified and out of date - they are incredibly good references, but not an absolute authority on how a word is used.)
So let me repeat: When it comes to determining the proper definition of things, root words don’t count for shit. The only factor that actually matters in defining words? Is how they are actually used.
Also, as the example earlier shows, words can change over time, resulting in different meanings than they once had - and also different meanings than their original roots may imply. This isn’t “fitting yourself into a special snowflake** definition”, it’s a natural part of the evolution of language! Yes, bisexuality once referred to like two genders - at a time when nobody even thought that there could be any more than two. As people became more aware that there could be more than two genders, the meaning of the word “bisexual” gradually shifted to accommodate that change, gaining the meaning of ”attraction to more than one gender.” Do some people still go by a stricter definition of “only two because ROOTS!”? yes, of course some do. But that does not invalidate other definitions.
Because, fun fact: words can have multiple different definitions at the same time! And so, for example, pansexual can refer to someone attracted regardless of gender, or someone who happens to be attracted to many genders, or all genders - it’s all up to the person! And in the same vein, a bisexual could like all genders. Or maybe just two genders. Or maybe more than two but less than all!
There’s a long and complicated history behind the terms bisexuality and pansexuality, and there will probably never be a clear division between the two. Instead, they’re a sort of twisted up venn diagram with a lot of overlap and a lot of variance in definitions. The upshot of all this is that there is no single “correct” definition for bisexuality and pansexuality. Trying to pin down one and only one will just make people miserable.
And in the end, it’s not out place to police someone else’s identity, to say “no your sexuality is wrong call it this instead”.
And as both a linguistics fan and an asexual, I’m kinda done to death with BS etymological arguments being used to invalidate my identity - “but you can’t be asexual! That word is only for amoebas! And anyway a- means no and sex means sex so it means you have no genitals!” (Pro-tip: that’s not even how the word was derived.). Words mean more than just their roots, and identities are more than just their dictionary definitions. And in the end, people’s sexualities are their own to define, not for others to police.
**Can I just say that I hate the term “special snowflake”? It never bodes well.
some musings inspired from a private conversation I was having a while ago, about the difference between sex and gender:
In the usual usage, as I understand it: “sex” refers to more “biological” characteristics; it refers to the m/f designation assigned to someone at birth based on chromosomes/hormones/genitalia or some combination thereof. “gender” refers to a persons personal ID as male/female/nonbinary/whatever other label. “gender identity” is usually conceived as separate from “gender roles” (traits that society associates with certain genders(or sexes, depending on who you ask)), “gender presentation” - whether a person has a stereotypically “masculine” or “feminine” visual presentation, clothes, etc.
(However, the ways that “gender” is defined can vary from context - gender in trans identity conversations may differ from gender in gender-discrimination based conversations, etc. The only real constant is that gender is not supposed to be dependent on biology.)
Everything after is my own musings:
However, as to what “gender” is once biological and social attributions are removed is something I’m not clear on, as it appears to just be a word with no given connotations. My personal theory is that in practice, “gender” is an identity comprised of and/or informed by both biological and social considerations such as physical sex and cultural expectations of those sex/genders.
In particular, I think of it as something like this: there are certain physical attributes (such as genitals, hormones, secondary sex characteristics, etc; general “male” and “female” characteristics.), which map to certain gender identities(woman, man, etc.), which in turn map to certain social characteristics (such as behaviors, appearances, roles, etc); exact mappings are determined by social context. A person’s gender is a result of them mapping themselves into this based on their physical and cultural traits, and gender dysphoria can occur when an individuals personal mappings don’t match up with the generally accepted mappings.
I also think that “gender” as a concept of it’s own can’t really ever exist without being a factor of physical sex and or cultural roles; although it may not match up with all of those, without them there is nothing to give it substance. So the differences come from which factors are strongest in a given instance.
This is something I’ve been thinking about lately, and what I wonder is this: since it seems to be a commonly accepted opinion that gender identity should not be determined by either physical characteristics or social characteristics, what is left once you strip those away?
Like, if saying “I am a woman” shouldn’t entail having a typically female physiological makeup, or taking on certain social roles, or certain clothing or behaviors or anything…then what does it mean?
This is something that I’ve been sort of musing about recently with regards to my own gender issues. Because for me, when it comes down to it, the only factor really informing my choice of gender label is my physical sex characteristics. I identify as female because that is the body I have; that is how other people perceive and react to me. Other than that, I don’t have any attachment to the label - I don’t feel like a “woman” or anything. If I were to wake one day with typically male genitalia, I would probably consider my gender male.
If anything, if I were asked what my gender is without regard to social or physical aspects, I’d probably just say “gender apathetic”; although I currently label myself as a “female”, that doesn’t mean anything to me other than that that is how other people perceive me. And because of this, I’ve spent some a lot of time questioning my gender -I’ve wondered in the past if maybe that means that I am trans or nonbinary or something - because there was never any kind of innate sense of “I am a woman”. It was just an identity based on how others saw me.
But even with all that…other identities didn’t make any sense either. Sure, I sometimes have discomfort with my chest and prefer to bind, and I often feel alienated in all female spaces, but…for me that had nothing to do with gender identity. It had to do with either purely physical body image issues or with objections to social stereotypes. Calling myself by another label or changing pronouns wouldn’t make a difference in that (which is the main reason I’ve never really pursued the idea of whether I might be trans - transitioning to another gender identity wouldn’t change anything, and the physical transitions are not really worth the side effects for me, so it’s just not a useful identity. )
So I guess what I’m wondering is…for other people, is there some kind of innate sense of gender other than just physical characteristics and socially attributed roles? I can’t tell whether this is really an issue with the way gender/sex are defined (which is my first impression), or if i just shows that maybe there’s something different about the way I experience gender.
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(Cross-posted from my Wordpress)
So in one of my classes recently, we had a guest speaker come in to talk about wikipedia, and one of the points he made that really hit home was that Wikipedia has a huge gender gap problem. For the majority of articles, around 90% are all edits made by men. It’s bad to the point where a 70/30 male/female gender split among editors of a certain page is considered extremely good. When asked of any pages with a majority female editorship, the presenter couldn’t actually think of any examples. And this is kind of a huge problem. Wikipedia is one of the biggest resources for information in the world, and having that be so utterly and completely male-dominated is a little unnerving. However, talking about this made me curious: are there any subjects where women actually dominate? I tried looking for pages that I though might be likely to be majority female: Patriarchy, childbirth, Audre Lorde, tampons…..but all still have a majority of male editors.
Now, to get to point of all this:
Your mission (should you choose to accept it) is to attempt to find articles with at least 300 registered edits, in which the number of edits by women outnumbers the men. (Pages with a majority of women that are under 300 total edits are still of interest, but they are more a side bonus than the main goal. )
A useful tool for searching editor stats is the Wikitrip site: http://sonetlab.fbk.eu/wikitrip/
This is no mean feat. After I showed him the wikitrip tools, fellow ace blogger Andrew went on a hunt for pages of >500 edits with majority female editorship - and found only two. I have been poking around and so far have found only a few pages with female majority, and all of those were very small pages with few edits.
The list so far of >300 pages with majority female editorship include:
-(send me more if you find any!)
Other smaller pages with majority female include:
Diva Cup, Pleats, Vagina Monologues, etc.
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(please try to post comments on the wordpress page in order to keep everthing in one place)
(Note: This was originally written as a reply to this thread on AVEN; it addresses some of my thoughts on the whole issues of Tumblr vs. AVEN and the accusations against AVEN’s “rape culture”. It certainly does not encompass all the issues involved, and there’s a lot more that can and probably should be discussed, but this is intended as at least a starting point. In the spirit of full disclosure, I should probably remind people that I am a member of the AVEN PT, although this post is merely a reflection of my own personal thoughts and not endorsed by AVEN in any way. However, in relation to that, if people have specific comments/complaints/questions/suggestions or anything else about AVEN, I would love to hear them. Also, if anyone has any questions or would like to discuss or have clarified anything I’ve written below, please let me know)
As someone heavily involved in both the AVEN and tumblr sides of things, I think there’s a lot of factors at work here.
Unfortunately, I think one of the biggest reasons that AVEN has such a big reputation for “rape culture” on tumblr is that once the idea started, it’s something that can never be disproved or amended to everyone’s satisfaction. All too often, I see people warning others away from AVEN because it’s a transphobic heterosexist rape culture-y cesspool - only to admit that they’ve never actually been on AVEN. Or they went on it once four years ago. Or they heard from someone who heard from someone. It’s like it’s just become and accepted fact on Tumblr that AVEN is the scum of the earth and no one ever seems to question that.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t problematic stuff on AVEN - there definitely is. Just like there’s problematic stuff on Tumblr, or in real life, or anywhere that people with differing opinions gather. However, I think that the amount of stuff does tend to get exaggerated - people keep citing the same one or two threads (out of hundred), or dredging up posts from several years previously, as reason to forever discount the entire site. And there’s also a lot of vague “I saw transphobic stuff” but without any links or citations or details it’s hard to know what exactly they are referring to, which makes it impossible to verify - and also impossible to fix if we can’t figure out what was so wrong in the first place.
However, aside from the few actually really bad statements that continually get dredged up, I think a lot of the accusations just result from idealogical differences.
As discussed before, differing issues on “compromise” and whether unenthusiastic consent is valid are certainly one of the major points. In fact, several accusations of rape culture do trace back to instances where asexuals have discussed compromising about sex because they think it would help their relationship. And I think what happens is that there are some people on tumblr who would never want to have sex for that reason, but forget that not everyone feels the same - they know that they would never consent to sex in a relationship without coercion, so they assume that anyone who is consenting (or considering consenting) to sex in such a situation must therefore also be coerced, and have troubling imaging a case where it would not be coercion.
Of course, that is not always the case - I for one am an ace who would definitely be willing to consent to sex in order to get/maintain a relationship, or because a partner wanted it, or many other reasons that I know others would not - and for me, it would be completely consensual and not coerced. However, it can be hard to completely understand another persons motivations, and so it may be hard to really get that for some people, it is not coercion or rape. And that’s an issue that goes both way. For example, it can be extremely difficult for some to understand why intense persuasion (enough to be coercion) would be considered rape. I admit to this myself - as someone who is not really vulnerable to emotional pressure at all, it can be hard for me to understand why people don’t “just say no” - even if I can somewhat understand it on a theoretical level, it just clashes with my own experience so much that it’s hard to completely wrap my head around it.
I think another thing that plays a large part in the tumblr/AVEN conflict is the difference in the way that problematic statements on the two platforms are dealt with. On tumblr,the general response to anything deemed “problematic” is to “call it out” - a response which can be anything from politely reasoned responses to just hurling insults. Whether beneficial or not, this kind of response is very visible, instant and self gratifying. It gives people a satisfaction that “rape culture” (or whatever else the issue is) has been properly objected to.
AVEN, on the other hand, has moderation that is relatively invisible. Warns and nudges are not public, so there isn’t as much of a visceral sense of “punishment” for the alleged wrongdoers. And so since the evidence of responses to “rape culture” may be largely invisible, people may often assume that it isn’t there at all (which is not true).
Related to this is another thing that seems to anger certain parts of the tumblr crowd, which is when they are reprimanded for “calling out” problematic statements the way they are used to doing on tumblr. The problem with that style of call out is not the calling out itself, but when call-outs become personal attacks on other users. One of the goals of AVEN is to try and make it as safe as is feasible for all members - not just the ones who agree with you. However, many people who are used to the tumblr style of unmoderated, community response don’t completely understand why their call-outs have been, in return called out. They just see it as a defense of “rape culture” rather than a defense of the person’s right to not be harrassed, regardless of opinion.
However, I do think that there is a good reason for things to be this way on AVEN. Although the tumblr call-out culture can be rather satisfying, it can also be incredibly harmful. There are a lot of people who are less familiar with asexuality (or other subjects) who get harassed for accidentally saying something ignorant because they didn’t know better, or who get insulted and abused because they didn’t happen to “toe-the party line”. The end result is that people who are confused or don’t know much are often too intimidated to try and figure out what they ever did wrong.
(There’s an excellent article about the problems of tumblr call-out culture here)
And all too often on tumblr, disagreements with statements escalate into attacks on the person: i.e. “so-and-so said they think sex is a reasonable expectation in a relationship, they’re a terrible heterosexist rape-culture apologist asexual-hater who should never be allowed to enter any asexual community ever again”; there’s also a lot of call-out culture that comes way to close to just being bullying and aggression.
Of course, there are pitfalls to the AVEN system too: the invisibility of it means that it’s not always clear when things have been addressed, and being civil to everyone even if you completely disagree with everything they say can be stifling. So, for some people, the AVEN style just isn’t what suits them - just as the Tumblr culture just doesn’t work for a lot of people. I don’t think that necessarily means that one system is better than the other, but I do think that it does contribute to why many people on each site distrust the other.
And a then there’s just a couple other miscellaneous things that I see popping up sometimes. One is that I think part of the issue is that AVEN has a much longer “memory” for old posts and such - post on AVEN stay accessible, and people will keep seeing them. Tumblr, on the other hand, moves at such a rapid pace that anything offensive disappears from memory and attention within a couple hours, and so no one cares - or even notices - if nothing is done. As such, things that would pass unnoticed on tumblr are zeroed in on on AVEN.
The other difference, I think, is that people may simply have higher expectations of AVEN. On tumblr, because it is an open, unmoderated community, offensive statements or statements that are disagreed with can be dismissed as just “haters” or “trolls” or stupid heterosexists/transhaters/bigots - but basically, things can often be blamed on “outsiders”. On the other hand, on AVEN, a primarily asexual community, it’s harder to dismiss things, and there’s also a pressure to be the “unassailable asexual”, to be an enlightened group of individuals free from all prejudice. And while I think it’s good for people to have high expectations, I think that they forget that being part of a minority doesn’t automatically make a person completely prejudice-free and completely understanding of the situations and etiquette of other minorities. The people on AVEN are people the same as elsewhere, and there may be people who have different views, or who may be ignorant of a lot of things - just like the rest of the universe. I think that needs to accepted, and it’s a reason to try and educate people, but give them chances to learn instead of demonizing them or exiling them forever.
tl;dr: I don’t think that AVEN is particularly rape culture-y, but I do think that differences in ideology and attittudes between AVEN and tumblr can escalate conflicts, and that a lot of misunderstandings and assumptions have caused AVENs supposed reputation for rape culture to be greatly and unfairly exaggerated there.
Or even a list of posts? or links?
Whenever the whole “Are aces queer?” debate comes up, there are always some really moving and detailed responses from aces telling their stories of why they identify as queer, and it seems like something that would be good to preserve - perhaps something like how there are collections of queer people’s coming out stories, or the experiences of PoC queer people, or similar collections. It’s something that can show the human side of the argument, and can be a resource for aces who ID as queer, or are considering it, to see stories and thoughts like their’s, and maybe a even a sort of haven from the eternal wars over the label (although that may just be wishful thinking).
Is that a project that people think would be good to start?