I recently attended a meeting on trans inclusion in the Occupy movement (specifically in an around Grand Rapids), co-hosted by Occupy GR and the Transgender Education Collaboration.
Problems? Oh, this meeting had them. But for the purposes of expediency, I will focus on the most general, and those that are most applicable to other situations.
Namely, these are: noble-principle bigotry and the suit and tie fallacy.
[TW for descriptions of sexist, transphobic & classist tropes]
Noble-principle bigotry sometimes goes by the name concern trolling, but a little googling reveals that people have different definitions of concern trolling, so I wanted to commit something a little bit more concrete to (electronic) paper.
I’ll start where I’ve been starting with a lot of things lately: with an example from “The X-Files.” (Yes, I am twenty years behind on this show. Don’t hate.)
In an episode I saw recently, Agent Dana Scully was about to perform an autopsy relating to her case when the local police dbag expressed his discomfort with assigning female agents to “certain kinds of cases.” Says big bad local policeman: “I’m not being sexist, I’m just telling the truth.”
I was really hoping Scully would say, “They’re not mutually exclusive,” or “Well, one of those things is true.” (Sadly, she didn’t say anything.)
This is a classic example of noble-principle bigotry, a general term for bigotry that uses alleged concern for marginalized people to justify said bigotry. It is not a tasty treat.
How does noble-principle bigotry tie in with the Occupy meeting? Well, one of the attendees – a white cis man – actually argued that trans people might get attacked at Occupy encampments, so there shouldn’t be Occupy encampments.
One of the essential features of noble-principle bigotry is victim-blaming. In this case: other people hate you, so don’t go there. Not: other people hate you, so I’m going to take an active part in this meeting which is FUCKING ABOUT trans inclusion in Occupy so that I can educate myself about how to be a better ally and to make Occupy less fucking problematic. Nope. It’s yr fault people hate you, kthxgetout.
I have no doubt that this guy was convinced that he was saying some righteous shit, all the while (willfully?) unaware that he was parroting the bigotry he was allegedly criticizing. The existence of bigotry is not a valid excuse to further marginalize marginalized people. WHY DO I EVEN HAVE TO SAY THIS SHIT?
This comment was part of a larger discussion about discomfort with the appearance of camps to the outside world – especially the one percent. How “dirty” people made the movement “look bad” and were just a “distraction.”
IE, this movement of people who are institutionally economically oppressed should really, just, ya know, look less fucking institutionally economically oppressed.
This brings me to what I call the suit and tie fallacy – the unfounded and ridiculous but rampant belief that, if you can scrounge up enough money for a white-collar costume, people will start clambering to join your movement.
The suit and tie fallacy rose to prominence in the pre-Stonewall gay rights movement. The Mattachine Society and the Daughters of Bilitis – the two leading and really two of the only national gay rights organizations before Stonewall – had strict dress codes for their members, especially at rallies.
Now, it is important to understand the political and legal context of pre-Stonewall America. It was illegal to cross-dress at the time, and you had to be wearing at least three articles of clothing associated with the gender you were assigned at birth at all times, or you could face arrest. This statute was routinely employed when raiding gay bars – the only central hub of gay life at the time.
Having said that, it’s not like you need to be wearing a suit and tie or a smart skirt suit to show that you are complying with the gender police. That is an extra imposition – a ridiculous, classist one – that movementarians of many kinds have imposed on themselves and others in the decades since.
The Human Rights Campaign could take every gay man in America to Brooks Brothers and every lesbian to Macy’s and march them up and down Pennsylvania Avenue in duds that cost more than what me and my friends make in a month and people would still be homophobic.
Look, it’s rational to assume that people who would pay someone else to wipe their cars with your clothes might like you more if you dressed more like them, but take it from the gay rights movement (which won’t even take it form itself): it might be rational (in a certain light), but sixty years of experience shows us it doesn’t. fucking. work.
To review: two wrongs don’t make a right and WHY DO I HAVE TO KEEP SAYING THIS SHIT?
Stay tuned for our next installment of allegedly progressive fuckery, in which I shall tackle: what do you want (and how long can we postpone it)?