There’s enough normativity-policing in the world already, thanks

I’m considering whether to make a new rule for moderation: any comment that says “Real [FOO] do/don’t [BAR]”  just doesn’t get approved.

Or at least not without extremely close scrutiny of the poking it to see what pops out and holding it up to the light to see what bounces off it from different angles variety, since I guess I can imagine perhaps maybe approving something along the lines of  “Real Dementors don’t dance” etc. when it’s discussing fictional characters who embody a well delineated archetype.  Something like “Real Lawyers Do Change Their Briefs” or “Real Heroes Don’t Wear Capes” etc might get a run, on a good day.  Otherwise?  Not so much.

As the post title says – there’s enough fucking normativity-policing in the world already, thanks. I don’t have to let it get published here.  Telling people that they are Doin’ It Rong because they are doing it differently than people do it on the telly, or in books, or (Blob forbid) differently than you did it?  Who made you the This Is How It Is police?

There is no One True Way that everybody responds to the same stimulus, because there are always different circumstances surrounding what might look like the same stimulus, and a lot of those circumstances are going to be a person’s internalised beliefs about how the world works for them, built up over years of that person’s life, that you know 1% of a nanoparticle of fuck-nothing about, and even if you did still wouldn’t guarantee that they would react the exact same way as somebody else with a similar background.

This rant has been brought to you by people who should know better engaging in second-guessing rape complainants, because apparently they know just how every rape victim ever “should” react/behave following a sexual assault.

But that’s not the only post today where somebody’s made a Real [Foo] don’t [Bar] statement.  It’s always out of order, and when I see it I won’t allow those comments to stand on my blog.  That is all.

Categories: ethics & philosophy, language, Sociology

Tags: , ,

14 replies

  1. At the moment I am, of course, all too tempted to give leeway to statements like “real progressives wouldn’t trivialise rape complaints just because they admire the accused” (*cough*NaomiWolfMichaelMooreKeithOlbermann*cough*) but I can see the problems with letting even that thin end of the wedge into position. Energy spent arguing about who is real and who isn’t is energy not spent on finding solutions to social problems.
    I’ll limit myself to saying that such progressives who can’t walk and chew gum at the same time on the Assange rape allegations are not progressives that I particularly trust any more, and their continued refusal to correct their errors of actual fact is ethically infuriating.

  2. Real me’s (Is there an actual plural to me? Must remember to ask my plural friends; we might work?) don’t make generalizations.
    Except I do all the time. But I won’t hold that against me, ever.

    • Yes, well I think there are generalisations and Generalisations, surely. The intensifier “Real” adds a whole heap of policing to what is otherwise a normal and useful tool of categorisation.

  3. Oh, I fully agree. The type of generalizations you are talking about generally anger me greatly as well. All too many of them hit me and I am nothing if not unique. ^.^

  4. You f*cking said it, Tigtog. I am so sick of that shit this week. What makes me mad is that either the person has experienced rape, so they think Everyone_Should_Act_Like_Them, or they haven’t, and they’re taking the word of the rape victims that agree with them. Which is vomit-inducing cause, hello! There’s a world of rape victims that are telling you otherwise, and you’re not listening to THEM, are you? Grrr. Can I smash stuff with you?

    • @Napalmnacey, absolutely you can smash stuff with me.
      Some people don’t realise that because of the rape myths that underpin rape culture, it can actually take quite some time for victims to realise that what happened to them was a deliberate manipulative coercion that in some jurisdictions, and in most ethics systems, meets the definition of rape.
      For me, I didn’t fully acknowledge the sexual coercion that took place until I happened to catch a ferry to the same part of Sydney Harbour as part of a weekend family excursion more than ten years later. I stood there shaking with PTSD flashbacks that totally floored me because I’d buried those memories so deeply. He told me there was a party where there’d be lots of other people from the pub, when I got there the house was empty besides us and he’d transformed into this cold and frightening figure – acquiescing seemed less traumatic than the unsaid but clearly nonverbally indicated probability that he wouldn’t let me leave the house unless I had sex with him.
      If I’d known then what I know now (and if I’d known his full name) you bet I would have laid a complaint. But at the time I was so convinced that I’d done something wrong, that trusting someone to be a decent human being that respected my dignity was such a stupid mistake that nobody would believe that he hadn’t been justified in terrorising me into acquiescing, that I just left in the morning grateful that I hadn’t been bashed, and then tried very hard not to think about it, until that day when I caught a ferry to the same wharf.
      Fuck anybody who says that somebody else taking a few days or a few weeks to realise that they’d been maliciously assaulted is not Right or Normal. Fuck That Noise.

  5. If this is in reference to my comment on the breastfeeding thread, I was trying to be ironic, but clearly I failed. I apologise for causing upset, and I’ll try to make my meaning clearer in future.

  6. Aqua: To me, your comment in that thread is clearly critical of normativity-policing, not supportive of it. There’s a whole other comment on a different topic (napalmnacey’s comment will give you a clue) – now no longer visible, as individual thread authors may choose to decline to publish unacceptable content – on another thread that’s (one of) the problem(s).
    You’re cool.

    • Absolutely, Aqua – your comment was fine. If I’d had problems with it, I’d either have unapproved it or challenged it on thread.

  7. Interesting. My local council here in London has just launched an anti-sexual assault campaign using the tagline “real men know the difference”.
    I really like it because it directly addresses the rhetoric rapists and rape apologists use “get it on/get off me”, “come back to my place/back off”, “harmless fun/sexual assault”, “flirting/harrassment”, and places the responsibility on attackers rather than victims.
    At the same time, I can acknowledge that talking about “real men” is problematic – for all the reasons you listed in your post. I think in this case it works, though, because sexual assault behaviours are so often embedded in false assumptions about how men and women ought to behave.
    Not the point of your post, I know – but I thought I’d share.

  8. Building on what Rachel said:
    It’s interesting that we (societal hive mind) appeal to a positive meaning of man, in the sense of “Real Men Do/n’t [x]”, in order to make an anti-sexist point as well as to reinforce sexism. Trying to do the equivalent for other axes of identity by inscribing an oppressor identity with positive value (“Real White People Don’t Use the N-Word”) would probably not go over so well.

  9. Perhaps because a white person is a white person all their life, while a man is something that a male child becomes – and therefore, there’s more room to invent narratives about what shape that becoming should take. And more room to portray it as an achievement if those narratives are followed (and more room for Jennifer Kesler’s cult of masculinity, because Jennifer Kesler’s writing can’t be recommended often enough).

  10. I’m happy to hear I did convey my intended meaning. I was left in doubt because it suddenly occurred to me that I dislike the “Real Men/Women Do/Don’t [Foo]” trope so much (including when it’s being used in anti-sexism campaigns, sorry Rachel and Willow) that I sometimes think of my gender identity as “Not A Real Woman”. And not everyone is up for that level of challenging social norms.
    And of course, that tactic isn’t available when it’s rape victims being discussed. “Not A Real Rape Victim” can’t be reclaimed ironically. And I don’t want to imagine under what circumstances it might be possible.
    I don’t know if Julian Assange is guilty of rape. But every new statement out of his mouth confirms my impression that women should avoid having sex with him, because he just seems to have no respect for women when it comes to sex at all.

  11. I hear ya AotQ. I would also suggest that many of the commenters complaining that they can’t tell the difference between consent and not consenting should also refrain from sex with anyone but themselves just in case they also find themselves in trouble.
    General note to such commenters (not usually seen on HAT but rife in other parts of the Blogosphere): Sure I get that some partners would just prefer to get down to it rather than have long consultations beforehand, but at some stage you need to have that long consultation so that you know, without doubt that when your partner gives you a double wink or whatever your code is that what they want is *whatever they have previously discussed with you as being what they want* and you don’t need to worry about long consultations about consent because you have already agreed between the two (or however many consenting adults) what that code means. Of course they could just have something in their eye, but I’m sure that if they told you that then you’d stop. Consent does not mean long negotiations between partners everytime but it does mean caring enough to make sure that they want to be doing this, however that is done.
    The failure to say no is not consent. If that’s your argument then the next time I drive your car and you claim I stole it my defence would be that you didn’t tell me not to, so in the absence of your direct ‘no’ I drove your car. (SotBO – I have not actually taken and driven anyone’s car without their permission. Except that time that my parents were on holiday and my dad said I wasn’t to drive the car, but mum said I could as long as I didn’t crash it and put it back in the garage so dad didn’t know.)

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