Using my privilege to interrogate yours

This is not a piece about Ben Pobjie. Nor is it about Justin Shaw, nor Gail Dines nor porn culture. This is a piece about what happens when feminists challenge those who would describe a feminist academic’s work as ‘hysterical screeching’. It is also a recap of a discussion on Twitter two nights ago where this actually happened.

Two nights ago on Twitter, Mike Brull (@mikeb476) challenged Justin Shaw (@juzzytribune) for referring to academic and anti-porn activist Gail Dines’ ‘hysterical screeching’ in an article Shaw wrote for the Kings Tribune. As I watched, the two squared off into what appeared to be pretty aggressive corners. I agreed with Brull’s critique, but admittedly, not with his debating technique, which I thought was a bit inflammatory, and so potentially unproductive.

This is not the beginning, but it’s a good place to start this very long post. These are between Brull and Shaw, with a very helpful interjection from @theriverfed:

@mikeb476: @juzzytribune Calling a woman “hysterical” b/c she’s too angry for you is like calling a woman “slut” b/c you think she’s too promiscuous

@juzzytribune: @mikeb476 Are you saying the word should be banned from use now?

@theriverfed: @juzzytribune Butting in, I would say ‘Choose more precise, less loaded words.” Feminism aside, hyperbole is bad writing. @mikeb476

@juzzytribune: @theriverfed yeah I’ll wear that. It’s my style tho. I usually yell about sport, where hyperbole don’t matter so much..

Then @cosmicjester made a contribution:

@cosmicjester: @juzzytribune haha @mikeb476 taking issue with a single word. Guess you didn’t get it approved by the PC thought police juzzy.

@mikeb476: @cosmicjester Oh life must be tough under the weight of oppression, someone not liking a few words b/c of their history and connotations.

This is when I joined the debate. What follows are the tweets between me (@tammois), @juzzytribune, @benpobjie and some from @mikestuchbery.

There were many many more contributions from a lot of people, and many were not just uncharitable, they were rude and insulting, while plenty attempted to engage in a civil discussion as well. There are far too many for me to collate here, so I have elected to share those between the primary debaters, and have included some from @mikestuchbery although he never engaged with me or directly in the debate, merely made snarky, ‘gaslighting‘ comments from the sideline.

(NB I think it would be great if someone wrote about what happens when a number of people jump in, especially when the numbers are imbalanced on one side – some call it a ‘mob’ or ‘pile-on’, but I think it’s worth further analysis. And if anyone has tweets they think are essential to this discussion that I’ve missed, please insert them in the comments to round out the picture.)

@tammois: @cosmicjester oh, CJ, it’s times like this I lose faith. Seems @mikeb476 is defending women from a sloppy sexist attack by @juzzytribune ½

@tammois: @cosmicjester @mikeb476 then @juzzytribune conceded ‘wrong word’ but defended his right to use it. Sure, has right, as M does to say ‘wrong’

@juzzytribune: @tammois @cosmicjester I use “hysterical” in the generic non-gender sense. Could as easily used “over the top” or “feverish”.

@tammois: @cosmicjester @mikeb476 @juzzytribune I must be careful as haven’t read the article, but ‘hysterical’, ‘shrill’, ‘slut’ all not okay with me

@juzzytribune: @tammois BTW, my attack was not sexist in any way, other than an extrapolation of my use of the word “hysterical”.

@tammois: @juzzytribune I believe you when you say you believe your ‘attack wasn’t sexist’, but that doesn’t make it true… @mikeb476 @cosmicjester

@tammois: @juzzytribunebut I guess my response to calling women you disagree with hysterical has so much historical baggage, I think it’s not okay.

At this stage, @juzzytribune involves @benpobjie:

@juzzytribune: @benpobjie you ready for the hate, big guy? It’s started…

@juzzytribune: @benpobjie our p0rn pieces. I’m a sexist pig, you’re (as usual) making rape jokes..

Then returns to the debate:

@juzzytribune: @mikeb476 @cosmicjester @tammois don’t fucking misquote me. I said “stingy jew bastard” would be wrong, but “stingy bastard” no problem.

@tammois: @juzzytribune ‘hysterical’, like ‘shrill’, has been used as a way to be reductive of women’s contributions to debate, so I wouldn’t use it.

@juzzytribune: @tammois conceded. As I said, I used it in a generic sense. could’ve/should’ve used “fevered” or similar instead…

@tammois: @juzzytribune yes, I think it’s just that these words have way too much baggage & *appear* to be a perpetuation of misogyny, hence concerns.

@tammois: @juzzytribune so perhaps the easiest thing to respond to @mikeb476 is just what you did – could have used other word – bc that word was bad?

@tammois: @juzzytribune it’s a trigger for social justice folk, when someone calls you out, reckon is best to admit to error of judgment & not repeat

@juzzytribune: @tammois done and done.

@tammois: @juzzytribune apols if I sound a bit schoolmarmish. Not trying to be patronising, just to help.

@tammois: @juzzytribune 🙂

And that should have been it, right? @juzzytribune had accepted the feminist critique as valid and it was really not a big stoush. On the sidelines, @mikestuchbery gets involved:

@mikestuchbery: @cosmicjester @juzzytribune Really a waste of time arguing with those two. Unpleasant, arrogant jerks.

@juzzytribune: @mikestuchbery MB, yeah… t’other?

@mikestuchbery: @juzzytribune Humourless Marxist

Now @benpobjie enters the discussion which had just concluded.

@benpobjie: @mikeb476 @cosmicjester @tammois @juzzytribuneif a Jew is stingy why can’t you say they are stingy? And if a woman is hysterical…

@tammois: @benpobjie @mikeb476 @cosmicjester @juzzytribune surely it’s best to acknowledge why someone isn’t forthcoming w $$ re stingy 1/2

@tammois: @benpobjie @mikeb476 @cosmicjester @juzzytribune & actually engage w a woman (or man)’s argument rather than labelling it ‘hysterical’?

@tammois: @benpobjie @mikeb476 @cosmicjester @juzzytribune these sorts of adjectives are a refuge for unwillingness to debate issues, IMO.

@tammois: @benpobjie @mikeb476 @cosmicjester @juzzytribune and I say that having called ppl ‘crazy shouty ppl’ a few times. But happy to be called out

@juzzytribune: @tammois thx. so what word could/should I have used/use in follow-up piece to describe Dines’ screeching?

@tammois: @juzzytribune to be honest, ‘screeching’ is a bit of a cheap shot as well, given, you know, it’s used about women…

@juzzytribune: @tammois seriously? Check my Drum pieces, I use it about men as well, and screeching is what it was..

@tammois: @cosmicjester @benpobjie @mikeb476 @juzzytribuneI don’t know the Dines piece, but surely ‘inciting moral panic’ will do?

@benpobjie: @tammois @mikeb476 @cosmicjester @juzzytribune in that case we can’t use any insults at all. If “hysterical” is accurate I say use it.

@tammois: @benpobjie that’s a pretty boring answer to critique, I reckon. You know, humourless left, etc. @mikeb476 @cosmicjester @juzzytribune

@benpobjie: My next column will be the words “Lighten the fuck up” repeated 250 times.

@benpobjie: @tammois @mikeb476 @cosmicjester @juzzytribune “use words to accurately describe things” is boring? Christ, sorry for the tedium.

@tammois: @benpobjie okay, Ben, do it. Tell me how ‘hysterical’ is accurate & productive. @mikeb476 @cosmicjester @juzzytribune

@benpobjie: @tammois… if any of these definitions apply to a person, “hysterical” is an accurate description. Easy.

@tammois: @benpobjie oh, wow, and you can’t see how calling a woman ‘uncontrollably emotional’ and ‘irrational’ is not okay? really?!

@benpobjie: @tammois are you saying women are never uncontrollably emotional or irrational? They are super-beings immune to these things?

@tammois: @benpobjie I am saying that to discount a woman’s contribution to debate that way is pernicious & unacceptable.

@tammois: @benpobjie I would think such behaviour is more common in the home than in a published piece of work, whether you agree with it or not.

@benpobjie: @tammois it may be more common – but Gail Dines’s work is irretrievably hysterical. It’s a very accurate descriptor of what she does.

@benpobjie: @tammois but it’s not necessarily discounting anything – if anyone’s contribution IS hysterical, why not call them on it?

@tammois: @benpobjie by what judgement do you decree that someone who has a considered (though anathema) position is ‘hysterical’?

@benpobjie: @tammois @cosmicjester @mikeb476 @juzzytribune what use is “stupid” to civil debate? Yet if someone says something stupid I’ll say so

@tammois: @benpobjie not saying we don’t all use unhelpful adjectives sometimes. But gee we should do better @cosmicjester @mikeb476 @juzzytribune

@tammois: @benpobjie and you know, if you want to call people stupid and hysterical, I guess you can, but it’s damaging & unproductive.

@benpobjie: It’s a blocky kind of evening. Also an I-hate-you kind of evening.

@benpobjie: @tammois by what judgment do YOU decree that someone’s position is “considered”?

@tammois: @benpobjie no more so than anything I read on the interwebz, really. But like to give the benefit of the doubt. Which I’m doing here x 1000.

@tammois: @benpobjie you know, we have a lot of followers, Ben. We could ask the women how they feel about hysterical.

@benpobjie: @tammois why? Is your opinion dependent on what other people tell you?

@benpobjie: @tammois if you think hysterical is the wrong word, put your case. Don’t pull this “sexist” nonsense to avoid having to.

@tammois: @benpobjieare you kidding? That’s your new approach to say I’ve not built one against hysterical as critique?

@benpobjie: @tammois point is, you say something is considered, I say it’s hysterical. We disagree. But neither of us is being bigoted.

@benpobjie: @tammois no, that you haven’t built one against it being accurate in a particular case. So you just issue a blanket ban on it.

@tammois: @benpobjie okay, Ben, sorry. Here we go. Your long history of white male privilege is totally blinding you here.

@tammois: @benpobjie I read plenty of things I think are very wrong, but still ‘considered’ in their fashion, as in come from a person with thoughts

@tammois: @benpobjie I guess there is a pretty good reason for dropping certain words until power structures change, yes.

@benpobjie: #block #fuckyou “@tammois: @benpobjie okay, Ben, sorry. Here we go. Your long history of white male privilege is totally blinding you here.”

@tammois: .@benpobjie that is really sad, Ben. Really really disappointing. This was an opportunity. This is your technique, hey? ‘#block #fuckyou

@tammois: Wow. I’ve never been blocked before that I know of? And certainly not by someone I don’t even follow. Hope others gained something.

@benpobjie: Anyone else want to be a fucking moron to me tonight? Anyone? Feel free.

@benpobjie: .@tammois it was an opportunity until you posted a tweet so stupid it brought home the futility of engaging you.

@benpobjie: @tammois sadly my twitter won’t let me block you so your idiocy continues to clog my feed.

@tammois: @benpobjie it is really unfortunate that you don’t want to engage with people when they tell you how they exp words, given you have a voice.

@juzzytribune: @tammois is there a parallel between accusing a white man of inherent blindness and accusing a woman of hysteria?

@tammois: No. RT @juzzytribune: @tammoisis there a parallel between accusing a white man of inherent blindness and accusing a woman of hysteria?

@juzzytribune: @tammois ok then.

@tammois: RT @mikestuchbery: Lovely of @BenPobjie& @JuzzyTribunevia @KingsTribune to highlight the how intolerant & pigheaded some Lefties can be.

@tammois: Nice one by @mikestuchbery there – of course it’s ‘intolerant & pigheaded’ of the left to point out intolerance. Very clever, Mike.

@benpobjie: Protip: don’t bother arguing with someone who decided your gender makes you incapable of being right before you start.

@benpobjie: @tammois I don’t engage with those who predetermined that I have nothing worthwhile to say because I’m male. Because it’s pointless.

@tammois: @benpobjie that’s not very helpful. I engaged w you respectfully at all stages, & don’t remotely think men have nothing to offer.

@tammois: @benpobjie that’s a total cop out. but your total unwillingness to listen indicated that you have *no idea* of your own privilege.

@benpobjie: Don’t call hysterical people hysterical. Don’t call stupid people stupid. Don’t call arseholes arseholes. Fuck that for a laugh.

@tammois: @benpobjie do you realise you have choices her beyond ‘STOP IT I AM NOT SEXIST I SWEAR I AM NICE’? There is also, ‘wow, thx for the input’

@tammois: @benpobjie bc, you know, I didn’t really think you were a terrible sexist. But defending reductive abuse of women isn’t very helpful.

Then people commence with the dismissive jokes about feminism.

@benpobjie:@cyenne40 misogynist album

@benpobjie: @tammois you don’t know me. You don’t know what I do. You don’t know what I think. You don’t have a fucking clue about me. So fuck off.

@tammois: @benpobjie I am not judging you – I’m judging your current words & response to critique *of somebody else’s writing*, btw.

@tammois: @benpobjie I don’t want you to feel bad, or that I think things about you. I just want you to *hear us* when we say don’t call us hysterical

@benpobjie: Twitter has finally allowed me to block @tammois and free my feed of her patronising sexist gibberish, thank Christ

@tammois: For those who follow me, I hope this has been helpful to understand structures of privilege & why it’s not cool to call women hysterical.

@tammois: Nor ‘shrill’, nor ‘sluts’… give me more, everyone, & I’ll RT.

@benpobjie: @crazybrave @ellymc nobody explained privilege because it didn’t need explaining. I’m very familiar with it thank you, patronising tosser

@benpobjie: The world is filled with petty witless fools who’d rather masturbate over their own superiority complex than have an original thought.

As I collected these tweets, I saw a couple where people had asked @juzzytribune what was going on. I’d like to highlight that his responses appear respectful and civil, as they had earlier.

@juzzytribune: @TudorGrrrl I used the “H” word, which started all this…. and I’ve clarified and acknowledged I should have used a non-gender word.. 🙂

Sadly, @mikestuchbery (and others) chose to continue with dismissive acerbity of the ‘feminism is stupid’ variety:

@mikestuchbery: @jeremysear @JaneTribune @benpobjie You are a male. It will take a whippersnipper to your goolies & send you to a site on male privilege.

@mikestuchbery: @Twinarp @benpobjie Your derp privilege is derping you both to the derp.

Though consistency seems not to have been his aim:

@mikestuchbery: @JackieK_ Her initial criticism was fine & cogent. It was the resulting pile on with Brull & others on Ben & Justin I found distasteful.

Finally, this:

@mikestuchbery: @benpobjie Some of us admire your persistence in not losing your cool at the bullies, chancers & zealots.

To wrap up:

This all relates to my post on dissent and intellectual honesty (which was cross-posted to the Drum), except that this is specifically around gendered language. The history of hysteria is basically that women’s uteruses make us irrational. There’s more, but brevity is called for here. But let me attempt to articulate concerns around usage in this case.

Dines (or Greer, or any female commentator) says a thing (or things) that someone doesn’t like, in this case, that porn culture is bad. Perhaps she is passionate on the topic, a bit like Tony Abbott wound up about the price on carbon, but these are women. So some people (not just men) say she is being ‘hysterical’, which means ‘uncontrollably emotional’ or ‘irrational’. It is a deeply gendered term – try to imagine it being applied to men, and in most cases you can’t, unless it’s to queer men. In Shaw’s case, he didn’t just say ‘hysterical’, he said ‘hysterical screechings’. So in the first paragraph of his article, he has given us a position on Dines where anything else we read about her, she is a banshee character, so out of control she’s a danger to not only herself, but probably others.

Let’s say Shaw had said, ‘Dines is trying to incite moral panic’. In this example, Dines is a rational actor with an aim, not an out of control woman not to be taken seriously. In the second example, we do take her seriously, but we may just as easily reach a conclusion that we disagree with her position on porn culture as if we thought she was actually hysterical. The key difference is that Shaw hasn’t robbed her of agency and put her back into that female box of irrationality, emotions, tears and hormones.

Calling a male writer hysterical is just as unproductive to civil debate as calling a woman hysterical. But to call a man hysterical doesn’t have the historical baggage that leads to this act of continuing to marginalise women from public debate.

I have been challenged for calling a man out for being ‘blinded by his (white) male privilege’, as I did Pobjie when he grew more and more belligerent and unwilling to enter into productive discourse. Pointing out privilege is not remotely the same thing as calling a woman hysterical. Privilege is about power, being labeled ‘hysterical’ is about usurping power.

It is far too common a position for people who don’t want their privilege contested or acknowledged to insist they are being oppressed. We’ve all heard the undergrads who, upon learning of the ‘women’s room’, start up a culture of ridicule and demand a parallel ‘men’s room’. Because they’re being marginalised by women seeking a place to retreat from masculine aggression.

I looked at the timelines of a number of people yesterday. There has been a long stream of ‘oh, no, we’re sexist’, ‘don’t say gender, bc then we’re acknowledging gender’, and other such witticisms. They’ve even started a #hysteriagate tag – another tactic to silence dissent.

It’s hard to believe that we still live in a world where people feel so comfortable to retreat to (a very public twitter timeline) space where they make a number of sexist jokes to make themselves feel better about dismissing critique.

Ridicule the women who told you we felt ridiculed. Yeah, that’s really grappling with your male privilege.

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Tammi Jonas

The infrequent and imperfect yet impassioned musings of a farmer, meatsmith, mother, wife, sister, daughter, friend and cultural commentator with a penchant for food and community.

70 thoughts on “Using my privilege to interrogate yours”

  1. Was this the prompt for the post on intellectual honesty and dissent? If people are working as writers it amazes me that they underestimate the significance of words!

  2. I think the real tragedy here is that his article actually DID address her argument. Despite a pretty dodgy beginning, his article was good and didn’t resort to anything even unconsciously approaching sexism again.

  3. I’m in the “like all the participants” camp (or at least nearly all of them), and so I’m really not interested in who said what to whom – I can’t bring myself to throw judgement on anyone. But in the larger perspective, I think it’s a useful discussion to work out how we help people see their (my) privilege when they (I) can’t, without invoking the defensive response.

    Tammi, do you have any thoughts on what we can do here? Because It’s a big issue in my life. In the real world, I’m often faced with something I want to call out, but I want them to see the problem, I don’t want to humiliate them – and I know that was your motivation too. I’d love to see a discussion on how to do this more effectively.

  4. I can’t believe you thought for a moment that my goal was to convince you of something! It really wasn’t about you – I believe I was in discussion with Zoe and Lori. Suddenly you manifest as director and critique all our performances, with the criterion being whether or not we’ve convinced you! I hope you don’t think that’s engaging with your peers.

    I’m always cautious about people who think any discussion is all about convincing them. I’m never interested in convincing anyone of anything, I’m not a missionary. I just like to put my POV, take it or leave it. People who think they are so important others must want to convince them of something are people to beware of, in my experience.

    I find it hard to believe that you are apparently quite incapable of seeing that your “reading” of Justin’s “reading” is just as silencing as you claim his to be! He said hysteria and screeching, you said misogyny and sexism. You claim your language to be superior to his dullardly “hyperbole” and this inexplicably matters, in spite of the fact that the end result in both situations is the silencing of others.

    We can silence with ideological sophistication or we can silence with something a little more crude. It’s still silencing. I’m amused that apparently your concern is not entirely with the issue of silencing,at least when you are the one doing it, but rather with the quality of the language with which the silencing is accomplished.

    In my opinion Shaw’s article, which apparently you didn’t bother to read before creating this ludicrous thing you call an “ordeal” (this is what you call an “ordeal? Wow. You are privileged) is an important one.

    It’s extremely unfortunate that you decided that two words in the second paragraph you found objectionable justified you refusing to read on, refusing to consider the content of the piece, and doing everything you could to distract from that content by creating a pseudo feminist shit storm about those two words. I read this as a frenzied struggle to wrest control of language, not just from a couple of men, but from a whole lot of women as well.

    And what about your total dismissal of Shaw’s contribution to the pornography debate? A writer uses two words you don’t like, and that’s it? You don’t care what Shaw had to say, you object to the two words so strenuously that you have no compunction at all about ignoring the other the fifteen hundred or so, no matter that they are about a topic we all very much need to discuss, an area of life in which misogyny and sexism are cruelly rampant.

    But no, you choose instead to focus on the offense caused to you personally by two words, rather than the much much bigger issues raised by the article.

    What has ben silenced is the debate about porn. Well done. What a triumph for media critique.

    Chasey makes some perceptive points. Unfortunately she sounds rather upset. I’m a little staggered by your self aggrandizement I must admit. It would be funny if it wasn’t so sad.

    I can’t respect a woman, a feminist, who passes up the opportunity to enable debate around the issue of pornography for the sake of two words she doesn’t like, and so does indeed, as Chasey points out, end up making it all about her, and perhaps about a topic she is far more comfortable with than the one raised by Justin Shaw.

    Maybe you would do well to ponder the choice you made.

  5. I forgot to say that today on Radio National 360 degrees there was a documentary on pedophilia that was quite brilliant, extremely brave, and groundbreaking. In the introduction the presenter twice used the word “hysteria” to describe some community reactions to pedophiles.

    I assume that had you been listening you would have turned off your radio when you heard that word, and given the ABC a good telling off.

    You would never have heard something every feminist should hear, and give her most profound consideration to. But you would have made your point that the hysteria word offends you.

    Exactly what difference does that make to the world, I wonder? Unlike the doco.

  6. Juzzytribune said: “But the whole point of this discussion was in the use of language to shut down someone’s arguments; I am now being shut down (by some) with use of a label.”

    What, exactly, does “shut down” *mean*? It seems to me “To have my entire line of argument, or communication in general, fallaciously impugned such that it’s not judged on its own merits.” Essentially, being labeled with a (possibly undeserved) ad hominem attack. But ad hominem have been used for… I don’t know, perhaps forever. I just don’t know if I feel like complaints of being shut down are, directly, of much use, because it is essentially a personalized version of “I want people to comport by appropriate standards of reasonable discourse.” Which is of course necessary and admirable–but I asked a question in a comment in the previous post–to what extent are people like Tammi, or Juzzytribune or Pobjie–responsible for unreasonable tactics by people who agree with them?

    I don’t mean to imply that Juzzytribune, Pobjie, Tammi, or any of various parties don’t have a right to complain about being maltreated, or a right to be listened to and treated on the merits of their arguments and, to some degree, the intention of their words in balance with the (textualist?) substance of their words. I guess what I’m trying to get to is one of my personal cardinal rules–true discourse that you learn from requires, often, pain, and sucking up some of that pain, especially unintentional insults, but sometimes even intentional ones. I’m *not* saying that’s what needs to happen here, I don’t want to prescribe (moreso than I have already :-/ for a conversation I’m on the periphery of, without all the background.

    But again, in *my* experience, it’s useful to use a certain humility and a certain *focus.* That is, the particular humility to sometimes let go the slings and arrows of slander or misunderstanding, and the focus to move forward with the substantive larger context. What would we gain right now if we learned whether or not Person A), B), or C) was “appropriately” charged with this bias or that? If we establish that Dines is a misandrist or is part of an unreasonable discourse? These are not questions without value, but it just seems to me that finding what and where we agree is the best way to move forward. We agree ad hominems are wrong; we may never determine which parts of a prior discussion were appropriate accusation and which were ad hominem. All we can do is move forward to the next issue, the next challenge, and keep in mind this episode to use it, next time a similar issue arises, to learn about each other and the wider society. We cannot, from one argument, determine “who is what”, not least because people *change*. Maybe it’s time to lick our wounds and refocus on the numerous clear examples we can work against (or for) together. Arguing where the increasingly fuzzy line between where you or I or whoever may want figure a, b, c, d, or e is exactly, at some point, is diminishing returns…

  7. @Jennifer Wilson:
    “I assume that had you been listening you would have turned off your radio when you heard that word, and given the ABC a good telling off.”

    I assume you have not paid attention to Tammi’s writing at *all*, to say such a thing. She at no point that I saw suggested that, for example, people *shouldn’t read* juzzy, Pobjie, or anyone else, or that she *wouldn’t read* them, or that feminists should boycott them, or block them, or turn off media they find problematic or offensive. (She may be taking a bit of a breather, but I don’t see where she’s said she’ll never read Ben again, and she’s said quite the opposite about juzzy.) Criticizing someone, either personally or in the context of their writing, simply does not equal “I am ignoring you” or “I will now immediately stop listening to your points and complain about your perceived faults.” Indeed, this conversation has been exactly the opposite–the marshaling of evidence, arguments, and various other forms of context and content to defend, deprecate, prove, disprove, and occasionally offend. Your own hyperbole in this forum strikes me, personally, as distracting and unproductive (balanced, one might argue, by a great many challenging and important points, but you certainly are cruising for an obfuscation of the real issues, inadvertently or not, from my pov).

    You are, of course, engaging in exactly what is at the core of this whole discussion: it’s an unfortunate chimera of “flame war” and “in-depth, critical debate.” I agree with a comment rather further up, that accusing Pobjie of being blinded by privilege is a fraught and probably too-ad-hominem, hasty conclusion. Or perhaps more to the point, as LKG said, even if it’s true, it’s unlikely to provide for useful discussion because it can/will/was taken personally.

    We all need to remove ourselves from figuring out who is getting “too” offended over what; in the end, the way each of us in this forum feel about each other is only the tiniest aspect of the larger issues at stake.

    I think all “sides” at some point have said unhelpful, hyperbolic, or overly-personal things. But your continued implied imprecations characterize Tammi in a way that I think is neither true, nor productive.

    I have no doubt you will vigorously disagree.

    All the more reason for us all to take some time and come back to this–I’ve learned the hard way, continuing a debate in the moment, while the hackles are still up, and insisting that it be “resolved” *now*… is all too often just immensely counterproductive.

    /my piece

  8. @Jennifer

    “I can’t believe you thought for a moment that my goal was to convince you of something!”

    Why then are you arguing? Tammi, and others, are well aware there are two sides two the argument.

  9. Jack is spot on. The “shut up” implication of some words directed at women does not exist in a vacuum of pure discourse. They exist in a real world where men use violence and the threat of violence to coerce women (disclaimer: not all men and not all of the time). Fear of speaking out, of being labeled disloyal to this system or worse yet of challenging it, fear of being singled out as a target, is the natural response to living in such a toxic environment. And yet, we do speak.

    “Why are you afraid of women?” I asked a group of men
    “We’re afraid they’ll laugh at us,” replied the men.
    “Why are you afraid of men?” I asked a group of women
    “We’re afraid they’ll kill us,” replied the woman.

    -Margaret Atwood

  10. Adele – I had actually written the dissent piece as part of the #pomodorojerk exercise (where you write for 25 minutes, then post your word count on twitter) the day before the disagreement arose with Pobjie. It seemed relevant so I went ahead and posted it, because so much of what went wrong that night was overreaction, lack of listening and subsequent abusive and disrespectful commentary from a number of people. I’m glad you asked though, because although I take the point of Derek and others here about how this discussion de-railed another one that could have taken place around Juzzy’s piece on porn, that doesn’t make this one unimportant as well.

    I said at the start of this post that it wasn’t a piece about Shaw, Pobjie, porn or Dines. There are other conversations that can and should be had about those things. And clearly Jennifer really wants to discuss Dines and porn, and has done so on her own blog. But my interest has long been in language and representation, so that was the focus of this piece.

    I think we’ve rehearsed the arguments enough about why calling a scholar’s work ‘hysterical’ is unproductive at best, misogynist at worst. In Juzzy’s case, I don’t think there were bad intentions, I think it was just a slightly lazy rhetorical device to dismiss a body of work he went on to argue more fulsomely. He quickly appreciated the concerns raised. Ben did not, and it was his (and others’) increasingly aggressive unwillingness to listen and engage with the concerns of many people that led to the ‘ordeal’. Is the use of ‘hysterical screeching’ in this one instance a very big deal? In the scheme of things, I don’t think so. But I’m really glad that a lot of people were willing to continue to press the point and rehearse ‘exhaustingly familiar ground’, as Lori called it.

    And that’s why I’m still back here in the comments – because this isn’t only about this one usage, and it’s not about Juzzy. It’s about representations of women in language, and it’s about intelligent, productive debate.

    And for Jennifer to keep returning here to tell me how wrong I am, and how this is all about me, but how she doesn’t care about convincing me, even though she keeps coming back to tell me how wrong I am (and in fact tweeted in the last day or two to Zoe that she had left a comment here to ‘prove that you’re wrong’), is just an exhausting distraction. In fact, my dissent post before this one spells out many of the issues I have with such unproductive and disrespectful ‘debate’, so I’ll leave it there.

    Ariane, this is such an important question, and as I said in my last comment, I think telling Ben I thought he was being blinded by his white male privilege was ultimately unproductive – and so not how I should have dealt with what I was finding a very exasperating conversation. I do think one should be able to point out privilege to someone and not have them completely lose their cool and start swearing at one, but that’s another discussion, I guess.

    The question you’ve asked is how do we interrogate privilege without getting the person we want to examine their own so offside that they can no longer continue in constructive discussion? I guess that’s where avoiding the jargon of our privileged education is important – perhaps I could have pointed to an example of a female writer he knows and likes and asked him how he’d feel if she was dismissed as ‘hysterical screeching’? I’m not sure though, as I don’t know Ben, and I don’t know how he usually engages in debate, except what I’ve heard from others since Wednesday on twitter and here in the comments.

    Some people wanted me to back off, not write this post, and you know, they started the #hysteriagate hashtag so as to institutionalise the ‘hysteria’ of those of us who think these things are important. I think one of the most important ways we’re dealing with privilege is happening here and on blogs all over the world that are interrogating privilege. I decided to call out the behaviour of people who continued (and still continue) to denigrate and dismiss our concerns – it smacks of misogyny and privilege. Those who are examing their own privilege are engaging productively in the conversation, or watching respectfully and thoughtfully on the sidelines. Some still don’t agree about the particular phrase in question, but they respect our right to discuss it and be heard. So one of the best ways we can keep interrogating privilege is to keep talking, I reckon.

    As for the face to face dissent, I think I’ve demonstrated my own point about how calling someone ‘difficult’ isn’t productive to the debate (which is essentially what my comment about Ben’s ‘blindness’ achieved), just as some vegans calling me ‘immoral’ doesn’t help me listen to them. I’ve learned a bit more again from this, that’s for sure. Next time I’m exasperated like I was that night, I’ll try something different!

  11. @ Chasy – I would like to address your comment which begins with ‘Tammi, you come across as extremely self righteous. You claim this is a battle for feminism, but this is all about YOU.’ You then go on to express in more detail why you believe Tammi has been inflammatory and you conclude by congratulating her on being what she hates — ‘a bully’. I consider Tammi a new friend, someone I have met via Twitter and really admire. But I want to point out that, in part, we arrived at this point via a few of arguments over political questions. The first, as is often the case, was the most important as there is little necessity to ‘play nice’ amongst strangers. It was about the very boring topic of constitutional frameworks of postgraduate associations and whether they forbid the use of the student money for various purposes. I can tell you that despite the seeming calm waters of that topic over the use/misuse of the word ‘hysterical’, it is actually a topic likely to get the blood pumping of people like Tammi and I. Despite the fact that she likely was exasperated by my position (which I won’t bore you with), really could not see my point, and knew it was a minority view, she a) heard me out, b) was respectful (if pointed) in the discussion, and c) did not at see the discussion to be about ‘her’. I want to tell you this because I expect my experience is not alone. Most importantly in relation to the discussion about the Tribune article and what followed don Twitter, is that when Tammi was directly criticised by me for a position she was taking did not shout, ridicule or bully. She may have rolled her eyes while reading my tweets, but the issue is not whether we let out a little yelp of frustration at these things privately but whether we can conduct debate in public in a civil way. And that phrase, ‘in public’, is key here. The ‘hysteria’ discussion commenced because of comments in a public magazine. They were then criticised for those comments. They then responded, in public again, via their Twitter accounts, in a manner that was belittling and attempted to shame. We should be mindful that if people are going to publicly put their views they will form time to time be required to defend them – and it is my understanding that after a little breathing space Ben P agrees he could have ‘argued’ his POV in a better way. Good on him for that – as I am someone with more the fight rather than flight in me, I know the heat of the moment can really mess with how you may wish to handle things. The question is not what people say or what their politics are, but how people debate and argue – do they look to defend their views productively and through sharp debate that is ‘on topic’, or through ridicule and aggression. I would put Tammi’s efforts in the former, and the efforts of many others over the last few days somewhere else.

  12. @derek I disagree. My main problem with Justin’s piece was not the word hysterical but the generalisations throughout… “through female eyes” “female sexuality” “female academics” etc. Justin was considering taking another, better, pass at the subject. The ‘tragedy’ here will be if he decides not to because of what ensued. If that happens then, yes, he will have been silenced on an issue which concerns all of us.


    Just generally, on the use of ‘hysterical’… Having spoken to several who, unlike me, saw Dines’ performance on Q&A or elsewhere, I’m pretty comfortable now that it is a fair description of her /manner/. I consider Justin’s ‘error’ there was one of assumed knowledge, not one that had anything to do with sexism at all. Personally, I’d still err on the side of not using it, particularly in reference to women, if only to avoid misinterpretation and ensure what I was trying to communicate didn’t get lost in a fracas like this. Hysterical is, understandably in my opinion, a hot button word.

    @Jennifer I am /less/ comfortable with your use of it to describe her work, whether just a sentence or wholesale. (To be upfront, I have not yet read her work in full – that has been on my list of unpleasant chores for quite some time.) It is a poetic device to ascribe emotion in that way, which seems fine, but is inevitable that personification of the written word will be interpreted by many, if not most, as a characterisation of the author’s emotional state. There is simply not enough distance between a writer and their words for their work to be seen as a discrete inanimate object.

    I think that particular device when used in criticism often operates (intentionally or not) to malign the writer with a definitive statement which could not be supported if applied to the writer directly, since their emotional state is unknowable. And yes, I think that is worthy of care generally, and extra care when speaking of female writers given all the baggage.

    It seems to me that you are more interested in focussing on the (important) porn debate than in having an esoteric discussion about the minutiae of communication, however, so I won’t belabour this (I hope). I do wonder though, if by describing Dines or her work in emotional terms we are to some extent letting her off the hook.

    It is possible upon reading the full text I will adjust my opinion but it seems to me she, and the rest of them, are less hysterical than deliberately, consciously hysteria-inducing. I could be wrong about the consciousness of course but at best their positions are rationalisations based on false premises created to support personal dogmas. Either way, it is blameworthy reasoning on their part and I’m not prepared to excuse or dismiss them even slightly on the basis of emotion given their (somewhat depressingly successful) attempts to make society conform to those personal dogmas.

  13. Jennifer, why are you so angry?

    Tammi involved herself in a discussion about the loaded history of the term hysteria. It wasn’t particularly heated or a big deal and she has never made it into a big deal. If you think that the word can be viewed differently, that’s fine, just state your case.

    The ‘ordeal’ which you so derisively refer to was the response of one participant in the discussion to Tammi’s comment that his ‘white male privilege’ was blinding him to the validity of other perspectives than his own on the definition of the word hysteria (since it shielded him from having ever experienced its silencing power as a member of the more powerful group).

    If you think that the reference to privilege was unhelpful and justified such an aggressive response then fine, state your case and move on.

    Why have you found it necessary to so attack Tammi personally when you weren’t even a part of the earlier discussion? The following examples are particularly personal and aggressive:

    • “Wow. You are privileged”

    • “doing everything you could to distract from that content by creating a pseudo feminist shit storm about those two words I read this as a frenzied struggle to wrest control of language, not just from a couple of men, but from a whole lot of women as well.”

    • “I’m a little staggered by your self aggrandizement I must admit.”

    • “I can’t respect a woman, a feminist, who passes up the opportunity to enable debate around the issue of pornography for the sake of two words she doesn’t like, and so does indeed, as Chasey points out, end up making it all about her, and perhaps about a topic she is far more comfortable with than the one raised by Justin Shaw.”

    Finally, Tammi’s post ISN’T about Gail Dines (in fact, she has stated quite clearly that she disagrees with her work, as have many other commenters). I can understand your desire to provide some context for defending the use of the phrase hysterical screeching to describe Dines’ work, but again I think it is totally unnecessary and unhelpful to resort to personal attacks against her, such as: “The woman is a charlatan. She is irrational, emotional, unscholarly and a disgrace.”

    It is really very unpleasant reading this kind of vitriol and I really wish you would reconsider your approach.

  14. All well said Tammi. Will try to write something tangential to all this tomorrow, but don’t think I can add much of use to all the thousands of words.

  15. I’m wondering why your article was published by The Drum without any kind of contextualisation at all. Rather more interesting at the moment is the convergence by some on the right and the left over porn and sexualisation of children. Please don’t consider this as a criticism of your position – I enjoyed reading both you post and the comments from everyone here as well. I just wonder if the ABC, however, are willing to use any argument between people of the left (so to speak) as clickbait.

  16. Tammi, it was good to start the argument and call the original author on his apparently unwitting sexism. It was useful that he acknowledged it. The fight that followed was extremely revealing of Ben P and Mike S’s politics, and the more that they couldn’t argue their way out of it, the more heated and emotional their responses became. You emerged, a little bruised (moving onto the ‘privilege’ ground seemed a misstep), but with the political and moral victory and you deserve kudos for having the fight at all. I don’t know where you find the time …
    Keep up the good work, I love your writing and especially your cookbook 🙂

  17. Mal – I agree it’s an interesting question, and suspect there is definitely some linkbaiting in editorial choices made to publish in cases such as this. But in fact I wrote the Dissent piece *before* the disagreement with Pobjie – it was always intended as a stand-alone piece about dissent. Those who were not aware of the context hopefully were able to take something about civil debate away anyway.

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