tim: "System Status: Degraded" (degraded)
[personal profile] tim
We feel that statements such as “We are everywhere” and “Dykes rule!” could evoke an uneasy response in women who are not yet comfortable with Lesbian culture. It seems potentially self-defeating that the first exposure for many incoming students to Wellesley’s Lesbian community occurred in the form of anonymous, ubiquitous graffiti, rather than in the personalized non-threatening atmosphere of a Straight Talks workshop. -- Wellesley News op-ed, 1988

I find this to be a great illustration of the meaning of the terms "tone argument" and "concern trolling". 23 years later, it seems ridiculous to us, the idea that the obvious truth "We are everywhere" could be seen as hostile or alienating, as something that could legitimately strengthen someone's learned homophobia rather than undermining it. When you make a similar suggestion now -- when you tell someone that they're turning off potential allies by being so angry, or that you don't have a problem with someone's way of demanding their rights but someone else might think they're being too (hostile, aggressive, blunt, sexually explicit, bitchy, demanding, strident, selfish, all of the other qualities that privileged people flaunt) -- can you consider how you're going to look 23 years from now, with the benefit of hindsight?

Hmm...

Date: 2011-05-12 07:40 am (UTC)
ysabetwordsmith: Cats playing with goldfish (Default)
From: [personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
On the other hoof, it remains true that people rarely emulate folks who piss them off. If the goal is outreach, the tone needs to be appealing. If the goal is visibility -- and you don't care if it bugs people -- that's different. Shocking people awake and making allies are two different goals. They may or may not overlap in a given organization or community. But you should know what your goals are and whether the tactics you choose are doing a good job of meeting them.

The problem is that enough people have heard the "tone argument" argument that it tends to shut down discussion that might be productive. The trick is identifying when you have a valid opportunity for discussion vs. when people are just being jerks. And that's ubiquitous across pretty much all activisms.

(no subject)

Date: 2011-05-12 04:51 pm (UTC)
autumnus: A purple monochrome portrait of Zoe from Dreamfall, with drawn stars in background and "the Dreamer" written on bottom. (Default)
From: [personal profile] autumnus
I've been quiet about the stuff you have been writing due to various reasons although this I have to say something.

First time got introduced to the idea through graffiti on the steps of new dorms. I was shocked at the display (at the time my upbringing told me one should be at least "discreet" about sexual orientation issues). The unease at the idea lasted maybe a week, then I moved on forgot about it. Now I remember it as a positive experience, I am glad I saw that damned graffiti.

Honestly saying it would have a negative impact is underestimating Wellesley woman's intelligence.

(no subject)

Date: 2011-05-20 04:52 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] photomonk2.livejournal.com
FWIW, I was on campus at the time of the incident described in the op-ed. I was part of the group that wrote the stuff quoted there. There were many things chalked around campus, as well as posting of construction paper pink triangles all over the place. Our motivation was not to enrage but to express pride and visibility. And the campus EXPLODED. This became a Very Big Deal.

The event happened late at night and at the time I was not out to many people. The controversy was so heated, that then-Dean of Students Molly Campbell called for an open meeting for discussion. I sat at the corner of the people who did it and the people who were there to discuss it. Because of one person in the room who was unable to understand our motivation, I spoke up and said "we did this..." and was suddenly a new Big Dyke on Campus. People close to me who didn't know were uncomfortable for a while but got over it (or shifted away, but honestly I do not remember those people so if that happened, they must not have been important to me).

In the end, without it's being the original intention, the campus grew a lot out of that action and lesbian visibility was a bigger conversation. Hopefully it started a trend that made i easier in each passing year for students to come out and be visible. My understanding of campus life now is that being gay is actually kinda cool and certainly no big deal (at least generally speaking. i wouldn't be surprised if there were some more conservative students who would rather not deal with it).

It is easy to look at that tiny slice of what happened, through the op-ed, and gloss over the event. But I can tell you from eye witness perspective that it was a huge thing on campus a the time. Yes, it seems silly now. But for those of us living through it at the time, it was not in the least bit silly. There was no way for us to have any lens 23 years into the future. And I am sure it did harden some people's homophobia. But we need to be concerned with what happens in the moment in cases like this, not try to filter it through some unknowable future lens. I chime in on this so as to highlight the significance of the event, and not let that be lost in a short quote (even with the longer context provided through the link attached).

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