a thing that is not okay is continually harassing people who’ve indicated they want space under the guise of respecting that space and being accountable
demanding updates every thirty seconds about what exactly their boundaries are and if that thing you did was okay and where exactly they’re gonna be and when so they can give you space and etc etc etc
when it’s someone you have a mostly healthy relationship with but just need a bit of space from, it’s merely annoying
but I’ve also seen a lot of abusers do it as a way to maintain contact with and power over the people they’ve hurt
or to push you to the point of saying “do whatever the fuck you want, I don’t give a shit” so they can quote that back to you later with faux confusion next time they’re in your space
and it flies under the radar because we forget that this kind of meta-communication is, still, a form of communication, a form of contact, that takes time and energy from people
if someone has indicated they want space and you actually intend to respect that, you just STAY OUT OF THEIR HAIR, you don’t call, you don’t text, you don’t email, you don’t go to places where you know they’ll be, you don’t contact them unless it’s under circumstances they’ve specifically asked for contact, you don’t try and weasel out of it, you don’t push to see what you can get away with, you just LEAVE THEM ALONE
Posts tagged accountability
a thing that is not okay is continually harassing people who’ve indicated they want space under the guise of respecting that space and being accountable
this is a post about community accountability processes for abuse and the idea of “nuance”
brought on by the fact that I’m going to Sydney soonish and will probably see a bunch of environmental activist punk types and if I run into Ben McCullagh-Dennis or see people cosying up with him I’ll crack the shits
one of the reasons why I love my dad is that he does not stand in solidarity with abusers. and I mean he’s not the perfect post-patriarchy bloke, he says some pretty probo things sometimes, he can be patronising, we argue. but I know where he stands when shit gets real.
abusive dudes always expect him to be with them because he looks like Their Kind Of Guy; he’s a 6’2’ old-but-tough bearded man in work boots, he looks manly as heck. abusive white dudes especially look to him, of course, because he’s white. he uses their expectation of solidarity a lot to de-escalate situations, to make a connection, to make them ashamed of themselves.
but he doesn’t side with them. I don’t want to tell a whole lot of stories about other people’s worst times, so I won’t elaborate. but he’s had to cut himself off from abusers in his social networks a number of times, sometimes at significant personal cost, sometimes in complicated situations where the abuser was legitimately oppressed and persecuted by other social forces or the State. all situations are multi-faceted and all abusers have their humanity too. you still have to pick a side at some point.
it’s not that he sees the simplicity at the heart of these situations because he’s an authentic working-class kinda guy who’s not blinded by theory, or something. that’s patronising crap. but it’s relevant here he’s smart but not, like, some feminist intellectual. & he is very left-wing (which left-wing women know doesn’t tell you shit about whether a man is safe to be around), but he’s not a social theory bro. he doesn’t talk about any of this much. this is almost all just stuff I’ve observed in his behaviour.
certainly — and this is the crucial point here — he talks about survivor support and dealing with his shit and questioning patriarchy considerably less than many people I’ve known who’ve conspicuously failed to respond well when an abuser in their social network is outed. they just fucking wussed out. (I’ve wussed out.) it’s not only men who do this, of course, but I could go on for a while here about my lack of patience with men who are very invested in their feminist politics, their identity as Not Like Those Macho Straight Guys, and how they will almost always find a way to wriggle out of standing up for women if it involves an awkward confrontation. (“it’s just so aggressive! I’m not that kind of guy.” “you’re an independent woman, you don’t need me to be your white knight.”) the main thing I’ve learnt from comparing their example with my dad’s is that philosophising gets you only so far here. there is nothing you can hash out in a radical reading group that will make standing up to abusers/for survivors any easier, and you should probably stop trying.
it is always complicated. it is always messy. you will always have to make tough choices. you will always lose friends. you will always feel like you have betrayed someone. people will always feel betrayed by you. you will get things wrong. you will be confused. you will doubt. you will probably be ashamed forever of some of the choices you make, even if they were the right choices. you may never know if they were the right choices. there is no formula that can tell you when and how you should stand in solidarity with survivors, no “let x equal political fallout” or “let y equal moral standing”. there is no theory that will get you out of that mess. there is nothing, nothing you can do will make things neat. that is the nature of these things. there is no safe place here.
here’s the thing
the *perpetrator* of a crime doesn’t get to decide his own methods of accountability. that is perhaps the most fucked up thing about all of this. the way “transformative justice” has been rewritten such that people are honestly saying “what more do you want him to do??? he’s created accountability measures that he’s following!” etc
transformative justice is NOT about perpetrators of violence figuring out their own ways to hold themselves accountable. sorry. because the obvious question is—who is he being accountable to? feminism? is all the “good” being done for feminism by him—is he holding himself accountable to feminism? why? what injustice did he perpetrate against feminism? why does feminism feel that’s ok? to have perpetrators of violence hold themselves accountable to *a movement* rather than to *survivors*?
there’s been all sorts of black men and men of color in general who have done really shitty things and changed. tookie williams being the most obvious person i can think of that others will know—but there’s a dearth of others as well. i just need people to really REALLY think through the big differences in how somebody like tookie williams has been approached by feminism—and how feminism is treating and in many many cases actively advocating for mr.
black men who’ve changed are in prison. some of them, like tookie, are murdered by the state. many times, that murder is never once mentioned or even noticed by feminism. many times, if the murder is noticed, it’s celebrated. because what that person did was unforgiveable. no matter what work that person has done since then.
the “proof” black men (and men of color) offer to show they’ve “changed”—is regarded as inherently suspicious. the work tookie williams did with gangs while in prison was regarded openly as work done to keep himself off of death row. “transformative justice” is apparently something best practiced in the halls of academia with lots of educated “civilized” liberals.
we as a culture are trained to see the “savagery” of men of color and the *particular* ways that the “brutality” of black men play out. see: how feminists are taking the opportunity of this MLK holiday to remind us that MLK was sexist and misogynistic. and maybe not a ***leader***—not in that sense. cuz you can’t be a *full* leader if you are a dick to women. notice how we’re trained to see the savagery and brutality of men of color and black men specifically ***EVEN*** when that man of color led arguably the most dynamic and important movement in the last 100 years, even giving his life to it—but a white man who has written a blog and done paid speaking engagements—he’s a *GOOD MAN*. who it would be a *shame* to judge on his past alone. because he’s doing such good and important work.
we as a culture are trained to see the savagery of men of color—JUST LIKE WE ARE TRAINED TO SEE THE INHERENT GOODNESS OF WHITE MEN.
and in transformative justice—THIS IS SOMETHING THAT IS MADE VISIBLE AND TALKED ABOUT. because transformative justice is not about “avoiding the criminal injustice system.” it’s about *building a new world*. because what would suck worse than using transformative justice to keep a man who tried to kill a woman out of criminal injustice system—so that that same man can use the criminal injustice system against others? (thanks to liquornspice for making that clear).
is that transformative?
the silence of *F*eminist bloggers on this is telling—and interesting. what’s going on back there behind the curtain? will those of us on the outside ever know?
so [TW: rape, rape culture]
this is the start of something bigger, but:
I am reading a lot lately, probably prompted by the recent revelation that Male Feminist Hugo Schwyzer is a sexual predator and would-be murderer, on accountability and the possibility for personal change and growth for people who are/have been abusers.
excellent musings on the limits to transformative justice as practised in many politicised subcultures
Connie Burke, Think. Re-think: Accountable Communities. From The Revolution Starts at Home: Confronting Intimate Violence within Activist Communities (2011), ed. by Ching-In Chen, Jai Dulani, and Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha.
I agree with this but I want to add that there’s a couple of other factors at play here? Most of the community accountability projects I’ve seen have sprung up specifically to deal with gendered violence because of the shitty and retraumatising experience of attempting to go through the courts. So such accountability processes are usually specifically geared to addressing these kinds of harms, especially sexual assault. they often assume a survivor who is to be centred and not aggressively questioned, a level of confidentiality, stuff like that. this gets very weird when you try and transfer it to other harms or interpersonal issues. with this implicit understanding of what community accountability processes are for in place, I wouldn’t try and start a community accountability process for someone who I had a financial disagreement with because it would be tantamount to slander. obviously that is a terrible state of affairs though!
unobject asked: pt. 2* Nothing about being a sociopath intrinsically turns someone into an abuser, unless said person manages their sociopathy. Rather, like every neuroatypicality, being abusive is something that articulates itself differently depending on ones mental frame work. Abuse is always a possibility with any neurological set up- framing it as the outcome of sociopathy to be managed is neurotypicalist.~When nt's are abusive, its never the fault of being nt...
1. it was that person who said that they didn’t care that they were abusive and directly linked that to their sociopathy. if you have a problem with this, I suggest you take it up with them and tell them they don’t represent you; I’ll PM you their tumblr name if you like. or you could just google the quotes and go from there.
2. I would agree with you that the way I framed this issue is a bit leading, except that I’ve seen a lot of people directly argue against that most mild of injunctions. If we can get consensus on that I will be semi-happy.
3. but I’m actually happy to go on record with much more controversial opinions. to me, it’s not that materially relevant whether a person intends to be cruel or has control over it. if you are like this, you need to take responsibility for it to the best of your ability.
4. let me make it personal. most people have huge flaws: some of mine are that I’m unreliable, passive, cynical, distant, snobbish, pretentious, abrasive, negative, petty, judgemental, and weirdly puritanical. I’ve caused people a lot of pain with my behaviour. many if not most of these traits are directly related to my various mental health issues. to me, that doesn’t excuse them; rather, it blurs the line between “mental health issue” and “personality flaw”. like, I’m not going to say that my consistent failure to meet commitments I’ve made to my friends is unrelated to my depression because that’s just not true. it is directly caused by my depressive tendencies. directly. it is also a moral failing. nor am I going to say that it’s not my fault because the depression did it. I cannot operate in this world if I draw a rigid line excusing me from culpability from any action significantly influenced by my mental health conditions, because all of my actions are thus influenced. I know that a lot of people think of depression as a parasite on their true personality and that this is helpful for them, that it makes depressive symptoms seem less intractable and essential to who they are. but I think it’s mostly a convenient fiction. depression is biochemical for sure, but so is personality, and while they’re different, there is no clear dividing line between them. I think that the drive to radically separate mental illness from personality (or, for that matter, NTs from non-NTs) is misguided and fundamentally silly.
(4.5. I just know that someone is going to think that I’ve exaggerated my flaws due to depressive low self-esteem or internalised ableism. My self-esteem is fine, I just don’t feel the need to mention my many wonderful personality traits as they’re not relevant here. I would also suggest that the need to erase the opinions of someone with mental health issues on the grounds of those mental health issues is actually ableist.)
5. the weirdness of making a harsh division between personality traits (for which one is culpable) and things to do with mental illness (for which one is not culpable) is particularly present when one is speaking of personality disorders, which are defined as “personality that causes problems for self and/or others”. They are qualitatively different from other mental health issues such as psychosis and phobias. they are defined only by an aggregate of behaviours and character traits, that must be consistent across a person’s lifetime, and may not always cause suffering for that person themselves. the line that divides “personality disorder” from “difficult person” appears to me to be purely socially constructed.
6. my understanding is that sociopathy and psychopathy are no longer recognised medical conditions. the WHO diagnostic criteria for antisocial personality disorder are:
1. Callous unconcern for the feelings of others and lack of the capacity for empathy.
2. Gross and persistent attitude of irresponsibility and disregard for social norms, rules, and obligations.
3. Incapacity to maintain enduring relationships.
4. Very low tolerance to frustration and a low threshold for discharge of aggression, including violence.
5. Incapacity to experience guilt and to profit from experience, particularly punishment.
6. Markedly prone to blame others or to offer plausible rationalizations for the behavior bringing the subject into conflict.
7. Persistent irritability.
I would suggest that if you believe that abusive behaviour is always and entirely separate from mental illness or non-normative neurology, you must also believe that antisocial personality disorder as thus defined should not be a listed mental disorder, as it is more or less defined by abusive behaviour.
7. I have respect for people recognising they have dickish tendencies and struggling against them. I cannot respect any kind of evasion of responsibility for the effect of one’s behaviour on others.
There was a post on a social anxiety tumblr which basically went, ‘When I go to a nail salon and the person who’s doing my nails turns to a co-worker and start talking away and I start getting scared because I can’t understand what they’re saying.”
I am tempted to say that it’s not social anxiety but racism.
I think it’s very probably both. I see a lot of people trying to avoid interrogating their shitty behaviour because it’s interconnected with their mental illness and I’m super sick of it. If you’re scared of people not speaking English, or speaking with an accent, or whatever, you can be both a) actually frightened and b) frightened because of your racism. mental illnesses aren’t just some creature from the planet Zorg that take over your brain and fill it with weird shit, they work with the fears and ideas and preconceptions that are there. and (because I just know someone is gonna go there): yes, I’ve lived with severe anxiety and panic attacks.
side note: this is one reason why I think the debate over whether terms like “homophobia” or “xenophobia” are appropriative/slanderous of medical phobias is misguided. people can and do have oppressive phobias.
Florence on Feministe says (most of which I agree with and support):
“There’s no consensus on what ableism is, even among those of us who live with various dis/abilities. I’m grossed out that folks are turning up here to sensitively tone police those of us who believe that yes, Gladys, even the mentally ill and drug addicted among us are accountable for our actions. Accountability is a benchmark in all recovery programs — that means both owning the bullshit we pulled on others AS WELL AS acknowledging that others’ anger, frustration, and hurt caused by our bullshit is both righteous and justified. For those of us who have been on the receiving end of violence and harassment by addicts/mentally ill people, there is very little reassurance in being educated about whatever disease is redefining the offender’s boundaries.
Sheen has been enabled by his handlers and the public to let his disease progress over twenty-some years. Yes, that really, really sucks for him, but chances are the man has also been told that if he doesn’t plant his feet on the ground and learn to manage his illnesses that he will lose everything. He is accountable for ultimately choosing to work a program or coast on his fame. He chose to coast on his fame, and also managed to shoot, hit, threaten, and god knows what else, many of the women who came in his way.”
In other words, I posted this because I think that accountability is really important. Ableism against people who are mentally ill is inexcusable but all of us have to be accountable. It’s just that besides the very real discriminations, dominating behaviours, exclusions and every other form of oppression that non-neurotypical folks face, these folks also shouldn’t have to be overly accountable (taking responsibility for more than their part, being blamed for others shit, being pushed past one’s limits etc.) But when we fuck up, we gotta look at what is happening and try to make some changes. Hopefully with a bit of support.
much of the ostensibly anti-oppressive discourse around mental illness + accountability + ableism I’m seeing at the moment is focused on apologism for the shitty/selfish/destructive/abusive behaviour of people with mental illnesses. it’s individualist and exceptionalist and it’s an approach that’s totally alien to my life and my problems and my friends’ problems. I assume everyone I come into contact with has had some experience of mental illness and I’m usually right. that’s the people I’m drawn to and the life I’ve had. virtually all of the people I’m close with have dealt with and continue to deal with mental health problems, sometimes really severe ones, often exacerbated by abuse or generally shitty behaviour, often from people themselves dealing with mental illnesses. to me, working against the marginalisation of people with mental illnesses primarily means working against their abuse, no matter the mental state of the abuser.
plus, I work hard at being accountable even when I feel like shit. I don’t appreciate the implication that all people with mental illnesses are incapable of this. I find it really fucking dehumanising. like, I didn’t totally lose my moral compass just because I’m a bit nuts, there may be huge magnets hangin’ out distorting things but the needle is still swinging. accountability for people with mental illnesses might look a bit different to accountability for people without mental illnesses. maybe it includes seeking counselling and excludes certain standards of behaviour that would otherwise be expected, something like that. but just because it might need to be different doesn’t mean it shouldn’t exist. to be excluded from the expectation of accountability is to be excluded from the human circle altogether.