More Thoughts on the “Dr. V” Story (UPDATED WITH MEA CULPA!)

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Kazzy

One man. Two boys. Twelve kids.

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  1. Avatar Mike Schilling
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    says:

    I’m glad you posted this. Folks should click though and read Lipsyte’s entire piece. It’s surprising in a lot of ways: for instance, one of his solutions to the dilemma of how to report on Dr. V’s deceptions without outing her would have been to kill the story, something Grantland seems never to have considered,Report

    • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Mike Schilling
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      says:

      I wonder if there is a new school/old school media divide. Lipsyte implies as much when he refers to Simmons as having “less traditional, hard-core journalism experience but considerable vision and celebrity.” I don’t know enough to say if there as a right or wrong side to that divide (if it indeed exists), but could indicate shifting standards among different generations who came of age in vastly different media environments.Report

    • Avatar Chris in reply to Mike Schilling
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      says:

      Honestly, when you lie about your education, work history, and the creation of your product, and that product is being pimped by PGA broadcasters during PGA broadcasts, the story is valid and shouldn’t be killed. I just wish the story hadn’t focused so much on her gender identity.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Chris
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        says:

        I dunno. On the one hand, violating someone’s privacy in a way that’s likely to have catastrophic consequences for them. On the other hand, one more or less in a long series of overhyped golf clubs.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Chris
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        says:

        The thing is… was it really overhyped? Had anyone heard of Dr. V or her putter before this piece? Once it turned towards being a “take down” piece — even if it was a more thoughtful takedown of her business deceit and completely left aside her gender — shouldn’t the author have said, “Is there much interest in taking down someone no one really knows about?” The original intent of the piece was to shed light on something potentially but not yet revolutionary.

        If you remove all of the parts related to Dr. V’s personal life, it is really a rather boring and ultimately inconsequential piece.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Chris
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        says:

        I agree about the first part: more than her gender identity, her clear issues with mental illness would have given me pause, as the author. On the other hand, I can’t imagine us being happy about the media letting anyone else slide on that level of deception in a highly competitive market where people spend a ton of money.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Chris
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        says:

        I would agree if Dr. V or her putter had gained any real traction in the market, which it doesn’t really seem she did. The world is littered with smalltime snake oil salesman… we don’t demand national media outlets take down each and every one.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Chris
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        says:

        Eh, perhaps I’m overstating its hype. It seems that when it’s being pimped during broadcasts, and used by pros (the benefits to a product of being used by pros is discussed in the article), it’s a pretty big deal. But I know very little about golf, so I could be mistaken.Report

      • Avatar daveNYC in reply to Chris
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        says:

        I’m not sure if the putter was overhyped prior to the article, but had the Grantland story gone to press as originally envisioned (a puff piece covering the putter’s science), then that would have been one heck of a nice chunk of free advertising.

        Somewhat ironic that it did almost exactly the opposite.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Chris
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        says:

        @davenyc @chris

        I’ve done a bit of Googling and found some articles discussing the Yar putter that date prior to the Grantland piece*. Some bloggers and minor golf writers sung its praises while others remained unimpressed. Most made mention of the science and the credentials of Dr. V, though ultimately reserved judgement based on how it performed in their hands. The putter seemed to be gaining some traction — in part because of the lies Dr. V told about her credentials — so investigation into such doesn’t seem unwarranted. Though I remain a bit cynical that the best person to do that investigation was someone without a background in either science or golf and whose writings to that point focused largely on human interest stories about people… not putters.

        * Unfortunately, the piece and the myriad responses it elicited make up the majority of the front page results.Report

      • Avatar veronica dire in reply to Chris
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        says:

        I hope I have some credibility on this issue.

        It would be entirely fine, I believe, to report on her false credentials. In fact, I consider it (to some degree) the responsibility of a journalist to report such things. That’s their job.

        That said, they should have remained silent on her gender identity. Which would be tricky. They would have to talk about how she did not attend MIT without bringing up the fact her name was different back then, and without appearing to be less than forthright. To pull that off would take a damn skilled writer, a professional writer.

        Instead we got a hack like Caleb Hannan (and let us spit when we say his name).Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Chris
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        says:

        @veronica-dire

        I wouldn’t argue with a piece that focused on her professional credentials. However, what was really at issue was the science behind the putter and, ultimately, whether or not it worked. If it did work and if it worked because of zero-MOI or whatever else went into it, even fraudulent credentialing is only of certain value. “She lied about MIT? Okay. But, hey, I shaved 4 strokes off my score so what do I care?”

        And I don’t even think it would have required a particularly brilliant writer to maintain the appropriate focus. “There is no record of Dr. V having attended MIT.” Should someone ask, “Maybe she attended under another name,” a simple, “We researched that possibility and found no record of her having attended under any other name.”

        Ugh… I just looked back to see how the article billed itself. Here is the subtitle: “The remarkable story behind a mysterious inventor who built a “scientifically superior” golf club.” Why is “scientifically superior” in quotes? It’s been a few weeks since I read it, but I don’t remember Hannan ever actually demonstrating that the science behind it isn’t sound. But the mysterious inventor? Mysterious? Seriously?

        And then the image. I never really looked at it before, but the putter striking a cracked and broken golf ball? Maybe I’m going too Freudian but that is really off-putting.

        See here: http://grantland.com/features/a-mysterious-physicist-golf-club-dr-v/Report

      • Avatar veronica dire in reply to Chris
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        says:

        @kazzy — Well, it is pretty obvious to me that Grantland was approaching this situation with all the insight and sensitivity of a Jerry Springer episode —

        “What if you found out your girlfriend (or golf club inventor) is a MAN!”

        It’s beyond shameful.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Chris
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        says:

        @veronica-dire

        Oh, I agree. The cynic in me thinks that Hannan knew or had some sense that Dr. V was “not what she seemed” in more ways than one and set out to tell that story. I don’t think he ever had much interest in writing 8000 words on the physics of golf clubs. And the wagons were circled after the fact to make the process seem cleaner.

        I get that Simmons’s public person is as much schtick as it is an accurate representation of who he is, but if you’ve read him for a while, the multiple failings that contributed to this article should not be a surprise. The man is remarkably tone deaf when it comes to issues relating to gender, sexual orientation, and race, yet somehow purports himself to be uniquely qualified and/or holding unique positions on those very subject matters. When you have running “jokes” about white guys with black sounding names or men with female sounds names, you have a long road ahead to claim ally status.Report

      • Avatar veronica dire in reply to Chris
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        says:

        @kazzy — I haven’t read Simmons, but he sounds like a pretty typical example of “privileged, ignorant, overconfident douchebro” to me. You can find 10,000 of them on Reddit, on any given day.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Chris
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        says:

        That about sums him up. But what makes him uniquely dangerous is A) the platform he has attained and B) the way in which he thinks he is anything but those things. “Hey guys, I follow the NBA! In the 80’s, I wanted to be a black dude! Don’t tell me I’m racist! I’m a progressive voice for change. But we can all agree that it is funny that Cortland Finnegan isn’t an Irish guy from Boston but a black guy from Florida, amiright?!?!?!”Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to Chris
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        says:

        @kazzy @veronica-dire

        And I don’t even think it would have required a particularly brilliant writer to maintain the appropriate focus. “There is no record of Dr. V having attended MIT.” Should someone ask, “Maybe she attended under another name,” a simple, “We researched that possibility and found no record of her having attended under any other name.”

        I went into that here, but never received any responses. Please also ref. to the linked Rebodello case.

        To the degree that Dr. V appears to have defrauded investors and peddled a product based on false credentials, and then spoken to a journalist, her outing seems nearly inevitable.

        What is the public interest in journalistic reporting on fraud?

        Well, it’s to bring to light that fraud so as to prevent future fraud, and facilitate redress of past fraud.

        I assume that Grantland has not unearthed any illegal behavior associated with Stephen Krol (if they had, I assume they would have included it), but please indulge me in a hypo – let’s say that after publication of the Grantland article, some reader of the article stepped forward and said, “hey, that Stephen Krol guy defrauded me of my life savings back in 1998, and we’ve been looking for him ever since, and wondered why we couldn’t find him. Justice can now be served.”

        Granted that in this particular case, obtaining justice for any pre-transition frauds would be impossible; but had Dr. V not killed herself, presumably this information (not JUST that she had another name, but the name itself) would have been a public good. It’s what the sunlight of journalism is for in cases where a crime has been committed (and IANAL, but it seems to me that Dr. V committed fraud).Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Chris
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        says:

        @glyph

        If I’m understanding you, that is a real stretch.

        “We should out this transwoman because maybe she defrauded someone earlier in life and they are having trouble finding her to seek redress.”Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to Chris
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        says:

        @kazzy – did you read the Rebodello link? It’s no stretch at all.

        It is a truism that criminals will seek to escape detection.

        Grantland (apparently) caught Dr. V in fraud.

        This resulted in the disclosure of truths about her past, as it would for anyone caught in fraud.

        This is inevitable, and on net desirable, even if in this case it may have contributed to Dr. V’s suicide.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Chris
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        says:

        I’m sorry, @glyph , but I really struggle to accept that outing somewhere’s gender identity is fair game because they lied about their credentials and exposing them in such a way would give potential past victims the opportunity to seek redress.

        Hannan had little trouble ultimately uncovering Dr. V’s past. Were someone to have been defrauded by her prior to her name change and moved to seek redress, I trust they could have made the same discoveries he did with the power of the courts and/or law enforcement behind them.

        And let’s remember the sequence of events. Hannan outs Dr. V to her investor, whom Hannan had already informed of her credentialing fraud. That individual never knew her before her name change; as such, it was immaterial. And by the time the piece was published, Dr. V was dead. Meaning any redress of past victims was impossible. Yet he still outed her publicly in the piece.

        This is all after-the-fact justification that is, at best, flimsy.Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to Chris
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        says:

        Subsequent revelations of more extensive misdeeds often follow the initial publication of a more limited set of misdeeds, and in fact were prompted and facilitated by the initial publication. Watergate started out as a simple B&E case.

        And whether or not any money can be recovered is irrelevant to the closure of the cases. If you like, assume the existence of more serious crimes pre-transition, as in the Rebodello case. The victims deserve to know the resolution of their cases, even if no specific redress is possible.

        I agree this could possibly have been handled better; I agree that commission of one crime does not automatically mean that any treatment of the criminal is fair game; but I think you are being shortsighted in balancing two competing interests (Dr. V.’s right to privacy vs. society’s expectation that journalism helps provide the information needed to root out crime) here.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Chris
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        says:

        @glyph

        Neither Dr. V’s name change nor her gender identity were lies or misdeeds. She didn’t commit a series or set of misdeeds, but rather repeated a lie over and over.

        Everyone lies. You… me… everyone. Does this mean any journalist can dig into every corner of our life and write about it on the internet in case we told other lies in our past?Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to Chris
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        says:

        I think this is correct.

        Part of free speech, of freedom of the press, is that what happens in the public domain is public. Sadly, most people don’t really comprehend what that means, and it’s a long discussion in its own right.

        The false resume was the issue here; it had nothing to do with sexual identity.

        But here’s the other problem with removing the piece, horrible as it is: it still doesn’t go away. Far, far better to put a lede disclaimer on it; potentially edit out the more egregious things, and put some serious effort into reporting that actually does offer an education for people who want to understand more about others who are transgendered.

        What’s revealed here is the need for more public education. I’m particularly found of Jennifer Boylan, who’s been doing some writing for the NYT.Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to Chris
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        says:

        Kazzy, she didn’t *just* lie. Just lying is not ‘fraud’, in the legal sense.

        She lied, for money. Again, IANAL, but she took investors’ money, and sold a $200 product, based on credential claims that just were not true. Thank goodness she wasn’t selling something important like Vitamin Water.

        I work in a highly-regulated industry, and you can bet if we took investors’ money and sold products based on misrepresenting our credentials, we’d be committing criminal acts. And if we had changed our company name from “Halliburton” in 2001? You bet your sweet bippy that would be relevant for a journalist to report.Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to Chris
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        says:

        That about sums him up. But what makes him uniquely dangerous is…

        On the discussion of the Dr.V case, I will defer to others, but I have to push back against the characterization of Simmons as dangerous and a racist. What are the grounds for that? His Reggie Cleveland All-Stars bit?

        You can argue that he’s not an ally, but so what? There’s a pretty big space between ally and dangerous racist. Unless of course, you are of the “either with us or against us” mentality. Not everyone is obliged to be a sensitive feminist, multiculturalist, progressive advocate. And I certainly wouldn’t want to live in a world where everyone was.Report

    • Avatar Mo in reply to Mike Schilling
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      says:

      In Bill Simmons Editor’s comment they actually thought about spiking the story, but reconsidered after they found out she committed suicide. Which is sorta ghoulish.

      Is it just me or does Lipsyte get more fanboyish about Grantland than ombudsmen typically get about the organizations they work for? I can’t imagine NYT’s ombudsman calling the Gray Lady “a treasure”.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Mo
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        says:

        In Bill Simmons Editor’s comment they actually thought about spiking the story, but reconsidered after they found out she committed suicide.

        Thanks for throwing that in the mix. That’s what I thought too, but was (and still am) too lazy to research.

        Which is sorta ghoulish.

        I don’t see it quite that way. If I remember, they wrestled with it even after her death and came to the conclusion that it was a compelling story, one worth publishing. In hindsight, that decision looks pretty obviously wrong. In real-time I think it’s a harder call to make.Report

      • Avatar Mo in reply to Mo
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        says:

        I guess my ghoulish feeling is that it went from being killed before they knew she committed suicide to being debated and eventually published after the suicide. It seems like a very local news-ish, “If it bleeds it leads,” sort of mentality.Report

  2. Avatar ScarletNumbers
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    says:

    Kate Fagan: I understand Bill’s impulse to leave it online as a learning tool, but having the story stay up seems as if we are valuing Grantland’s right to learn over the trans community’s right to not feel anguished. As many members of the trans community have said on social media, ‘My life is not your teachable moment.’

    Well yes, I would imagine that Grantland would value Grantland’s right to learn.

    There is no “right” to not feel anguished.

    Nice try, Kate.Report

  3. Avatar Burt Likko
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    says:

    Well, now, just a moment. Surely things like photographs of lynchings and Klansman posing with rifles cause anguish, yet we do not redact these from our history. Nor do we edit from public view the internments of American citizens during World War II or the wave-away-you-aren’t-even-being-serious dismissals of same-sex-marriage from our jurisprudence. Nor do we pretend that “serious journalists” and credible scientists espoused and advanced all manner of awful ideas about race, gender, sex, and religion, ideas baked in to the language they used to express themselves on all manner of topics.

    Rather, we place those sorts of things in a category of historical artifacts showing moral error in times past. So too should the Grantland piece be treated. Yes, your life is not my teachable moment. But my errors are a part of history and it’s a dangerous thing to play with the past. Acknowledge, and apologize for, the errors. Here, that means putting up an advisory that the reader goes through first, saying that the language and subject matter of the piece in question is hurtful to some, insensitive to others, and vowing that editorial policies have been reformed in response to the well-taken criticism of the piece.Report

    • Avatar Glyph in reply to Burt Likko
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      says:

      This, this, and this.

      Also, this.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Burt Likko
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      says:

      This isn’t a photograph of a lynching; it is the lynching itself.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Kazzy
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        says:

        A “photograph” would be an article discussing the article.Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Kazzy
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        says:

        So we delete the article from the historical record? Are you seriously advocating that?

        That should sit poorly with even those who feel the anguish the piece causes. If I’ve been punched in the nose, to use an analogy above, I might wish that had never happened. But once I stop wishing and think about the real world, I realize that my redress for this pain and indignity is not to instruct my assailant and all witnesses that they are to never speak of the incident again. Rather, my assailant should apologize and offer such redress as is possible.

        Censorship is bad enough when it’s prospective in effect. Retrospective censorship is frightening in an Orewellian sense.Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to Kazzy
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        says:

        Deleting the article is impossible. This is the internet, and it exists forever, or until the Big EMP.

        Kazzy, to follow your logic, secondhand analysis/supplemental materials are sufficient for learning? Primary document sources are unnecessary?

        Pretty sure that can’t be right.Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Kazzy
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        says:

        Put another way: would you pull Charles Darwin’s The Descent of Man from the library shelves?Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Kazzy
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        says:

        Glyph, deleting the article may be impossible, but ESPN could de-list it from its active server, requiring use of an archival tool to get it.

        Or, it could disclaim, disclose, and apologize because a portion of the article — about how Dr. V invented this putter and faked her credentials — was worthwhile journalism. It’s the irrelevant outing and the disregard of Dr. V’s dignity as a human being who happens to have been a trans woman that were the moral errors. This, it seems to me, is the least bad option available.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Kazzy
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        says:

        The piece isn’t a record of what happened to a transwoman. It is what happened to a transwoman. If you want to create a teaching tool that will educate young journalists and how to handle this subject matter, you write a piece that excerpts it and show what went wrong and where and how the process should be. Instead, you can still find the article in full with a brief disclaimer and links to Simmons’ and Kahrl’s pieces. That is insufficient. If someone skips the disclaimer or the links and reads the entirety of the article, what learning has taken place? No context is offered for learning; no instruction or education is offered.

        To use Burt’s analogy, it would be like saying, “I’m going to teach you about the horrors of lynching… by making you watch me lynch this guy.”

        The article, itself, is an act. The article, itself, is violence.Report

      • Avatar veronica dire in reply to Kazzy
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        says:

        I would be happy if Grantland left the article in place, but prefixed it, in bold text, a paragraph or two explaining its context and specifically apologized for its horrible content.

        And I mean a forthright apology that admits the article was grossly transphobic and irresponsible, with specific references to the offensive parts.

        Also, remove any ad content from the page. They shouldn’t be monetizing the shitty thing.Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Kazzy
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        says:

        “The article is, itself, the act.” Okay. I understand this. We disagree about the response to the article, but I’ve made the “painting of a pipe” argument myself before.

        “The article is, itself, violence.” No. The article is not violence. It is language. Language is definitionally not violence. Violence is violence. The article is not a gunshot or a punch or in any way physical. It is an intellectual act. It represents a moral failure, yes, but for reasons other than being an act of violence.

        To humiliate someone without cause is wrong. To humiliate someone without cause is offensive. To humiliate someone without cause is not to engage in an act of violence. To call humiliation “violence” is to confuse the picture of the pipe with the pipe itself — it confuses the victim’s reaction of outrage and offense with the offender’s act causing that outrage.Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Kazzy
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        says:

        @veronica-dire that’s exactly what I’m advocating here.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Kazzy
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        says:

        This isn’t a photograph of a lynching; it is the lynching itself.

        Am I a morally insensitive person if, after considered reflection, I don’t agree with you about this? Is there room for reasonable disagreement on this issue, or does any divergence with your view automatically make me morally reprehensible?Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Kazzy
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        says:

        I applaud veronica for being open to keeping the piece up as a learning tool, with a forthright apology appended. The forthright apology that’s appended could be the one that Bill Simmons has already issued.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Kazzy
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        says:

        Burt,

        I’ve long struggled with the way in which we define violence only as a physical act. It can also be a mental act, an emotional act. By that definition, the article certainly qualifies.

        But if we can’t disagree on the definition of violence, let’s use harm. That article and the process by which it came to be was directly harmful to Dr. V. It contributed to her suicide, to her death. It isn’t a record of her suicide or a record of actions that contributed to her suicide. The article, itself, is a contributing factor in her suicide, in her death, in an immense amount of undeserved harm this woman suffered.

        To say that some journalists might learn something by it staying up and therefore it justifies the harm done to Dr. V and the ongoing harm it causes to others is the definition of callous.

        “Hey, man, don’t stop the Holocaust yet. It’s only killed 1M people. If you really want people to learn, we need to get that number way up!”Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Kazzy
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        says:

        @stillwater

        I have little interest in labeling people as morally reprehensible. I base what I said in the quoted part there on the fact that Hannan wasn’t discussing the outing of Dr. V, his article was the outing of Dr. V. It was the act itself, not a reporting on the act. If you disagree with that, I am all ears to hear your perspective.

        And, to be clear, I am not necessarily saying that outing and lynching are one-in-the same; I used the analogy to lynching because it was initially offered up by Burt (and I think fairly so, for the record).Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Kazzy
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        says:

        I would also say that there’s no reason to insist it stays up against the desires of people affected by it in this case that I can see – i.e. to second-guess Grantland were they to agree to take it down. The immediate-term learning effect isn’t that valuable – so long as the piece isn’t permanently disappeared. You can leave up the apology and keep the link alive (Or is that what we’re discussing – even making the piece accessible via multiple clicks – in which case, yes, it should stay “up,” in the sense of “accessible.” It’s an original source in history, after all.) But you can certainly take down a direct link from the main page.

        But I wouldn’t want to establish a hard principle that, any time there is resistance to making accessible a document that causes people discomfort, that we should always expect it to be removed from public view. That obviously establishes an unacceptable precedent. But if, in this case, Grantland were to conclude that keeping it up does more harm to the trans community than the effect of promoting public sensitivity to these questions through keeping it up benefits them, then I would have no problem if, in this instance, they agreed to take it down.Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Kazzy
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        says:

        I can stipulate to the word “harm,” @kazzy . As for the rest, I think the analogy to Darwin’s final and most troublesome book is apt.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Kazzy
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        says:

        “…Grantland were to conclude that keeping it up does more harm to the trans community than the effect of promoting public sensitivity to these questions through keeping it up benefits them…”

        This seems to be the key point. It would seem that they have determined that the benefit outweighs the harm. But, naturally, they are inclined to think so. They are cis journalists, not transmen or transwomen. How could they possibly begin to understand the harm and potential for harm? It appears they’ve engaged a single voice from the trans community, who herself is also entangled in the world of sports journalism and Grantland’s parent company.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Kazzy
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        says:

        @burt-likko

        I’m not intimately familiar with Darwin’s book, but I think I can gather from your comments the problem with it.

        Let me ask… where would one find it in the library? In the biology section? The social science section? Or the section labeled, “Fail scientific theories, the harm they’ve caused, and how to avoid their mistakes”?Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Kazzy
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        Some of Descent of Man is good science. Some of it is bad science. And some of it is “This is why white people are better than other kinds of people.”

        I’d expect you’d find it in the science section. With a foreword by a contemporary editor disclaiming the objectionable, refuted portions of its content and explaining what science has demonstrated to refute the contents of the book subsequent to its publication.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Kazzy
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        says:

        @burt-likko

        Do you think the current disclaimer on the piece goes far enough? See here: http://grantland.com/features/a-mysterious-physicist-golf-club-dr-v/

        I don’t think the sentiment of “My life is not your teaching tool” necessarily requires the article be vanquished. But I do think it demands a more thoughtful approach than it currently has. One that both ensures it actually serves to educate its audience and which mitigates the potential for ongoing harm. What you and Veronica have advocated here would be lightyears ahead of what Grantland is currently doing.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Kazzy
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        says:

        Kazzy,

        I have little interest in labeling people as morally reprehensible.

        There’s two ways to avoid doing so, it seems to me. Recognize that there’s more nuance to the issue than you’re conceding, or attribute a high level of stoopid to the people who disagree with you. Short of those, tho: moral reprehensibility for dissenters.

        Look, everyone at this site who’s thought about this issue recognizes that something tragic happened here: a person committed suicide apparently in response to the possibility or likelihood of facts about her private life being revealed.Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Kazzy
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        says:

        I find myself on kind of an “apologies need to be accepted” kick lately. Of course, I’m talking about sincere, and complete apologies; neither I nor anyone else contends that an insincere or incomplete apology demands acceptance. I have in several places attempted to break a complete apology down into elements of a) sincere, unambiguous, and unconditional contrition, b) acknowledgement of wrongfulness, c) acknowledgement of having caused harm, d) promise of future remedial action, and e) an offer of restitution when practically possible to do so. So far, no one has chosen to get down into the weeds of whether or not these five elements constitute a full and complete apology. So, using my definition of what constitutes a complete apology, here’s what seems to me to be the core of Simmons’ disclaimer:

        Someone familiar with the transgender community should have read Caleb’s final draft. This never occurred to us. … To my infinite regret, we never asked anyone knowledgeable enough about transgender issues to help us either (a) improve the piece, or (b) realize that we shouldn’t run it. That’s our mistake — and really, my mistake, since it’s my site. So I want to apologize. I failed. … In the future, we will be sophisticated enough — at least on this particular topic. We’re never taking the Dr. V piece down from Grantland partly because we want people to learn from our experience. We weren’t educated, we failed to ask the right questions, we made mistakes, and we’re going to learn from them. … We will learn from what happened.

        These are good things for Mr. Simmons to have said. I think he evidences sincerity, recognition of his error, acknowledgement of having caused harm to others moral failure, and contrition. So far, so good.

        What he doesn’t say is “We understand now that trans people, and the people who love them, were terrified and offended by this. If we would out Dr. V. during something totally unrelated to her identity as a trans woman, then they, too were at risk. We now realize that this would have caused fear that any mistake any trans person makes would receive special scrutiny and carry extra punishments in the form of a shameful outing.” Mr. Simmons does not discuss this at all. I think he’s probably right to acknowledge that the reasons Dr. V suicided are ambiguous, but he ought to at least made a nod to the notion that the outing, as well as the exposure of professional deceptions, might have played a part in the stresses that impelled her to do what she did.

        Perhaps more importantly, what he also doesn’t say is, “We feel badly enough about this that we’re going to…” and there describe something that would tangibly improve the situation. The necessary element of restitution where possible is absent. What form that restitution might take would be up to him and is inherently context-driven. He mentioned learning that trans people have unusually high suicide rates, and being accused of having induced Dr. V’s suicide. So perhaps a monetary donation to, say, The Trevor Project or a similar charity, and encouraging his readers to do the same, would have been an appropriate sort of act of restitution. In the event that Mr. Simmons winds up reading this, I’d like to point out that it is not too late to do something like this. (I have no affiliation with The Trevor Project.)

        So I consider the apology incomplete. No acknowledgement of causing harm, either to Dr. V. or to the trans community, and no offer of restitution, given that such an offer would be a feasible option.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Kazzy
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        says:

        It would seem that they have determined that the benefit outweighs the harm.

        So far, it would seem that way. But so? That’s why people are arguing to get them to change course. (An even-less charitable interpretation, btw, is that they’ve determined it will continue to drive traffic. I don’t think that’s what’s going on, but I just thought I’d mention it because no one seems to be suggesting it’s possible, and while I don’t think it’s the case, I do think it’s a reasonable suspicion to have in the the back of one’s mind. I really don’t think it’s the driver, though; I take them at their word.)

        But, naturally, they are inclined to think so.

        Perhaps?

        They are cis journalists, not transmen or transwomen. How could they possibly begin to understand the harm and potential for harm?

        This seems unfair to me. They might not naturally, but I think they’re aware that this is a difficult issue for some. Allow them the possibility that they could come to understand with continued explanation persuasion.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Kazzy
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        says:

        On language as violence, this is a quote from an author whom I suspect many here find objectionable, so I hesitate to even mention his name, but anyway:

        What if, however, humans exceed animals in their capacity for violence precisely because they speak? When we perceive something as an act of violence, we measure it by a presupposed standard of what the “normal” non-violent situation is – and the highest form of violence is the imposition of this standard with reference to which some events appear as “violent.” This is why language itself, the very medium of non-violence, of mutual recognition, involves unconditional violence. So, perhaps, the fact that reason (ratio) and race have the same root tells us something: language, not primitive egotistic interests, is the first and greatest divider, it is because of language that we and our neighbors (can) “live in different worlds” even when we live on the same street. What this means is that verbal violence is not a secondary distortion, but the ultimate resort of every specifically human violence. Take the example of anti-Semitic pogroms, which can stand in for all racist violence. What the perpetrators of pogroms find intolerable and rage-provoking, what they react to, is not the immediate reality of Jews, but to the image/figure of the ‘Jew’ which circulates and has been constructed in their tradition. The catch, of course, is that one single individual cannot distinguish in any simple way between real Jews and their anti-Semitic image: this image overdetermines the way I experience real Jews themselves and, furthermore, it affects the way Jews experience themselves.

        Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Kazzy
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        says:

        @chris I have attempted to read through this blockquote three times and given up. I pronounce it incoherent nonsense and shall waste my brain upon it no more.

        “Violence” is the deployment of physical force with either the intent or effect of causing physical harm.

        Certain kinds of violence, in certain contexts, are considered acceptable (e.g., police restraining a crime suspect). Most kinds and contexts of violent behavior are considered unacceptable.

        Words do not exert physical force. Perforce they cannot be “violence,” whether they be spoken or written. Speaking is not a violent act. Writing is not a violent act. Violence may erupt because of the emotional reaction of some people to the words thus communicated, but the words themselves are not violence. The use of certain words, in certain orders, and in certain contexts, are culturally unacceptable. But this unacceptability is not the product of the words deploying physical force that work physical harm.

        The rule of thumb remedy for unacceptable communications should be more communication, pointing out the unacceptability of the original communication.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Kazzy
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        says:

        Burt, I was afraid that might be the case. He speaks in a way that takes a great deal of getting used to, and some people, some very bright people, who’ve taken the time to get used to it still feel the way you do. I avoided using his name precisely because some people who have taken the time would immediately be put off. He is not a good writer.

        However, what he’s trying to say is something like what I’ve talked about here (I wrote a guest post about it last year or the year before) about the role of language in determining how we see the world, and how we see others. We use language to distinguish between Us and Them in ways that, if we were to get down to bare, pre- or non-linguistic empirical facts, might seem insignificant, if not nonexistent. We divide ourselves into categories with labels, and we create ideas about others not based on who they are, as individuals or even as groups that we might distinguish based on facts of the matter independent of our labels, but based on the sorts of things we attach to the label. This makes all kinds of abuse possible: people can, and frequently have, used the divisions created by language, and stuck in our minds as a result of labels (like “Jew,” or “gay,” or even “liberal” or “conservative”), to attach all sorts of images and inferences to individuals that, were we to look at the actual people, we would not find actually present. And they often do so to further other purposes (the example of Jewish people or other outsiders, gypsies, say, or in the American South, black people), social and political aims, for example. In the end, instead of reacting to people, we react to the labels, and the images we’ve attached to them, or that other people have induced us to attach to them, and the consequences can be quite dangerous.

        I understand preferring not to call such use of language to divide and harm “violence,” but I still think that, even if we consider it a metaphor (I don’t, but I understand that many people do), it’s a useful one.Report

      • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to Kazzy
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        says:

        @kazzy I’m sorry, but it’s completely and wholly ridiculous – and surely offensive – to call outing someone a “lynching itself.” Embarassing someone, even if done wrongly and inappropriately, is in no way, shape or form morally equivalent to the act of engaging in a physical mob attack on someone, wrapping a noose around their neck, and then hanging them from a tree.

        In addition, to equate words with physical violence is to give up on the very concept of the right to free speech.

        I have no problem whatsoever with the approach that @veronica-dire argues for, and her words should be heeded. But, please, let’s not call the act of stating a fact about someone – however maliciously and inappropriately – an act of violence.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Kazzy
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        says:

        @mark-thompson , I don’t know that I’d call this an instance of “lynching,” but outing someone is much, much more than merely embarrassing them. It can have profound affects on their lives, their relationships, and their actual physical safety. I believe Russell and others ave spoken about this frequently, and eloquently, on this blog, so I would defer to them, but reducing it to “embarrassment” is highly dismissive of the actual experience.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Kazzy
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        says:

        @kazzy @mark-thompson & @chris & @burt-likko

        All of this comes together.

        I have to agree with Mark that this was not a lynching and should not be said to have been. I had the same thought, I was going to leave it alone, but since he saod it, I’ll agree.

        Contra Burt, I think Zizek is fairly clear there (for Zizek). I get what he’s saying – not sure I’m all on-board but I get it. Words can be violence (so I disagree with Mark there), and perhaps language is what created humans’ capacity for violence of all kinds against each other (almost unique among animals of thesame species, though not entirely).

        But part of how language becomes violence is through its uncalibrated abuse. That’s why I agree with Mark that it’s wrong to call this a lynching. Not all violence is that of a lynch mob. Caleb Hannan was more like a careless or drunk driver. He caused harm and he’s culpable; arguable he was violent (arguably not). But he didn’t lynch anyone. It’s arguably violence with language to say he did (arguably not).

        @Chris, thanks for sharing the Zizek.Report

      • Avatar veronica dire in reply to Kazzy
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        says:

        Words as violence.

        Hmm.

        Do you guys ever think about how language actually works? I mean, do you folks never use words figuratively? Must everything always be literal?

        Well, I suppose when it serves your purpose, you will demand literal language. When it does not, you will not.

        Words can be abuse. You all get that, yes?

        Horrifying abuse. Words can destroy self image, bring on depression, hopelessness, even suicide. This can be done callously. It can be done deliberately.

        But there is worse. Words carry a subtext, a world as we see it — a schema, the frame. They reinforce power, injustice, marginalization. They can fight those things as well.

        Words can command armies, start wars. But not only literally, as in a phone call to a general, but in subtle ways, manipulating the frame until war seems inevitable.

        I can drive someone to rage with words, until they strike me. (That’s easy.) With some people, I could get them to strike someone else.

        An American preacher man spent a few years going to Uganda, to share with them his words.

        It is very important to some of you that we never call this “violence,” not even figuratively. Why?Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Kazzy
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        says:

        @veronica-dire I won’t answer for others. For myself, it is important because violence is a special class of harm, a special category of indignity. Overusing the word “violence” domesticates and dilutes the impact of the word “violence.”

        To be more specific, taunting (taunting being a specific kind of communication) someone is not raping them (rape being a specific kind of physical violence). Ask a victim of an actual, physical rape if she would consider being taunted the same thing as enduring another rape. That doesn’t mean I think you should taunt a rape victim; it doesn’t mean I dismiss taunting as an act with no moral significance and no impact on the physical world; I do not particularly crave the experience of asking a rape victim to relive her trauma to respond to a question to which the answer is so trivially easy and reasonable to presume. But until a critical mass of actual rape victims advise that indeed, it would be just as bad to be taunted, I’m going to use different words to describe different actions.

        That’s enough reason right there, IMO. But I’ll go a step further.

        Language molds thought, and when language is used on a wide scale, thought is molded on a wide scale. Thought molded on a wide scale affects public policy. If certain kinds of speech are “violent,” then our criminal justice system is taxed to explain why that “violent” speech is not treated like other kinds of violence. But if we truly value free speech as an ideal value for our society, then that means treating speech we do not like with a much higher degree of tolerance than we treat actual violent behavior. The fuzzy language of a Professor Zizek creates fuzzy thought, with the result that near the endgame of that train of thought, we have started asking why we aren’t imprisoning people who, for instance, equate advocacy of higher taxes for the wealthy to the Holocaust. (Such a person deserves shame dispensed by private critics, not punishment meted out by the state.)

        Simple clarity of thought, expressed in clear language, is a powerful bulwark against sliding down that slope.Report

      • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to Kazzy
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        says:

        @burt-likko This, basically. I’d just add that even in Zizek’s formulation, the words are not really violence themselves. They’re not even tools of violence such as a gun. They’re tools that can be used to enable violence in certain circumstances, the equivalent of gunpowder or raw steel.Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Kazzy
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        says:

        @mark-thompson if you can make something coherent out of Zizek’s word soup quoted above by @chris , more power to you. Seriously, the best I can get is that he notes that simply calling someone a Jew somehow incites other people to prosecute pogroms. How that makes the accusation of Jewishness, itself, an act of violence remains clear as mud to me.

        Of course, in today’s world, at least here in the States, an “accusation of Jewishness” would be met with utter indifference by all but a small number of entrenched bigots. But there are other things we might call someone that elicits the sort of emotional power of the age Zizek wrote about: call someone a “terrorist” or a “child molester” today and suddenly that person is no longer deserving of Constitutional rights.

        But no one here has argued that words lack power or that they are insusceptible of abuse.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Kazzy
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        says:

        But there is worse. Words carry a subtext, a world as we see it — a schema, the frame. They reinforce power, injustice, marginalization. They can fight those things as well.

        I think that’s what Zizek was saying, the difference being that Veronica was clear and direct.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Kazzy
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        says:

        Zizek is saying that language is used to create a image, or representation, of “the Jews” that has no reality other than in language and the minds of those who hear it, and in their actions toward Jewish people.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Kazzy
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        says:

        Which sounds to me like what Veronica said. Words can create a mental reality that affect real-world behavior.Report

  4. Avatar J@m3z Aitch
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    says:

    I can certainly understand the desire for others to not use one’s life as a teachable moment, but don’t we regularly use people’s lives as teachable moments?

    How can we teach about the holocaust without using the lives–and deaths–of genocide victims as teachable moments?

    What about Sam W.’s post on Philip Seymour Hoffman? Is it wrong to use his life, or Russell Brand’s, or Lindsay Lohan’s lives as teachable moments?

    A first-semester college student fails out because he took advantage of being out from under mom and dad’s control to get wild and undisciplined. Should I not use his life as a teachable moment for my soon-to-be college student daughter?

    A person stops to help another. Is it wrong to use that as a teachable moment?

    We are a social species with comparatively little instinct. Rather, most of our behavior is socially learned. Others’s lives are our lessons, so that our own lives ideally not be our sole source of learning. Who among us can honestly say we’ve never used another person’s life as a teachable moment, whether to teach ourselves or to teach others?

    So, as uncomfortable as it is, your life is our teachable moment, and our lives are your teachable moment. My life has undoubtedly been others’ teachable moment in ways I’ll never know (and perhaps am happier not knowing). That is the nature of humanity.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy in reply to J@m3z Aitch
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      says:

      @jm3z-aitch

      See above. The issue is that the article is not a report on violence and horrors inflicted or lived. It itself is violence and an infliction of horrors on another.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Kazzy
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        says:

        Refer back to my comments on the original post about it here. I was very critical of the original argument.

        Your response failed to addres my point.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Kazzy
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        says:

        @jm3z-aitch

        I’m finding your name appearing 23 times on that page. Can you clarify which comments you are referring to? Did I fail to directly address them in an exchange we had there? Or are you saying this piece fails to address issues you raised there? I just want to make sure I understand what you’re referring to before I respond. Thanks.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Kazzy
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        says:

        Kazzy,

        My point is that I was extremely critical of the outing of Dr. V. So what I say here should be read in the context of that.

        Further, you should respond to what I actually said here, which was not in any way a defense of the article, which I did mot even mention.

        I’ve only critiqued a trope. Nothing more.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Kazzy
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        says:

        @jm3z-aitch

        Let me clarify my point then, since it appears confusion abounds.

        I did not take your comment here as a defense of the article and, given broader context, can definitively say you are not and have never defended the article outing Dr. V.

        If I understand you correctly, you are defending or, perhaps more accurately, accepting the article staying up to serve as a “teaching tool”. You then explore other ways in which people’s lives have been used as teaching tools to reject the sentiment expressed in the quoted section. Do I have all that right? I think so and will proceed.

        This article isn’t a cautionary tale that describes an overly ambitious and woefully ignorant writer who causes deep and irreparable harm to his subject. The article itself is deep and irreparable harm. I’m not — nor do I believe Kate Fagan is — saying that the entire internet should be scrubbed of any mention of the story. Rather, the argument is that the original source piece — itself a harmful act — should be taken down because the power to learn from it is far, far outweighed by the harm it is has already causes and the harm it continues to cause.

        You sharing with your daughter the story of a wayward student is just that: a story. This isn’t a “story”. Not in the sense that it is an accounting of errors. The story itself is the errors. Were you to see a wayward student heading down a path which might cause him harm, I trust you wouldn’t say, “I’ll let him continue because then I can tell his story to my daughter and teach her.” (You might opt not to interfere for other reasons, but I doubt this one.)

        Which his why I reject comparisons between the original story staying up and other ways in which we learn from tragedy. We should seek to stop harm when it occurs. This article is harmful. It isn’t a record of harm. It is a harmful act itself.Report

      • Avatar Patrick in reply to Kazzy
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        says:

        I read James not as “defending using the article as a teaching tool” but rather “finding the tag line, ‘My life is not your teachable moment,’ to be not particularly compelling.” It’s ancillary to the OP, not a direct response to it.

        And James beat me to it, because that is exactly what I was going to say, and this is why:

        “We are a social species with comparatively little instinct. Rather, most of our behavior is socially learned. Others’s lives are our lessons, so that our own lives ideally not be our sole source of learning. Who among us can honestly say we’ve never used another person’s life as a teachable moment, whether to teach ourselves or to teach others?”

        Which I think is bang-on.

        The idea that some people’s lives not ought to be teachable moments because they wish it not so… is them wishing that they don’t want to be part of the social construct that is people. And yet very often that sentiment comes in service of a repressed group who specifically want to be treated like people.

        A much better banner cry for equality is, “My life is so much more than your teachable moment”.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Kazzy
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        says:

        I think we may be reading that quote differently.

        I don’t see it as, “Don’t learn from my life.”

        I see it as, “Don’t engage with me and my life solely so that you may learn.”

        If I tell you it hurts to walk into a wall, take heed.
        But don’t push me into a wall because you are curious to learn what it feels like.

        Let me ask this: What are we supposed to learn from the Grantland piece? We’re supposed to learn about the errors that Hannan made as a journalist, yes? Couldn’t we learn those without further exposing Dr. V? Instead, in order for journalists to learn about the mistakes another journalist made, we continually expose Dr. V and her life (admittedly, post mortem in this case). Learn from Hannan all you want; but leave the specifics of Dr. V and her life out of it.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Kazzy
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        says:

        @kazzy

        If I understand you correctly, you are defending or, perhaps more accurately, accepting the article staying up to serve as a “teaching tool”.

        Where did I make any reference to the article?Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Kazzy
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        says:

        “I am not your teachable moment” is an expression I’ve heard over the last few years, and I think there’s something to it. People often use others not as individuals, but as representatives of some larger group (some group to which we don’t belong), and this is the context in which “I am not your teachable moment” arises. It says, “Just because I’m black, or gay, or a woman, or have a particular disability, does not mean that I am here to teach you about being black, or gay, or a woman, or having a particular disability.” It says that it’s wrong to use people merely as a means to arrive at a lesson about people like them. I think it’s a pretty good sentiment.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Kazzy
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        says:

        @patrick,

        Well said.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Kazzy
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        says:

        @jm3z-aitch

        The question seems to be whether or not we should use people’s lives as teaching tools. What prompted this question is the article remaining up in the face of criticisms that it is disregarding the harm done in service of it acting as a teaching tool. You seem to be defending using people’s lives as teaching tools and offer up numerous examples of how we do just that. If you are supporting the broader idea that such is an acceptable course of action, it would follow that you consider it acceptable the article remain up.

        But that is neither here nor there… I said a lot more in that comment that had nothing to do with the article and everything to do with what you’ve written here.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Kazzy
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        says:

        @chris

        I think, then, it is a poorly phrased sentiment.

        And for christ’s sake, we’re told we should learn from others, so we can overcome our own blinders and see past our privilege. Granted, that individual is not the absolute representative of their group, but there is something fundamentally fished up about saying, on the one hand, “listen to people of group X so you can understand their experience,” and on the other hand, “don’t treat members of group X as opportunities to learn about the experience of group X.”

        Sure, “don’t treat me as a stereotype” is a good phrase, as is Patrick’s “my life is more than your teachable moment.” But “my life is not your teachable moment?” Fine, I won’t, but then you might want to stop asking me to understand you.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Kazzy
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        says:

        I ask again, @jm3z-aitch , who and what are we supposed to learn from the piece remaining up? From what the Grantland people say, it is intended to serve as a teaching tool for journalists, so that they can avoid Hannan’s mistakes. If Dr. V did not want to be complicit in teaching that lesson, she should be left wholly out of it at this point.

        The article isn’t up to teach us about folks who are transgender. It is up to teach us about journalism.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Kazzy
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        says:

        If you are supporting the broader idea that such is an acceptable course of action, it would follow that you consider it acceptable the article remain up.

        Really? Thinking that something is generally an acceptable course of action means it follows that one must think every possible case of that something is acceptable? I’m pretty sure that’s not true.

        The problem here is that you keep trying to connect my comment to the article. But I wasn’t commenting on the article.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Kazzy
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        says:

        Where the sentiment frequently pops up is in cases like this: a white person repeatedly asks questions of a black person with whom he or she is not particularly close (maybe they just met) questions about being black, or blackness. It amounts to treating the individual as a token of the group, and it’s pretty patronizing, demeaning even.

        It’s not meant to express the sentiment that we’re not supposed to learn from each other. It’s meant to express the sentiment that your learning about blackness, or gayness, or transness, or whatever, is not why I’m here. That is, it’s not my job (the black person, or the gay person, or the transperson) to teach you, but you should feel free to learn along the way.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Kazzy
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        says:

        Fine, @jm3z-aitch . Forget the article. Let’s play word and logic games instead of actually engage the meat of what we’re discussing here.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Kazzy
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        says:

        @kazzy

        I don’t even understand where you’re coming from. What are these word and logic games you’re talking about?

        I. Wasn’t. Making. Any. Reference. To. The. Article.

        I was simply talking about whether the phrase “my life is not your teachable moment” holds water. I don’t think it does. Our lives are each others’ teachable moments, like it or not, because that’s just part of what it means to be human.

        How does that apply to the article? I don’t know. I don’t even know if it does. I haven’t given thought to that because the article wasn’t what I was talking about.

        There’s no word game there, no logic puzzle. You’re trying to read meaning into it that isn’t there, and looking for a connection that I never contemplated.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Kazzy
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        says:

        @chris,

        Yeah, I think there’s a much better way to phrase that sentiment. It’s being used in a very inside baseball kind of way, but it’s being thrown at people who don’t know the game. And a literal reading produces an incoherent meaning.

        Whatever it’s meant to communicate, it’s not communicating that to the folks who are ostensibly the targets of the communication. Which makes me wonder whether the real target of communication is actually others within the in-group.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Kazzy
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        says:

        @jm3z-aitch

        And I’m saying it does hold water because the statement was made in reference to an article that outed a transwoman being kept up on a website because it provided a teachable moment to journalists. That is the context in which the statement was made. If you say that statement made in that context doesn’t hold water (which you are fully entitled to say), you can’t then disavow it from that context and say the article is immaterial.Report

      • Avatar Patrick in reply to Kazzy
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        says:

        @chris & @jm3z-aitch

        Yeah, I think there’s a much better way to phrase that sentiment. It’s being used in a very inside baseball kind of way, but it’s being thrown at people who don’t know the game. And a literal reading produces an incoherent meaning.

        Right, this.

        I understand what Chris is trying to say, mind you, and I understand that what people mean when they say, “My life is not your teachable moment” is probably what he’s saying it is.

        But when we’re talking about tag lines, memetalk, battle cries, whatever you want to call them, you have to recognize that they are expressions of solidarity (that’s what makes them ride off of the network effect) and they are inherently attempts at communication.

        And the audience that they’re directed at reads them quite possibly in different ways that they are intended.

        “My life is so much more than your teachable moment” recognizes that you’re part of a social community, that you have agency, that you have an existence that should be respected… and that part of your social community is the person who is taking your experience as a teachable moment. You’re recognizing them. It is inclusive.

        “My life is not your teachable moment” denies the listener agency. It is exclusive. It adds a barrier between the speaker and the listener.

        One of the things I find interesting about the power dynamics between in-favor and out-of-favor groups is that the out-of-favor groups often adopt memetalk or battlecries or whatever you want to call them that are exactly like this. I’m not talking just about transgendered folk, here… immigrants, minorities, women, LBGT folks, atheists, anybody who is not fairly well represented in the societal structures of power.

        And I get why. The fact that you are constantly at odds with a society that has default rules that reject you in many ways pisses you off. And I don’t deny the legitimacy of feeling pissed off about that. NOR am I arguing that those rules are legitimate or honorable. They’re disgusting. The fact that someone feels like they have standing to walk up to Veronica and ask about genitalia when they would never do such a thing to anyone else is a violation of any reasonable concept of polite society – not because questions about genitalia ought to be off the table (no opinion on that one), but because they are for the majority and aren’t for the minority.Report

    • Avatar veronica dire in reply to J@m3z Aitch
      Ignored
      says:

      You’re ignoring the power contexts here, acting as if we come to the stage as equals, all happy to teach each other. Ain’t like that for me.

      You’re ignoring the way we can use our own voices, instead of being drowned out by the privileged, who morph our stories into lies that serve their purposes. You’re ignoring how cis people feel entitled to our lives, our dignity, even our bodies — and this is not a here and there event but a relentless daily reality.

      You probably can’t fully understand.

      And acquiring that kind of humility, knowing that you cannot know, is a huge step, one that is hard to take.

      Want to learn about the holocaust, listen to its victims. Want to learn about the abuse of trans folks by the media, read our thoughts on the issue.

      We will tell you our stories, but on our own terms.

      It appears Grantland is finally listening, way too late for Dr. V.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to veronica dire
        Ignored
        says:

        Veronica,

        I’m not suggesting you can’t or shouldn’t participate in that lesson-making, or that it’s wrong to try to shape it and get people to use it one way and not another.

        I’m only saying that “my life is not your teachable moment” is flatly untrue, given the social nature of humanity.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to veronica dire
        Ignored
        says:

        You’re ignoring the power contexts here…

        You’re ignoring the way we can use our own voices…

        You’re ignoring how cis people feel entitled to our lives, our dignity, even our bodies …

        You probably can’t fully understand.

        Veronica,

        I’m not for a moment denying the validity of these claims. But notice how they can function as a shut down of voice. They’re an attempt to claim power over the debate through a claim of privilege.

        I don’t know that I would do any different if our positions were reversed, so I’m not angry, nor am I looking for a fight. But I am bothered, because the language is so exclusionary. It doesn’t invite me into a debate for further understanding, but tells me to butt out. Although I think there has been a misunderstanding of my point, the language seems designed to deny me participation, so that I cannot even effectively defend what I was really saying.

        And of course this complaint itself can also be rejected as the whining of the privileged. 😉

        But it means that almost certainly there’ll be no consideration of my actual point, and I might as well have never spoken. Silencing people is indeed a wicked weapon. Is turnabout fair play? It’s understandable, of course. Should I be sympathetic, given that it’s coming from a member of a community that has historically been silenced, and even now finds exercise of its voice risky? Or is that to treat you as no more than a member of that group, rather than as an individual? Is it to be respectful, or is it the soft bigotry of low expectations?

        I don’t know for sure, but I’m going to take the path of seeing you as an individual, whose individual identity is in important part shaped by experiences I can never have, but who is more than the sum of those particular experiences. And so I ask you to please try to see what I was actually saying, and refrain from using silencing language just as you would have others not try to silence you.Report

      • Avatar veronica dire in reply to veronica dire
        Ignored
        says:

        @jm3z-aitch — Thing is, it would be rather impossible for me to silence you, so complaining about that is a moot point.

        And lets switch around the direction of the verb. Instead of my silencing you — which I can’t do — let us talk about talking less and listening more.

        Scan this article, ’specially item #3. (You’ll hate it.)

        http://www.blackgirldangerous.org/2014/02/4-ways-push-back-privilege/

        It ain’t about silencing you. It’s that when you’re talking you ain’t listening.

        And Internet-dudely debate is waaaaaay overrated.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to veronica dire
        Ignored
        says:

        @veronica-dire
        It’s that when you’re talking you ain’t listening.

        As are you, I’m afraid. What you think I was saying in my original comment? That’s not what I was saying. Patrick got it; you and Kazzy didn’t.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to veronica dire
        Ignored
        says:

        If read that article and say, okay, then you know what, I’m just going to embrace my privilege, what exactly does that make me? Am I worse than the person who acknowledges his privilege but doesn’t do any of the relinquishing the person asks? What if I occasionally do some of those things, but not in a concerted effort to either acknowledge or relinquish privilege? And – if I do some of those things in such a concerted effort, how do I know when I’ve done enough of it to have become… whatever it is she’s holding out I could become if I do (enough of) those things? And what is that exactly, anyway?

        (I don’t hate article, by the way. I think it’s awesome, in fact. I’m just not sure it’s going to have its desired effect on me. But I may not understand what that is, either.)Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to veronica dire
        Ignored
        says:

        By the way, Veronica, I didn’t hate that article.

        Being trans undoubtedly gives you perspectives I don’t have (and I want to continue hearing them). But it doesn’t free you from the tyranny of assumptions.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy in reply to J@m3z Aitch
      Ignored
      says:

      @jm3z-aitch

      “So, as uncomfortable as it is, your life is our teachable moment, and our lives are your teachable moment.” Regardless of the harm that comes from using people’s lives against their will in service of a teachable moment that is immaterial to their life? That is what the quote in my piece here is pushing back against. Don’t expose Dr. V to harm so that journalists can learn from Caleb Hannan.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Kazzy
        Ignored
        says:

        @kazzy,

        I’ve said my comment was not about the article. I’m not going to talk about a connection that is wholly yours, not mine.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Kazzy
        Ignored
        says:

        @jm3z-aitch

        Do you or do you not want to talk about the appropriateness of using other people’s lives and experiences as teachable moments? If you do, you can’t get all huffy every time I mention the article, which is being held up as a teachable moment.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Kazzy
        Ignored
        says:

        @kazzy

        The problem is that you seem to still think my comment implied some particular position on the propriety of keeping the article up. It did not, it does not, and I’m not going to signal that it reallly did by talking about it, just because you think there really is a link.

        You want to talk specific applications? Here are my non-negotiable conditions. First, you address my comment, not a spurious link between it and the issue of keeping the article up. You tell me your thoughts on whether humans can avoid using each others’ lives as teachable moments.

        Second, we can talk about when and how it is appropriate/inappropriate to do so, but we use other cases, not the propriety of keeping thr Grantland article up. If you’re not just trying to manipulate me into making a connection I did not make but you think you see, that shouldn’t be a problem.

        But if you just want me to link my comment to the propriety of keeping thr e article up? Then you’re just gaming me, and I won’t play.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Kazzy
        Ignored
        says:

        I reject your conditions. You have made clear your disagreement with Fagan’s statement: “My life is not your teachable moment.” But your comments are dealing with a different situation than the one she describes. The situation she describes is this:

        Person Y harmed Person X. We want Person Z to learn not to do similar harm to others like Person X. In service of that, we are going to perpetuate the harm done by Person Y to Person X in the hopes that Person Z will learn.

        Fagan is saying, “Leave Person X out of it. Stop harming her and people like her. Teach Person Z using Person Y in some other way.”

        That is what Fagan and others are arguing against. If you don’t want to participate in that conversation but instead want to have a wholly different conversation divorced from that about learning lessons from other’s lives, you’ll have to go elsewhere. Because that is irrelevant to the conversation here.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Kazzy
        Ignored
        says:

        If you don’t want to participate in that conversation but instead want to have a wholly different conversation divorced from that about learning lessons from other’s lives, you’ll have to go elsewhere. Because that is irrelevant to the conversation here.

        Seriously? No talking about anything on Kazzy posts except the specific thing Kazzy is talking about? No tangents allowed unless Kazzy approved?

        That’s surprisingly douchey, but OK.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Kazzy
        Ignored
        says:

        “Elsewhere” as in “with people other than me”.

        The thing is, you want to discuss a straw man. You want to argue against a position no one here has taken. Now that I see your position fully for what it is, it’s a straw man, plain and simple.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Kazzy
        Ignored
        says:

        Who said I was talking to you?

        I riffed off in another direction. You might have noticed that happening on comment threads now and then? It doesn’t mean I was actually talking to you.

        And then you, buddy, engaged me, not vice versa. And I tried rather diligently to avoid substantive engagement, because you were consistently misunderstanding me. But you persisted in trying to engage me. So for you to now criticize me for talking to you?

        Pretty ironic, isn’t it?Report

    • Avatar Chris in reply to J@m3z Aitch
      Ignored
      says:

      Usually it is used within an in-group, but to be fair, many people in those groups are often limited to talking within their group anyway, at least when it comes to talking about the ways in which the dynamics of power play out.

      This is one of the wonderful things about Twitter, and one of the reasons we, that is us white, straight, cis folk, are just starting to hear about things like “I am not your teachable moment,” and the sentiments they express. For most of history, and for most of the history of the internet, people who feel compelled to say things like that have only been heard by other people who feel compelled to say things like that. Twitter makes it pretty much impossible for the rest of us not to hear them. I actually wrote a post about this, but I haven’t published it yet because I wrote it in a sort of writing fit, and it needs a lot of work. But maybe I’ll try to go back to it.Report

  5. Avatar Shazbot3
    Ignored
    says:

    What is being taught here?

    The story is this. The journalist could have written a piece saying this golf stick is said to do X, Y, and Z but there is no empirical basis for it. The person who engineered the stick is faking their credentials and has changed their name.

    Granted, this story would be short and relatively uninteresting. But it would inform the public and play the role journalism is supposed to play. Instead the author wrote a longer piece designed to be entertaining, shocking, and which would sell to readers.

    So, the journalist outed a person who has undoubtedly suffered more than any of us can imagine, who is the victim of a system oppression that we are all often partly responsible for maintaining, for entertainment value, causing a huge psychological shock, which caused her to kill herself.

    This is not the story of Essay Anne’s life. Not at all.

    It is the story of an unnecessary act of cruelty targetted against an oppressed person, who had done wrong things, but who could have been exposed as a sort of snake oil salesman without being exposed more generally. If the lesson is “Don’t act like this journalist” and some people need to learn that lesson, then God help us. I suspect people know that lesson already but they just decide to ignore it.Report

    • Avatar Patrick in reply to Shazbot3
      Ignored
      says:

      It is the story of an unnecessary act of cruelty targetted against an oppressed person

      It’s entirely possible that the journalist who wrote the story is indeed bigoted towards transgendered people.

      It’s also entirely possible that they are not. Using “act of cruelty” as a descriptor for writing a article assigns motives to the writer which are unwarranted.

      It may have been an act with cruel effect. It may have been an act of ignorance. It may have been many things.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Patrick
        Ignored
        says:

        No, an act of cruelty isn’t about the person. it’s about the harm caused to the listener (or other counterparty).Report

      • Avatar Shazbot11 in reply to Patrick
        Ignored
        says:

        It is also cruel when you should have known the painful consequences but ignored it.

        Racist jokes can be cruel (“acts of cruelty” to use my phrase) even if you don’t consciously intend the pain that they cause.Report

      • Avatar Patrick in reply to Patrick
        Ignored
        says:

        Shaz, if you don’t account at all for intention, and only consequence, then you’re in a place where I think you’re going to have a lot more moral opprobrium to dish out than you have solid ground to dish.Report

      • Avatar Shazbot11 in reply to Patrick
        Ignored
        says:

        Not disregarding intention entirely. Intent to charge ahead without concern can be as much cruel as intent to harm for the sake of harm.

        Banality of evil and all that.Report

      • Avatar Shazbot11 in reply to Patrick
        Ignored
        says:

        This is the distinction between “hot cruelty” and “cold cruelty.” The former involves awareness that the action will hurt and intent. Cold cruelty involves intending to think about the action in a way where you fail to notice that the act caused hurt.

        There is a difference between cold cruelty and genuinely not being aware that an action was harmful. Cold cruelty occurs when you have a duty to know better and think through the consequences of your action but fail to do so.

        I grant that the distinction between cold cruelty and good-willed benevolent ignorance of the harm done by an action is a bit fuzzy, but it is still a distinction. No?Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Patrick
        Ignored
        says:

        Patrick,
        I for one am glad to give folks the opportunity to apologize.
        One throws opprobrium around for multiple reasons.
        One is to express hurt/pain/frustration without
        hematomas.Report

  6. Avatar Kazzy
    Ignored
    says:

    @stillwater

    (DOWN HERE!)

    “There’s two ways to avoid doing so, it seems to me. Recognize that there’s more nuance to the issue than you’re conceding, or attribute a high level of stoopid to the people who disagree with you. Short of those, tho: moral reprehensibility for dissenters.”

    Where have I rejected the idea that there is more nuance?
    Where have I attributed stupidity towards people who disagree with me?

    I think I’ve pretty fairly engaged those who disagree with me. If you think otherwise, please point me towards examples where I haven’t.Report

    • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Kazzy
      Ignored
      says:

      Kazzy, here’s what you said in response to my first comment about viewing the published article as a lynching:

      I base what I said in the quoted part there on the fact that Hannan wasn’t discussing the outing of Dr. V, his article was the outing of Dr. V. It was the act itself, not a reporting on the act. If you disagree with that, I am all ears to hear your perspective.

      The dynamic here is that I have to demonstrate to you why I think it’s not a lynching, yes? I actually wrote a really long response to this but deleted it since it seemed tangential to the point I actually wanted to make. I mean, the fact is, I could provide evidence and argument defending my view that it isn’t a lynching which rests in part on disagreeing with the specific events you appeal to in your description. But that requires me to play a game that I’m not sure I want to play, with you attacking me and me defending myself from attack.

      The issue that seems more troubling to me is that you’ve outlined a position which presupposes an analysis which only immoral people could possible reject. It creates a binary context in which I either agree with you that Hannan’s published article constitutes a lynching or I’m morally reprehensible. It’s very much like the dynamic in the Dylan/Woody Allen thread where the failure to agree that Dylan is a victim (who’s been wronged by anyone who ever worked with or pays money to Woody Allen is complicit) constitutes a defense of Allen.

      Things just can’t be that binary, it seems to me. Hanley spoke quite eloquently about the tension surrounding maintaining a judgmental neutrality in the face of very intense more issues given not only the available evidence but the presence of questions that almost (almost!) demand the taking of sides. But that just can’t be right. There has to be room to recognize that an action was wrong according to one metric without judging the entirety of that action solely by that standard.

      In an indirect way, this goes to Burt’s point about accepting apologies: there has to be room within a) the recognition that an action was wrong, b) the admission of having acted wrongly to c) refrain from inflicting judgments on people’s character from a desire for reciprocity or restitution.

      The issue we’re currently discussing not merely whether or not ESPN ought to leave the article up, but getting into the specifics of what specific type of moral monsters ESPN reveals themselves to be for making a decision to do so. And by extension, what kind of moral monster anyone who supports ESPN’s decision to leave it up must in fact be.

      I find the whole issue to be so complex that individual judgments about it cannot be reduced to simplistic moral analyses. For example, I reject the premise that the article is a lynching and I support keeping it up on Grantland with the inclusion of editorial comments the effected parties think are relevant. But a demand from the trans community, or individuals from that community, to take it down because it’s offensive or harmful constitutes a restriction on speech that I’m not comfortable with. Part of the reason I view things that way is because I don’t see the article as intentionally denigrating or expressing bigotry against trans individuals. Hannan and the editors made some mistakes, for sure. And perhaps the apologies are insufficient according to Burt’s analysis. But that strikes me as a different issue.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Stillwater
        Ignored
        says:

        @stillwater

        I think you are putting more stock in the use of the term “lynching” than I ever intended. If you read me as saying that the article itself was a lynching of Dr. V, that was never my intention (and in a few other spots I’ve discussed that issue in more depth, ultimately deciding to simply step back from any comparisons between outing and lynching).

        I am highlight Fagan here and her statement that people’s lives aren’t fodder for life lessons. As I understood her statement, she was criticizing Grantland for leaving the piece up in the form it is now… a piece that wrongly outs a transwoman and which does not have a sufficient disclaimer per my standards… to serve as a teaching tool for journalists. The message that Fagan sees Grantland as sending (and which I agree with) is this: The harm done to Dr. V and that continues to be done to transmen and transwomen by the publication of this article is justified because it might help other writers better handle trans issues. She objects to that. I object to that. You might not object to that. On that point, I disagree with you. But I would not classify that position as inherently morally reprehensible. I’d want to know the argument being made in support of that position before going anywhere close to assigning such a label.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Stillwater
        Ignored
        says:

        She objects to that. I object to that. You might not object to that.

        Is it possible to object to it (ie, think its wrong) but think it’s not a trumping consideration? That other factors come into play which justify leaving it up?Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Stillwater
        Ignored
        says:

        @stillwater

        You mean, that there are things to consider other than the harm done to Dr. V and other members of trans community or the educative value of the article? Certainly. A variety of factors are possible factors and need to be considered in conjunction with one another.

        For instance, if you were to argue that the article should stay up so that Grantland can’t hide its record on trans issues, I’d probably disagree with that but would find it a perfectly legitimate starting position from which to enter the conversation.

        Similarly, if you were to argue that for the press to function they cannot and should not consider the emotional response to their work, I’d very likely disagree with that but would similarly find that a legitimate starting position from which to enter the conversation.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Stillwater
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        says:

        I think you are putting more stock in the use of the term “lynching” than I ever intended.

        Then why did you use it? I mean that seriously? It seems to perfectly capture (by analogy) the dynamic you think is going on in the Hannan article, yes? Forget about the word “lynching” (I mean, everyone knows that it’s not a literal lynching, right?) and think about the properties which define a lynching? Do you still agree that those properties are present in the article?

        Do you disagree?

        If you disagree, then why the **** did you use the phrase and attack people before you thought the issue thru?Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Stillwater
        Ignored
        says:

        @stillwater

        Burt actually first made the connection here: https://ordinary-times.com/blog/2014/02/04/more-thoughts-on-the-dr-v-story#comment-698815

        He listed it among several atrocities whose representations we keep for a variety of reasons. I grabbed lynching because it was the first one. But my intention was not to say that outing = lynching. Rather, it was to say that lynching is an act while photographs of lynchings are depictions of that act. Similarly, I considered Hannan’s piece to be an act, not a depiction of an act. And was trying to highlight that distinction. Between act and depiction.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to Stillwater
        Ignored
        says:

        @kazzy, to me, the problem here ‘lynching’ gets used in ways that suck the meaning out of it.

        It’s a powerful symbol of horrific wrong.

        Used sloppily, it’s drained of its horror, and equates to any time someone feels somebody else is out to ‘get’ them, and get can have thousands of meanings here; some may equate to the horror of lynching, most do not.

        I have mixed feelings when it comes to the Dr. V. piece; she ended her life. She was done horrific wrong. There’s also some level of ‘lynching’ the reporter, who did her terrific wrong; but here, it’s the diluted, robbed-of-its-power usage.

        As a reformed journalist, this interests me because it highlights the issues that spring out of what’s public and what’s private. Your education and work history are not private; they are matters of public record. Your gender identity is private. In this case, the privacy of the second, the gender identity, was unfairly compromised. It becomes a more complex issue, however; for it was compromised because of the way it hid the fact that the public information — education and work experience — were false. As a writer, I don’t know how I would have dealt with this; but I doubt I’d have written anything without conversation with the person I was writing about.

        And I know for certain that I would present that persons version of their story in a way that they felt was respectful; I’d go to great lengths to make sure I understood what was respectful. Respect of the person you’re writing about should always figure significantly in crafting a story. When that person is not of the norm (and norms shift, depending on the topic you’re writing about,) there’s always the risk that your subject will be used to define the norm for the reading audience; hence the objection that an individual of a minority group is not a teachable moment.

        If your subjects membership in a minority group is essential to telling the story, then it is the writer’s burden to present the story with respect; and Dr. V’s story failed there. Failed horribly and tragically.

        But, and this is crucial: Dr. V. opened herself to this invasion of her privacy when she falsified her credentials. They are matters of public record, and a very large part of the burden of reporting is verifying a the story by researching the public record.

        As a journalist, running into variations of this is incredibly common. Court cases, unless sealed, are public record. So are deeds and property tax records and countless thousands of other bits a data about people. Voter registration is public record. The local police log, with it’s grimy details of each and every encounter the PD had with people is public record. Yet when you report using any of these primary sources, you’re likely to have someone accuse you of invading their privacy.

        It is similar to recent Supreme Court decisions; the cell phone invasion isn’t a privacy violation because once you use the system, you surrender your privacy; the pot smell from your porch is private, from your car is public.

        I find most people do not have a sense of the difference. I find most people are often unable to hear the clunk of discussing norms; be they race, gender, economics, or religion. Our reporting runs amok of that.

        But our reporting is done with words, and we should use them carefully. A lynching that is not an act of mob violence on an individual is sloppy usage.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Stillwater
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        says:

        This [the Hannan article] isn’t a photograph of a lynching; it is the lynching itself.

        A “photograph” would be an article discussing the article.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Stillwater
        Ignored
        says:

        Do you have anything to go along with that, @stillwater ? I know the language that I’ve used. I’ve clarified what I meant. I’ve offered you the context on how that language entered the fold. I’ve walked back my use of that language. If you want to harp on it, I don’t know what more I can do for you.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Stillwater
        Ignored
        says:

        Well, I’m glad you asked Kazzy, because I wrote a pretty long comment that already addressed that. The first one in this subthread. The whole dynamic going on here is that you initially imposed some very definitive moral judgments on an action and people’s views surrounding that action, judgments that require people to justify whey they’re not moral monsters in advance of actually presenting what they take to be important distinctions that might be relevant.

        Now it turns out you’re backtracking on all that, but only after casting out all those initial judgments. Maybe the moral of the story is to refrain from making definitive judgments of people’s character until after careful consideration of the evidence and context.

        It seems to me, as I said in that earlier comment, that a lot of this dynamic is driven by a desire to impose a punishment on people, a desire for some sort of retribution or vengeance. I agree with Burt about the role of apologies and what it means to accept and reject them.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Stillwater
        Ignored
        says:

        Honestly, I’m really lost, @stillwater . I’m not sure where you are getting that I was trying to make monsters of people and demanding agreement to avoid calling them as much.

        If you read me as saying that outing is like lynching and anyone who disagrees with me is a monster, than you misread me pretty grossly even if there was a lack of clarity around the use of lynching.

        Show me… who have I judged here? Who have I declared a monster?Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Stillwater
        Ignored
        says:

        @stillwater

        “The issue that seems more troubling to me is that you’ve outlined a position which presupposes an analysis which only immoral people could possible reject. It creates a binary context in which I either agree with you that Hannan’s published article constitutes a lynching or I’m morally reprehensible.”

        You’ve said that I’ve done this. But you haven’t demonstrated where, how, when, or to whom I did this to. Excuse me if I won’t just take you at your word when we are discussing my own words and actions.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Stillwater
        Ignored
        says:

        I’m not sure where you are getting that I was trying to make monsters of people and demanding agreement to avoid calling them as much.

        Well, you called the article a lynching, yes? Can we agree on that?

        Kazzy, I haven’t read the whole thread, but I did read you’re responses to James comment where you appeared to me to desire to judge the moral content of his comment as it related to the article, when his initial comment and his followups clearly indicated that he was making no comment on the Hannan article itself.

        I dunno. If you don’t see what I’m talking about I’m not gonna push the issue. Let’s just say I found it interesting enough to point out, then interesting enough to clarify why I thought it was interesting. At this point I’m not that interested anymore in pursuing it.

        And no hard feelings about any of it, OK? This stuff is hard to talk about.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Stillwater
        Ignored
        says:

        But you haven’t demonstrated where, how, when, or to whom I did this to

        Kazzy, you called the article itself a lynching. At the very least, you did it to Hannan.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Stillwater
        Ignored
        says:

        @stillwater

        Actually, I never called it “a lynching”. I called it “the lynching” as opposed to “a depiction of a lynching” once Burt introduced lynching as an analogy.

        So, no, I don’t think the article was a lynching of Dr. V nor did I ever say as much. I understand where that confusion could have arise and have taken steps to clarify that.

        As for my exchange with Aitch, show me where I judged him. First off, I took steps to clarify the mutual misunderstanding we seemed to be having. Those steps seemed to have failed. I am not perfect. I have since been attempting to discuss with him the quote as offered in its original context rather than a differing and, as I see it, largely unrelated interpretation of that quote. From there, things got heated and that was sorta that.

        Again, if you can point me towards any direct quotes offered in context where I’ve done any thing you’ve accused me of doing, I will be happy to offer the necessary clarification, mea culpas, or what have you to make clear that my goal here is not to make monsters of anyone. Short of that, I don’t have much interest in defending myself against unsubstantiated claims based on misreadings taken out of context.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Stillwater
        Ignored
        says:

        Kazzy, I’m not gonna get into any of that meta stuff. You either understand what I was saying or you don’t. Call it a swing and a miss. I was wrong.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Stillwater
        Ignored
        says:

        @stillwater

        But I didn’t say that. I really, really didn’t. Here are all the times I’ve used the phrase “a lynching”…

        “If you read me as saying that the article itself was a lynching of Dr. V, that was never my intention…”

        “Actually, I never called it “a lynching”. I called it “the lynching” as opposed to “a depiction of a lynching” once Burt introduced lynching as an analogy.

        So, no, I don’t think the article was a lynching of Dr. V nor did I ever say as much. I understand where that confusion could have arise and have taken steps to clarify that.”

        “But I was trying to draw attention to the difference between the act itself (the outing, the lynching) and representations of that act (an article discussing the outing, a photograph of a lynching). As I see it, the article is the act: it is the outing, it is not a discussion of an outing. It should not be comparing to a photograph of a lynching. That is not an apt analogy.”

        “This isn’t a photograph of a lynching; it is the lynching itself.”

        I can see how that last one can cause confusion. But when you asked about it, I offered up what I thought was a pretty sufficient explanation.

        So, again, I don’t consider Hannan piece to be a lynching. It was an outing. An outing is not a lynching. The extent to which I compared the two was to note them both as violent acts against another as opposed to depictions of violent acts.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Stillwater
        Ignored
        says:

        I’m not sure what “meta” stuff you refer to. I’m asking for specifics. That seems pretty un-meta. Whatever. I think I’ve made myself abundantly clear on the matter and hope you understand me.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Stillwater
        Ignored
        says:

        a differing and, as I see it, largely unrelated interpretation of that quote.

        Yes, that’s what I kept trying to tell you. But you insisted on making it a related discussion, instead of accepting my repeated argument that it wasn’t related and I didn’t want it to be.

        Why the fuck did it have to be related back to that point, when, as you agree, it wasn’t actually related? Why couldn’t you just accept that it was a distinct, separate, discussion, and if it wasn’t a discussion you wanted, just leave it the fuck alone instead of trying to make it something it wasn’t?

        Despite that extensive douchebaggery on your part, I get your position on the use of the word lynching. You were simply distinguishing between acts and those things that record the act. It’s pretty simple for those willing to listen. Kind of like what I was saying.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Stillwater
        Ignored
        says:

        OK, I’ll dig into the record.

        The extent to which I compared the two was to note them both as violent acts against another as opposed to depictions of violent acts.

        Exactly. You see similarities between the two actions, enough similarities (at one point anyway in this discussion) to respond to my comment about being morally reprehensible for not thinking it was a metaphorical lynching by saying

        I have little interest in labeling people as morally reprehensible.

        which is cool, no doubt, followed by this

        I base what I said in the quoted part there on the fact that Hannan wasn’t discussing the outing of Dr. V, his article was the outing of Dr. V. It was the act itself, not a reporting on the act. If you disagree with that, I am all ears to hear your perspective.

        So the dynamic this dialogue established was that I’m judged morally reprehensible until I can passably justify, to your standards, my disagreement with your views about the article.

        I find that dynamic very problematic. Of course, I doubt you consciously intended to set up a dynamic like that. And I could be wrong that you in fact did set up a dynamic like that. It may be something I’m hypersensitive too and see even when it’s not around. But it sure struck me that way, and it’s something I seem to be seeing more and more (and commenting on more and more).Report

      • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to Stillwater
        Ignored
        says:

        @kazzy

        “If you read me as saying that the article itself was a lynching of Dr. V, that was never my intention…”

        So now we’re back to the subjective intention of the speaker being the determining factor. Which, as it were, is completely the position you seem to be arguing against.

        You have insisted that there must be some sort of an objective standard that can be applied to justify censorship. The fact is that such a standard doesn’t exist, and has never existed. You can, I suppose, attempt to ban just certain specific words and ideas; what you will get instead is people substituting “le quenelle” for the bantned words and ideas. Or you can ban the causing of offense to certain specific groups; of course, it won’t be the powerless who choose the protected groups, but that’s neither here nor there. And even if the powerless get to somehow choose the protected groups, you can rest assured that there will be sufficiently large numbers of protected groups that virtually anyone will be able to claim membership in one protected group or the other. Indeed, I heard on the radio the other day a caller justifying how “offended” he was at Coca-Cola’s mulit-lingual, multi-cultural Super Bowl commercial by pointing out that he was “1/8 Native American,” and that his Latino friend was just as offended by the commercial as he. And also that, as the 10th generation son of immigrants (I seriously wish I was joking about that) who changed their name to assimilate, he was offended by the celebration of multi-lingualism.

        So, by what objective standard do you think we should reject his offense taking while also rejecting the offense-taking of anyone who was offended by your own remarks, but enforcing the offense taking of people offended by Hannan’s column?

        The fact is that no such objective standard exists.

        If it does, then for once – and I’ve been demanding this for, literally, years – I’d like to see an advocate of offense-based censorship articulate it rather than just blithely asserting that it exists.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Stillwater
        Ignored
        says:

        @mark-thompson

        The extent to which I’d advocate any criminalizing of speech would be if objective harm to the victim could be determined. So if a trained psychiatrist/psychologist or, better yet, a team of them could determine that a person suffered real, verifiable emotional or mental harm because of verbal attacks, I would hope we could situate that person to seek redress one way or another. The bar would be very, very high, would not be based necessarily on the specifics of the language, and medical professionals would need to be involved. The response would have to be physiological in some way so as not to just be a matter of taste or preference by the victim. In much the same way I can’t choose not to bleed if stabbed, it would need to be an attack such that the individual’s physiological response was beyond his/her control. Really, we’d be in cases of extreme emotional abuse as opposed to simple offense.

        What I was more trying to get at is the stark distinction we make between words and actions which I think should be seen as real (and, if I wasn’t clear earlier, I think you did a bang up job of making a principled argument for why it is real) but not quite so stark. Basically, I think we need to thoroughly abandon the idea of “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” Words can hurt. They do hurt. And this might not justify criminal charges, but a better understanding of the hurt it can do can contribute to broader societal shifts in how we respond to verbal attacks.Report

      • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to Stillwater
        Ignored
        says:

        Then how, exactly, do we know that it was the particular words deemed offensive, rather than a combination of words and other factors, that caused the supposedly objective harm? How is this different from the existing tort of Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress?

        In the case of Dr. z, how do we know that the sole reason she killed herself was that she was outer as a trans woman rather than some combination of that and the fact that she was outed as someone who was committing a clear fraud to take money from other people? And how are alleged perpetrators to know that their words are likely to cause the kind of severe symptoms you describe? Are we to hold them responsible for all of the damage and problems the person had to deal with outside of the allegedly offending conduct?Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Stillwater
        Ignored
        says:

        Hmmm… worthy counters. I’d like to say, “Well, that is what the medical professionals are for!” But that is probably of little solace. Can you talk a bit more about Intentional Inflection of Emotional Distress? That might be more or less what I’m talking about and it might already exist and this might be all for naught.

        More broadly, I think we as a society would be well served to recognize the power of our words. This need not require censorship, but perhaps a greater awareness of the power of our own words and, thus, more judicious use of them AND the potential harm done unto others and steps we may take to help mitigate (such as telling someone to sit down and shut up).Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Stillwater
        Ignored
        says:

        Kazzy,

        I don’t mean to hammer on this too much, but you did invite me to go to the record to justify some of the claims I’ve made. Here’s a qualification from you on the upper thread where this discussion began:

        I used the analogy to lynching because it was initially offered up by Burt (and I think fairly so, for the record).

        It seems to me a reasonable reading of this sentence is it that you (or did) in fact think that both lynching and the Hannan article shared some morally relevant properties. I disagreed that the two things share enough properties for the analogy to hold, and … well … here wa are. But the point I’m making here is that I don’t think I was completely wrong in attributing to you the views we’ve been squabbling over, and importantly, that my disagreement with you entailed some sort of moral judgment, merely for disagreeing. I mean, if the analogy were to hold more completely, it would imply that there’s a view of lynching (the actual practice) where it’s not morally reprehensible. That’s the dynamic I objected to.

        To Mark’s point above, it’s entirely possible I suppose that a person using those words didn’t intend to mean what I’ve suggested, but how is a person who might be offended by them* to distinguish one from the other? Intent can only be inferred, yes? I say that because it’s possible I’ve been misunderstanding all the way thru. The only thing I have to go on is the werdz.

        *I wasn’t offended by anything you’ve said, by the way. I found some of it problematic, tho.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Stillwater
        Ignored
        says:

        @stillwater

        Was it me describing Burt’s use of the term as “fair” that gave the impression that I was suggesting some sort of moral equivalency?

        If so… well, I have to take that one on the chin, as it certainly gives that impression.

        What I was trying to do with that parenthetical was note that I thought Burt introduced lynchings (among other things) to point out a potential logical conclusion of a particular reading of the quote in the OP. And I thought that was fair. I then proceeded to riff off that. I included the parenthetical because I didn’t want it to appear I was throwing Burt under the bus… “Well, HE said lynching first so blame HIM.” Re-reading it, I can certainly see how it could be understood as saying, “It was fair to compare lynchings and outings.” Oi. Probably could have avoided lots of headaches there.

        SO, if that is to what you refer, A) hopefully this offers some much needed clarity and B) I can respond to the rest.Report

      • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to Stillwater
        Ignored
        says:

        @kazzy The wikipedia article does a decent, though not necessarily great job of setting out the elements of an IIED claim: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intentional_infliction_of_emotional_distress#Elements

        The two particularly critical factors are that the behavior has to be truly extreme or outrageous – to the point that a reasonable person would be outraged, not just a sensitive person – and that the distress be so severe as to have physical manifestations. Even then, as i recall, speech on matters of public concern is close to absolutely protected. I struggle to imagine a scenario in which the conduct giving rise to a successful IIED claim isn’t directed at a specific person or small group of specific persons. I also highly, highly doubt that there is a scenario under which Hanna would be found liable for IIED.

        I am not in favor of expanding the tort in a manner that would allow Hannan to be found liable, no matter how morally wrong it was of him to out Dr. Z.Report

  7. Avatar Kazzy
    Ignored
    says:

    By the way, @glyph (DOWNHERE!), a Google search for “Rebodello case” didn’t turn anything up.Report

    • Avatar Glyph in reply to Kazzy
      Ignored
      says:

      A link to it is in the initial comment I linked. Sorry, misspelled the name:

      http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/05/09/giovanni-johnny-rebolledo_n_3247826.htmlReport

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Glyph
        Ignored
        says:

        Thanks. That really seems like apples and oranges. Or apples and hammers. From what I got from that article, the individual in question didn’t identify as transgender but rather engaged in intense and serious body modification to avoid detection. That doesn’t even come close to Dr. V’s experience.Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to Glyph
        Ignored
        says:

        @kazzy – I am not going to rehash it again, I said my piece in the original comment.

        Again, that is here:

        https://ordinary-times.com/blog/2014/01/18/caleb-hannan-gender-identity-and-journalistic-ethics#comment-691388

        You wish to consider the cases unlike. That’s fine, I never said they were the same.

        My point is that a journalist, or a cop, upon uncovering evidence of a crime, should probably not make assumptions about whether a prior identity change is relevant or not – reasonable evidence of a misdeed, may warrant exposure of the person who committed that misdeed, for all the reasons I have mentioned (prevent future misdeeds, facilitate justice for past ones). Maybe this is the first thing they’ve ever done wrong, maybe it isn’t. The minute Dr. V committed fraud and then chose to speak to a journalist, she probably set in motion her own outing.

        Stop focusing on this particular case, and abstract outwards to the journalistic precedents you are asking be set re: the concept of “identity” when it comes to investigating crimes.

        “Glyph” ain’t the name my momma gave me; but if it’s reasonably certain that I defrauded people out of money on this board based on falsely credentialing myself, people would be well within their rights to expose my birthname, as well as my prior web identity IMGONNARIPUOFF@aol.com; doing so stops me from doing it to others, and gives past victims a chance to come forward and obtain justice.

        But if I commit no crime? Outing me is total BS.Report

  8. Avatar veronica dire
    Ignored
    says:

    I thought I’d escape the subthread.

    Okay, here is the thing. Every time you speak (or write or whatever), you are communicating far beyond the bare meaning of your words. We all get that. We all understand how subtext works.

    One subtext is power, who has it, who doesn’t, what the speaker is entitled to, what the listener must provide.

    All of you experience this sometimes, when a cop pulls you over and says shitty things to you. His words are not literal. No, instead he means to express his power over you. Bow down or you get the nightstick.

    This happens to all of you, yes? You deal with cops this way?

    No? Hmmmm. Wonder why.

    Thing is, subtext is a tricky beast, and while the dickhead cop is pretty obvious, much subtext is hidden, even from the speaker.

    Wanna know what subtext I hear a lot? This one: “I’m entitled to make shitty assumptions about you and then to share them.”

    Okay, look, we all encounter boorish behavior. You do too. But for me it is different. When you encounter a boor, well, they are just a boor, someone poorly socialized or tragically inept.

    When I encounter a boor, I encounter a person socialized normally, a faithful product of our society’s transphobia. They aren’t a boor; they’re just a dude. I on the other hand am a freak.

    The other day a guy on the train, out of the blue, asked me what my stage name was.

    Really. This happened.

    In his mind it was just lovely bit of conversation. To me it was another reminder that people see me as a freakish drag-entity, a ghoulish curiosity.

    Which I am not.

    Do people out of the blue ever assume you’re in drag? Or a sex worker? Do they ask you about your genitals?

    These things are not okay — to do to you! To do to me they are perfectly acceptable.

    The power dynamic between a major publication and some random trans woman is enormous. The power dynamic between us and the broad culture, the media machine, the blogosphere, on and on, is entirely one sided.

    When you make us a “teachable moment,” on your terms, never ours!, you reinforce that power dynamic. You remind us once again that we exist for you, that our broken lives, our suffering, our deaths, are there to serve your growth.

    This is the subtext. You don’t want to see it, anymore than that jackass on the train wanted to know why it is shitty to assume someone is in drag, but it is relentlessly present.

    I ain’t your fucking teachable moment. The events of my life — I share them on my terms in my voice. Try to take that from me, we’re gonna fight.Report

    • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to veronica dire
      Ignored
      says:

      I do see how Grantland’s making a show of keeping the article up in a prominent place could feel to the entire community like being put on display in a cage in the center of town, yes. I hope someone is able to get that through to them and an appropriate compromise between an unacceptable display of the piece for learning purposes and outright deletion of the record can be reached.Report

    • Avatar Kim in reply to veronica dire
      Ignored
      says:

      Yeah. The teachable moment here is : “How I Probably Killed Someone by Talking Too Much”
      To not be putting that front and center is disgraceful.
      [lawyers all around me are probably ready to say “but that would mean admitting culpability”!!
      Ain’t got no response to that. Not a lawyer.]

      I will stand up and say, “Don’t you dare take that down. You don’t get to pretend like you didn’t write it.”

      But this isn’t a “oh, god, I might have maybe pushed someone towards killing themselves”.

      If this MUST be a teachable moment — and yeah, it oughta be. Take some goddamn responsibility and say, “This was my fault. I don’t know how much. But I didn’t take someone seriously, and now they’re dead.”

      Bonus points: Ask “how can I help?”Report

    • Avatar Kim in reply to veronica dire
      Ignored
      says:

      v,
      You know, listening to you relate that story on the bus…
      I wasn’t there, mind. But he could have been saying,
      “Man, that gal’s got presence, and is dressed up fine —
      I’d like to see her when she’s on stage.”

      Thing is? The fact that you (might) have been interpreting
      it in a more hostile manner than meant? That’s also what
      our culture has done to you.Report

      • Avatar veronica dire in reply to Kim
        Ignored
        says:

        @kim — The context was he was chatting up another woman and (transparently to me) playing the role of the loud, funny man. I was a prop in his little gig.

        Judging from her body language, the other woman was unimpressed. But he carried on.

        It wasn’t that he was being a boor — a man being a boor to impress a woman is hardly notably — it was that he singled out me.Report

    • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to veronica dire
      Ignored
      says:

      When you make us a “teachable moment,” on your terms, never ours!,

      I’m really bothered by the thought that you think I was saying that, that it was the subtext. It wasn’t. I understand how it could be read that way. But it wasn’t.

      Deny me that? Fine, then I have no individuality; I am only what you say I am. You are using me on your own terms, not mine. Turnabout as fair play? Perhaps do, but let’s not pretend you’re not doing that.

      I ain’t your fucking teachable moment. The events of my life — I share them on my terms in my voice. Try to take that from me, we’re gonna fight.

      But you are my teachable moment. Every time you share the events of your life, on your terms, in your voice, you choose to make your life my teachable moment. And I’ve been damned appreciative; I’ve learned things I value having learned.

      The idea, though, that the subtext of my comment limited the teachable moment to being on others’ terms, that it excluded it being on the life-owner’s terms, in their voice, that idea is wrong. I understand the misinterpretation, but it’s a misinterpretation nonetheless. Can you allow me that, or are you going to insist that I could not have meant that; that as a consequence of my cisgender status I necessarily meant something else?

      How about a deal. I don’t define you for you and you don’t define me for me? Isn’t that what we’re both seeking?Report

    • Avatar Maribou in reply to veronica dire
      Ignored
      says:

      @veronica-dire, I share this not to detract from your powerful comment, but just to, you know, share – both with you and with whoever else is reading. Apologies if it comes off as diminishing the specificity of your oppression, I totally don’t mean it that way:

      Do people out of the blue ever assume you’re in drag? Or a sex worker? Do they ask you about your genitals?

      I am three for three on those assumptions/questions. So are both my sisters (who unambiguously identify as cis, fwiw), and lots of other women I know. And when I’ve expressed *any* degree of indignation about the appropriateness of that (in the cases where I felt safe enough to do so), the reactions of the assumer/questioner ranged from hurt puzzlement to enough threat that I revised my theory about whether it was safe to express indignation. To some degree, I think this particular aspect of suckitude – people thinking they have the right to ask you whatever personal questions cross their mind, and fixing on the gendered aspects of same – is just a feature of being a womanReport

      • Avatar zic in reply to Maribou
        Ignored
        says:

        It’s built into our language, our pronoun usage.

        I’m being charitable here, but the idea that I’m not sure he or she may be rooted in the uncertainty; and not using a personal pronoun feels overly formal.

        But that’s also no excuse for anything beyond momentary confusion, and perhaps a polite inquiry about the other persons preference. (But even that, asking if you should call someone ‘she’ would fall into the abyss of courage, you’ve got balls, man, and weakness, such a pussy.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Maribou
        Ignored
        says:

        “To some degree, I think this particular aspect of suckitude – people thinking they have the right to ask you whatever personal questions cross their mind, and fixing on the gendered aspects of same – is just a feature of being a woman…”
        @maribou @zic @veronica-dire

        I know well enough to recognize that I don’t have much if at all to contribute to this conversation here, but do want to say that I find it really interesting and demanding some reflection on my part. This quote in particular stands out in demonstrating how easy it is to subject folks to indignities and the unique demands we continue to make of women, cis and trans. One of those things I might know in an academic sense, but don’t really know know.Report

  9. Avatar veronica dire
    Ignored
    says:

    This seems relevant: http://www.buzzfeed.com/chrisgeidner/transgender-advocate-janet-mock-piers-morgan-sensationalized

    (As much as I hate to link to Buzzfeed.)

    (And I need to read Janet’s book, or I’ll lose all my trans points.)Report

  10. Avatar Kazzy
    Ignored
    says:

    @mark-thompson

    (DOWN HERE!)

    I made the lynching analogy to stay consistent with Burt’s earlier analogy. I do not equate outing to lynching. But I was trying to draw attention to the difference between the act itself (the outing, the lynching) and representations of that act (an article discussing the outing, a photograph of a lynching). As I see it, the article is the act: it is the outing, it is not a discussion of an outing. It should not be comparing to a photograph of a lynching. That is not an apt analogy.

    As to your point on violence, I’m debating a post on that very thing.

    Why do we privilege freedom of speech but not freedom of movement? We say the right to swing one’s arms ends at the tip of another person’s nose. But why don’t we say the freedom to speak your mind ends at the entry to another person’s ear canal? Why do we outlaw actions that result in physical harm but not actions that result in mental or emotional harm? Is it because one is necessarily worse than the other? Or because our conceptions of basic freedoms arose during a time when physical harm was easy to see and measure and understand and mental/emotional harm was barely understood (and remains less understood)?

    Why is a broken arm worse than a broken soul? Why should we outlaw behaviors that might cause the former but not the latter? Can you construct a principled argument for such that isn’t built on these assumptions being widely accepted?Report

    • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Kazzy
      Ignored
      says:

      Noted (for my part) on the analogy. Understood.Report

    • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to Kazzy
      Ignored
      says:

      It is very simply this – if you do not have free speech, then you prevent the spread of ideas, especially unpopular ideas, which can so easily be deemed “offensive.” Where “offense” becomes a basis to prohibit speech, religion cannot be questioned, and culture cannot be changed. Without near-absolute freedom of speech, a site like this could not even exist.

      Freedom of expression is the absolute most fundamental of freedoms, without which no other freedom can meaningfully exist.

      Freedom of movement is essential as well, in my view; it is not protected remotely enough and indeed in my view ought to be privileged in a way that is not approached in practice. But you cannot restrict freedom of speech without also restricting freedom of movement – to do so is to say that physical violence is justified by speech deemed offensive by any of those whom the speech restrictions purport to protect.

      And, if we’re being honest, what is deemed offensive by any given group can, does, will – and, dare I say, should change dramatically over time. To say that a failure to keep up with the most recent notions of what words are and are not offensive to any given group (or even just individual members of that group) can be made punishable by law is to create an impossible standard of knowledge that no one can meet and that will prevent people from sharing ideas.

      No, the solution to offensive speech is not censorship. It is more speech – and “more speech” can surely include social ostracization and isolation.

      If people offended by Mr. Hannan’s article wish to single him out for social ostracization and isolation, then that is free speech at work.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Mark Thompson
        Ignored
        says:

        If people offended by Mr. Hannan’s article wish to single him out for social ostracization and isolation, then that is free speech at work

        It is also freedom of movement at work.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Mark Thompson
        Ignored
        says:

        Thanks, @mark-thompson . But similar problems plague prohibitions on movement. The law has to define what battery is; it is not simply left up to the victim to decide, else people would be empowered to pursue charges against someone who brushed up against them on the street. What if we were able to determine, objectively, when speech progresses from offense to actual, measurable harm? In the same way that we have objective measures to determining that an an individual’s body was harmed? We have this in special circumstances, such as child abuse that can take verbal/mental/emotional forms and workplace harassment. Why couldn’t or shouldn’t such prohibitions be extended beyond those specialized circumstances? If we acknowledge that words can cause real harm, why should we so widely disregard this harm?Report

      • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to Mark Thompson
        Ignored
        says:

        The thing is, battery is battery regardless of the amount of harm caused. If Beta-male me punches Arnold Schwarzenegger, I’ve committed battery regardless of whether he felt harmed, or regardless of whether he even noticed that I hit him.

        I suppose you might say that “intent” has an important role to play in this. And, well, sure. But the thing is that the most valuable speech historically has often been speech specifically intended to offend a particular person or group, or at least make them incredibly uncomfortable.

        Hell, even in these very threads, the phrase “dudebros” gets thrown about a lot. Why? Precisely because it offends a certain set of people (and in which I myself am not sure whether I’m supposed to be included); but in so doing, the idea is presumably to turn the tables on those perceived (however rightly) to be in power.Report

      • Avatar greginak in reply to Mark Thompson
        Ignored
        says:

        One problem Kazzy is that even verbal abuse against children is often hard to discern. It certainly happens and can be terribly painful. But often its ambiguous. It isn’t a criminal thing, it ends up relating to child custody or possibly CPS involvement. But even a parent who is verbally abusive will, unless there is a lot else going on, still have their child. How does that even map onto adults?Report

      • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to Mark Thompson
        Ignored
        says:

        In addition to @greginak ‘s point, workplace harassment laws aren’t criminal, either.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Mark Thompson
        Ignored
        says:

        @greginak and @mark-thompson

        Thank you for clarifying. I didn’t realize the specifics of either situation.Report

    • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to Kazzy
      Ignored
      says:

      And while I understood why you chose that analogy, that does not make it in my view any more appropriate nor any less offensive. Burt’s reference to the act of lynching was clearly to say “in cases far, far worse than this….” The response of saying that in this case the article IS the lynching changes the context entirely.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Mark Thompson
        Ignored
        says:

        I disagree. While I will not say that lynching and outing are one in the same, I think they are closer to one another than Burt does. Further, I think my meaning is clear, especially given the follow up comments in which I further flesh out the difference between the harmful act itself and representations of the act.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Mark Thompson
        Ignored
        says:

        You’re half-right, Kazzy. You ought to be saying at this point that they are really, really far apart. Because they are. But, given the analogy was raised, where Burt said it’s like a picture of a lynching, I don’t have any problem with you saying, No, if that’s your example, then this is the lynching. I don’t see that you carried the analogy further than where Burt initially took it (which is why I didn’t object). You were making the analogous point within the analogy offered. That’s fair.

        But it’s unfortunate that you’re now casting doubt on how different you think this actually was from a lynching. It was very different.Report

      • Avatar veronica dire in reply to Mark Thompson
        Ignored
        says:

        @kazzy — Personally I would have avoided the lynching analogy, even if Burt did it first, and found another way to express the thought.

        The horrors of outing are bad enough on their own, even if there will always be people who do not want to see that — we’ve encountered a few on this thread; that is expected — far better to directly express the horrors of outing, and why we trans folks take the stand we do.

        There are structural similarities between the civil rights struggle and queer liberation struggles. However, expressing the similarities without appropriating is tricky. It almost never works as a pithy example in a comments thread.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Mark Thompson
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        says:

        @michael-drew

        I’m probably even wronger than that in terms of the aptness of the analogy. As someone who is white and cis — that is to say, someone who is not and has never been the target of either lynchings or outing — I am ill positioned to even weigh in on how close or far apart those analogies are. Realizing such, I will back off any further comparison between the two. But suffice it to say that I still consider Hannan’s piece qualifies as the act itself and that a piece like Jonathan’s qualifies as a representation/discussion of that act.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Mark Thompson
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        says:

        @kazzy,

        Yep, that’s probably smarter than following my dumb advice and taking a hard position on how two things we can’t relate to compare.

        And, btw, good on you using the word “comparison.” I had that in mind, too. It’s a simple thing, but it’s remarkable how hard it can be for people to keep the two modes of analysis – analogy, comparison – distinct in their heads. Very easy to slip from analogy to comparison, as if a stark contrast invalidates any analogy (though of course differences have to be examined in analyzing the power of the analogy). I’m very frequently guilty of this.Report

  11. Avatar Kazzy
    Ignored
    says:

    @j-r

    (DOWN HERE!)

    Here is what Veronica said: “…he sounds like a pretty typical example of “privileged, ignorant, overconfident douchebro” to me.”

    That is what I was referring to when I said, “That about sums him up.” I don’t think Simmons is actively racist and, at times, represents a more enlightened perspective of race (e.g., his willingness to make and discuss others’ refusal to make cross racial comparisons between athletes). However, I think he tends to overstate his own case in this regard and presume standing and enlightenment he doesn’t actually possess. And his willingness to indulge some very real racism (e.g., “Reggie Cleveland All-Stars”) demonstrates this.

    So, yea, I think Veronica’s description is pretty spot on… Privileged? Yep. Ignorant? Often, yes. Overconfident? Absolutely. Douchebro? Well, that’s sort of his whole thing… the middle-aged man child.Report

    • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Kazzy
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      says:

      I was going to write basically exactly this comment. Each one of those pretty much checks out. The thing is, it doesn’t make him a vicious hatemonger – or even worthless in his proper role. He’s an entertaining sports commentator (to many) – and a fairly ignorant one at that. But, entertaining (to some of us, sometimes), which kind of makes up for that. And I don’t think he means harm. He is what he is, which is extremely likely to get his arm smacked off if he sticks it too far out of his lane as he did here (though somewhat via just unintentionally steering too close to the lane line.)

      Anyway, yeah, veronica basically nailed him.Report

    • Avatar j r in reply to Kazzy
      Ignored
      says:

      @kazzy

      I don’t get the sense that Simmons presents himself as anything other than what he is: a sports writer with a healthy interest in pop culture. Again, your primary argument against him seems to be that he is not overtly progressive in his outlook. True, but hardly something worth condemnation. Unless, of course you are someone who thinks that not being progressive is worthy of condemnation. If you are, then you should come out and say that.

      And if the Reggie Cleveland All Stars bit is racist, then so is every episode of In Living Color, Key and Peele, Mad TV and every other sketch comedy show that’s ever dealt with race, so is every stand up comic who has ever mentioned race in their act, every Mel Brooks movie, every… you get the picture. Basically, if the Reggie Cleveland All Stars bit is racist, then the word racist has no actual meaning. And as someone who believes racism does have an actual meaning (aside from a way to take swipes at people who aren’t progressive enough), I continue to pushback on the assertion.

      Further, in calling Simmons a “douchebro” what you are really doing is trying to pathologize a whole cross-section of traditional male behavior, which is something that seems to be in vogue within certain circles these days. Some people like to get together, in person or on the internet, and talk sh*t. Often the things said in those situations aren’t particularly politically correct, but so what? Does the whole world have to be politically correct?

      Do you recognize that there is a whole lot of space between being overtly racist/sexist/homophobic and the sort of irreverent exchanges that often happen among men?Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to j r
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        says:

        jr,

        I shouldn’t speak for Kazzy, but I’ve discussed this with him before, and I don’t think he’s really as down on Simmons as you’re picking up. Really, I think he’s just saying that he has some serious deficiencies as a *serious* communicator, and inasmuch as he does purport to do *some* serious communication (serious network NBA commentary and running Grantland), he can’t really be given a pass on that. But, by and large, he’s just not that serious of a guy, and that’s really how he should be pegged. His “deal,” then, (as in, “What’s your deal, bruh?”) should be viewed in that context. But that contexts allows a person, and, indeed, since he is quite unreflective, ignorant, and offensive in some of the things he says both in his serious and clownish guises, compels a person to give him a fair amount of semi-serious shit (in the spirit of the dudebro culture you rightly say shouldn’t be dismissed whilst kept in its place) about his overall act. And sonce his overall act involves running one of the more serious sports and culture commentary sites on the internet, when he f*cks up as bad as he did in that role, the shit he’s going to get rightly goes from semi-serious to pretty damn serious.

        And you could hear it in his voice in the first podcast after the fiasco. I wanted to think he had really learned lessons, but I fear his instinct was, like the not-fully-mature dudebro he is, to move on as quickly as possible. I’m holding out hope his learning isn’t done on the topic, though. Changing course on displaying the piece as a demonstration his learnability would be an indication of that.

        And Kazzy can now smack me down for saying he thinks things he doesn’t.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to j r
        Ignored
        says:

        Nah, I think you more or less nail it Michael Drew (right down to his tone in that first podcast! I heard that, too!). Simmons often wants to have his cake and eat it, too: he doesn’t want to be held to the same standards as real journalists because, hey, he’s the Sports Guy, a rogue blogger trying to stick it to the man! Yet he also wants to be taken seriously when it serves him. I don’t think he’s quite figured out how to manage the various roles he has.

        I don’t think he is any more or less obligated to be forward-thinking on these issues. But I think there is a degree to which he thinks of himself as and likes to hold himself up as such. And if he is going to do that, then I’m going to demand more of him.

        The issue I have about the Reggie Cleveland All-Stars is that the supposed phenomenon that led to its genesis would actually make for something interesting to discuss. The way in which names can become racialized and what this means given the various avenues through which we consume sports and how the mental conceptions we craft of players who we might not have a physical appearance to attach to a name can distort our broader perception of them… all of that would be interesting. But instead, he goes for the low-hanging fruit. It’s racist, but in the boring ol’ everyday racist way that so many things (including those that you offered) are. It doesn’t make Simmons any better or worse than other sportswriters. Which is precisely my point. He’s far more similar to his peers than he likes to think that he is and likes to present himself as.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to j r
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        says:

        @jr

        In the course of a number of recent threads, there are a few commenters who I felt have distinguished themselves by presenting their viewpoints firmly, respectfully, calmly, and with considerable analytic and verbal acumen. I have let a couple of them know about that elsewhere, and here I want to tell you you are one of them. As per our Guest Posting Policy, all of our readers (and others as well) are welcome to submit pieces of writing for publication here as guests; please know that that indeed includes you. In any case, I hope you will stick around to continue to comment here.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to j r
        Ignored
        says:

        To both – I am completely unfamiliar with the Reggie Cleveland All-Stars. I will seek to remediate this lapse when I can.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to j r
        Ignored
        says:

        The RCAS are white guys with black-sounding names. Not to be confused with the Lindsey Hunter All Stars, which are males with female-sounding names.

        Hilarious, right?!?!? Nothing tired or hackneyed about that!Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to j r
        Ignored
        says:

        So here’s a question. How utterly & for-real outrageous would this be if it weren’t black guys doing it?

        That’s not a point about the RCAS. it’s just a, Wow.Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to j r
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        says:

        @michael-drew – that is EXACTLY the sketch I had in mind, but didn’t want to butt in.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to j r
        Ignored
        says:

        Oh! Somehow I missed that link the first time around. I will say that I’ve read a good amount of criticism of K&P among black folk for that sketch in particular as well as some others related to race.

        See here: http://www.racialicious.com/2013/12/10/what-names-are-normal-shifting-the-center-of-the-world/Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to j r
        Ignored
        says:

        Well, white people do edgy race-tinged comedy like this, but black people do edgy race-tinged comedy like *THIS*.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to j r
        Ignored
        says:

        @kazzy

        I hadn’t investigated, but I assumed there must have been. Freddie also wrote a piece making about African-American names and power not long ago, though I don’t think the hook was K&P.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to j r
        Ignored
        says:

        W/r/t to the football skit, the laziness of it stands out. Racist or not, “Haha, funny black people names,” just doesn’t make me laugh.

        At least the teacher skit had an angle wherein you can say there is a there there, though I’m not sure the execution landed.

        If you’re going to be edgey, at least be funny.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to j r
        Ignored
        says:

        That football skit is just terrible. The first one it felt like just barely missed the mark on something funny and significant. Like if they’d made the teacher just kind of dumbfounded (the same way that whites are sometimes dumbfounded over black names, and then trying to explain that these pronunciations are kind of silly) instead of Mr. In Your Face Urban Teacher (which I guess was supposed to be funny, but wasn’t really), it would have been less distracting. That’s this very white boy’s opinion, though.Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to j r
        Ignored
        says:

        I’ve watched a handful of Key & Peele eps and have not been overly impressed (though the dubstep sketch Chris posted here was OK). The football names one is WAY too long (there are even sequels IIRC) and though I think a few of the acting/deliveries are amusing, not one name is as funny as “Raymond Luxury-Yacht-Throat-Wobbler-Mangrove”.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to j r
        Ignored
        says:

        What stood out to me about the football sketch in particular is that, were it offered “in house” to a black audience as part of a conversation on naming conventions… okay, sure. But that wasn’t it. It just came across as “Let’s laugh at stupid black people with stupid black people names.” I also know that both comics are biracial with one (I don’t remember which) being raised by his white mother. This has led to some questioning their “credentials” as black comedians. I can’t offer much in the way of commentary there other than to say I’ve heard/read some black folks offer that up.

        Sometimes they are really funny and on the mark. Sometimes not so much. Sometimes the funniest bits have a racial or social lens. And sometimes they are poop jokes (for whatever reason, this bit always has me in hysterics: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WXafy1n9cVY&list=PLTIrDd7k4an0beRPsZVGcqBGjQIeLlW9A&index=1 Yes, there is a slight racial angle in terms of the characters they are playing, but it is ultimately a silly poop joke.)

        I think they hold a complicated place in the comedy world.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to j r
        Ignored
        says:

        I also know that both comics are biracial with one (I don’t remember which) being raised by his white mother. This has led to some questioning their “credentials” as black comedians.

        And of course they’d have no credentials as white comedians, either. Their parents should be punished for the harm they’ve caused their children.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to j r
        Ignored
        says:

        Silly, James. Everyone knows there are no white comedians. There are black comedians. And comedians.

        Just like there aren’t any male comedians. Just female comedians and comedians.

        Even decidedly white, decidedly male humor does not get labeled as such. It gets called “blue collar”.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to j r
        Ignored
        says:

        I like the fact that the NBA has enough of a preponderance of black guys that people will specify that John Doe is “that white guy” on some team.Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to j r
        Ignored
        says:

        It just came across as “Let’s laugh at stupid black people with stupid black people names.”

        So what? That’s the way humor works. If someone did a skit making fun of WASPs for having names like Chad and Muffy would you have the same concern? If not, why the need to treat black people like hothouse flowers?

        There’s racism that comes from making certain people the butt of insensitive jokes. And there’s racism that comes from treating certain people with kid gloves. Which is worse is going to vary from person to person in accordance with their own level of sensitivity to these issues. So, on one hand there is no right answer, but it’s important to remember that there is more than one perspective here. And it is a mistake to unambiguously label someone or something racist because it is out of sync with your particular level of sensitivity.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to j r
        Ignored
        says:

        jr,
        you in favor of Hitler jokes?Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to j r
        Ignored
        says:

        @j-r

        First and foremost, I just think that is boring, lazy comedy regardless of the target. Laughing at people because they are different in a way that is harmless and inconsequential just doesn’t appeal to me. I do think that the target and the speaker matter and can sometimes lead to certain targets being more okay than others because of power structures and the like (see the Racialicious link on punching up vs punching down). Was it racist? Depends on how you define the term. But I did find it boring and unfunny.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to j r
        Ignored
        says:

        Kazzy,
        I’m still in stitches over someone’s “favorite food”.

        seriously, these things can be really hilarious.Report

  12. Avatar veronica dire
    Ignored
    says:

    @burt-likko — (following the new trend of escaping the subthreads)

    Rape? Really, you want to take it there?

    I think today must be clumsy-analogy-from-Burt day.

    Why must we go from general “violence” to the specifics of rape? Seriously, why choose that specific form of violence for your analogy?

    Let’s keep rape out of the picture. Just, don’t.

    Let’s tone it down. Is spitting violence? — I mean spitting in someone’s face. (Dunno, not a lawyer. But it seems close enough for me.)

    Okay, can words be as bad as being spat upon?

    Fuck yeah they can. Trust me I know.

    How about a minor assault that leaves no serious injuries. Is that better or worse than bad words?

    Trust me again, I know.

    Oh, but what if the assault goes to far? What if a minor fistfight leads to a death?

    It happens. But then, what if your words lead to a death?

    Think they never do? Dr. V.

    “But violence is so much worse than words!” you declare.

    Do you know how bullies can game the system?

    Violence is worse, so we’ll punish that! Words are just words. They aren’t violence.

    The bully learns. Your rules become his playbook.

    Just enough, chipping away, little words, until that queer girl eats a gun. Happens all the time.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy in reply to veronica dire
      Ignored
      says:

      @veronica-dire

      I think about this with my students a lot. I work hard to make clear to my students that verbal violence will not be any more tolerated than physical violence. Pushing another child to get your way is completely unacceptable. But so is saying, “Give me the block or you can’t come to my birthday party.” As silly as it may seem, the latter act is felt far more intensely among young children than the former. But because it wasn’t “violent” by the way we traditionally define it, it often goes uncommented upon or draws a far weaker response from the teacher. Not for me. And especially not when you have those students who are particularly verbally strong using their gift among students who are not as much. Doesn’t fly with me. Might doesn’t make right. But neither does intelligence or verbal proficiency. We can’t let the bully rule the roost through intimidation. But nor should we let the brilliant mind do so through manipulation.Report

    • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to veronica dire
      Ignored
      says:

      @veronica-dire I’m happy to dial back on the rape, but before I do, please take a moment to wonder about why you recoil from that. Rape is really, seriously, awful. We don’t treat rape as the categorical equivalent of people using words in a socially unacceptable manner. It is a quantum level (perhaps more depending on one’s taxonomy, but you get the idea) greater of moral, social, and legal wrong. I picked “rape,” but “murder” counts too.

      You wrote above:

      Words can be abuse. You all get that, yes? [¶] Horrifying abuse. Words can destroy self image, bring on depression, hopelessness, even suicide. This can be done callously. It can be done deliberately. [¶] But there is worse. Words carry a subtext, a world as we see it — a schema, the frame. They reinforce power, injustice, marginalization. They can fight those things as well. [¶] Words can command armies, start wars. But not only literally, as in a phone call to a general, but in subtle ways, manipulating the frame until war seems inevitable.

      And I agree with every word of that. We should take seriously when people use words, especially when they do so, intentionally, to produce the results you describe. I’m not going to say, categorically, that such use of language should be forever and always privileged, either. But nevertheless, words are not violence.

      Your comment implies that you propose taunting as the verbal equivalent of spitting. Fine, I’ll go along with that. As a matter of public policy and law, spitting counts as assault, a battery, or both. As a practical matter, of course, most prosecutors presented with a victim complaint of “He spit on me!” would decline to prosecute, as the harm resulting from being spat upon is small as compared to the expenditure of resources involved in the prosecution.

      But as a practical matter, a complaint of “He taunted me!” will, and ought to be, dismissed very close to out of hand, and for a categorically different reason. Speech is qualitatively different than violence and we open ourselves to significant cognitive category errors when we equate the two.Report

      • Avatar veronica dire in reply to Burt Likko
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        says:

        @burt-likko — You’re wrong. And you can, of course, dismiss these things as “taunting.” And you can point out the fact that many (most?) courts will dismiss our claims. This does not surprise me.

        Once recently I recounted to my therapist a particularly frightening event that I experienced on the subway, where a young, strong man called me a “faggot bitch” (along with some other slurs I won’t repeat) — after he had taken my picture on his phone. His tone and gestures, the way he got up from his seat, the way his friends mock-tried to stop him — these things carried a clear threat. I was terrified.

        My therapist suggested it was a crime and I should report it. I laughed.

        You are correct. The cops would do nothing. Trans people are disposable, garbage girls whose lives mean nothing.

        I hope you rethink your position on this, on what words are to us, on what “taunting” actually means, as a thing in the world. I am done with this conversation.Report

      • Avatar greginak in reply to Burt Likko
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        says:

        veronica- If i might jump in for quick question. Your experience on the train was undoubtedly scary and wrong. But are you suggesting the cops would do nothing because you are trans? If so do you really believe the cops would do something if anybody else was threatened that way. I’m a white guy and i in no way believe the cops would do squat if i called them about that. Certainly it was wrong but there was no physical violence and even if they actually found the guys what evidence would there be. They would likely claim nothing happened. So the cops have nothing to go on.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to Burt Likko
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        says:

        @greginak a white cis male does not have the constant threat to their person that a trans woman has. The cops should react differently; particularly if the woman was being singled out as a trans woman.

        I hope things are changing, but in many places and in most places until very recently, the cops would not help the woman and in some, might participate in the verbal assault.Report

      • Avatar greginak in reply to Burt Likko
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        says:

        @zic I disagree with most of that Zic. A completely agree trans people ( or gay or in women) often face more of a frequent and persistent threat. However anybody can get the crap beaten out of them. While i’m a guy i was never a SEAL or Jon Claude Gosh Darn. If a bunch of young guys tried to beat me up they could do so just fine. Should cops be more attuned to keeping marginalized groups safe: yes completely. But if street violence is a concern, then it should be a concern for everybody.

        However the situation Veronica described, i think its important to note, that its really unlikely the cops would be able to do much of anything no matter who complained. They were on a train, once everybody is gone their own way how are the cops to track some guys down? And what if, as is likely, the guys just say nothing happened or it wasn’t them? To a great degree the situation determined nothing was going to get done. I recall having my bike stolen as a kid. My parents called the cops who came to our house and said there was almost no chance they could find the bike or do anything. Really, how were they going to find one bike?Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Burt Likko
        Ignored
        says:

        I was pretty much done with the exchange too, @veronica-dire . If you’re conceding the last word to me, I’ll take it:

        Obviously no one condones an incident like the one you described. But there are two things that happened: taunting, and then a physical action of jumping towards you, followed by more taunting.

        I get the visceral reaction to this. The fear of violence. I get that people from marginalized communities get more than their proportionate share of this sort of bullshit.

        The jumping out of the seat behavior you describe meets the legal definition of a crime called “assault.” (It does not meet the legal definition of “battery,” but that’s bar-exam-level quibbling.) That’s as close as your story comes to actual violence. The rest are insults. Words.

        Even if you had been a cishet whitedudebro instead of who you are, this story would have resulted in a cop asking, “Did he actually throw a punch?” and when the answer was “no,” that would have been the end of the cop’s interest in the affair. Why? Cops are interested in actual violence, not this ill-defined “verbal violence” thing that’s been at the heart of this facet of today’s discussion.

        That, as I have indicated above, is as it ought to be. I’m fine with leaving our exchange at you disagreeing with that last sentence. We’ve beaten our respective sides of this very dead horse quite thoroughly at this point.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to Burt Likko
        Ignored
        says:

        @greginak yes, but the reason you’re right ‘once everybody had gone their own ways,’ not what was anybody said.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to Burt Likko
        Ignored
        says:

        And I apologize for the grammar there, we are having a storm, and I have migraine today because of it.Report

      • Avatar veronica dire in reply to Burt Likko
        Ignored
        says:

        @greginak — Anyone could get killed.

        Imagine you have two children. Neither gets killed.

        However, each gets bullied.

        For your first kid, this happens once briefly. And it sucks. And they are frightened and sad. You work through it.

        Your other child is bullied relentlessly, day in day out, near to suicide. The officials will do nothing. I mean, they say the right words to your face, but nothing happens. (And in fact one time you overhear an official refer to your kid as a “faggot” and then say “If I could, I’d kill him myself.”)

        Now, were this real life, and not a thought experiment online, you would sue. You might even win.

        But I’m trying to help you understand my life. I can’t sue the jerks on the subway. I have little power to go after shitty cops. You can’t sue the officials in my scenario.

        You have to suck it up. Your kid has to suck it up. But they can’t. It’s too much. They beg you to let them die. And you can do nothing to protect them, to ease the pain.

        Maybe you start considering it.

        (And I could say much about my dear friend suicide; she has given me so much strength. But I doubt you could ever understand.)

        At this point you naturally consider taking the law into your own hands. But they are many. You are few. You couldn’t get them all. And then what happens to your kid?

        Both kids got bullied. We all get bullied, at some point or another. We all face a violent asshole, sooner or later. But you can see a difference, yes?Report

      • Avatar greginak in reply to Burt Likko
        Ignored
        says:

        @veronica-dire I understand what you are saying and i am not minimizing the harm that bullying, threats or fear can do. I was bulled in high school. My question more aimed at the scenario and that it seems really unlikely the cops could do anything regardless of who the victim was.

        I’ve known a large handful of people, professionally and personally, who committed suicide fwiw.

        If i thought about taking the law into my own hands it would likely be the result of having watched to many revenge wish fulfillment movies. That stuff is for the movies.Report

  13. Avatar veronica dire
    Ignored
    says:

    By the way, the term for us is “trans woman,” with a space, and not “transwoman,” without a space.

    You don’t say “blackwoman” or “musicallytalentedwoman.”

    Here the term “trans” is simply a modifier for the word “woman,” like any other adjective that might modify woman. We aren’t another species.

    Likewise “trans man” and “trans person.”

    By the way, the term “trans” is short for “transgender.” So you can say “transgender woman/man/person” if you prefer. Sometimes you can say “transsexual woman/man/person,” but only if the person in question self-identifies as transsexual. (It’s complicated.) (By the way, I do identify as transsexual.)

    Among ourselves we sometimes use other terms, much like how black folks sometimes use the n-word. I would not suggest you do it.

    (So I can call myself an apocalyptic battle-tranny of doom! You shouldn’t.)Report

    • Avatar Kazzy in reply to veronica dire
      Ignored
      says:

      Thank you. I appreciate that.

      And, if you will, I understand that transgender ONLY serves as an adjective, yes? It is wrong to call someone a transgender or transgendered. Do I have that right?Report

    • Avatar zic in reply to veronica dire
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      says:

      Veronica, this is one of those lovely places where community education is needed.

      I hope you’ll consider a primer for writers and polite speech, it would be beneficial. If there’s one you could link to existing, that would also be welcome.

      As a writer, I depended on style books, and I own several. I’d like a good one for discussing trans women and trans men. I’d be particularly interested in the rules for transition itself. It seems to me that there will almost always be a period of blended identity that needs sensitivity, or it risks forced coming out, and I struggle with that.

      I see now that how the complexity of transition presents issues for people, even decades after they’ve fully come out and embraced the inner identity they feel.

      I’m about to read, Whipping Girl.. Other recommended reading would be welcome. I’d also welcome a book group.Report

      • Avatar veronica dire in reply to zic
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        says:

        Honestly, Whipping Girl is about the top of the heap. She’s a very good writer, great clarity, a nice mix of anecdote and theory. (She has a science background, so she avoids the Butleresque nonsense when talking gender theory.)

        From a theoretical position, I think her next book, Excluded is even better, although the structure is a bit awkward: the first half is reposts from her blog, thick with anecdote; the second half forms the theory. However, the theory is very thoughtful. I wish more in the trans community would read her.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to zic
        Ignored
        says:

        @veronica-dire,

        If you would ever want to submit a guest post giving your own thoughts on standards for communicating about and with transgendered people (or if you think existing guides are sufficient on other topics), speaking for the site, we would very much be interested in looking at it for publication (as our Guest Posting policy states). If that wouldn’t be your thing, though, speaking for myself I want to be sure you know how much your willingness to share your thoughts in comments is appreciated.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to zic
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        says:

        @zic,

        That goes for you as well, on topics of particular interest to you. I suspect you already knew guest posts would be welcome any time from you (who are a sometime paid writer, from what I understand).

        I really appreciated your engagement and patience with me last week(end) (or before last?) about the sensitive questions of personhood that were under discussion, especially since I didn’t get the sense it was really one of your preferred topics (but then, really, whose favorite is it?).Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to zic
        Ignored
        says:

        @michael-drew, thank you. I was sort if trying to invite @veronica-dire to write a post, but it’s not my house and all that. . . so thank you, indeed.

        Personhood, and sanctity in your own, is difficult. Particularly when you’re speaking becomes for the not-norm, and even though you’re just an individual, you risk having your voice elevated to group representation. Part of being in the norm, it seems, is the presumption you can just speak for yourself, not having to worry that you’re representative of and ambassador for your tribe, and sometimes it takes a real hissy fit by the not-norm to get even a sliver of attention to the issues not-norm creates.

        I’m actually thinking about a piece; but I don’t know if I’ve the courage for it yet. I can’t even watch this season’s 2nd episode of Downton Abbey because of what happens to Anna. As you noticed, the conversation is not easy nor necessarily welcome; but it is necessary. A chance to make lemon aid.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to zic
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        says:

        @zic

        I’m glad to hear you were already thinking about it.

        One thing is not questionable, though: that you have courage for it. It’s just a question of when you decide to summon it.Report

  14. Avatar Kazzy
    Ignored
    says:

    @james-hanley

    (DOWN HERE!)

    Things appear to have gotten far more heated here than I ever intended and, for my role in that, I apologize. I think I got stuck on thinking you were misunderstanding me/the OP/the quote and failed to see that you were spinning off in a new direction. My bad there. You’re free to explore that angle. I may find that uninteresting but, hey, that shouldn’t stop anyone.Report

    • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Kazzy
      Ignored
      says:

      This is ungracious, and you’ll be justified in holding it against me, but I repeatedly tried to distinguish my comment from the OP. I’m not sure how it could be unclear that I was spinning off in a new direction when I kept emphasizing that my comment was not linked to the issue of the OP. Even Patrick told you so. What could I have said that would have made it more clear?

      But don’t worry about any hard feelings on my part I come from a people who get mad quickly, fight hard and then forget all about it.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to J@m3z Aitch
        Ignored
        says:

        If there is one thing you ought to know about me, I can be maniacally stubborn until such time that the appropriate mirror makes itself available to me, wherein I have an, “Oh shit” moment and suddenly project remarkable clarity relative to my prior hardheadedness. So while you were probably making yourself pretty clear, I had a certain tunnel vision and couldn’t quite break myself of it. For that, I apologize.

        Fortunately, I know you well enough to know your habits and my habits and how those habits interact and upon realizing the hole we found ourselves in, knew we could probably pull ourselves out of it. Which is why it was easy to admit my error and know I wouldn’t get it spiked in my face.Report

      • Avatar Patrick in reply to J@m3z Aitch
        Ignored
        says:

        (kicks sand in Kazzy’s face)Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to J@m3z Aitch
        Ignored
        says:

        And justifiably so, @patrick .

        But, hey, someone had to brighten up this snow-filled day.Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to J@m3z Aitch
        Ignored
        says:

        Re: the snow — send some of that out to California’s mountain ranges, please! We need it desperately.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to J@m3z Aitch
        Ignored
        says:

        Burt,

        We’ve got a bit more than we really need, so feel free to come get some. We’ll put you up.Report

  15. Avatar Kazzy
    Ignored
    says:

    @stillwater

    (DOWN HERE!)

    I think you might have seen what was not there. When I said I wasn’t interested in labeling people as morally reprehensible, I really and truly meant it.

    I think I see where things went awry.

    There was my statement which you quoted: This isn’t a photograph of a lynching; it is the lynching itself.

    Now, if you read this as me saying that to out someone is to lynch someone, then I can certainly see how I’ve set up a dynamic wherein a line is drawn and there is a “morally reprehensible” side to it. I hope that you now see that that wasn’t my intention but I will take full responsibility for creating the possibility of that interpretation.

    Now, if you understood my quote as I intended it and disagreed on whether Hannan’s article was an act itself or a depiction of an act, we’re getting into definitional or semantic issues and you would have had to have staked out some pretty intensely extreme position for me to even make that a moral argument.

    Now, if you understood my quote as I intended, agreed on the act/depiction distinction, but disagreed on what that meant in terms of how Grantland should have proceeded, I would say that we would be dancing among and around moral issues, but that the vast majority of explanations you could have offered for disagreement would not be something I would have qualified as morally reprehensible.Report

    • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Kazzy
      Ignored
      says:

      FWIW, while I think it’s classy of you to offer a mea culpa in the update, @kazzy , it doesn’t seem necessary to me. Still, to the extent that my initial argument led to an unproductive and needlessly emotional rabbit hole of the discussion, I offer my regrets, as creating such a rabbit hole was quite the opposite of my intent in making that argument. You’ve accurately, and charitably, summarized the reason I looked in that direction in the update to the OP.

      Although I still think a closer-to-optimal solution would the one that @veronica-dire and I agreed on, before she and I started disagreeing about something else quite tangential: preface the offending article by Hannum with a disclaimer and apology. That’s beside the point here.

      Always pertinent, though, is the maxim that pausing for a calming breath and remembering to read one others’ remarks with charity is a good thing to do when one feels one’s temper rising.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Burt Likko
        Ignored
        says:

        Thanks, Burt. I actually think it uniquely pressing to offer something up given the content of the original post. Hard for me to come down on Hannan while ignorant of my own such errors.

        And, I thought I had chimed in to say as much but might not have, I think the response that you and Veronica offered might be the ideal one (while fully conceding my limited standing on the matter). Take-it-down versus leave-it-up was a false dichotomy.

        In addition to what you rightfully point out in your maxim, I would also add that a calming breath is necessary even if tempers are moderate but the car risks getting out of control. I was less angry through my reactions here than I was stubborn and steadfast and desperately trying to figure out why everyone couldn’t just see what I was saying! I doubled and tripled down instead of pausing for reflection.Report

  16. Avatar J@m3z Aitch
    Ignored
    says:

    Re: the mea culpa in the update. Who, then, actually would have standing to compare “the relative moral awfulness” of lynchings and outings? Do we have anyone here who has reason to be familiar with both? If not, then nobody here can compare them. Someone may be able to speak of one or the other, but not both, and just as the analogy could not be legitimately voiced, neither could either criticism of or agreement with it be voiced.

    In short, since none of us can talk about a comparison of them. Not just us cis white males…no one.

    I don’t think that can be right.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy in reply to J@m3z Aitch
      Ignored
      says:

      Well, there do exist black folks who identify as LGBTQ (though I am unsure if outing of sexual orientation and outing of gender identity are one in the same), so that is where I think we’d start. And there likely exist people who are white and/or cis who might be better qualified than I to speak on either matter because of a particular expertise (which I lack). Lastly, I’m not sure how instructive such analogies/comparisons are as a general rule; “Oppression Olympics” rarely yields winners. All that said, I feel it was inappropriate of me to engage such a discussion. If others who are white and/or cis do not feel the same, I will leave them to decide for themselves their own course of action.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Kazzy
        Ignored
        says:

        I’m certainly not saying someone like you or me can speak authoritatively, or that there’s any excuse for someone like you or me not listening. But I think people like you and me can listen and speak thoughtfully, and should no more be silenced than anyone else.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Kazzy
        Ignored
        says:

        That’s fair. There is probably space for us in the conversation. But not leading it. Or have it unilaterally. As I did here. And I was less than thoughtful. “Bumbling” comes to mind as an apt descriptor.

        I should actually thank @veronica-dire for not smacking me back into place.Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to J@m3z Aitch
      Ignored
      says:

      Or lynchings vs. the Holocuast, now that Sammy Davis Jr. is gone.Report

  17. Avatar Stillwater
    Ignored
    says:

    I agree with Burt, the apology (including the robust explanation of where things got dicey) deserves respectful recognition but it’s not necessary. I think this type of thing is incredibly difficult to talk about, myself. Even particular aspects are hard to get a clear thought on. Maybe that’s just me. I didn’t comment much on the Dylan/WA thread out of fear, really. Fear of expressing myself poorly and offending readers simultaneously. (I did a lot of +1ing.) You, on the other hand, gave us an OP and an avenue to dig into this issue. If you feel like you made mistakes along the way by not being clearer, that’s all part of it. But lack of clarity is nothing to apologize for. Rectify maybe, which you’ve done. But no apology required.Report

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