megwrites: Beast, from Beauty & The Beast looking coiffed and unhappy. (WTF?)
[personal profile] megwrites
Because some people really never learn.

Usually I have a policy of ignoring Elizabeth Bear and the things she's involved under the Fuckmuppetry Doctrine, which I reserve to myself and all other human beings as the right to disengage from people who conduct themselves as Fuckmuppets on or off the internet.

But sometimes, the fuckmuppetry just cannot be ignored and needs to be called out, pointed at, and told "NO!".

Her response to someone telling her how hurtful the use of the "deathmarch" tag and phrase to describe the act of WRITING A BOOK?

I am aware of that history, and I'm sorry that this use of the word causes you discomfort.

I have very mixed emotions about political correctness in language: I believe that it's our responsibility to be aware of the language we use, but I also have a sense that mythologizing language only gives it power.

I think part of the process of winning free of a history of blood is, indeed, common use--compare "decimated," "witch hunt," "massacre," and similar words, all of which refer to real atrocities, but the sands of time have worn them clean(er).

I think by refusing to allow terrible things to be banal and mundane, we mythologize them.

I'm not sure what the solution is, but I'm pretty sure avoiding the phrase "Soup Nazi" isn't it. I'm going to go away now and think hard about it, though, because I'm also not keen on causing random damage to well-meaning passersby.




Also, she isn't the only one who uses "deathmarch" to inaccurately, offensively, and hurtfully describe marathon sessions of writing to finish a book that I've seen. Funny how it's pretty exclusively white American folks who do this.

The commenter mentioned the absolute horror and tragedy of the Bataan death march, as the OP identified as Filipino, and that person - who is brave and who I commend for commenting - was 100% to call out Bear on this matter and to show how the cultural scars of that event, of all the tragedies of that part of history, many of which are still ongoing get erased and covered over.

And that person was also right to point out that Bataan was not the only deathmarch.

Want examples? Let's take the many forced, fatal marches and shipping of human beings to death camps in Nazi Germany.

Or the abysmally brutal, excruciating march of the Cherokee people, the Trail of Tears, which killed an estimated 4,000 human beings of the 15,000 (give or take) who were forcibly removed from their lands by a President who did so AGAINST the ruling of the United States Supreme Court and is now on $20 dollar bills. And the Cherokee were far from alone in being groups that the government blatantly tried to exterminate. Yeah, that's right. Ethnic cleansing, genocide. And the people who did it have statues made of them and halls and buildings and schools named after them. They're on our fucking currency and we have days to celebrate them and we call them heroes and they did this and you tell us that it's good that we've let the suffering YOU AND I benefit from every day become banal.

And we do benefit so disgustingly from the rape, murder, torture, extermination, enslavement, and abuse of other peoples. Everything from the very land we're standing on to the wealth that allows us to have jobs and educations when others can't or get a much worse one is because of that.

I'm not better or less implicated than you by any means. I'm not. And I don't pretend that somehow it even makes me better that I get this and I want to change it. My good wishes and guilt and White Woman's Tears don't wash clean anything. And if the sands of time bury something so that the sting of it doesn't touch me or the stink of it doesn't cling to me, that is a tragedy, not something to be desired.

So fuck you, Elizabeth Bear, fuck you so, so, so, MUCH. Murder and genocide and torture and suffering and oppression are already mundane and banal enough in our culture. Fuck you and all those like you who think that if oppressed groups fight erasure and remember their history and openly grieve for what they've suffered and try to account for the damage done to them as part of their healing and rebuilding that they're "mythologizing". Just fuck you. God, I can't even begin to think of harsh enough words for you, I just can't. Not without turning to as oppressive and hurtful a tone as you've taken here.

But your disrespect is obvious and long standing, and it doesn't surprise me. Enrages me, yes. But surprise, no?

I mean, since you obviously couldn't be bothered to "walk away and think hard" about this BEFORE you dismissed the person who bravely spoke up to you. You couldn't have given them that decency or respect, could you?

Because what's a deathmarch to you, after all? Just a word for you to play with. Because it's not part of your history as a white citizen of the U.S. Because you don't look back and get to say "I don't know what nation any of my ancestors come from because they were rounded up, enslaved, had their names stripped, and became animals to those who bred, sold, and used them like property." Because nobody's ever rounded up your friends and neighbors and family members and shipped them like boxes or cattle to a place where they were intended to be worked to death or killed outright. Because nobody's ever come to you and said "sorry, this home you live in isn't yours, gotta go" and held a gun to you and make you walk from GEORGIA TO OKLAHOMA. Because your home, the place where you reside, has not seen active aggression from a foreign combatant in centuries. Because of course murder and torture and genocide are banal to you. They don't touch or affect you personally or culturally, so why shouldn't you play around with those words.

They don't hurt you after all. So why shouldn't you say "Soup Nazi" or "deathmarch" or any of those things. It isn't like it hurts you, and if it doesn't hurt you, it's obviously not important, is it?

I don't expect Elizabeth Bear to learn from this. After all, this interview here shows how willfully and deliberately clueless you keep yourself, and the hypocrisy inherent in such a thing.

A person can talk Nice White Lady things about "queering SF", but when to do so claiming one grew up so differently from the mainstream and are sort of beyond that White Male influence, but it's their words and actions that will tell me if they're a hypocrite or not.

When someone then asks you, after you talk about how populated with oppressed voices your childhood bookshelves were, what authors amazed and inspired you and only ONE is of color (and is Octavia Butler - because WOW, white people never read/like Octavia Butler. How radically diverse of you!), you absolutely are NOT beyond that influence whatsoever and in fact, you're rolling it.

That, friends and neighbors, is willful cluelessness. (Note: the first person who uses "blindness" in this discussion and isn't talking, literally, about a visual impairment of some kind, gets booted out of my space for good. Blindness is the lack of ability to see something, it describes a disability that many people have. Cluelessness is being able to see something and just not caring to. It's the ACTUAL descriptor of the hurtful things people do. It has nothing to do with blindness. Don't use that word. People who are blind don't deserve that shit, so don't exclude and disrespect them in this conversation.)

Saying you're beyond the influence of the dominant in literature and in society while acting out the same oppression-enforcing patterns shows me that you really have learned nothing and don't want to.

You think society isn't telling white people and indeed, all people, to make tragedy and horror banal and mundane on a daily basis? You think we somehow need more training in how to make ourselves immune to recognizing suffering in others and how it's wrong, and why we need to stop causing it and remember it so that we don't fucking do it again? We don't, especially not here in the U.S. We really, really don't. In fact, we need the opposite.

You can talk about how you want to get it right, and you can talk about how different your upbringing was and how you're beyond these influences or not as touched by them as everyone else or how you want to think hard about things - but it's your results that tell me the truth.

You may say you were brought up different, but your words and actions are no different than others who were brought up in those White, Protestant, Straight, Middle-Class homes and their culture that you think you're so removed from

You say you want to think hard, but you say the things that come from the mouth or the fingertips of people who aren't thinking at all and don't want to.

And maybe I'm holding this one person up as an example, but Elizabeth Bear? Is a drop of seawater in the OCEAN of this vast problem. If the micro describes the macro and gives an example, that's useful. Especially to me, because I'm another drop.

Because if I say "fuck you" Elizabeth Bear, fuck me for the comforts I enjoy at other people's expense. Fuck me for all the times I haven't listened, for how long it's taken to realize I need to. Fuck me if I ever think I'm better or beyond or exempt or finished. Fuck me if I forget. Fuck me if other's pain and suffering becomes banal and mundane to me.

And to [livejournal.com profile] miir, who spoke up and said something? Who pointed out what I've seen but kept my mouth closed about (to my shame)? Thank you for being brave and righteous. Thank you.




ETA: I will be moderating comments closely and carefully. Check yourself for privilege and then CHECK YOURSELF AGAIN before you comment. If you don't, I will shut down the thread and possibly ban you. I make no apologies. You want to spew your *isms, you can take it elsewhere.

And if anyone wants to try to Bear-'splain to me (oh yes, she's an adjective now) why that reply isn't as bad or horrible as I think it is? Just DON'T.


ETA 2: Spelling mistakes corrected, and I apologize for not having been more diligent about the spelling of Bataan.


ETA 3 (7-August): A cursory look seems to reveal that EBear has removed the deathmarching tags from her tags list and edited the offending entry to remove that word. However, no statement that she understands why it was offensive and will be making any effort in the future not to repeat her actions does not seem to be forthcoming.

Date: 2010-08-06 12:13 am (UTC)
crossedwires: zuko hides his eyes (zuko - omg where are your pants??)
From: [personal profile] crossedwires
so. much. fail. in one Nice White Lady.

"The solution" is STOP USING THAT WORD THE WAY YOU ARE USING IT. It's really very simple. I hope she goes away and thinks about it for a LONG LONG LONG TIME, but I doubt she'll give it another moment's thought.

(also, you have a typo: it's Bataan, not Baatan.)

Date: 2010-08-06 01:45 am (UTC)
kaigou: this is what I do, darling (3 love the stars)
From: [personal profile] kaigou
"The solution" is STOP USING THAT WORD THE WAY YOU ARE USING IT.

That's the second step. The first step would've been to just bloody well APOLOGIZE.

My god, the twists of non-logic in Bear's response make it sound almost like she finds the very act of writing, "I'm sorry," downright painful. That kind of evasion is just capped off by the rest of the non-logical anti-logic she presents. (And since when is "massacre" a word so far into our past that it's been wiped clean? This is not a word I ever want to have become 'banal' -- it's a word that represents a terrible thing, and it's right that the word itself should take on some of the horror we ascribe to the thing it describes.)

Since I'm already commenting (via [personal profile] manifesta, btw), here's to [personal profile] megwrites for an excellent reply. Also, I'm thinking maybe it's time to make a handful of "What has Elizabeth Bear said this time?" icons, since clearly we can get at least semi-regular use out of them.


Date: 2010-08-06 01:56 am (UTC)
crossedwires: toph punches katara to show her affection (Default)
From: [personal profile] crossedwires
Oh, yes, that too, definitely. But i'll take her silence if she won't sincerely apologize and examine her privilege -- it's not even cluelessness at this point, because it's been pointed out to her twice (at least) how hurtful her appropriation of this term is.

Date: 2010-08-06 09:22 pm (UTC)
green_knight: (Cygnet)
From: [personal profile] green_knight
I've seen 'massacre' used casually: the team were massacred by their opponents (=they lost), the guests massacred the buffet.
'Decimate, in my idiom, does not involve '10%' - but it always has a sharp negative undertone, unlike 'reduce'. (You reduce seedlings, you decimate weeds).

For an icon, may I reccommend borrowing the shorter phrase of 'Oh E.Bear No'? That should have the right connotations.

(And, yeah. The correct response to 'you're standing on my foot' has _always_ been 'I'm sorry.' I admit that 'we shouldn't give so much power to bruises' is a new one for me.)

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