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.

Via network

Date: 2010-08-05 08:46 pm (UTC)
marina: (Default)
From: [personal profile] marina
I think the most outraging thing about her statement is that she feels HER USING THIS TERM will help OTHER PEOPLE IN ANOTHER COUNTRY who actually went through the stuff she's referencing get over it in a ~healthier~ way. NO WORDS.

Date: 2010-08-05 09:51 pm (UTC)
manifesta: (Default)
From: [personal profile] manifesta
Sigh.
Commenting to say I read it, and agree wholeheartedly, and now want to go take a hot shower and forget there is such willfull ignorance in the world.

Date: 2010-08-05 10:24 pm (UTC)
yifu: (aang disapproves)
From: [personal profile] yifu
I think by refusing to allow terrible things to be banal and mundane, we mythologize them.

I read your post and stopped there, right at that sentence, and remembered some of my fellow countrymen and countrywomen who will never think of terrible things like persecution as banal and mundane. Oh God.

I'm thinking of subscribing from the comm(s) she mods.

Edited (To fix an error.) Date: 2010-08-06 12:11 am (UTC)

Date: 2010-08-05 10:41 pm (UTC)
sasha_feather: Retro-style poster of skier on pluto.   (Default)
From: [personal profile] sasha_feather
Commenting to say that she's done this before, been called on it before, and it doesn't surprise me at all to see this response. :(

Date: 2010-08-05 10:51 pm (UTC)
trickster_tree: An impressionistic painting of a woman in draped garments, arms crossed, gazing sternly at the viewer.  (Stern)
From: [personal profile] trickster_tree
Here via [personal profile] manifesta, and found I had to voice agreement and subscribe in hopes of more. (More well-written and meaningful posts, that is, not Bear pratfalls.)

Date: 2010-08-05 11:06 pm (UTC)
inkstone: Air Gear's Ringo looking dubious, text: ... (...)
From: [personal profile] inkstone
This isn't the first time she's been called out on that usage. Not much has changed since 2006.

Date: 2010-08-05 11:41 pm (UTC)
shveta_writes: (Default)
From: [personal profile] shveta_writes
*sigh*

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 01:18 am (UTC)
surpassingly: (sando: not by fear)
From: [personal profile] surpassingly
♥ Thank you so much.

/is [livejournal.com profile] miir, and just wanted to say this

Date: 2010-08-06 02:32 am (UTC)
darklightshades: (A cold nose and a warm heart)
From: [personal profile] darklightshades
Was linked her by various sources, including [personal profile] ephemere, and just wanted to say thank you for writing this. Even if it provokes guilt and shame for the privileges so easily taken for granted, I think it's a lesson far more important than perpetuating the cultural mindset of forgetting past tragedies and assuming that a forgotten wound is just as good as a healed one - as if such things could really heal.

Thank you.

Date: 2010-08-06 07:06 am (UTC)
lyras: Sparkling tree (Default)
From: [personal profile] lyras
I just looked at Matociquala's tags. No wonder she's a little invested in continuing to use the term; she has several tags with the name. :-/

(Not excusing her, just an "argh WHY?" reaction.)

Date: 2010-08-06 01:00 pm (UTC)
havocthecat: the lady of shalott (Default)
From: [personal profile] havocthecat
...seriously?

I am going to link to your post to let other people know about the fail and then I'm going to pretend EB doesn't exist. Because I don't think my sanity can take more EB problems right now.

Date: 2010-08-06 09:37 pm (UTC)
green_knight: (Watching You)
From: [personal profile] green_knight
For me, 'death march' has been associated mainly with the Trail of Tears, but it's a pretty self-explanatory phrase.

What gets me is the 'I'd forgotten this was pointed out to me,' because how can you forget that you've been offensive on an epic scale? I don't remember every post on my LJ either, but hurting people isn't on par with rambling about writing process.

Date: 2010-08-07 07:10 pm (UTC)
wyoluvr: Uhura sez HELL NO (hell no)
From: [personal profile] wyoluvr
I just don't understand why eBear, or anyone else for that matter, finds it so damn hard to just say "I'm sorry. How can I do better?" Beyond anything else, this is what really enrages me about her behavior.

Two years ago, I was a teaching assistant for an early U.S. history course taught by a very straight white dude, who pretty much taught entirely from his perspective. I spent most of my time in discussion sections with these kids trying to add reality back into the class' narrative because the lectures LOVED ol' Andy J and the men apparently procreated entirely on their own. Strangely, I can love my country on most days and still acknowledge the atrocities committed by it and on its behalf..
(deleted comment) (Show 2 comments)

(frozen)

Date: 2010-08-09 06:54 am (UTC)
carmiel: (Default)
From: [personal profile] carmiel
You're upset about human torture. I am too. Do you support Amesity International? Write to D.C.? What do.you do to help?

(frozen)

Date: 2010-08-09 11:47 pm (UTC)
carmiel: (Default)
From: [personal profile] carmiel
Neither responder to my earler post knew why I asked those questions. BOTH responded with hate and anger.
Did you think that I might have asked because I wanted to know the best thing to do?
NO
Did you stop one nanosecond before you were rude and arrogant, telling me, someone like you with an internet connection, that I was eletist for asking about contacting D.C.? (You do know the average person in 3rd world countries does not have internet.)
NO
You jumped to the conclusion that I was attacking you and attacked back. You called me eletist and enablist because "I picked certain activities." I ask what you do, and you attack.
You also threatened to ban me.
I see now that you only want posts from those who will tell you "F-Yeah!" to your anger and hate. So go ahead and ban me from your "yes ma'am chorus" It'll only prove me correct and will be pointless anyway.
I won't read your blog again.

Date: 2010-08-10 03:38 am (UTC)
azuire: (Default)
From: [personal profile] azuire
Finally had the spoons to read through most of it. Wow, that a writer doesn't understand how words are used, misused, reclaimed, etc. Language isn't arbitrary, and even more so, it adds to the vicious cycle of negative perceptions about marginalised groups, especially when it is used colloquially. She used the word a lot on her twitter, cursory glance seems to show that she's deleted those tweets (or twits? what are they called?).

And: "the sands of time wore them clean(er)"?! Well, that puts her from the What The Hell, Author, straight to the Shit List. I'll be actively discouraging friends from reading her.

Thanks for writing this. Sorry I wasn't able to get here sooner.

Date: 2010-08-23 10:46 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] the-silver-mule.livejournal.com
"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."

This was my very reaction. Would she have us forget? I thank you, as someone who has just lost a great-grandmother who, as a girl, survived a month in Auschwitz, for this timely and well-written post.

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