A return to Flametending; a leaving of the social justice community (long post)

I’ve rejoined the Cill at TC and my first shift since March was Saturday, the 20th.

There are a lot of reasons for this change of heart. I originally left TC because I felt it had become hostile to social justice. That was true. However, in the time since I left, social justice and feminism have become toxic to me. I have stopped toeing the party line on a lot of issues, yet I don’t feel safe stating this publicly, because I know I will be the victim of harassment and shaming. This has become the norm for people involved in social justice — public shaming via social media.

I haven’t even publicly stated that I’ve effectively left feminism and social justice. Not until this post. Mainly because I did not have the spoons to deal with the fallout. I don’t have the spoons now, but I’m tired of being silent.

Does this mean I’m suddenly anti-feminist or social justice concerns? No. Where I stand on the issues hasn’t changed. All that’s changed is my willingness to engage in self-described feminist or social justice spaces, or with other feminists and social justice people, on those particular issues. That willingness has dropped to almost nil (exceptions being some close friends whose opinions I trust).

One of the areas where I’ve stopped toeing the party line is GamerGate. If you’re a Good Feminist online these days, you are vehemently anti-GG, see them all as misogynists and harassers, and know for a fact that it all began in what was essentially revenge porn.

Except…that’s not true. I never originally read The Zoe Post when it first came out, or when the backlash against GG started. I went by the opinions of feminists that I had trusted at that point that it was revenge porn by a jilted ex-lover, and that Zoe Quinn was an innocent victim. That GG was nothing but MRAs and misogynists.

I finally read the Zoe Post, at the suggestion of my fiancĂ©, who leans more towards pro-GG than anti-, though I wouldn’t call him a GGer.

What I saw was an account from a person who had been emotionally manipulated and abused by a woman who shows signs of being a serial abuser. Not revenge porn. Not a misogynist screed against her. A survivor of abuse coming forward about his experiences, because he feels that she cannot be trusted and yet she has a captive audience of thousands. A survivor who urges readers to stop harassing Zoe and her friends, and that he does not stand for that sort of thing.

If the genders had been reversed, we would be cheering the writer as a hero, as brave for sharing her story, and condemning her ex as an abuser and a horrible human being. Instead, we disbelieved the victim and held up the abuser — simply because Zoe Quinn is a woman in gaming (and thus can do no wrong, apparently).

The feminists who spread this paradigm failed Eron Gjoni and they failed feminism. They failed me. I feel bitterly betrayed, and I no longer trust the words of feminists I follow on Twitter (when before, I used the opinions of fellow feminists as a baseline when I didn’t know how to feel about something).

This is just one example of the ways in which I feel betrayed and ready to give up on being part of feminism, but it’s a big one. When added to the harassment and constant battering of my mental health in so-called feminist spaces, I just have no desire to be part of the movement anymore.

Does that mean I’m no longer a feminist? No. I am. A small-f feminist. I am no longer a big-F feminist. I quietly hold feminist ideals — what I consider to be truly feminist ideals, which may not toe the party line — but I no longer wish to be part of the feminist conversation.

(Also, I’d like to note that I have never been harassed by a GGer on Twitter or anywhere else, and I am followed by some of them, and I retweet and post anti-sexism, anti-misogyny stuff ALL THE TIME. I have been harassed by fellow feminists, though. I wouldn’t consider myself pro-GG, and I’m sure there are tons of people who consider themselves GGers who are harassing assholes — but I haven’t encountered them, and I’m no longer going to spout the feminist party line of them ALL being trolls and sockpuppets and harassers. It’s obviously not true.)

I’ve spent the past 6 months feeling betrayed on all sides, mourning the loss of a part of my identity, feeling sick every time I want to say I’m a feminist, feeling like it’s no longer a word I can claim and not having the energy to fight to reclaim it for myself. It has taken a large toll on my soul, and I’ve felt broken and lost. I didn’t flametend in those 6 months.

I think I needed a break.

I rejoined TC in August. Both because of my changing stance on social justice, and because they did update their rules, and while I was lurking and reading posts during my time away I didn’t see much evidence of the hostility I felt when I was there. (Putting some certain members on Ignore has helped a lot.)

I wasn’t ready to rejoin the Cill until last week, when it became time. I knew it was time when I went make-up shopping for my wedding and bought a lipstick shade called Brigitte. Said lipstick has now been consecrated as devotional lipstick for Brighid and I wore it for part of my shift on Saturday/Sunday.

The point I’m searching for in this long, rambling post, is that my goals towards creating a better world haven’t changed. I have just shifted away from the social justice and feminist communities, because it’s become the norm that any community that states that as their purpose will devolve into a clusterfuck that’s downright toxic to my mental health. I am shifting focus. I am now concerned with actual real-world, local community grassroots action that doesn’t act under a banner of “feminism” or “social justice” — that just does things that are good for the community. I am now concerned with doing things, instead of pontificating on them.

This is not a victory for anyone. It’s not a victory for MRAs, and it’s not a victory for feminism. It’s not a victory for me. It is a loss. It is a loss that the discourse within social justice and feminism have become so awful, so toxic, and so not based in facts that staunch members feel the need to leave for their own health. It is a loss that those communities represent feminism and social justice to the world now. It is a loss that tumblr-style discourse has taken over everywhere; that knee-jerk reactionary speech is the only sort you see; that there is no longer any such thing as a nuanced view; that if you dare to take a different tack or share a different opinion while being part of the community, you will be cannibalized seconds after you post because they don’t tear down bigots half so well as they rip apart their own; that you are perfect, or you are “human garbage”.

This is what it’s become, and I can’t be part of it anymore. The highest quality discussions I have on any sort of issue relating to social justice or feminism these days happen on TC, where there IS a focus on debate and discussion. And now that I’ve left the more toxic, harpy flesh-rending side of social justice, I no longer feel that TC is hostile to me or those ideals.

So maybe my point here is that I was wrong.

And that I’m happy to be back.

~Morag

PS: I’m turning comments off on this post. I wasn’t kidding when I said I don’t have the spoons to deal with potential fallout. If you want to tell me I’m human garbage for disagreeing with you or leaning into neutral territory re: GG, do it at your own blog.

Figuring out the next step

Tonight I posted a goodbye to the Cill on TC, which I’ve been a part of for just over 5 years now.

It hurt a lot more than I expected it would. But, TC has become a hostile place to me and my social justice concerns. So much of my work with Brighid involves social justice. It didn’t feel right to continue keeping flame in a Cill that was based in a place so toxic to me.

(The Cill itself is full of lovely people with whom I’ve found some wonderful friendships and community, and many of them are concerned with social justice issues too. However, the board in general where the Cill makes its home is still toxic to me and to social justice, and I couldn’t find a way to reconcile these things.)

I struggled with the decision for several days, and eventually it became clear that leaving is the best thing for me. And I felt a strong surge of agreement from Brighid.

Right now, I don’t know what comes next. I’ve kept the flame for 5 years now (more or less; I’m not perfect about keeping shifts because I’m human) and I’m no longer in a Cill. I do know that I don’t want to join another Cill, at least not yet.

I will likely continue to keep the flame on certain nights, such as holidays, or when I feel the need. I don’t know what else I’ll be doing. The face of my worship and Work is changing.

It’s a little scary, but it’s time.

-M

Prayer from a poem

I wrote a poem tonight, and ended up writing a prayer within it.

Brighid I call you
Brighid I beg you
Wake up what’s lost
Find what’s asleep
Let the fire rage deep.

Tomorrow is Autumn Equinox, and Group Flamekeeping. I realized tonight that I missed my flamekeeping shift on the 20th, but I don’t think it missed me. I went to bed at 3pm after being up for over 20 hours, working on a publishing order that had to go out. I woke up after six hours to find that a friend who I’d not heard from in over a month was in chat again! I got to talk to hir for a while, and after sie went off to bed, I felt exceptionally tired again, and slept at 2am, until 1pm.

So even though my human brain severely dropped the ball, Brighid didn’t drop me. And apparently now She’s making up for lost time by putting poetry and prayers in my head.

Off to light my flamekeeping candle.