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wow.

that's really all i can say. when i wrote my last post, i honestly wasn't expecting many people to see it. i thought that perhaps my circle of friends would read it, and members of bristol femsoc, but it's been spread around facebook, tumblr and twitter. there have been a few negative comments (more on that later), but the vast majority have been amazing. i've received an outpouring of support that's completely overwhelmed me. a large part of that was from the members of femsoc -- not only through dozens of comments on the thread posted on the society's facebook group, but through messages as well, and one of the committee members even stepped down in disgust over this(!) -- but a significant portion came from complete strangers, too. it totally reaffirmed my faith in the feminist movement. i am more grateful than i can express.

so, i figured i should update people on the situation.

the update:

after i edited my last post and one of my friends kindly posted it to femsoc, i went about my day. when i had a sneaky peek at facebook during work, the thread had about thirty comments on it and my inbox was bursting. one of the messages was from a member of the committee, who apologised, told me that there was a committee meeting going on, and promised they'd get it sorted soon. just before lunch i was messaged by the committee account with a formal apology and explanation, the bulk of which was also posted on the front of the group and stickied:

The Bristol University Feminist Society Committee would like to apologise unreservedly for having evicted Sara Jaffer from our Facebook page. As a fairly fresh committee, we've been focusing on planning for the next academic year – however, we failed to make sure that we were doing our best over the summer, and part of that should have been to have ensured that our moderation was clear, fair and just. As shown by the events of the last 12 hours, we still have a long way to go.

Our Facebook Group Policy tries to create a safe space by requiring members not to make personal attacks and to create “non-judgmental and non-threatening discussions”. However, by evicting Sara based on an interpretation of the letter of this policy rather than its spirit, we failed both our members and the direction we want to take as a Feminist Society. We were wrong to use tone policing in our reply – there is no right or wrong way to address racism, and our function as banhammer-wielders does not mean that our members should refrain from calling out discrimination when they see it.

Unfortunately, we have not yet had time to sit down as a new committee to discuss how this page will be monitored over the coming year, and this has left a lot of gaps. We will be meeting to discuss this as the new term begins, so if anyone has queries please email us, and we will make sure that we discuss these at our next meeting. Last year, we also had an open committee meeting where everyone in the society could discuss the issues they felt to be important – we will schedule another one this year, and the Group Policy will definitely be part of the agenda.


i am personally mostly satisfied with this response and apology. i knew that most of the committee are pretty good eggs who, which is why i was so shocked by the warning & banning. it was also explained that the mod who banned me was supposed to be in charge of social media, which is why the other members didn't have much of a presence as moderators. part of the reason why i directed all my questions to the mod was because i had no idea who else was in charge of the page. now the committee's names and contact details have been added to the sidebar, which is great!

and if that wasn't great enough, the equality, liberation and access officers caught wind of it and have not only spoken to the committee but are writing up a safe space policy guide and working on a better safe space policy for femsoc itself. i couldn't be happier.

i said mostly satisfied because i do still have a few questions, namely whether the mod who banned me will remain in her position (i personally don't care either way) and how being given permission to ban me (which apparently came from the society's president) came about. the answers themselves don't really matter (and i'm aware that they may not even have answers yet), but, in my opinion, a response would help maintain the promise of more transparency.

all in all i'm pleased and humbled. this is the best outcome i could have hoped for.

so now comes part two: the response.

it was weird reading the comment thread and having people discuss me and try to pick holes in my post without me being able to defend or explain myself, which is why i decided to do so here. there were a few different points that got raised that i think deserve answers, some of which i think were valid and some of which i don't. i'm just going to go in order of when they were raised. it was interesting that they were mostly made by people from outside bristol femsoc who happened to moderate their own femsoc pages. i'm going to deal with the general arguments then respond to a few comments.

moderation is hard! i don't think it was fair to call out the moderators.
i know moderation is hard. as i said last post, i mod a fairly large forum that's had its fair share of drama. we have a fairly big team and we communicate with each other when there is a grievance. if i was doing my job badly, i would want to know.

your post was offensive and abusive to moderators everywhere.
it is not abusive to call people out on bad behaviour, particularly when they are supposed to be maintaining a safe space. it's not abusive to call people out in general. at no point did i insult the mod and i deliberately hid her name. i have no interest in shaming people, but i firmly believe all action and policy changes should be public and transparent.

did N-Word Woman actually say the n word? what happened?
she did. i have no proof except for witnesses, because things were handled badly (again) in that situation and the thread was deleted when it shouldn't have been. from memory, she said something along the lines of "reddit is full of idiots calling each other n-words". it wasn't directed at anybody. that doesn't make it any more acceptable. N-Word Woman is not black and thus cannot use that word. this is not up for debate and if you think it is then you can do some googling and figure out why you're wrong.

some context is missing from the discussion but a broad summary is, she said it once, somebody told her not to use it, she didn't acknowledge the comment, the discussion moved on with her defending the reddit admins, somebody else said she still couldn't believe she'd used the n-word, her response was 'that's just how it is', i said she should apologise, my comment went ignored, the thread got deleted. the situation (people from a sub for writing racist things about black people going onto a sub for black people and writing racist things there) was in no way ambiguous. no insults were slung.

the next few come with a shoutout to the keele femsoc page mod & president. she definitely said a lot of stuff.

"you're JUST SO ANGRY. i would have banned both of you."
it's good to know that presidents of feminist societies countrywide think that the punishment for calling out racism should be the same as saying racist things. i was starting to feel ashamed of bristol. i particularly liked 'she's just so angry' -- i felt a bit like a patient overhearing a doctor give a relative a terminal diagnosis. except anger isn't fatal or even bad. except by focusing on my anger you are ignoring my message. anger is an appropriate response to racism and i don't have the luxury of assuming otherwise.

it's also worth noting that JUST TOO MUCH ANGER has historically been a common reason for dismissing arguments made by women, particularly women of colour (and even more particularly black women), so well done for reinforcing racist stereotypes.

"[you were] threatening the society."
i think you are giving me far too much credit here. i wish i had the power to destroy societies with the flick of my wrist. i'd be lying if i said i'd use that power for good.

"you don't even go here."
i really appreciated the irony behind the fact this was made by someone who has never been at bristol. thanks for the chuckle, keele. and the reminder that i've not watched mean girls in a while. the fact is i am an alumnus and i participate a lot in the society. i got opinions and i like sharing em.

"you're going to get a shock when you enter the real world! soooo much racism!!"
i like the assumptions made here. the first one is that the internet completely separate from the real world, which is untrue. the second is that i've never faced racism in 'real life'? mate, i grew up as a muslim post-9/11. i was bullied at school for my ethnicity. i face racism every day. (some of the racism i face comes in the form of lack of media representation, in fact.)

"anger's not good for you. stop being angry."
another assumption. is anger really bad for me? i appreciate what i am sure is totally professional psychological advice, but anger is a pretty good outlet for me, actually. thanks for the concern, though.

"people like you are why people get nowhere. yawn"
people like you are why feminism has a race problem! that's enough from miss keele university. here are some more comments that were brought up.

you were just kicking up a fuss, using racism is an excuse to get someone kicked out of the group because you didn't like their opinions.
my intention was never to get anybody kicked out of the group; i don't disagree with everything N-Word Woman says and my life would be far less interesting without her there constantly playing devil's advocate. i have never stated i wanted her banned, just that i wanted her to apologise for her racist statements, many of which have been passive-aggressive. what i have been upset by is the fact that the punishment for calling out racism was the same (in fact worse, in this case) than saying racist things.

"racism and sexism are so ubiquitous in society that it's easy to assume they must be the main cause of events that sometimes have other influences too."
i'm aware that such things are multifaceted. we were having a really basic discussion, though, about something that really has been written about lots. and honestly, i can't think of any reason why somebody would say "i'm sorry that you're jealous your culture isn't as popular as mine" without deliberately trying to be racially provocative. (i'm actually shocked there are people defending that statement...)

"i think there's a difference between calling someone a racist and saying that you think their comment or point is racist."
a bit of a tangent here but i find it interesting that 'racist' seems to be considered a slur amongst white feminists when it's actually a description. it's not meant to be an insult. i'm not trying to hurt people's feelings when i say their opinions are racist. i'm trying to make them think about their actions and words. i even said multiple times in that thread that racism is not always intentional or meant to be malicious. that doesn't make it any more dangerous.

but i agree, broadly. and i usually try to make the distinction. i wasn't very tactful. but N-Word Woman really does say horrible things a lot.

i don't think her comment was so bad.
i'm happy for you. it was, however, directed at me, and very much meant to provoke me. it was also pretty bad.

in isolation it looks like you overreacted.
it probably does. i appreciate people who overlooked this. i was actually going to include a list of comments N-Word Woman had made that bothered me in the previous post (i trawled through her comment history and everything!) but i decided not to because it was petty and the post wasn't really about her. i didn't save the list. if you're super curious you can do the legwork yourself. you'll probably notice we have a bit of a rapport. the first time we clashed she defended richard dawkins making ignorant comments about islam, made some herself, and when i corrected her she told me she "really didn't care" because she wanted "the right to criticise any tenet of culture without being called a bigot" even though nobody had called her bigoted in the first place. ah, good times.


and... i think that's pretty much it! once again i am completely overwhelmed by the response this has gotten. i want to thank everybody who stood up for me, particularly my friends and everybody who shared this. i wouldn't have had the courage to write about it if it hadn't been for you. i'm so glad i have people to be angry with. (and also glad i don't have to type any more.)

thank you for reading!
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