Please Sir, May We Have Some More Rights?

QoT hit it out of the park once again in an excellent post about abortion law reform over at The Standard (also published on her own blog here). But how great a point she made is irrelevant; her shrill, angry, demanding, enraged tone and style has completely ruined any chances of anyone wanting to side with her or give her what she’s asking for. Like a child who demands their parent buy them an ice cream, she’s blown it by not asking nicely.

 

Or, at least that’s what the commentariat over at The Standard have led me to believe. Yeah, they brought the tone argument with them, and liberally sprayed it about. Swearing is so crude, anger gets you nowhere, maybe if you weren’t so confrontational you might get what you want, and so on.

 

This is such a classic bullshit derail trotted out every time a feminist displays even a tiny bit of displeasure or anger. Don’t blow your chance honey, you’re only hurting yourself and your cause. Women getting angry? Not on my watch.

 

Personally, I think the anger and passion and outrage is what best motivates me, so I can’t see those things as anything other than valuable. When something is outrageous and unacceptable, I will get angry about it and refuse to soften my point because other people don’t want to hear about how something is making me angry.

 

And too many of the comments on QoT’s post on The Standard made me angry. Shit is wrong in the world, and in our society, and I refuse to grovel on my hands and knees, cap in hand, politely asking (but not asking for to much in case I seem demanding, or too often lest it be seen as begging) for just a few more rights please sir. No fucking way. I don’t care if my anger or my confrontational style is perceived as unacceptable: dancing around the issues isn’t going to get anything done, and ‘nice-ing” myself down to appease others is an insult to all the people before me who let their outrage feed their power and motivate their actions.

 

But if you do want to listen to those helpful people telling you that your anger is hurting the cause and alienating people from it, and you want to know the proper polite way to ask, Boganette has got you covered.

19 Comments

  1. Rebecca says:

    Yes, you’re right, and I should say I loved the Queen of Thorns post. But, on the other hand – its a campaign because we need to convince people that we’re right and the law needs to change. If everyone already agreed with us we would already have the law and services we want…..

    • steph says:

      Well, I think in the case of the QoT post and the issue of abortion services, someone made the point that a lot of people probably don’t realize what the situation in NZ actually is. So in this case it may be less to do with people agreeing/disagreeing with us and more about people believing that we actually do already have excellent services etc when the reality is far different to their impression.

      • Boganette says:

        I really feel that is exactly it – because nobody talks about abortion in NZ many people just don’t know what our current laws are. When Steve Chadwick’s bill started up I was campaigning and so many people were completely horrified about the state of abortion laws in NZ. All the women I spoke to – bar one – signed postcards that were then sent to Parliament after I explained what the current law was. I got numerous comments about how people thought abortion was essentially on demand in NZ. They were shocked when they heard the reality of it.

        You’re never going to change the mind of someone who is anti-choice. You can state the facts gently all you want but when it comes down to it people who think abortion is murder don’t change that view until they are in a situation where they’re forced to through personal circumstances.

        Also, there are many women who spend a lot of time dealing with chauvinist pigs day in and day out who insist on telling them that they’re just being ‘silly’ little girls and that the things they care about aren’t really that important. That wears women down. If it results in someone saying fuck a few times I’m not going to begrudge them that.

        There is nothing wrong with controlled anger. I’m yet to see any male bloggers pulled up for being ‘angry’ about something they care deeply about.

        Great post Steph. I couldn’t agree more.

        • Octavia says:

          Yeah there’s a tendency to think of health care in little green old socialised NZ as being perfectly peachy. And it is, for a very certain sector of society. Abortion isn’t spoken about and most people who haven’t had one have no idea it’s any more difficult to get access to than just trotting down to a chemist (which obvs you have right near you. And money too) and picking up a morning after pill.

          “I’m yet to see any male bloggers pulled up for being ‘angry’ about something they care deeply about.”

          Yeah exactly. They tone agrumented all the feminists defending themselves on that post while in the same breath calling us shrill, bigoted, stupid, overly sensitive, etc etc, and spewing vitriol left right and centre (to the point where lprent, Eddie and Marty in particular stopped making sense, it was all about their anger: Gender is irrelevant in a discussion about heavily gendered rights! You’re bigoted for being offended! You should be grateful! I was in IT way before you even knew what IT was so there and this is somehow relevant!).

          We were never going to ‘win’ that “substantive debate” (lol) because they’d already judged QoT and all the rest of us (I mean, Marty’s first comment, also the first comment on the page, was that the piece was “anti-men” and “anti-Labour”. Bad sign). Angry men are good and dedicated and get things done.* Their anger is situated as normal and coming from a place of reason. Angry women are bad, over emotional (while simultaneously being unable to be hurt by men’s anger), and can only blame themselves when they’re ignored; angry women are situated as suspicious, untrustworthy and needing to be shunned for the greater good. It really was as simple as that, and they lacked the empathy to stop centering themselves in an issue that by and large does not affect them. It’s always got to be about them.

          * As I said to QoT on Twitter, if she were a man she’d be viewed as ballsy, hard-hitting & just the sort of leadership quality we need in the liberal movement, have you thought about politics?

          • steph says:

            Yes, I agree: she’d be someone calls a spade a spade, or ballsy, or blunt, and in a good way. And unlikely to be told to calm down/stop getting her panties in a bunch/ things of that ilk.

          • Boganette says:

            I couldn’t agree more Octavia. That is exactly it!

    • QoT says:

      Hi Rebecca,

      I’ve been tone-argumented a lot over the last few days, but I do want to address your point directly. Because if this is going to be a campaign, and I hope it is, it won’t just be my voice out there cussing and pissing people off. We need moderates, we need allies, we even need (and I hate to say it) Phil Goff saying “he hasn’t thought about abortion” because as much as that fucks me right off, it also sends the message that our main political leaders cannot be assumed to be antichoice allies either.

      A campaign made up of a huge number of diverse voices, speaking about this in their own way and in their own spheres/environments, will prove that abortion isn’t just a fringe issue and will certainly have room enough for one screeching harpy.

      • Rebecca says:

        absolutely agree, and love your work QoT. Also, I might not be so moderate after having read Chris Trotter…

      • Octavia says:

        It does seem like some people (and I’m not using ‘some people’ to passive aggressively stand in for specific people) are buying into the idea Trotter and others want to put forward, that YOU PERSONALLY are somehow solely leading / the voice for / responsible for the success of the NZ pro-choice feminist movement. Which is pretty shit, unfair, untruthful, and buys into the You Are Destroying Feminism idea. It’s setting you up in a Head Stawfeminist position just so as to tear you down.

  2. Julie Fairey says:

    I’m not sure it’s so easy to conclude that all of them have attitudes largely based in ignorance. I’ve written two guest posts at The Standard on abortion – firstly in mid 2008, here:
    http://thestandard.org.nz/if-youre-against-abortion-then-kindly-dont-have-one/

    And then again in mid 2010, here:
    http://thestandard.org.nz/pro-choice-responses-to-chadwicks-abortion-bill/

    Both resulted in considerable debate that explored the law around abortion thoroughly.

    There’s none so blind as those who will not read.

    • steph says:

      I certainly don’t think most are ignorant, but I do think that some are- because they think they know how things are, or because they don’t want to hear anyone else’s arguments. I also don’t think that the ones that are willfully ignorant or against abortion law reform will be convinced if we use honey instead of vinegar, so when they make the point that we’re putting them off with anger it’s really just a derailing tactic.

  3. Rebecca says:

    Not everybody who is disagreeing with “us” is doing so because they’re not in full possession of the facts – but even if they don’t have them, not sure that constantly upping the level of ire is the best way to draw them in. We need to be clear who is an anti-choice troll and who is a not-entirely-convinced potential ally and treat them accordingly. In this campaign, like my life, I intend to use an unstoppbable combo of honey and vinegar – because my desire to win a better outcome is greater than my desire to vent my anger. That said, I love that there are people a whole more staunch than me in our movement, who can disarm their opponents with such wit!

    • steph says:

      I agree; as I said, I don’t believe everyone who opposes “us” is doing so because of ignorance of the facts. I do believe that some are ignorant of the situation in NZ right now, as I said. And I also think that some know the deal but are still anti-choice. I also feel that whether we use honey or vinegar isn’t going to matter much in terms of convincing diehard anti-choicers who have made up their minds; it will only matter because if we use vinegar they’ll use the tone argument as a derail and say “well, maybe if you weren’t so angry we would take you more seriously”, but if we used honey they would still say “abortion is murder”.

      I’m not trying to tell people that the only way to have an effect is to be angry, or that people who use honey should use vinegar, I’m just pointing out that the tone argument is constantly being used against feminists and it’s not acceptable. I believe in each to their own and that people should take whatever approach they feel comfortable with. But what it comes down to is the idea that anger is hurting our cause always seems to me like a way of stifling the people who are angry. When I get angry about an issue, it isn’t because being angry helps me get my rocks off, and I don’t enjoy venting my anger; it’s because I cannot take one minute more of the shit I’m expected to put up with day in and day out and don’t see why I should take it lying down or with a smile. Maybe I am making assumptions here, but when I read the passionate and outraged posts or statements by other feminists I feel like they too are sick to death of the crap and have zero energy left to attempt to keep their outrage in check. Being outraged in response to something outrageous seems like a fairly reasonable reaction.

      I respect that your style and approach may be different to mine, but I am exhausted from all my civil attempts to explain why not all women who were raped were asking for it, and other things that I should not have to work so hard to convince people of. I’m tired of keeping my outrage in check, and being nice doesn’t necessarily mean people will side with my point of view. I respect your style, and don’t think mine is better than yours (or yours better than mine). I’m just saying it would be nice for some acknowledgement that angry feminists aren’t just angry for the love of it, but because it is a legitimate reaction to an issue, and not have our anger being used as a way of invalidating anything we say or do.

      • Octavia says:

        This this this. Especially:
        “But what it comes down to is the idea that anger is hurting our cause always seems to me like a way of stifling the people who are angry. When I get angry about an issue, it isn’t because being angry helps me get my rocks off, and I don’t enjoy venting my anger; it’s because I cannot take one minute more of the shit I’m expected to put up with day in and day out and don’t see why I should take it lying down or with a smile.”

        We’re not allowed to be outraged, even when we see our friends being hurt and when we feel hurt ourselves. When I am just angry angry angry, it’s because I’m out of spoons.
        But it’s usually construed as us liking/wanting a fight. I know I don’t like feeling powerless, marginalised and overwhelmed.

        • Boganette says:

          “I intend to use an unstoppbable combo of honey and vinegar – because my desire to win a better outcome is greater than my desire to vent my anger” – Rebecca, please understand that comments like this are really difficult to swallow. If you’re implying “angry” bloggers just want to vent instead of actually “winning a better outcome” you’re really wrong.

          If that is directed at me – Can I say: I am not an angry person. I’m not “staunch”. I blog about tattoos, music and my dog. And I also snap back at men who mansplain abortion to me. It’s not as black and white as “honey and vinegar”.

          • Rebecca says:

            Boganette, that comment is not “directed” at you or anyone else. I was describing my own approach on this issue. I am not trying to criticise anyone on the movement but use the “tone” issue to talk about our strategy.

            I know “angry bloggers” want to win, and am working with them on the campaign. I also agree with Queen of Thorns comments that there should be room in the campaign for a variety of different voices. I loved her initial post, but I have some sympathy for some of the men and women commenting on the Standard that they felt unable to participate in the debate because they would have someone jump down their throat. I just think we should differentiate between the genuinely anti-choice people and those who want to debate timing and detail.

  4. Octavia says:

    @Rebecca:

    “I just think we should differentiate between the genuinely anti-choice people and those who want to debate timing and detail.”

    How do we clearly know who that is? Is a man who is apparently an ally, but keeps mansplaining and derailing, in the former or latter category? Do we hold in our anger and stop defending outselves because he ‘might’ not be ‘that’ bad and because as feminists it’s apparently ok for us to be seen as always being representative teaching moments regardless of how hurt we are? It’s not a simple proposal.
    There’s often not that much difference between a person who is anti-choice and someone who says they’re pro-choice but doesn’t really show support and considers the whole matter not that big a deal and tries to silence people about the issue. Same result.

    Additionally, substantive debate takes more than one person acting in good faith, and isn’t ruined by the offended feminist but by the person doing the offending. It’s just that usually the former will be blamed as the latter person has privilege and a whole host of derailing tactics to back them up such as ‘You are damaging your cause by being angry’ and ‘If you cared about these matters you’d be willing to educate me’ (the two I saw most in that shit storm).

  5. […] Deborah at A Bee of A Certain Age blogs about the Pope sticking his nose into womens’ reproductive rights again in Don’t worry their pretty little heads about it. In The right way to talk about abortion, Boganette riffs on the timid and submissive way women, even activists, are supposed to behave rather than “demanding” such things as reproductive rights, which is so rude, isn’t it? LadyNews suggests we may have to be like Oliver Twist, with Please Sir, May We Have Some More Rights? […]

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