Dealing With the Tone Police

I was reminded today that one of the things we have to deal with as activists is the Tone Police.  This is a little different than people who send hatemail, these are people who want to draw the focus from the point of our activism to the way that we do the activism – the words we use, the emotion we have etc.

People might tone police to purposefully derail the conversation (taking the focus off the oppressive behavior and putting it onto the activist for not responding to the oppressive behavior “correctly.”)  Some people tone police  because they aren’t personally comfortable with the strong emotions that an activist is expressing. or because they think that we should do things the way they think things should be done, or because they genuinely think they are helping, or for some other reason.  It doesn’t matter why they do it, as always, we each get to choose how to deal with this.

This morning I posted an article to my personal Facebook wall about how FOX news “reporters” had made fun of the new gender options available on FB.  I have absolutely no patience for that kind of trans* and intersex phobia and I posted the article with the commentary “Fuck You Fox News Hosts.  Fuck. You.”  Soon this was posted on my wall, a textbook example of tone policing:

Hating on others for what you think is an incorrect opinion or narrow mindedness doesn’t make you any better than them. I’m disappointed you’re encouraging and participating in this type of behavior. It doesn’t help sway anyone to your side. Frankly lately your posts have been less than uplifting and positive. No one says they have to be. But you are trying to reach people and open minds. FUing folks is tasteless and tends to do the opposite of this.

I’ve seen this happen to activists over and over again, it’s certainly happened to me plenty of times before. Let’s break it down:

Hating on others for what you think is an incorrect opinion or narrow mindedness doesn’t make you any better than them.

We don’t have to try to be better than anyone, it’s ok to just express our feelings in our spaces about behavior that we find abhorrent.

I’m disappointed you’re encouraging and participating in this type of behavior.

This is a really common way that people attempt to punctuate tone policing.  They are disappointed in you, or surprised at you – they are hoping to make you feel ashamed of the way that you’ve expressed yourself.  I’m disappointed that those people bully, stigmatize, and oppress other people,  I have no shame about my reaction to it.

It doesn’t help sway anyone to your side.

This person has decided what the goal of my activism should be, and is letting me know that, in their expert opinion, I’m not getting it done.  In truth the goal of that post wasn’t persuasive – it was demonstrative. It’s ok to express our anger and not take responsibility for other people’s feelings or reactions.

Frankly lately your posts have been less than uplifting and positive. No one says they have to be. But you are trying to reach people and open minds. FUing folks is tasteless and tends to do the opposite of this.

Once again, this person has decided what I’m trying to do, and that they are the judge of whether or not I’m successfully doing it, as well as being an expert in human behavior as it related to saying fuck you.  Guess what? I didn’t ask, and I’m not looking to them for advice.   When people suggest that we should meet oppression and marginalization only by being positive and uplifting, however well intentioned they may be, it is just another way to take our power away and derail the discussion.  When fucked up things happen we’re allowed to get pissed off about them. We’re allowed to swear.

If people want to be uplifting and positive all the time they are welcome to do that – it doesn’t work for me.  I don’t think it’s realistic or healthy to suggest that we should be disappointed in anyone who doesn’t meet marginalization, discrimination, and disenfranchisement with uplifted politeness – acting like it’s all fluffy bunnies and rainbows. You are allowed to do that, but you are not obligated, no matter what the tone police say.  If you look at the oppression that goes on in the world and it makes you angry, I don’t think that’s surprising and I don’t think it’s a bad thing.  The more we step out as activists, the more we call out the behavior around us that is seriously messed up, the more we express our anger about it,  the more people will become uncomfortable.  We are not responsible for other people’s feelings or for being activists on other people’s terms.

We have a right to all of our emotions, including being pissed off.  We have a right to all the vocabulary, including swear words. We have a right to all of the types of activism, which includes using anger as a tool.  We are not responsible for other people’s feelings and we don’t have to let the tone police dictate the way that we react to, live in, or work to change a messed up world.

Fuck you tone police.  Fuck. You.

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Published in: on February 19, 2014 at 8:00 am  Comments (71)  

71 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Swish! Once again, nothing but net. Thank you, lovely dancer!

  2. A-fucking-men, sister!

    There are times in life when the only rational response to a situation is to become angry. There are times when we must cry and rage or lose our minds.

    And as I’ve often said, we need ALL the kinds of activism there are to get things actually accomplished. Not everyone is swayed by the same tactics, no matter what the Tone Police say.

  3. Great post! No one Niced their way to social change. In fact, the only times things do seem to change is when enough people get pissed off and speak out about it.

    This whole “you must be nice to your oppressors” crap is the biggest lie and is only meant to hold us back from demanding real change.

    • Perhaps Rosa Parks should’ve given up her seat, since that would’ve been nicer.

  4. I hear this alot at work, when people don’t want to deal with an angry customer. A customer might use an expletive in a non directional way, for example “oh it’s just been shit”. People then take that as an excuse to “terminate the call due to abusive language”.
    Some of my family will do the same. Body snarking and food shaming is rampant with some of them. When I get rightly angry about their behaviour and words ‘i should stop getting worked up/being overly sensitive/raising my voice/pedantic’. As a way to put the focus and blame on me, and away from their behaviour.

    • I like your description “use an expletive in a non directional way.” I’m a social worker and people often swear in the process of talking about difficult or painful things. If they are swearing about their stuff, no problem. It’s only if it’s directed at me, or disrespectful toward another person (personally can’t handle the C word applied to women, for example) that we need to wrap up the conversation until calmer.

    • I worked in front-line customer service (insurance) for years and heard many, many f-bombs from customers. The most effective way to handle it, in my experience, is to mentally translate their words as “I do not understand what is happening and I am frustrated as hell!” To which I respond, “Okay. Let me help you with that.” When you’re completely unfazed by the f-bomb, the situation often de-escalates immediately. I’ve had plenty of people thank me at the end of such a conversation, even if they did not get what they wanted.

    • That’s just like saying “use your inside voice”. You know they’ve lost because they’re trying to gain back control which they lost long ago. My family uses this on my all the time. Sometimes you want to kill them.

      • I also hate when people pick apart language in web content. Like someone writes a very impassioned article about whatever. They make a lot of salient points, but they also use a lot of profanity. And there’s always some jackass who’s like:

        “I’d be more inclined to listen if you didn’t swear.” or “You ruined your argument by using profanity.” or, the one that really makes me want to shove my foot up someone’s ass “using profanity is a sure sign of a lack of imagination and poor language skills.”

        Well, fuck you too.

  5. Amen. Tone police can take their controlling, manipulative ways and fuck off.

  6. Oh yes! Go mighty activist.

  7. You failed to fit that person’s stereotype of “happy activist” or “jolly fat girl” or something like that. Good for you! And fuck that shit.

    You have a right to express yourself however you see fit, and you do it well. Far as I’m concerned, Fuck You “tone police” AND Fox News hosts!

  8. I read blogs by people who are angry over fighting the same battle over and over again and it gives me permission to feel angry myself.

    I also read blogs by people who are generally positive most of the time and know when they get pissed off then something is really bad.

    I try to take the middle ground and let my anger fuel me without acting angry if I can. But I will not allow people to tell me how to feel and I gotta say that if they think I was rude when I was swearing I’ll be a damned sight more rude without using a single swear word. I will also finish my rant with offering them a dictionary, which is part an insult to their comprehension and part and acknowledgement of my extensive and eclectic vocabulary.

    If they are too busy clucking over the words I use to hear the message I’m giving them then they don’t really give a shit about what I’m saying and just want to assert their dominance over me. That used to work – when I was a child – but even then I wasn’t totally passive and meek and if a literal boot to the head didn’t totally deter me from speaking my mind at times then some daft tone argument is only gonna work if the person isn’t worth the time or I’m having such a shitty day it’s just not worth it. In either of those cases it reflects more on them than me.

  9. There are times to be positive and supportive to encourage others, but there are also times to be angry and indignant and yes, even profane, when calling people out on unacceptable bigotry. Both are important in making changes.

    I especially have an issue with the tone police coming into your space (or my space) and trying to tell us how they want us to behave or what they want us to say. Nope. Not happening. And if they don’t like what they see or read, well, then fuck off in that direction. —>

    If they’re that uncomfortable with the words, then perhaps it’s time for them to step back and examine why.

  10. Your strength, courage and conviction bring me to tears. I love the way you don’t let people like this get in your head and you fight for what’s right. I’m trying to be more like you. The world needs more people like you. Thanks for setting a great example.

  11. It uplifts me just to see how calmly you dismantle opponents. Ragen, keep being awesomely rational and clear-headed toward responses that would have made me ragingly inarticulate. I hope to continue learning from how you respond to things like this in order to become a stronger person.

  12. Haha! I think I have been guilty of tone policing in the past – my mother comes directly out of my mouth. Thanks for this amazing reminder that we are all entitled to how we feel, what we want to say, and to do it any ol’ way we want to.🙂

  13. Preach, sister! Drives me nuts when people want to tell me I’m not living up to their preferences regarding how I should act and who I should be… it may be couched as “helpful” but it always strikes me as controlling. Moreso when it’s telling me how I should or shouldn’t react to someone trying to control me in the first place.

    I’m also not a big fan of its cousin, “Wow, you’re angry — aren’t you overreacting? Are you sure you’re completely stable?” (Which, of course, is guaranteed to result in more anger, thus “proving” their point that you’re not reacting rationally in the first place.)

    And don’t even get me started on “calm down…”

    Anger is perfectly rational in a lot of situations, dammit.

  14. You have taught me a great deal about “critical thinking”. Thank you.

  15. Tone policing pushes a big button for me. It’s how my father wielded his power if he felt he wasn’t in complete control. He could decide he didn’t like my tone/attitude, and would shut down any further conversation. I was usually being “hysterical,” “irrational,” or “mouthy.” His weapons to shut me down with tone policing were either cutting, cruel sarcasm or, if that didn’t work, shouting. At which point, I was blamed by both him and my mom for making trouble.

    It took me years, and putting several states between me and them, to start undoing the damage. I still have a hard time with it being OK to be mad at someone or something, and am still learning to express it.

    I think some of these tone police types are scared. They’re projecting their own embedded conflict-avoidance onto you and anyone else who, in their eyes, makes trouble by not putting up with others’ shit.

    • I have a family member who uses “whatever” to cut off a conversation if he doesn’t like the way it’s going/it appears he might have to concede that he’s wrong about it. It’s complete and utter insecurity, but it’s still irritating.

      It’s also mystifying as to why he’s confused over no one in the family wanting to spend time with him.

    • Thank you Melissa for sharing your experiences with tone police / abusers. I have similar issues with my own temper, because somehow not using approved words, at an arbitrarily-approved volume, was always soooooooo much, much worse than anything anybody ever did to me, from taking / breaking my belongings to baiting and harrassing to literally kicking my ass. It was a power play, and a dominance play then, and it’s a dominance play now.

      I am so glad you got away from them. F#ck the tone police.

      • Same here!!!

  16. As stated several times it is a means of control.
    What pisses me right off is that I have every right to my anger and discontent!
    I feel very strongly for a lot of issues and some of them deserve to have ire behind them racism sexism homophobia and the way rape victims are treated are just a few.
    Frankly when it comes to any human rights I am appalled when a person does not find it Ire deserving.
    Positivity has a place and a time so also does anger.
    and if you don’t stand for something you will fall for anything.

  17. Hmm, yes, but if you don’t like someone else’s tone, you are also wrong. Definitely a no win situation.

    As appropriate as it is to get mad at people who are clearly being jerks, I just want to put out a little reminder not to jump down the throats of folks who are trying not to be jerks.

    I bring this up because I follow Wil Wheaton on tumblr, and not that long ago he used the phrase ‘spirit animal’ and several people jumped down his throat for taking something away from Native Americans.

    He then apologized for it, and laid out his thought process that as a white dude, it had never occurred to him he was doing this.

    Several more people jumped down his throat for this.

    Finally, someone who said he was a shaman pointed out that ‘spirit animals’ were part of a lot of different cultures and he didn’t have a problem with anyone laying claim to them.

    The ‘conversation’ died down after that, but I was ticked that anyone would lay into Wheaton for what a) was not in intentional slight and could have been pointed out politely b) was justified by hurting ‘Native Americans’ completely obliterating the fact that each and every tribe/nation has its own set of beliefs which should be respected, and then c) yelled some more when he just talked about his thought process.

    I still don’t know if ‘spirit animals’ should be used outside of a religious context, but at least have the decency to specify whose religion you are trying to protect.

    Please, get mad at the folks who deserve it, but try not to slam on people who are trying hard not to be jerks.

    Sorry for the rant, this apparently touched a nerve.

    • I saw this on Tumblr, too, and I wanted to bring it up here as well. Wheaton specifically mentioned that he chose to respond to the specific asker who politely pointed out his error rather than others who were not so polite, and encouraged people to be polite to him and others in his space. I don’t know if I’d call this tone policing, but plenty of people did. I figure, it’s his Tumblr, so…

      Ragen was taking issue, I believe, with people going onto her facebook and tone policing her there, which is not cool.

      • Good point, being angry at someone in their own space can be problematic.

    • Link, please?

      You’re claiming that people were yelling at Wheaton. Okay. But in my experience, I’ve often gone out of my way to express my anger without yelling at somebody who was inconsiderate and/or unthinking in similar contexts to the one you describe– only to then have the people I was unhappy with come down on me like a ton of bricks and accuse me of being aggressive and loud, when in fact I had not been anything of the sort.:/

        • My tumblr-fu is not all that it could be, and I appreciate you posting the link, however… I only see one sample of supposed yelling in your link: The one Wheaton himself provides after first showing a sample of what he considers a deserving way for a commenter to voice their unhappiness with his original post. (Which I also don’t see in the link you provided.) Where are all these other furious people who supposedly tore him a new one over his original remarks… whatever they were?

          He calls the “bad” poster “incredibly angry,” but honestly I don’t see that. Yes, the person is clearly exasperated (and I understand why) but they aren’t exactly writing in all Capslock and calling for the blood of Wheaton and for that of all White folks everywhere.

          Frankly, I’d think that being in showbiz for a billion years would have given him a somewhat thicker skin, but that’s just me.:/

          • Okay, fair enough, I don’t have any of the posts Wil claims to have gotten that were rude.

            I would like to respectfully point out that expecting him to have a thicker skin for being in show business is just as rude as expecting anybody else to be used to being hassled just because they have been hassled for the same thing before.

            • Uh, no. I don’t think I was being rude at all. Wheaton banks on his status as a celeb when he posts. He works in a cutthroat business where people are customarily under a microscope all the time, and I’ll wager he deals with far worse crap than one unhappy Tumblr reader all the time. Also, you’re comparing apples and oranges. Unless he gets hassled about this kind of thing once a week, and I didn’t see any evidence of that in the links.

              • Just because someone is a celeb doesn’t mean they should have to put up with any more crap than anyone else. Yeah, being well-known means more people may contact you, but that still doesn’t excuse poor behavior.

                Ragen is a celeb, albeit on a smaller scale, but I don’t accept that it’s okay for folks to be rude to her.

              • Isstrout, I think you’re misunderstanding me. I’m not saying that it’s right for anyone to be mean to Wheaton on his own turf because he’s famous. I’m saying that it surprised me how badly he reacted to what was (in my mind) not some kind of borderline-incomprehensible rage-spewer. Just somebody who was exasperated with something he said and didn’t choose to soft peddle it as much as did the poster Wheaton responded to.

                And, yes, as with Ragen, he’s the final word on what gets to stay on his site and what gets pruned. As I told Helena, I wasn’t even aware that was what we were debating in this discussion.

                • Okay, I see what you are saying. I didn’t think he reacted all that badly but I take your point.

          • Depends on how many people razzed him about it. On Ragen’s blog she posts only certain hate mail that she can dissect. I don’t see anything different in what he did. It’s just a different topic. He gets to post what he wants to post in his space.

            • But there’s nothing there indicating how many people were annoyed with him. What I saw in those links really doesn’t line up with lsstrout’s original version of events at all.

              Also, where did I say that Wheaton wasn’t entitled to speak his mind on his own Tumblr? Of course he is. I wasn’t aware that we were even debating that, unless I missed something…:/

  18. A-fucking-men!

  19. Thank you for this. My issue with confronting people who are displaying their homophobia or misogynism is less about tone, usually, and more about not knowing how to continue responding when the conversation deteriorates. Does anyone have any advice on how to deal with this?

    An example: Talking about a TV show on an acquaintance’s FB, and a friend of his calls a boy (for clarification, this is a TV character, not a real person) a “pussy.” I express my discomfort with the misogyny and it turns into me being told I am looking for reasons to be offended, that there’s nothing misogynistic about calling someone a “pussy” as an insult, and that I must be a very happy person to be going through life searching for offense where there is none. And I had no idea how to reply to that, except to repeat that it was offensive and then bail.

    (I realize this is a bit off-topic, and I’ll understand if it is deleted if it’s deemed inappropriate.)

    • It’s a good question and I don’t know the answer either. Anyone else?

    • Hmm, hard to say the best way to respond. What the person in the example is doing is CLASSIC derailing, a bit of gas-lighting in there too. I had a bout of that earlier this week when, upon pointing out that Chris Christie’s weight was not related to his corrupt policies, I was told I need to see a shrink, was crazy and oversensitive and that I am a “mental midget.” See how she tried to shut me up and upset me (in hopes of making me look unstable with an emotional reaction) without actually ever once addressing the point I’d made? Derailing.

      Like I said, I don’t have a great suggestion for combating that kind of behavior. The whole point of it is to move the conversation away from the point you made (likely because it’s valid and they don’t have a real response for) and make the conversation about “political correctness” or “over-sensitivity” which are really just code words for, “I like my privilege and I don’t want to check it.”

      But, being able to identify this behavior before you get sucked into an argument with a troll is helpful. I suggest his guide to help better identify techniques used to derail conversations: http://finallyfeminism101.wordpress.com/resources/mirror-derailing-for-dummies/

      I’ve read a lot lately about dealing with trolls, and there seem to be two opposing camps: “Don’t feed the trolls” (i.e. just ignore them) or “Keep Calm and Carry on” (don’t back down, but don’t get emotional). I have a hard time separating my emotions from my activism, I think a lot of folks do, but a calm, rational argument is like kryptonite for a troll. I think there is probably an art to continuing the conversation calmly and rationally while trolls keep trying to derail you.

      At the end of the day, though, I say do what’s best for your sanity. And sometimes that means logging off the computer and doing something else entirely.

      • Thanks for the link. I know I’d read it before but it had been a long time. I get what you’re saying about the calm, rational argument; I think the main reason I bailed on the conversation when I did was because I was already pretty frustrated.

    • Though, to that specific situation, I think Betty White said it best: “Why do people say ‘grow some balls’? Balls are weak and sensitive. If you wanna be tough, grow a vagina. Those things can take a pounding.”

    • Amy J., people like that are pretty much beyond comprehending their own misogyny (or homophobia, etc.), in my experience. I prefer to avoid them or tell them to leave my space where possible. The fact that they automatically trot out all the standard obfuscations to you tells me that they’ve been at it a long time and have no actual interest in doing anything but steamrolling me.

      Personally, I deal with guys all day long who call our female boss a bitch. I frankly hate the word with a passion, even though I don’t like the boss any more than the guys do. Mostly I just settle for rolling my eyes, or sighing, or shaking my head at them.

      A short reaction on my part (were I in an optimistic mood) would be: You’re hating on somebody for having supposed female attributes/characteristics. What exactly is so hateful about being female?

      • The guy’s wife (or SO, but I think she was his wife) decided to jump into the conversation with a string of curse words, so *that* was fun. As if the issue was my dislike to swearing. (Anyone who knows me would find that idea hilarious.) I really like your short response – thanks.

        • No kidding. Like you, I’m familiar with the syndrome of people assuming that one is averse to swearing, rather than averse to swearing in a sexist way. I wish I wasn’t.:/ I personally will throw around “asshole” and “jaggoff” (a Pittsburgh-ism taught to me by my better half) with the best of ’em when I’m riled. Yet even people who’ve heard me cuss up a blue streak will make the same assumption the guy’s wife/SO does in your account. Some people are just determined to hear only what they want to hear. Sucks, doesn’t it?

          Thanks for the complement. I’m glad you understood, even though I hadn’t downed enough coffee before posting and apparently forgot to use pronouns properly. [slaps forehead]

          • It does suck, though in this case I mostly found it funny because basically any kind of argument on their part, no matter how silly, would have been less useless. A line of swear words with an additional “and I fucked your mom!” just made me laugh.

    • I usually just end up saying “Whatever, dude. I’m right, you’re wrong. buh-bye.” then I block them.

      when people resort to those kinds of tactics, there’s really no arguing with them.

      • That would be quick and effective, for sure. I ended up unfriending the person whose FB the conversation took place in, partially to prevent my having to deal with this stranger again and partially because the FB person I *did* know didn’t respond to the conversation at all, which I found very frustrating.

  20. FUCK YEAH!! Here’s to swear words!! Particularly when the world keeps giving you things to swear about…

  21. Of course calling someone a “pussy” is misogynistic — it is using a term referring to female genitalia as an insult, and an insult that implies weakness, lack of character, cowardice, and so forth. There’s no doubt that this is misogynistic. I guess I would explain to the person WHY I consider it offensive (the assumption that female = weak, cowardly, etc.).

    • Absolutely. And regardless of how it’s used, it’s still degrading.

    • The person in question absolutely understood, because after I pointed it out, he went into a whole thing about how if he’d used a term for male genitalia as the insult, it would have been insulting to men, but no one would have complained about that, etc etc.

  22. Sometimes when I see hateful awful things in the media, I can’t fight back—even in my own head. I just feel like “well, most of society still hates people like me” and sometimes it just gets in. Seeing an activist/ally say something real like “Fuck these guys” is sometimes just what I need. Don’t let anyone tell you that this isn’t ever a useful approach. It might not always “sway” the other side, but it might sometimes help someone on your side feel like they aren’t alone.

    • I couldn’t agree more! I feel the same way as you do, and I admire people who can stand up for what’s right until I’m brave enough to do it myself.

  23. I read a comment on someone’s page the other day that was tone policing a number of female size activists. It really blistered me, so I posted the following response (feel free to use all or part as you need):

    your comment about not liking the “tone” of size activist bloggers really took me aback. I’d like to explain why I feel that way, and also why that tone exists in the first place.

    First, I applaud you for being willing to open your mind and listen. That’s a rare quality in this era of hostile anonymity. Thank you. I hope you will read what I have to say with the same open mind and understanding heart because I say this with respect, but respect and anger are not mutually exclusive.

    First a question – have you ever been wronged by someone, or a group of someones? Think for a moment about how you felt about that, then read the rest of this with that feeling in mind.

    The “tone” you hear and disapprove of is our anger at having been treated like second-class citizens for so long. If you are not fat, you don’t understand what it’s like to walk into a restaurant and not be able to sit down because there isn’t an armless chair in the place. You don’t know what it’s like to board an airplane and have everyone give you a sour look as you pass down the aisle and have the person you’re sitting next to groan in anticipation of your body invading “his” space because the seats aren’t built even for average-sized adults, much less supersized ones. You don’t know what it feels like to have a flight attendant look at you with veiled disgust when she hands you a seatbelt extender, mutely daring you not to thank her for it. You don’t get what it’s like to have someone standing next to you in the grocery store passively-aggressively announcing to the rest of the aisle that they think SOME people shouldn’t be allowed to buy certain kinds of foods because clearly it’s not good for them. You don’t know how it feels to need to use a mobility scooter in the store and feel ashamed of it because the last time you did, someone told you they thought you were disgraceful because the only reason you needed it was because you’re fat and not because you have a medical condition that MAKES you fat. You don’t comprehend the additional stress and pain your body feels and how your legs are shaking by the time you get to your car when you end up not using that cart so that you don’t have to feel the psychic pain of that kind of humiliation ever again. You don’t know what it’s like to walk into a gym and, simply because you’re fat, have people treat you like a first-time exerciser instead of the veteran you are and offer up idiotic and condescending encouragement about how “you can do it” when you’ve BEEN doing it already, three times a week for the last two years. Well-meaning idiocy is still idiocy. You will not understand the need to find a quiet space to cry because the jackasses at the construction site mooed at you and hurled insults like, “Hey, honey! Put down the sandwich!” when you walked by with your thin friend.

    And we’re expected to take all this bullshit quietly and not speak out.

    We’re also supposed to thank our oppressors for the fact that they “care” about our health. Except they don’t care about our health. They care that we fit neatly into the nicely labeled and stereotyped little boxes they’ve built for us, and they get pissy and bitchy when we refuse to squash ourselves inside them. And then they have the nerve to tell us we should be polite about it? Fuck that noise. (And you don’t know me, so you don’t realize that NEVER drop the f-bomb in a public space.)

    If we’re going to stand up and announce ourselves as unique and beautiful people, we can’t do it from a position of submission or subjugation. Our voices of anger and pain have been squelched for a very, very long time. It’s no wonder that when we speak it comes out harsher than you – or they – might like, but it’s not our job to accommodate your comfortability.

    The first Civil Rights materials probably sounded pretty angry, too. It was probably REALLY uncomfortable for everyone on that bus when Rosa Parks wouldn’t keep herself to “her place,” but insisted on claiming her own seat like a real human being. I can’t imagine the potency of the silence in that Woolworth’s when four black men sat down at the lunch counter as if they were, you know, actual people with needs, desires, and feelings. The outrage and uncomfortability would have been palpable. The first desegregators, the first ACLU members, the NAACP – they probably created a lot of uncomfortability – but here’s the thing. If people are allowed to remain comfortable, then CHANGE CANNOT OCCUR. Change is a result of people being uncomfortable with a situation, with their beliefs. We don’t like to see the ugly behind the veneer of things because when we do we realize that we have an obligation to do one of two things. Either we can turn a blind eye, or we can change it. Those are the only options available, and neither of them are comfortable.

    I think that is what is happening here. I think your assumptions are being challenged and you’re being told that you’re benefiting in some way from keeping the status quo stable, but we’re working hard to rock the boat. We’re showing you the humbug behind the curtain, and telling you you have a choice to make. You’ve made some excellent choices already, and like I said, I applaud you for them. No one likes having illusions ripped away from them, but the jolly fat person is just that – an illusion.

    My feelings are MINE. No one has the right to take that away from me. I own my feelings and they’re not always pretty, but they are mine. Gloriously, magnificently, imperfectly mine.

    Some of us are ANGRY, and it’s OK for us to be angry. We are asserting our rights to be allowed to feel however we feel, just like how you felt in the scenario I asked you to think about up there. So many people have tried to tell us over time that we “shouldn’t” be angry, that we have no right to our own feelings, that they are *concerned* for our health, that we should just shut up and go along with the status quo. What tone might your own words hold if you’d heard that message repeated throughout your life?

    • TL;DR – We’re mad for good reason. Deal with it.

      • Brava, Helena! That was beautifully written.

        Also very controlled and respectful whilst still laying it on the line. I admire that.🙂

        • That means a lot to me because that is exactly what I usually go for. Thank you.

    • We are just as entitled as anyone else to the words of Peter Finch from Network — I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!

      And seriously, that is one of my favorite rejection phrases – fuck that noise. 🙂

    • Excellent post!

    • Beautiful! Just perfect.

    • What an amazing post! Agreed to infinity!

    • This is wonderful! Good for you! And thank you!

  24. I can’t stand tone policing, and ESPECIALLY can’t stand the “If you don’t use your nice words, you’re no better than them” argument. Um, NO. Even if I did object to your tone — which I don’t, at all, and more importantly, I realize that the tone you use on your personal facebook page is approximately 0% my business, but even if I did — there is no way that someone using an objectionable tone to call out bigotry is as bad as or worse than the bigotry itself. That makes no sense.

    Keep right on saying “fuck you” to Fox News; I firmly believe they can never hear that enough🙂.

  25. Tone police come in many forms, not always from opposing views. Honest expression will always elicit people who will try to silence you if they don’t like what you say. If you can still speak your mind without being censored, you are ahead of the game.

  26. Hear, Hear!

  27. This was such a great post.I cannot stand the condescending tone of telling us how to write and what to write about.

  28. I now have the urge to play the song “Fuck Tha Police” by NWA.
    The Tone Police are enraging. “Why are you so angry?” they asked. Fool, I just told you why I’m so angry!
    I also agree that being all sunshine and light all the time is not always effective. Sometimes a person has to shout to get heard, particularly when one is a person that society tries to make invisible and/or a scapegoat.


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