Thoughts On Tone Policing

I’ve done the “proper” methods of discourse.

I’ve written carefully sourced articles about problematic aspects of media and fandom where I lay out to the letter how something is racist and why that’s bad. I’ve played educator, lecturing via tweets or responses to tumblr messages that demanded my time, energy, and identity for free. I’ve stripped the snark from my words, pretending that I’m not angry about how people are not getting it and may never get it.

I’ve been nice.

Do you know what being nice got me?

Nothing.

Being “nice” about explaining why I’m angry about being oppressed gets me ignored. Being “nice” as I explain for the third time why Robert Downey Jr’s blackface in Tropic Thunder is still racist even though you find it to be funny ends with me being written off because I’m not raising my voice loud enough to be heard.

So I started getting loud. I started saying “fuck you” when someone demanded that I give them my time. I called fandoms out (remember my letter to comic fans where I outright called them racist as a whole for the response to racebending the fandom as a whole participates in). I stopped pulling my punches when I talked about media that other people liked. I stopped being typically nice.

People didn’t like that very much. I lost (largely white) friends because I was “just so angry all the time”. I was called a social justice warrior a bunch of times and had strangers condescend to me angrily. For my pro-racebending and slash-critical posts, I wound up having people post links to my work in hostile environments like Reddit and Fail Fandom Anon in order to make fun of me.

But here’s the thing: they wouldn’t do all of that if they didn’t hear me to start with. They wouldn’t react so negatively if they didn’t see a grain of truth to my words about how fandom is a racist and unsafe space or that couching a desire for white M/M slash ships in social justice rhetoric is messed up.

I raised my voice and people heard me.

I’ve never been a fan of tone policing when someone is talking about the oppression they and theirs are experiencing. I don’t believe that “niceness” is a quality anyone has to have when talking about something that makes up the systems that actively work to oppress them because that is violence.

Whenever I see people harassed for not being “nice” on the internet as they navigate through hostile environments that treat them as subhuman, the one thing that comes to mind is that this isn’t my job. No one’s paying me to be nice. I’m not a kindergarten teacher to stand there and take it as someone tries to tantrum their way into being right.

I’m not going to go out of my way to be mean to anyone (that’s just not in my nature), but I also owe no one anything unless they’ve hired me, raised me, or given birth to me. And even then? There are conditions. I owe no one my niceness (aka my silence) in the face of acts of oppression that aim to wound me and people like me.

To demand “niceness” from someone trying to deal with the violent effects of racism, cissexism, or misogyny (to name a few things) is to go “my feelings as an oppressor/someone who benefits from your oppression are more important than yours as someone suffering from oppression”.

And you know what?

No they fucking aren’t.

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About Zina

Zina writes about comics, nerd history, and ridiculous romance novels when not working frantically on her first collection of short stories and complaining about stuff. One day, she'll settle down and write that novel.
This entry was posted in Rants and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Thoughts On Tone Policing

  1. “To demand “niceness” from someone trying to deal with the violent effects of racism, cissexism, or misogyny (to name a few things) is to go “my feelings as an oppressor/someone who benefits from your oppression are more important than yours as someone suffering from oppression”.”

    Thank you. Wonderfully put.

    Like

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