I think I understand more about why I’m so opposed to the use of violent rhetoric, even in anti-oppression circles; why it makes me uncomfortable to say that someone is justified in wishing death upon someone else, because of an oppressive stance they take, or oppression they have carried out with their word or deed.
It has nothing to do with some principled opposition to violence; some idea that we must turn the other cheek at all times, that the high road is the better path to be on. I still hate the tone argument in all its various guises — I dislike telling someone how to react emotionally to oppressive people and oppressive situations. (I reblogged this, after all. I labelled it the “battle cry of the Indian woman”. I believe that if someone hurts you, you FIGHT BACK.) Anger is an emotion I understand intimately; its an emotion that I have a great deal of respect for. Even if I personally try to not engage my feelings of anger, I would never tell someone else that they couldn’t feel angry over something.
My opposition to violent rhetoric comes from a dedication to intersectionality. I don’t want to perpetuate oppression in an attempt to support marginalized people. I reserve most of my disapproval for white allies who attempt to support their friends, but who end up endorsing violent rhetoric towards people of color.
I didn’t always think this way, but something happened a while ago that changed my mind. A long time ago, Yohanna (eastafrodite) criticized Derek (socialistscum) for using violent rhetoric against a woman of color who was using transmisogynistic language. She told me about him, and I responded that I didn’t care, because that woman was saying some pretty pernicious shit herself, about the sanctity of “women-born only” spaces, and that I wasn’t interested in defending someone like her. But later, when we all found out what kind of a person Derek really was (a violent sexual predator, turns out), the true meaning of what happened really hit home for me. I watched as a white man said violent, degrading, sexist things to a young woman of color, and did nothing, said nothing, because that woman of color was herself complicit in oppression of a different kind. It wasn’t harmless, or victimless. It wasn’t just something that Yohanna and others were blowing out of proportion. It was itself oppressive.
I still don’t like that woman, or what she was saying, but what Derek did to her was beyond the pale. He was using the fight against transmisogyny as a cover to say horrible things to a woman, because he considered her worthless.
As far as I can as a cis woman, I’ll fight against transphobia and transmisogyny, but is the way to do it through racist misogyny?
I feel similar things when I see various white allies say awful, violent things to people of color for views they might have. You can’t get away from the power dynamics of that situation.
So my views on violent rhetoric are nuanced. I’m not absolutely against it, I’m just wary of its use. I wonder if it is best employed against others in a community that is majority queer and of color, who have to spend their entire time fighting off assault from the straight white normative society. I wonder if its possible to avoid these kinds of incidents in a community as diverse as ours.