Respectability Politics & Tone Policing

I have issues with this article.

Of course you don’t want to give the police an excuse to arrest you or brutalize you, or the media an incident to plaster all over the news, or DJT’s team a way to leverage against you. However, simply being an upstanding law-abiding patriotic-as-hell citizen won’t guarantee anything. Excuses and incidents are easy to manufacture and have always been manufactured. And seriously, since when has DJT been limited to truth or reality when attacking people?

I’m REALLY gonna push back on the “tone policing” bit. The reason people/politicians don’t listen to protestors has nothing to do with presentation. It’s not because protestors are too loud, too unruly, too rude, too angry, too anything. It’s because people/politicians *don’t want to hear*. They don’t want to change anything. They LIKE it like this. They want you to sit down and shut up. Being “nice” and “polite” might get you a polite not-listen before you are dismissed, AT BEST.

Pure bullshit has been authored from thin air, delivered in the most offensive manner possible, and still been whole-heartedly accepted by those who *wanted it to be true*. Even proven to be false, people still believed it, because they *wanted* to. That uncle who listens to Rush Limbaugh? It doesn’t matter how you say it, if it isn’t what he wants to hear, he ain’t listening. But whatever Trump says is gold.

As far as getting DJT’s team to listen- this is the man who calls federal “so-called” judges “disgraceful” when they don’t automatically cave to his demands. (That’s the only “nice” way to get him to listen to you, btw: fawn over him and cave to his demands.)

You know who is listening to the protests? Possibly? Congress. They sure as hell aren’t liable to do anything otherwise; they are BARELY taking action even with all the marches and letters and daily phone calls. Protests didn’t stop the Iraqi war, no. But they did take the country from a place where the media _would_NOT_ question the war in any way, shape, or form and absolutely nobody was allowed to speak negatively (or give nonsupportive facts) about the war, lest they be deemed unpatriotic and an enemy of America, to a place where open, realistic discussion and analysis about the war was taking place without censorship and where Congress was standing up to the president in that regard. Which would NOT have happened otherwise.

As for that bit about who should be marching, yes, I’d love for it to be more inclusive. I’d love for women police officers to have been up there. It wasn’t because they would have been rejected by the march organizers. If they didn’t show, it’s because they rejected the march. That’s on THEM.

And hell yeah Angela Davis was there at the Women’s March. Have you heard her speak? Her message is important, people. Hell yeah Angela Davis was there.  Why would she NOT be at a Women’s March???

I absolutely refuse to bow to respectability politics: no sex workers in the pride parade, no poor people in ragged clothes in the worker’s march, nobody with prior convictions in the civil rights march. Only respectable people! You know, white cis hetero middle class Christian men, or their really cute and well-trained pet women. We can’t have those OTHER people. Who would listen to us then??? = Nobody should listen to those others because they’re not real (they are lesser) people, there’s no need or reason to listen to them, their experiences and voices and lives and outcomes don’t matter (at all, or at least not as much as “ours”).


If they refuse to hear us, IT’S ON THEM. They are the ones who don’t care about us, what we say, what we need, what we’re doing. They are the ones who only listen to people who agree with them. (We should be careful not to do the same, of course.)

We’re ALREADY real, patriotic Americans. We don’t have to look only a certain accepted way for that to be true.

We need to speak the language of the opposition because why? Why do we need to cater to the language of the people who are by definition not listening to us? How is using words with twisted meanings (identity politics, politically correct, alternate facts, fake news) not reinforcing those twisted meanings and, by implication, their insinuated barbs against us? How is allowing the opposition to control and manipulate the dialogue NOT playing into their hands?

Why do we need to accept their criticisms as reality when they are not? Why do we need to defang our (potentially offensive) criticisms of them when they are perfectly valid?  Why do we need to accept their worldview and validate it for them? ESPECIALLY when validating THEIR worldview necessarily invalidates our own???

Sure, marching won’t solve all problems. Sure, marching can be problematic. In fact, I thought this article was going to talk about other means of resistance. You know, general strikes? Refusing to pay taxes? Boycotts, voting in local and state elections as well as turning out in droves to vote on who goes back to Congress next time, calling representatives? How to run for office yourself? How to frame and engage with news stories? How to catch up on history lessons, fact checking, how to spot bullshit?

I mean, anything?  Though they did mention serving cake…. at a strategy meeting, I assume.  What exactly are we strategizing about?  Passing laws?  First off, laws take years to pass.  Years.  Secondly, I can call my reps and tell them I support this bill, but I can’t write the legislation nor arrange meetings promoting bipartisan support for it nor pass any bill.  I’m not Congress.  So… what are we doing besides taking names and eating cake?

I’d rather not be rude about it either. I’d much rather be respectful.  But if the opposition gets to define what “rude” and “respectful” are, that’s problematic and fundamentally unacceptable. Because then you end up with “rude/disrespectful” meaning anything that might harm their fragile egos: If you say repealing the ACA will leave you without insurance and your life-threatening condition will kill you, or if you point out a pattern of chosen engagement in racist practices and how that threatens the rights of other Americans, or if you argue that one needs clean air and water to live so please don’t take it away from you, then you’re accusing them of being heartless monsters.  You’re outrageously attacking them. You shouldn’t make them feel so bad and impugn their characters like that. And because of this, you and your concerns are silenced and dismissed.

And then again, it’s not only incredibly easy but also historically prevalent for the opposition to pay people (or send professionals) to infiltrate a march, rally, etc and be rude, violent, aggressive, destructive, ridiculous, etc. It doesn’t matter how well-behaved you are if people slip in among you and purposefully start a riot. Or start throwing bombs. (Haymarket, anyone?)

The bottom line is that there is no way to win at respectability politics because unless they agree with you, they will find a way to render you disrespectful in their eyes.

Trump could just say: “Protesters declare war on real Americans. Sad.” And people would believe it.*

You’ll never be good/respectable/acceptable/normal enough.

There is no way to win that game.**


*I am not trying to be funny.  That’s not funny.  It’s not a joke.  It’s horrifying and yes I could make it more realistic but why would I want to do that?  It’s already horrifying enough.

**And more than this, I do not care if they are offended.  If they are acting like fascists, and I call them on it, I do not care if they are offended by that.  THEY ARE ACTING LIKE FASCISTS; I DO NOT CARE ABOUT HURTING THE POOR FASCISTS’ FEELINGS.  I care about my country, my democracy, my rights, my very life here!  PRIORITIES, PEOPLE.

There is absolutely positively NOTHING reasonable about being nice when fascists are taking over your country.  Sometimes the only reasonable thing to do is to unconditionally and in no uncertain terms whatsoever REJECT unacceptable behavior.   This is going to involve making some noise.


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