Monday, April 13, 2015

The lady doth protest too much

Someone on Reddit posted a link to my article that was originally published in Drunk Monkeys and recently shared on Everyday Feminism. The Reddit post was received quietly and positively, except for this short thread:

Seems to be a reprint of which comes from another post I saw somewhere of the same nature several months ago.

And my response, as back then,, grats?

Huh, I guess it's nice she's getting multiple publishings. I get what you're saying though, and I wonder how many people the article reaches will be the sort of people who would really benefit from it (learning not to ask helpful questions).

Yeah, the author did a piece in Salon in 2012 where she said the same thing. Again. Someone who keeps coming back to say that she's soooo happy and fulfilled, over and over, gives the appearance to the contrary even if it is the truth.

This kind of thing makes me livid.

Here's why.

Well, let's start with the obvious. Besides the condescending "enough already" attitude and the implication that I'm needlessly grousing about the same thing constantly, this detractor doesn't even have their information right.

I "did a piece" in Salon in 2012 where I said the same thing? Oh really? I "did" zero pieces for Salon. I have never written for Salon. I have been interviewed by them twice--once in 2005, and once in 2014--and while both touched on the fact that I was happy the way I was, neither article was primarily devoted to my satisfaction with my orientations. Salon has done a few other pieces on asexuality over the years, but contrary to popular belief, not every story that contains an asexual woman's perspective involves me. Furthermore, both of my interviews were solicited by them--they contacted ME and asked me for my opinion and perspectives. It's not like I wrote the pieces and went around saying the same thing repeatedly and trying to publish it everywhere I could.

I have, however, published multiple pieces about asexuality in various places on the Internet. I sold a piece to The Toast in 2014, which covered some similar topics but had a different tone and a different audience. I was asked to blog for Psychology Today starting this year, and both of the pieces I've posted so far have something to do with mental health professionals and attitudes toward asexuality. I placed seven articles with Good Vibrations from 2011 through 2013, which cover a variety of topics (including how to be an ally, how asexuality and sexual fluidity are relevant to each other, asexuality in queer spaces, and sexual vs. romantic attraction).  And over the years since 2005 I have given more than twenty print interviews, eight or so blog interviews, five video interviews, seven radio/podcast interviews, and four presentations on various asexuality– and aromanticism-related topics.

I talk about this topic a fair amount. But to see someone condescendingly reframing my work as if I am a one-trick pony makes me sick.

First of all, it's not ridiculous (or, for cheese's sake, indicative of the opposite) for me to focus on my fulfillment sometimes, because people often NEED to hear that message. And I venture to say that even if I had written about it already three years ago in Salon, there's no reason to put your hands on your hips and go "Okay, like, STILL? You're STILL bleating about how happy you are? We get it already! Sounds like you're trying to convince yourself~!" Periodically reminding people of stuff that's important isn't beating a dead horse, even if you assume everyone did indeed see it the first time, which they didn't. Just from this posting, check out a few of the shorter messages people offered:

  • I’d like to thank you for recovering asexuality from its invisibility, it gives young people like me a lot of hope.     
  • Thank you for writing this! I am both asexual and aromantic but most people don't understand that. Glad I'm not alone. 
  • Wow. Stumbled upon this and I had no idea that my brain was so much like others. I had to laugh because I don't drink water hardly and am always harped on about it. In all seriousness though, this article made me feel so much better, I've only ever told one person how I feel and reading this...yeah, just helped me out a lot. Thanks.   
  • Thanks for the honest presentation of a unfamiliar and, for many, uncomfortable subject. The first time I heard of the orientation as a legitimate spot on the spectrum of sexuality I was SO relieved. I grew up in the Midwest, where any discussion of sexuality was fraught with 'moral' overtones, it was easier to tell people I was celibate than to engage in any true sharing of personal experience. I was 62 years old and 19 years into therapy before I was finally validated.  
And let me tell you. Every time--EVERY time--I publish something, I get responses like these. Tweeted. Sent to my private e-mail. Posted on my website. Posted in the comments. Sent through Facebook. Offered on shares of the articles on social media. And what's interesting is MOST of the people who are affected by an article tend not to say anything, even if it was extremely helpful and formative for them. A very small percentage says anything. The fact that there's a pretty nice outpouring every time I talk to people about this suggests it is wanted (and, one could say in some cases, needed). So I think it's pretty gross for someone to say "Ugh. So?"

Secondly, the "whatever, you've ALREADY SAID THIS BEFORE" comment assumes that there's no benefit to putting the same message in multiple places. The reason I don't just publish everything I want to say on my blog and just cross my fingers and hope people read it is that people won't always come to me, no matter who I am. I have to sell and place pieces of writing in spaces where people are already looking. Sometimes those messages are similar to each other, and when you see me saying the same thing a few different ways in a few different places, yeah, you might roll your eyes and ask why I'm saying it again. That is, if you're just that sure that people who need to read it are reading it every time I speak. But they aren't.

Thirdly, on the same note as the above, assuming nobody needs to hear my schtick again implies that once you've heard it and you're fine, there's not really any use for repetition. 

I'm not one to waste my time saying the same thing over and over either, but many magazines (like Drunk Monkeys) do not publish reprints, so I can't just have them share something I've already published. And in a reversal of that, Everyday Feminism publishes a TON of harvested content, and they asked ME if they could use it. Their audience is much bigger than the readership of Drunk Monkeys, and I did not have to go to THEM and ask them to host it. They asked for it. They wanted it. They liked what I said and they wanted their audience to see it. 

The Reddit comment points out the reprint like it's a revelation--even though the Everyday Feminism article LEADS with the link to where it originally appeared--and the comment author implies I did something useless and tiresome by allowing my piece to be reprinted. If you had any idea how many new eyes saw it because of Everyday Feminism, I think you'd understand why it was a very good idea for me to agree to the reprint. (And money is nice, too. I'm a working professional here. Getting paid for what I write is kind of important.)

And finally, the snotty accusation that my declaration of happiness gives the appearance to the contrary is something I normally hear from people who don't even believe in asexuality. Say nothing? They assume you're sad and desperate if you're single and/or not getting laid--a message which often gets internalized. Say everything? They still assume you're sad and desperate because of it. This idea that my awareness activism plays into the lady doth protest too much territory is absolutely vile to me, because guess what? Silence leads to the same thing. And the difference when I speak is that other people get to receive this message and send me messages like these.

Weirdly enough, the Reddit commenter appears to be rolling their eyes at me for being a Johnny One-Note, since after all I wrote about being a happy asexual aromantic woman more than once, but they might have come to a different conclusion if they had considered my output in context (which people like this rarely do). The evidence of that fulfilled life is everywhere across my various Internet empires; I discuss books joyously, post updates about my fiction writing, record karaoke songs and share them, post photo evidence of fun with friends and family, document my travels, establish critique partnerships with other authors, engage in debates and chats about media or social movements online, and regularly post my webcomics and drawings for people to enjoy. 

I'm unusually transparent with my happiness, and yet people will still twist my words and literally interpret them as meaning the opposite of what I said. Because apparently I wouldn't be saying it baldly or repeatedly if I wasn't trying to hide that it's a lie.

This is just such a jaded and tired interpretation of my words. I can't even.

"Someone who keeps coming back to say that she's soooo happy and fulfilled, over and over, gives the appearance to the contrary even if it is the truth."

I disagree, condescending Reddit friend, I disagree. But it's especially filthy of you to misrepresent the manner and form in which I have shared my words so you can dismiss the need for a message you don't personally need to hear.

Many asexual and aromantic people need to know there is hope. They need to know we can be happy. They need to hear something in the crowd of voices telling them they'll never find happiness unless they compromise themselves in this particular way. You might think it's useless or unnecessary or repetitive for me to make sure that message is out there for them to find, on multiple platforms, in multiple formats, but if you believe it's time to shut up because you're fine and the message changes nothing for you, then, er, grats?

The despair and desperation I heard from asexual people in the early years of my casual discussion of this topic is literally what inspired me to do more of it. I was one of the lucky ones. I have a ton of privilege and have had one of the least terrifying journeys through the uncertain waters of coming to an asexual and aromantic identity. When I found out other people were suffering so much it killed me. I make resources and give advice and provide context and turn myself into a social justice tank to take the hits in the arguments. But I also provide inspiration as an example. A person who didn't eventually agree that yeah, yeah actually I did end up needing a husband and children to feel fulfilled and that other stuff was a lie. 

People sometimes really don't need much in the way of inspiration when it comes to that shift that happens when you learn/see/understand something and suddenly you have permission. Some people don't need that, and they're the lucky ones. But so, so many people do need it. And for some of those people, that's what I've been.

You may sarcastically say grats to me for being happy, but do you have any idea how frigging rare it is?

I do. 

And the fact that I get letters every time I publish something on this topic suggests it won't be a redundant or unnecessary message for a very long time.

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