We need to talk about tone.

So here’s why I’m not “nice”.

Do you know what “nice” gets you? Nice gets you harassed on the street by guys who refuse to acknowledge that you are clearly uncomfortable with them hitting on you as you wait for the bus. Nice gets you passed over for promotions because you were the weakling who didn’t put herself forward. Nice means that when you’re raped, people will say it was your fault because you didn’t say “no” loudly enough, often enough or quickly enough to your rapist (who wouldn’t have listened anyway, but who cares about that?). Nice gets you not taken seriously. Nice is the inch you give that leads to a mile being taken.

Nice gets you a whole lot of nothing.

You may take issue with my anger. I’m here to tell you that I could not give less of a damn about your hurt feelings if I tried. I’m angry for a reason. I’m angry because nice has gotten me and other women like me and other women who aren’t like me at all absolutely nowhere, no matter how many times we’ve tried it. I’m angry because that is the only way people will sit up and take notice.

I’m angry because I have a right to be, and if you want to come into my spaces and try to police that anger, try to make me act nice because it’ll make my message more palatable for you, then I kindly invite you to take a rusty farm implement and fuck yourself with it, because you have colossally missed a point that I am getting very, very tired of explaining.

There is nothing militant or radical about anger. Anger is an entirely logical and reasonable response to decades upon decades of oppression, marginalisation, silencing and dehumanisation at the hands of the privileged.  Anger is what keeps us going in the face of man after man after man telling us that we do not deserve the fundamental human rights we are being denied. Anger is confronting, yes. It’s meant to be. You know why? Because the facts we’re dealing with here are pretty confronting things, and sugar-coating them so that you’ll find them easier to swallow is counter-productive.

It is a fact that women are raped and sexually assaulted in horrifyingly high numbers across the globe. It is a fact that women are being denied access to healthcare by men who think they are the best arbiters of what a woman should be allowed to do with her body. It is a fact that trans women, sex workers and women of colour are disproportionate targets of violence and other hate crimes. It is a fact that the system, such as it is, is so firmly rigged against women that compared to us, Sisyphus had it easy. It is a fact that women are paid seventy-five cents on the dollar to what men are paid in comparable positions. It is a fact that rape culture exists. It is a fact that women of colour are hyper-sexualised and fetishised, their bodies reduced to props on a white woman’s stage. It is a fact that female genital mutilation leads to morbidity and mortality of thousands upon thousands of women across the globe, even in the so-called developed world. These are confronting facts. They’re worth getting angry about.

You want to tell women to tone it down, to be less emotional, but the fact is that this is not a matter for abstract academic debate. These are our lived experiences. This is the metric fuckton of bullshit that we are forced to wade through every day in an effort to live our lives the same way the other fifty percent of the population are allowed to without impediment. What function would be served by being nice? Do you honestly think that if we piped down, stopped yelling, stopped marching and protesting and refusing to back down, that men would suddenly realise that we had a point and we needed to be listened to? Is that how you think the way the world works? If so, that’s a spectacularly huge rock you’re living under, because you are so out of touch that I have to question whether or not you’ve ever come into contact with any semblance of reality at all.

Nice gets us nothing. Nice gets us ignored, pushed aside, relegated to abstract academic arguments that can be debated by people in ivory towers who do not have to live what we live, who have never had to experience what we experience, who have never had their identities and humanity denied by a society that considers them second-best. Nice gets us no further to breaking the glass ceiling, no closer to liberation. Nice gets us crumbs from a man’s table and a pat on the head. Nice is useless.

Anger gets us heard. Anger is confrontational and in-your-face and impossible to ignore, and because of that, anger makes men uncomfortable. It makes them want to turn away because having the truth pushed repeatedly and persistently in your face by someone who won’t just shut up when you tell them to is not how men are used to experiencing the world. Anger got women the right to vote, the right to work, the right to have sex with who we choose, when we choose. Anger makes you listen, and just because you don’t like what you’re hearing, that doesn’t make the anger less valid or less justified or less necessary, because without that anger, you’d never have listened in the first place.

There is no room for nice in feminism. There is no room for nice in any movement for equality, because all nice does is uphold the status quo. It’s anger that gets us places. The fact that so many men feel the need to police it, to silence it however they can, is testament to its effectiveness. Anger works. And you’re damn right, it’s unpleasant and uncomfortable. That’s because “unpleasant and uncomfortable” is the reality of female existence in this society. It’s unpleasant and uncomfortable to hear the truth because the truth is nasty and violent and shameful. It’s a truth you helped build and maintain. Don’t be so surprised that you’re finally being made to face it.

I could have written this non-confrontationally, and it would have made no difference, because when people say, “you need to be nicer,” what they actually mean is, “you need to stop talking about these things I don’t want to hear.” And that’s not going to happen. This is the truth of the world that we live in and I am not going to stop shouting and marching and protesting just because you don’t want to face the facts. This anger is the result of every catcall, every man who thought my sexuality existed for him and turned nasty when he was proven wrong, every friend I know who was raped and never saw their rapist brought to justice, every trans woman who has contemplated or carried out self-harm or suicide, every sex worker who has been dehumanised and degraded and treated like trash, every woman of colour who has seen her sexuality turned into a sick parody of itself for the entertainment of white people. This anger is because of you.

You can’t stop it. You can’t silence it. I’m damn well not going to let you police it. So you might as well listen, because I’m not going to stop being angry until you do.


Good girls and whores

Rule one of remaining sane on the internet: don’t read the comments.

Corollary: you’ll let your curiosity overpower your good judgement at least once.

This is how I’ve ended up reading several comments from people across the internet who, despite undoubtedly believing themselves feminist, are happy to judge women for looking, acting or dressing like “whores”. Be it a woman with multiple sexual partners, a woman who wears revealing clothing or one who’s marrying for financial security, these women are dragged through the mud, their reputations tarnished by association with the proverbial world’s oldest profession.

Their skirts are too short – don’t they know how unbecoming that is? Their sexuality is too aggressive – don’t they realise they’re making spectacles of themselves? They’re willing to “settle” for someone with more money than sex appeal – how do they live with themselves?

Apologists will generally respond that it’s not like that. They’re not like those women – you know, the ones who make a living selling (gasp!) sex. They’re not real “whores”. They just like dressing sexy or expressing themselves or being financially secure. Nothing wrong with that, right?

And thus, the core of the problematic argument being made is left untouched:

There’s nothing wrong with being a whore.

I know a lot of sex workers. I know girls who work in brothels, girls who work on the streets, camgirls, well-paid escorts, glamour models and adult film actresses. Pretty much the only thing they have in common is that they sell a sex-related service for money and do so voluntarily. True, some of them have turned to sex work out of financial need, but these still aren’t women who’ve been trafficked – they’re women choosing to sell these services of their own free will, women making autonomous decisions regarding their bodies and their boundaries. Hell, one or two of them aren’t even women. And none of them look like what you’d think.

Some of them are university students. Some of them are raising kids. Some of them just need to make rent. Some of them do the work they do because they enjoy it and find it liberating. None of them are being degraded by anyone other than people who pass judgement on their chosen profession. These women aren’t “selling their bodies”; they’re selling a service that just happens to be sex or sex-related. I assure you that they retain full ownership of their bodies afterwards. (At least, none of the ones I know have woken up to find themselves disembodied spirits, cursing themselves for selling their bodies to the highest bidder the night before. Maybe I’m missing something?) So what, exactly, is the problem? And why is “whore” the go-to comparison for any woman who dares express herself sexually, dress revealingly or exchange a service for money?

An elderly woman I know has worked for several decades with a sex worker advocacy group in my city. She tells a story of a conference she went to once, where she challenged an anti-sex work campaigner to describe what a sex worker looked like. You can probably guess what the woman said – the fishnets, the high-heeled boots, the lingerie-as-outerwear, the hanging out on street corners (despite the fact that registered brothels are legal in Australia), the cigarette dangling from nicotine-stained fingertips. So my friend asked a follow-up question: what does a male sex worker look like? Flummoxed, her opponent was forced to concede that they probably looked “just like everyone else”. Moral of the story: funnily enough, sex workers neither look nor act like you think, and you know far less about them than you realise.

I’ve been called a whore several times, generally (and very paradoxically) by men who are upset with me for not giving them what they want. I’ve been called a whore for dressing revealingly. I’ve been called a whore for talking openly about sex and sexuality. I’ve been called a whore for not hiding my sexual desires like the shameful thing society apparently thinks they are. And you know what? I don’t have a problem with that. What I do have a problem with is the idea that being called a whore is a negative thing, that by the association with sex work, these people are trying to degrade me – and women who actually are sex workers in the process. I have a problem with the idea that “whore” is a way of branding a woman as shameful, sinful and depraved. I have a problem with the idea that women who make autonomous decisions regarding their bodies are seen as subhuman and lesser, while the people who attempt to shame them into silence are held up as moral paragons.

Yeah, I have a whole lot of problems with “whore” being used as a pejorative descriptor, but none of said problems are related to sex workers. They’re related to the scumbags who judge them.

The sex workers I know are, generally speaking, a diverse group of women who do what they do for a number of reasons. They’re not mindless. They’re not subhuman. They’re definitely not immoral, whatever that means. They’re exchanging a service for money. Some of them service elderly clients who don’t get to have sex any other way. Some of them shoot porn because they have fun doing so. Some of them are paying their way through university degrees and would rather sell sex and remain more or less their own bosses than be subject to workplace sexual harassment in low-paying jobs where they’d be viewed as nothing more than dispensable cannon fodder. (But sex work is dehumanising by comparison…how, again?) Mostly, they’re just girls doing a job. They aren’t “selling their bodies” – they’re selling sex, or simulations of sex, and getting money in exchange. That’s pretty much how most service jobs work. The only difference is that this kind of service is viewed as immoral by the kinds of people who think women making decisions about how, when and for what reasons they have sex sets a dangerous precedent.

I have no problem with being compared to sex workers because in my mind, there’s nothing wrong with sex work. And maybe if more people thought that way, sex workers wouldn’t be disproportionate targets of violent crime, including sexual violence. Maybe if more people thought that way, sex workers wouldn’t be driven underground and into unsafe working conditions by moralising governments who think they’re “saving” women by depriving them of a source of income and legal protections. Maybe if more people thought that way, a sex worker and advocate named Jasmine wouldn’t have been murdered by her abusive ex-husband earlier this year after police repeatedly ignored her reports of stalking, harassment and abuse. Maybe if more people thought that way, we’d finally stop treating sex workers like women without minds of their own and recognising that autonomous decisions deserve to be respected, even if they’re not decisions we’d make ourselves.

The next time someone compares you or someone you know to a sex worker, your knee-jerk reaction shouldn’t be moral outrage. It should be outrage over the fact that in the year 2013, “whore” is still an insult people use to degrade and dehumanise women who dare to be sexual beings outside the limitations society has set for them. You should be outraged that an entire profession has been deemed immoral simply because it involves the selling of sex by women (and some men) who’ve decided for themselves what their own boundaries and limits are. You should be outraged not at being compared to these women, but at the way society treats them. You should be outraged by the disproportionately high levels of rape, physical abuse and homicide perpetrated against women selling a service for money. You should be outraged that these women are seen as subhuman solely due to their profession of choice.

Maybe, if you can spare a little outrage, you should be upset that we live in a society where women are so marginalised, even in the supposedly developed world, that sometimes sex work is the only viable profession for them. You should be upset that sex workers are being driven into unsafe work conditions and being stripped of all legal protection by moralisers who end up killing more women than they save. You should be upset about women’s shelters and rape crisis centres who refuse to accept sex workers. You should be upset by a society that looks at the murder of a sex worker and decides that she brought it upon herself for daring to work.

You should be upset by a lot of things. But you shouldn’t be upset that you’re being compared to a class of women who fight fiercely to defend their autonomy and their right to choose. You shouldn’t be upset that you’re being compared to a group of women who are, on the whole, some of the most strident and outspoken feminists I’ve ever met. You should be upset that people consider association with this group of women an insult. You should be upset that “whore” is still a dirty word used by people trying to shame women for daring to have sexualities.

Dress how you like. Have sex with who you want. Decide for yourself what the value of sex is to you, and what you’re prepared to exchange for it. And stop shaming women who’ve done the same, or shaming other women by association. You’re not just degrading them – you’re degrading yourself by sending the message that society has the right to shame and shun women who take charge of their bodies and their sex lives.

If you’re a feminist, that should be the opposite of what you want.

[TW] This is rape culture

A college-aged woman goes to a party with friends. A guy who’s had his eye on her for a while sees his chance and starts plying her with alcohol, hoping to turn a long-standing “no” into a brief window of “yes”. Eventually, the young woman falls unconscious. The guy, figuring she won’t remember any of this tomorrow, has sex with her. The next day, nobody questions the motives of the guy who deliberately got a girl who didn’t want to sleep with him drunk so he could have sex with her, but everyone wants to know why the woman wasn’t more responsible. You have to be careful at parties, you know. Don’t you know what kinds of risks you’re opening yourself up to when you drink too much around the wrong people?

An older woman puts on a dress that makes her feel young again and heads into town for a night of drinking and dancing with friends. At a club, a man decides she’s irresistible in that dress and corners her, muffling her protests with one hand as he edges the hem of her dress up with the other. The woman leaves the club early, too ashamed to tell her friends what happened to her. Maybe she should have known better. Wasn’t she asking for attention, dressed up like that? Didn’t she get what she deserved for looking and acting so provocatively?

A teenage girl visits a close friend one afternoon to work on a homework project together. His parents aren’t home, so he seizes the opportunity, locking her in his room and doing what he’s always wanted to do to her. She’s too shocked to say no – she thought she could trust him. When she tells her friends, nobody believes her. He’s such a nice guy! He wouldn’t hurt a fly! When it turns out she’s pregnant, rumours start to spread about all the guys she’s been sleeping with, all the sex she’s been having with nice guys lured in by her flirting and teasing. When she takes her own life to escape the relentless bullying and harassment she now faces daily, people chalk it up as just another attention-seeking stunt.

A girl you know has a reputation for taking a different guy home every Saturday night. One Saturday, a guy she takes home decides that if she said “yes” to the first twenty, her “yes” to him is implied. When she goes to the police, they ask her how many sexual partners she’s had, how often she’s had sex in the past few months, whether or not she was on birth control. They tell her she brought it upon herself, what with that history of being a slut and all. She doesn’t press charges, knowing that if the case goes to court, her entire sexual history will be dragged out for public examination. She can’t bear the humiliation of having a jury judge her for having sex too often, too readily. The next time she sees her rapist – at a party, surrounded by his friends – he’s pointing at her and laughing. Someone high-fives him. She leaves in tears.

This is rape culture – an attitude to the crime of rape that has led to a society where one in four women will be raped or sexually assaulted in their lifetimes. This is not dependent on what they wear, how much they drink or their number of sexual partners; it is dependent on a societal belief that women owe heterosexual men sex and that said men have no responsibility to obtain consent before taking what they want. It does not just happen to young, attractive women who dress in revealing clothing and drink a lot and enjoy casual sexual encounters. It happens to women everywhere, women from all walks of life.

An elderly woman has been placed in an aged care facility by a son who can no longer accommodate her in his home. She was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s a few years ago and has trouble remembering recent events. One of her carers, responsible for making sure she takes her medication every day, rapes her, knowing that not only will she not remember him, but that even if she did, nobody would consider her memory of events reliable. Who would believe a demented old woman was raped by a nurse with an outstanding professional reputation and several years of aged care work under his belt? Alzheimer’s causes people to say the strangest things.

A teenage girl is at her uncle’s house for a holiday celebration. He corners her in the guest room one afternoon and tells her nobody will believe her if she says anything. The abuse continues for months, occurring at every single family get-together. Her uncle has three daughters of his own, all around her age. She doesn’t know if her parents will believe her if she tells them. She’s terrified that her cousins are being abused too but doesn’t want to ask them in case they turn on her for accusing their father. When she runs away from home in a last-ditch effort to escape, it’s her uncle who finds her and takes her back to her grateful parents, who berate her for worrying them. She breaks down and tells them everything. When, to her relief, they believe her and press charges, it’s ultimately revealed that her uncle’s daughters were being abused after all. All of them were too afraid to say something. None of them had any guarantee that anyone would listen.

A husband and wife have been married for twenty years. One night, he’s in the mood and she isn’t. He’s had a little to drink and doesn’t care that his wife is begging him between sobs to stop. He’ll take the kids, he tells her. He’ll take everything. She’ll be left with nothing if she doesn’t give him what he wants. This is what she owes him. They’ve been married twenty years, who will believe her? Her friends tell her to leave him, but she can’t. She may never see her children again. She’s scared of what will happen to them without her. She stays, and over time, she learns not to bother begging him to stop any more.

A young man is sentenced to a year in a juvenile detention facility. His case worker is a woman in her twenties, just graduated and new to the job. He knows she’s the one who’ll tell the judge whether or not he should be released early, which is why he says nothing about the things she makes him do during their sessions together. He knows everyone else knows – the guards, the other social workers, even his fellow inmates. Nobody says anything. He got himself into this mess. He has to be prepared to weather the consequences.

This is rape culture. This is a world in which rape victims are dehumanised, degraded and violated are stripped not only of their humanity but of their right to speak out. It is a world in which we’d rather believe in good boys tempted by bad girls, because the alternative would be acknowledging that rape is a conscious choice a rapist makes without any provocation whatsoever. We turn a blind eye when trans* women, women of colour and sex workers are disproportionately targeted because as a society, we believe – even though we’d never admit it – that they must have done something to deserve it. In fact, all of those victims must have done something to deserve it – dressed the wrong way, had too much to drink, said the wrong thing at the wrong time, sent mixed signals. Rape, we figure, is a punishment for not acting right. It’s a way of keeping people, especially women, in line. It’s what you get for not obeying the rules. It’s what happens to you when you’re naughty.

And this belief is why one in four women – or three in five Native American women, and disproportionately high numbers of women in state facilities, sex workers, queer or trans* women and women of colour – will be raped in their lifetimes: because we live in a culture that says they must have done something to deserve it. We truly believe that female sexuality is something that needs to be regulated, forcibly if need be. We feed into the narrative that the girl must have done something – must have let her guard down, must have provoked her rapist somehow. We refuse to accept that rape is a choice a rapist makes and that he needs no reasons to make it.

Rape is not a punishment. Rape is a crime. Rapists are criminals. They are never justified in doing what they do. Their victims are always, always blameless, no matter what the circumstances. And there is nothing victims can do to prevent being raped. Don’t drink, cover yourself from head to toe, associate only with female friends – you are still at risk, because society hasn’t yet figured out that the only way to stop rape is to stop telling men they’re justified in raping. You can never take the subway home late at night, never find yourself in a lonely alleyway, never put yourself in a room alone with a man you thought you could trust, take every single precaution society has told you to take, and you still have an up to one in four chance of this happening to you. There is no way you can prevent it. There is nothing you can do to make yourself less of a target. If a rapist wants to rape you, he won’t need a reason (though he’ll probably come up with one later, and his fellows will accept it). Rape is a crime committed consciously by rapists. There is nothing you can do to stop them, because you never got them to start in the first place.

It is the year 2013, and women continue to be raped everywhere – not just at parties, not just at clubs, not just in dark alleys, but everywhere. They are raped in aged care, in prisons and in educational institutions. They are raped by partners, family and friends. And they are blameless. They are victims who did not do a single goddamn thing to warrant the heinous crime perpetrated upon them. And this will keep happening until we take steps towards the only rape prevention measure that actually works:

Telling rapists not to rape.

It doesn’t matter what she’s wearing. It doesn’t matter how much she’s had to drink. It doesn’t matter how much you want her. It doesn’t matter if she can’t fight back and you know it. It doesn’t matter if you know she’ll never tell. It doesn’t matter if you took her “no” for a “yes”. If you make the choice to rape, it’s on you. There are no excuses, no justifications, no reasons what you’ve done is okay. What you’ve done is a crime, and you are a criminal. You were not goaded into it. You were not provoked. You made a choice to harm someone because you wanted to. If you make that choice, you’re a rapist, and it is all on you.

We need to stop propping up criminals. We need to stop the rape jokes, the victim-blaming, the public scrutiny of victims instead of their rapists. We need to stop making excuses. We need to stop accepting excuses. We need to stop buying into the idea that she must have done something to deserve it. We need to stop the bullying and harassment of victims, the messy public trials, the culture of shaming within law enforcement, the culture of silence within institutions. We need to stop the hyper-sexualisation of women of colour and trans* women that leads to disproportionate targeting. We need to stop blaming sex workers. We need to stop being enablers. We need to stop allowing rapists to operate with impunity, safe in the knowledge that someone, somewhere, will always believe they were justified in doing what they did.

This is rape culture, and it is failing hundreds of thousands of women around the world every day. It is our responsibility to stop it.


IMPORTANT PUBLIC HEALTH UPDATE: MAS reaches pandemic status worldwide

Readers, we are in the grips of a pandemic.

For years now, members of minorities and marginalised groups have been afflicted by a terrible condition. It may strike at any time, affecting them at work, during recreational activities or even when in the comfort and safety of their own homes. It affects people of colour, queer and trans* people, women, the disabled, the uneducated, sex workers, even the poor. As this condition sweeps through our population, taking casualty after casualty, many have searched in vain for a cure – some kind of vaccine to inoculate the victims against the effects of this affliction. Sadly, their efforts so far have been fruitless, and thousands – nay, millions – find themselves falling prey daily, usually when they least expect it.

I am speaking, of course, of Minority Ambassador Syndrome.

Minority Ambassador Syndrome (MAS) is a condition transmitted from unaffected carriers (usually able-bodied cishet white males with college degrees and steady jobs in respected fields) to marginalised people. Transmission can occur upon first contact, though it is not rare for MAS to incubate and lie latent in a carrier for some time before the condition is passed on. Although completely harmless to the vectors that spread it, MAS has serious and far-reaching consequences for any members of a marginalised group that may come into contact with it. I am writing this guide as a public health initiative. By learning to recognise the signs and symptoms of MAS, you and your loved ones can learn to take precautions and keep yourselves safe. While there is not yet any foolproof method of preventing MAS transmission, the following information may prove helpful to people in a high-risk environment (one with a lot of carriers, such as a video game forum, comic convention or gawker.com comments section) and help those already afflicted to obtain some symptomatic relief.

MAS – Recognising the Signs

MAS is transmitted aurally or via text from the carrier to the recipient. Transmission occurs in the form of a generalisation about the recipient’s race to which the recipient is then expected to give some kind of apology or rebuttal. Examples of transmission spores include:

  • “I don’t see any of you [insert religion here] apologising for [insert act of terrorism committed by people who claim x religion here]! You’re all the same!”
  • “I heard in the news last night that a [insert race here] committed [insert felony here]. Why don’t community leaders stand up and denounce those people? They’re making you all look bad.”
  • “I saw a [insert non-het sexuality here] couple engaging in the grossest PDA the other day. Why do all [insert non-het sexuality here] people have to be so blatant about it?”
  • “If [insert race here] women don’t want people to think of them as [insert racial pejorative here], maybe they should all stop [insert stereotype about women of x race here].”

However, transmission is not always in the form of a generalisation about the marginalised group in question; it may also occur in the form of a compliment that positions the recipient as somehow having transcended the group with whom they claim association. Examples of this include:

  • “It’s so great to see someone from [insert race/religion here] in college – you’re such a good example! If only more [insert race/religion here] people were like you.”
  • “Obviously, you’re not like those other [women/gay people/trans* people/sex workers] – you don’t go acting like they do.”
  • “I know you deserve disability benefits, but what about all those people with fake disabilities who are just rorting the system?”

In both cases, the recipient is now positioned as a representative of their entire group – be that people of a certain race or creed, women, trans* people, queer people, disabled people, sex workers, etc. Upon contact, the individual is expected to assume responsibility for all actions ever taken by any member of the group to which they belong, even if those actions were taken by someone they don’t know, someone whose behaviour they don’t condone or someone who is only tangentially related to them. If they do not do so, their failure is seen as an indictment of the entire group.

Symptoms of MAS

MAS is unique in that it does not affect carriers whatsoever. They are not expected to assume responsibility for groups to which they belong (e.g. white people, straight people, cisgender people, men, people with college degrees, people belonging to [x] field, etc.). The disease only activates upon transmission to a vulnerable minority recipient. Symptoms may include:

  • Being asked to justify the actions of complete strangers (e.g. “a black man robbed my friend’s friend’s house last night – why aren’t your people doing more to crack down on crime?”)
  • Being attacked if they do not issue fervent apologies for atrocities committed by people claiming to represent them (e.g. “those terrorists said they were fighting in the name of Islam, don’t you feel ashamed? Why aren’t you standing up to them?”)
  • Being expected to act with impeccable etiquette and deportment in all situations, even when subjected to scorn, criticism or mockery, on pain of damning the entire group by association if they do not (e.g. “I knew I shouldn’t have trusted you! Trans* people are all deceptive liars!”)
  • Being held up as an example to which other members of the group should aspire (e.g. “If you could work three jobs to pay your way through college, why can’t every poor kid from the poverty-stricken neighbourhood in which you grew up do the same?”)

Over time, these symptoms lead to irritation, frustration and a feeling of overwhelming pressure in sufferers.

Prognosis and Treatment

As of yet, there is no reliable treatment for MAS. Prognosis for sufferers is largely dependent on their will and ability to argue with carriers who insist that they be held accountable for the actions of complete strangers with whom they may have only the vaguest and most tenuous of affiliations. Whilst some sufferers of MAS are able to rebut such demands, others are not, and the stress of being expected to act as a perfect example for others to follow can do incredible damage over time. In such cases, the prognosis is fairly grim.

However, there are some strategies that sufferers may use to mitigate the effects of MAS. These include:

  • Asking carriers to account for the actions of people only vaguely connected to them (e.g. “your great-great grandparents probably owned slaves, should I make you apologise for that, too?”)
  • Insisting on being viewed as an individual regardless of group affiliation (e.g. “do you really think all brown people look the same? That’s pretty messed up, dude.”)
  • Telling carriers to fuck right back off on the high horse they rode in on

Employing these strategies will not cure MAS or completely remove it from the system of the sufferer, but they may provide some symptomatic relief, as well as a soothing sense of accomplishment and satisfaction at having told at least one ignorant bigot where to shove it.

Lessening the Impact of MAS

MAS is currently endemic amongst marginalised populations, with an estimated up to 100% of members of these groups having been exposed to the condition at least once in their lives. Therefore, treatment and intervention programs should initially focus on limiting exposure to carriers by removing the large-scale public platforms from which these carriers are often able to infect multiple people at once.

In order to stop the spread of MAS, a concerted effort must be made to stop the condition at the source. By eliminating carriers through education, socially-enforced anti-discrimination messages and straight up pointing and laughing at their ignorance, the number of carrier-to-recipient transmissions would be greatly lessened. In cases of patients already suffering from MAS, eliminating further contact with carriers can eventually lead to the condition becoming latent again. Future intervention programs should also focus on eliminating sources from which carriers initially pick up the condition, such as FOX News, Drudge Report, Cathy Brennan and any Twitter account operated by someone who endorses the views of Richard Dawkins.

Although it may seem like an impossible task, it is conceivable that in the next ten to twenty years, MAS transmission could be greatly reduced by implementing these measures, and existing sufferers could see their conditions become – and remain – latent. It may take an army of dedicated specialists slowly hacking away at the fanbases of influential carriers such as Dan Savage, the aforementioned Richard Dawkins, anyone who identifies as a “TERF” or “SWERF”, or Sean Hannity, but with time, effort and large-scale international cooperation, it may eventually be possible to end this pandemic.


[TW: death, violence] Blood on our hands

You are a murderer.

Earlier this year, a woman named Jasmine was killed. She was a sex worker in Sweden. She lost her children to her abusive ex-partner because the courts deemed her an unfit mother due to her occupation. She reported her ex-partner’s abuse and the authorities took no notice again and again and again and again because her life and safety and well-being as a sex worker meant nothing to them.

Her ex-partner murdered her, but her blood is on your hands for every time you didn’t stand up for the rights of women like Jasmine. She is dead because you did nothing.

In Melbourne earlier this year, a woman named Jill Meagher was raped and murdered by a serial killer. I say “serial killer” because the man had done it before. Nobody cared because all of his previous victims were sex workers. It took the murder of a woman society deemed worthy of their regard in order for the killer to finally be brought to justice.

Her blood is on your hands as well. So is the blood of the sex workers who were raped and killed by a man who got away with it because nobody cared as long as they deemed the lives of his victims not worth saving. You heard them scream and did nothing. You let them die and looked away, unseeing, unknowing, uncaring.

Society has devised a particularly cruel method of punishment for those it deems inferior. We don’t kill them ourselves – we allow the dregs of society, the rapists and torturers and murderers, to do our dirty work for us. We stand back and shake our heads and cluck disapprovingly at the side of the victims’ graves. Didn’t they know what they were getting themselves into? Didn’t they know they would eventually be punished?

We let the blood drip from our hands and pretend ourselves innocent as more and more and more people die, condemned by our judgement to be slain by society-sanctioned executioners. We swear we had no part in their murders, but we turn a blind eye to those who commit them in our name.

Once every three days in the United States, the murder of a transgender person is reported. Often, the corpses are found with their genitals mutilated, with slurs carved into their flesh. This, we have decided, is the fate reserved for the abnormal – to be tortured, maimed and brutally killed while we look on, unmoving and unmoved. We stay silent as gays and lesbians are beaten and left for dead on the curbside outside pubs on a Saturday night. We pretend we do not see every young black man in a hoodie who is gunned down in cold blood by a white man with a grudge. They are guilty of the crime of existence. We allow them to be punished for it and then wash our hands of the deed.

Two years ago in Scotland, a young gay man was tied to a lamppost, beaten and then set on fire for the crime of existing and being gay. He was twenty-eight years old when they killed him. In Queensland, there is a gay panic defence on the books – if someone murders a gay person, they can claim it was self-defence because the person they murdered might have been making advances towards them.

So much blood and so many dead and we continue to delude ourselves into believing we are innocent of their murders.

A friend told me recently that a quarter of trans* people end up taking their own lives. Twenty-five percent. Imagine if twenty-five percent of young, attractive, white women felt driven to kill themselves in order to escape a world they knew didn’t want them. Imagine if twenty-five percent of the people you love the most felt so hated, so reviled, that they did the murderers’ work for them so that they could at least choose to make it swift and painless. Imagine one in four people you care about killing themselves, and ask yourself why you are content to let one in four trans* people do so.

You may not have set fire to that young gay man, nor raped and murdered Jill Meagher, nor beaten Jasmine and been ignored and ignored and ignored until you finally killed her. You may not personally have bullied a trans* person into taking their own life. But it may as well have been your finger on the trigger, your hand grasping the dagger hilt, your fingers that struck the match. You killed them when you stood by and said nothing as they were bullied and mocked and shunned. You killed them when you decided they weren’t worth saving.

Their blood is on your hands. Their blood is on all of our hands.

How many more must die before we decide to take responsibility for the monsters we have created? We allow the small oppressions – the slurs, the cyber-bullying, the whispered comments on the street – knowing full well that they enable larger ones. We know that we are giving our implicit consent to rapists and tormentors and murderers to do with those we’ve shunned as they will. We know that our silence is assent. We know, each of us, deep in our hearts, that we are every bit as guilty of every beating and every rape and every murder as the people we allowed to commit the acts.

We did not do enough to save Jasmine or Jill or Trayvon or the thousands upon thousands of people who are murdered or who take their own lives to escape the cruelty of a society that has deemed them lesser. These were not isolated incidents – this happens every second of every minute of every hour of every day and we stand by and let it continue. There are so many Jasmines and Jills and Trayvons, so many people killing themselves or being killed by people we have allowed to appoint themselves judge, jury and executioner. All that evil needs is for good people to do nothing. We tell ourselves we’re the good ones, but how good are we if we allow ourselves to discount the value of human lives?

If we are ever to wash the spot from our hands, we must act. We must stop the small things – the taunts, the insults, the “jokes”. We must let our fellow human beings know that we consider their lives sacrosanct, no matter who they are or what they do for a living. We must refuse to sanction thugs who carry out our dirty work for us. There must be no dirty work at all. The victims of our inaction lived, loved and were loved, had so much potential, so much to give. If only we had opened our eyes. If only we had stayed the hands of their murderers. We are allowing ourselves to be robbed of the most precious resource on the planet – human life – because we have become complacent, careless, callous, cold.

I do not want any more blood on my hands. I am tired of death counts and statistics. I refuse to give my consent for the destruction of innocent human lives by killers who get away with it because we do nothing to stop them. Jasmine’s children lost their mother. Jill’s husband lost his wife, and the sex workers killed before her left behind family and friends who had loved ones snatched from them for no reason at all. Trayvon Martin’s family was forced to watch as their son’s character was assassinated on national television after his person was assassinated by a man with a thirst for blood. Can we really claim to have humanity if we allow this to continue? Can we claim that we are compassionate, loving, fair, just, when innocent people die and we do nothing?

If you want to stop being a murderer, disarm your weapons. Disenfranchise the bigots. Defang their hate. Only then will our Jasmines and Jills and Trayvons be safe. You cannot afford inaction, not any more. Too many lives depend on you.

There is so much blood on your hands.