I think the issue I have with very vague, irritatedly snappy social-justicey posts on Tumblr is that… very often when people distill their frustration into a zinger, it’s impossible to get the context after a while.
Like… I had a conversation with some people last night about “Don’t say you’re not like the other girls.” A lot of us were uncomfortable with “Don’t say you’re not like the other girls” because… you can feel different from those around you for lots of reasons, not just internalized oppression. (And I don’t know if y’all remember another conversation about that, but personally I feel that we can realize “Wow, I internalized some nasty shit” but we really, really shouldn’t be assuming someone else who disagrees with us has “internalized whatever” going on, because we don’t have access to the contents of their head.)
Like… my understanding of “Don’t say you’re not like the other girls” is that it actually started as “Writers, don’t try to hook us on your novel by saying your protagonist is ‘not like other girls’ because she’s smart, or has interests people don’t expect of girls, or the like. If someone who’s smart isn’t like other girls, what are you saying about girls?”
But by the time it had become a snappy sound bite… it was hard to know why people were saying this. It was hard to know why feeling different from others and finding that painful meant I had — internalized oppression? What?
In context, these things can make sense. If they’re not obviously true, we can have a discussion of them. (For example, I agree that being smart or having interests does not make a girl stand out. But I also can see why authors might want their protagonist to stand out from the community around them, especially if the story is about or involves alienation. So I’m a little torn — I agree mostly, but I don’t quite in the sense that fiction can be kind of about selling the idea that your main characters are special in ways that wouldn’t make sense in real life.)
But out of context they become commands, and commands that don’t make much sense or even seem scary.
And even beyond that… people often say “Things like this are venting. They’re stuff people say when they feel strong emotion. Someone who’s just been hurt, or beaten, or had a friend die from violence, shouldn’t have to be chided for posting ‘I hate cis/white/male/rich/whatever people’ and not saying anything else.”
But the thing is… on Tumblr, stuff gets reblogged. The original person saying “I hate you so fucking much” may be posting in the minutes or seconds after a horrifying confrontation. But is the 10,000th note someone who has experienced the same thing, or someone who thinks they’re being hip? (Or even someone who’s been told that being a “good ally” means boosting certain people’s voices, even if they’re inwardly uneasy about it?)
Which is why… if you say “I’m so upset about this. Here’s why. Sometimes I can’t tell if what I’m feeling is anger or hatred. Sometimes I wonder if hatred is a virtue” I like it better, because… that’s something to talk about.
The aggressive snark that usually only gets called “venting” when someone says “Hey, whoa, maybe back this truck up!” isn’t that.
Which is why I don’t like it.
I’d never say people can’t say it. I believe in the values I think free speech embodies, whether me stopping people would be true “censorship” or not.
But I wish people wouldn’t do it, because it often starts with lashing out and just leads to people feeling threatened and lashing out back, in part because it’s impossible to know exactly what the OP was really saying.