On not repurposing abortion rights terminology August 15, 2022 6:13 PM   Subscribe

I am horrified to see, in discussions of COVID on this website, that we are okay with using the fascist co-opting of the phrase "my body my choice" in terms of anything other than abortion now. Setting aside that neither pregnancy nor abortion is contagious, that phrase means and has long meant something very specific and it should not be used to justify refusal to get vaccinated or to protect others.

If I was a prospective user stumbling on the thread in which this is currently happening, I would make some pretty clear assumptions about this website and either never come back or enthusiastically come play that game.

It's a slap in the face to those of us who have been living and fighting in fear of where the US is right now, and a place where that's okay is not really a place I am going to stay.
posted by Lyn Never to Etiquette/Policy at 6:13 PM (138 comments total)

It is used for multiple definitions internationally, such as against child grooming (Malaysia), the right to decide whether to marry and have children (South Korea), and funding of rape crisis centers (UK) (source).

I respect you being upset but I also know that demanding a sitewide unified opinion on a topic like this is not a situation that will likely to lead to success. Unfortunately people can co-opt phrases without consent. I also do not think "we are okay" or "we are not okay" is a truthful statement if speaking of Metafilter governance; it's not something the mods have come out with on an opinion, nor do I think would they be.

For what it is worth, I would greatly dislike the phrase being used in conjunction with COVID, as it seems to discard the fact that people's choices regarding vaccination have a direct and sometimes even fatal effect on others. But sometimes there are people who will not only push but sit squarely upon our buttons and we don't have the ability to make them stop.

My $0.02, at least.
posted by MollyRealized at 6:33 PM on August 15 [30 favorites]


If I was a prospective user stumbling on the thread in which this is currently happening

For the sake of this discussion, could you provide a link to the comment[s] you’re referencing?
posted by a box and a stick and a string and a bear at 7:06 PM on August 15 [2 favorites]


A link to a thread would help save time for those searching. From the initial thesis, there is co-opting going on.
posted by clavdivs at 7:08 PM on August 15


I assume this is the thread in question. If I'm wrong, feel free to delete. I have to admit, I was surprised to see that phrase there.
posted by mollweide at 7:14 PM on August 15 [5 favorites]


If that’s the thread/usage in question, I’d be extremely uncomfortable with any decision by the site to declare that use of the term to be forbidden.
posted by a box and a stick and a string and a bear at 7:18 PM on August 15 [13 favorites]


My take on this, a little further: as far as I can tell, the wider use of this phrase within the spectrum of reproductive rights is towards establishing a culture of consent, where women (and all people) have choice over actions involving their body, i.e. bodily autonomy.

During COVID I think a lot of cultural blips and blops happened that wouldn't have come up outside the context of a plague, and in this case, people used the intersection of bodily autonomy with required masking/vaccination to co-opt the phrase for their purpose.

My own two cents about it, I partially agree with Lyn -- it's not a very valid intersection because doing so overlooks the fact that "your rights stop where mine begin", i.e., you can't exercise your rights if by doing so you exercise utter disregard for and violate others' rights, and we seem to be forgetting about all the people who can't vaccinate.

I think people's decisions to not vaccinate or mask violated others' rights to life, liberty, pursuit of happiness, etc. Looking over other contagious American plagues, prior Americas ruled differently than we did - the Supreme Court ruled in Jacobson (1905) that people could be fined for refusing to vaccinate for smallpox, for example.

But idioms -- especially ones over 50+-year-old -- experience this thing called semantic drift and I'm not surprised that it got co-opted. It's sort of a Pandora's Box to try to undo that by outright banning – I think banning tends to have a rebound effect, actually, where it lends strength to the thing you want to get rid of.

I'm sure some wise person put this in a more catchy way somewhere, but I think if you want to make an idea less popular, the solution isn't to grab the mike, it's to make the idea look silly or point out its flaws.

Again, just the $0.02.

P.S. Lyn, you've been around here since 2000, so I truly hope you don't button over this.
posted by MollyRealized at 7:46 PM on August 15 [16 favorites]


Maybe something's been deleted from that AskMe thread or maybe I'm overlooking something. I think I'd read the two comments there now as saying the phrase is not applicable to the asker's situation, although I can see how in one it appears the analogy is drawn before it's negated? It's confusing.

If that's what's at stake, I would read this MeTa as making a relevant and understandable point that it's important not to conflate these issues.

I feel like that extends to not conflating the matter with things mentioned in a Wikipedia article that aren't yet happening on Metafilter (for example, it looks like the "UK" usage cited is an ambiguous t-shirt Emma Watson happened to wear?).
posted by Wobbuffet at 8:10 PM on August 15 [2 favorites]


There's a lot of discussion in that thread about '__ body ___ choice', not just the two exact text matches. "My body my choice" widened its definition past abortion to bodily autonomy is a semantic drift that happened elsewhere and long before this date. I agree with Lyn that its use with COVID is a poor use since it disregards others' rights, but don't see banning as effective in terms of moderating or eliminating its usage.
posted by MollyRealized at 8:20 PM on August 15 [4 favorites]


I've read that thread a number of times, and I honestly can't see that any of the commenters who use variations on the phrase or sentiment (which as MollyRealized says is being used in its broader sense of general physical autonomy) are using it as justification for not wearing a mask, much less against vaccinating, as anti-vaccination campaigners do in a spirit of bad faith. The comments describe the practical reality that the original poster has no real way to force their wife to do this thing she doesn't want to do, except by thinking through the consequences, which might be severe, medically and socially, including the end of a relationship. Indeed all of them specifically make the point that that decision will and should have consequences---and that's about where I'd expect a responsible thread of advice to sit, personally.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 8:29 PM on August 15 [5 favorites]


While I agree with most of the rest of the comments here, I can also see some context to Lyn Never's complaint.

Yes, the phrase "my body my choice" has been adopted and expanded into other arenas. But - as Fiasco da Gama mentions - there ARE those who have deliberately done it in bad faith, in a sort of garbled attempt to make "librul elites" look like hypocrites ("you're trying to get me to wear a mask and take a vaccine, but aren't you lot always talking about 'my body my choice'?"). And they've been very vocal about it, so I'm not surprised that it's become a bit easier to forget that not everyone is being a jerk about it when they use that phrasing.

Agreed that banning it is probably not the right answer still.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:55 PM on August 15 [9 favorites]


Lyn Never, I share your disgust. It's a grossly inappropriate thing for people to say. I have no idea what the solution is, but I just wanted to tell you that you are not alone in feeling this way.
posted by mochapickle at 9:22 PM on August 15 [18 favorites]


I was also taken aback by this phrase turning up in that thread - but similar to others above have a gut-level response to the idea of a ban that feels way more complicated than either agreement or disagreement. Even though I don’t have clear feelings about what to do, I appreciate that you brought this up, Lyn Never. Thanks.

(I was so turned off by seeing those words that at first I thought about commenting on how off-turning it was… but ultimately decided that would be unhelpful to everyone, myself included, and just closed the question for good. The social contract is a wicked problem.)
posted by rrrrrrrrrt at 11:31 PM on August 15 [6 favorites]


I hope we're all talking about the same thing - the actual thread hasn't been identified by Lynn Never and, while the one linked by mollweide seems the obvious one, that's not confirmed.

I know the abortion space in the US is something that has people quite rightly afraid, upset and angry and, no matter where we live, we need to be sensitive to that. But, although it sounds as if the phrase 'my body, my choice' is strongly and almost exclusively associated with abortion in the US, that's not the case everywhere. It's a term I regularly hear associated with and used in the context of sexual choice much more broadly. There's no doubt some have co-opted the phrase with bad intent and with very clear intent to use it to harm the US abortion rights movement, but that's not happening in the thread (I think) you're talking about, nor does it happen everywhere the phrase is used.

While MeFi is somewhat US-centric in user base and in content, it's far from US-only and it would be problematic to try and ban a phrase that means different things in different places. If language of any sort is being used to denigrate or harm someone, that requires action, but that's regardless of the actual words used. Intent and context matters and outright banning a very specific phrase will not achieve anything, even if such a ban were feasible.

Lyn Never, I hope you can see that specific thread is not intending to be insulting in any way, but can accept that people sometimes use words in ways that are different to your day-to-day experience. In the same way that you calling those people fascists, I assume, doesn't mean you're calling them literal fascists.
posted by dg at 11:44 PM on August 15 [13 favorites]


I was also taken aback by those comments. Pandemic aside, antivaxxers have co-opted the rhetoric of autonomy for decades, mostly in bad faith. (Parents endangering their child's health for instance.) That's not unique to the US. Andrew Wakefield is British.

I don't see that Lyn Never calls for a ban (that would absolutely backfire), but rather a need for us to be more aware of connotations in what we write. That's important, both on- and offline.

Thanks for this thread, Lyn Never.
posted by basalganglia at 2:29 AM on August 16 [10 favorites]


I was also pretty appalled by those comments and would appreciate a general effort to be more thoughtful about how we throw that phrase around. (While, yes, being aware that the U.S. usage isn’t the only one.)
posted by Stacey at 4:25 AM on August 16 [2 favorites]


"that phrase means and has long meant something very specific"

I don’t agree with this premise, at all. For you, it clearly does, but for me, the phrase is not specifically attached to the topic of abortion rights.

"It's a slap in the face to those of us who have been living and fighting in fear of where the US is right now, and a place where that's okay is not really a place I am going to stay."

Well, that is a strong reaction and I’m genuinely sorry it is so upsetting to you.

I read but did not participate in that thread. Having read these comments, as a matter of courtesy, when answering future questions, I might be sensitive to the phrase being problematic for you and some others. But I don’t think a call for zero tolerance is appropriate or fair. And I don’t think it indicates anything nefarious about the commenters in that thread, or metafilter in general.
posted by rhonzo at 4:26 AM on August 16 [12 favorites]


Please stay Lyn!

It seems most are in agreement that COVID coopting of the phrase is not cool. I do not think an outright ban is realistic.

In general I think more talking and explaining is better than deletion of stuff like this.
posted by Meatbomb at 4:54 AM on August 16 [3 favorites]


For me, hearing people using that phrase in stupid anti-vax or other equally stupid deliberate bad faith kinds of ways is almost traumatizing--I'm a very good-faith, good-effort, assume-best-intentions kind of person, and it can be hard for me to interact with people who are not.

But I don't think that's what people are doing in the thread that mollweide links to, and, as much as I would like to never see those kinds of words used that way again, I'm not sure that a ban is entirely practical--there are a lot of edge cases and gray areas and whatnot, and not a lot of Tucker Carlsons and Ben Shapiros hanging around here.

When people do use language that way, I think it's appropriate to call them out on it, even in the rarified space of the AskMe comments section. Pointing out when people use words as a weapon, and pushing back against it, can be a very effective way of helping people find better answers.
posted by box at 5:47 AM on August 16 [8 favorites]


Add me to the list of people urging Lyn to stay.

As for the arguments about "semantic drift" and related ideas, yes, that's true. Concepts are used differently in different places and terms tend to change over time and get diluted and misused ("performative" is my hobby horse), but, this is really a request from a user that we pay more attention to how we are using a phrase because it hurts her (and, by extension. many women in the USA in the present moment).

As usual, these threads can't ban certain language or usage because a fairly small percent of the users read MeTa, which means a large number of users don't get the message. However, those of us who do do can endeavor to do better and push back against poor usage when possible.
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:19 AM on August 16 [9 favorites]


My body, my choice is a declaration of freedom based on natural, equal and inalienable rights. If it isn't true for one scenario then it might not hold true for the others. Expansion of the phrase is better if one supports choice. On the other hand, if it rings false then we would see it break down or fail as it is applied elsewhere. The ultimate expression of this phrase is the right to die based on sound mind, which is connected to abortion, because only we can judge our suffering and limited future prospects.
posted by Brian B. at 7:24 AM on August 16


If I was a prospective user stumbling on the thread in which this is currently happening, I would make some pretty clear assumptions about this website and either never come back or enthusiastically come play that game.

It's a slap in the face to those of us who have been living and fighting in fear of where the US is right now, and a place where that's okay is not really a place I am going to stay.


This seems like something different in degree than “this is really a request from a user that we pay more attention to how we are using a phrase because it hurts her”, and it seems like it would be helpful to the discussion if Lyn could specify what action they want taken.
posted by a box and a stick and a string and a bear at 8:05 AM on August 16 [3 favorites]


"This is really a request from a user that we pay more attention to how we are using a phrase because it hurts her (and, by extension. many women in the USA in the present moment)."


But it wasn’t a request, it was a verdict and a strong admonishment about what people should or should not say.

There was no “hey please pay attention to this issue.” It was: "I am horrified and shocked that people don’t have the exact same association that I do. I am right and anyone else is a fascist. And I just might quit this place! See how mad I am?" (Obviously these are not direct quotes.)

The post was aggressive and accusatory. And I’m not saying it shouldn’t have been posted, or no one should ever be strong in their presentation. I’m just characterizing how it came across to me.

As I said upthread, I am sorry that the OP has felt negative emotions about this, and am not discounting their opinion, I’m just saying not everyone finds the phrase exclusive to the American abortion rights usage. This is not an “but all lives matter” scenario.

Lastly, the specifics of the topic were expressed strongly, but they were relevant. The foot stomping (I don’t like it and I just might leave, everyone is going to hate you guys) in my view, diluted the argument, because basically it was “Don’t hurt my feelings again” argument, disallowing for any disagreement.

All that said, I recognize the name of the OP and hope they stick around!
posted by rhonzo at 8:30 AM on August 16 [17 favorites]


But it wasn’t a request, it was a verdict and a strong admonishment about what people should or should not say.

Maybe, but a request by a member, however strongly worded, doesn't have any inherent force beyond what that user can bring by convincing others. Lyn Never is not a mod, not the owner, lacks legislative power, and is, like all members, a single voice. And there is a request there, not a verdict, because of that power relationship.

I think the term "foot stomping" is belittling and unnecessary. You clearly find her framing aggressive and are responding with aggression of your own, which, although understandable, isn't a useful approach.
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:55 AM on August 16 [21 favorites]


I'll also add that, given the current state of affairs in the US, Lyn Never's distress is entirely understandable, as is her anger.
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:58 AM on August 16 [17 favorites]


(Obviously these are not direct quotes.)

I'm not sure there's a name for responding to what you perceive as someone else's over-the-top response with your own over-the-top response, but it doesn't seem like the best way to carry on a discussion.

If Lyn Never is foot-stomping, you're, I don't know, smashing dishes or something.
posted by box at 10:09 AM on August 16 [12 favorites]


While I discussed the role of bodily autonomy in that thread, as I consider it an important and applicable ethical principle, I deliberately did not use that phrase because I didn't think it appropriate. However, semantic drift is inevitable, and I also think it's important for us to be able to articulate what the limits of a principle of bodily autonomy are and why it might apply in the abortion rights context and not, or not in such an absolute way, in the vaccination context. I'm not sure banning the use of the phrase will help with that.
posted by praemunire at 10:38 AM on August 16 [3 favorites]


Not being a moderator or involved in the administration of this community, all I can ask for is two things:

one, that the community remember that words mean things and using that phrase to say "it's my choice to make you sick if I want because I won't mask/vax and also I won't stay home" is significantly more equivalent to "it's my choice to make you be/stay pregnant" rather than "it is my choice and should be my right to not be/stay pregnant" or in other cultures I'm assuming the phrase means something like "it's my choice with whom I have presumably consensual and non-infectious sex" but that still seems to fall in the dialogue of nobody being forced to endure something they don't want to do that has long-term consequences, like be sick or have a baby or experience sexual assault.

two, that moderators can absolutely call a whoa on right-wing talking points here if they choose and I'd like to encourage them to exercise that choice when it arises with as much enthusiasm as it did in this specific thread that I saw but possibly in others or will again in the future.

I've been here a long long time, during multiple rounds of Really Bad Ideology attempting to take hold or flat-out doing so. Boyzone, ggate, being super shitty to trans people even as they tried to do the work to make people be less shitty but they got banned or driven off, bothsidesism on things that you have to pick a side on because you can't be both. I am passionate about this place not becoming one of the many new homes of COVID minimalism/denialism, and I am even more passionate about this place not becoming a comfortable environment for forced birthers, which is what you do when you use their talking points. I know that the site administration team does care about these things, and is aware that bad shit often bubbles up kind of quietly but the fact that it's bad is very unevenly distributed sometimes - in most cases the most directly-affected subculture knows something is a slur or malicious appropriation well before those who won't often cross paths with it find out. And that's why I take it to the community as well, because moderation alone can't distribute that information.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:39 AM on August 16 [42 favorites]


I'm going to quote here the answers that I saw in this thread, not to call anyone out, but just because I missed the ones I presume Lyn Never was talking about at first, and I think it's useful to all be on the same page. Mods, feel free to delete this if that's not appropriate.


First comment (click to expand)
In case this hasn’t been said yet - it’s her body, and she gets to decide. Wearing a mask is a burden, physically and socially for some people. The risk-benefit analysis is hers to make. All you can do is decide what you will do in response.

My higher risk partner was never big on masks and I couldn’t do anything about it other than make sure he got vaccinated. He got covid and was fine.



Second comment (click to expand)
Her body, her choice. Your thought exercise is about planning for what you will do if she tests positive.


After those two, there are two longer comments that I'll just link to, since they explain why "my body, my choice" is not a reasonable slogan to apply to this situation: 1, 2.
posted by wesleyac at 10:54 AM on August 16 [10 favorites]


This MeTa was written in a way that makes it feel really hard for me to engage with it, and I do think it's worth being critical of that — between not linking to or quoting from the thread in question, making some really strongly worded statements, and bringing up buttoning, I feel like I need to choose my word extremely carefully, while not really understanding the full context of where Lyn Never is coming from.

I agree that those comments are not good, and the second one in particular is something I'd be happy to see deleted (I'm curious if it was flagged?). I'm glad there was pushback, and particularly the difference in favorites between this comment and the comment it's pushing back against makes me feel like that is generally a popular sentiment here, which I'm thankful for.

That being said, I think it's a bad idea to separate "my body, my choice" from the general concept of bodily autonomy — I personally think it applies just as well to things like medical transition as it does to abortion, and more solidarity between people who are personally affected by different bodily autonomy issues is something to be striving for, not working against.
posted by wesleyac at 11:09 AM on August 16 [10 favorites]


or in other cultures I'm assuming

Yes, this is the root of much of the pushback above.
posted by Rumple at 11:17 AM on August 16 [2 favorites]


Hey, I'm not working now, so just dropping in to make a very quick comment. No comments were flagged in that thread for this reason (my body, my choice), and though I was keeping a bit of an eye on the thread because it's covid-related, and people tend to get heated on this topic, it didn't jump out to me as a problem (but I wasn't scanning for that problem; while I was working, I was scanning for other typical covid thread problems).

I am definitely passionately pro-choice, and I understand the objection, but without a flag, a note, or some sort of heads up, it didn't obviously arise as something to address for me on my shift, or for other moderators, apparently. I will come back to this when I'm on duty again, but it certainly would not be a problem to drop a mod note asking people to be aware of not repurposing / diluting this phrase. But contacting us in some way is a good way to make concerns known.
posted by taz (staff) at 11:20 AM on August 16 [19 favorites]


It's days like this that I really appreciate the mods because there's no amount of money you could pay me to read that thread.
posted by bleep at 12:33 PM on August 16 [7 favorites]


Also "her body her choice" is 100% not an applicable or appropriate concept when we're talking about a contagion. Full stop, not ambiguous.
posted by bleep at 12:37 PM on August 16 [14 favorites]


Why do people keep conflating masking and vaccination in this thread? E.g. "it's my choice to make you sick if I want because I won't mask/vax". The AskMe thread made very clear OP and his wife were both fully vaccinated. So at best, it's unnecessarily raising the temperature. At worst, it's cynically bringing in a straw man.
Also "her body her choice" is 100% not an applicable or appropriate concept when we're talking about a contagion. Full stop, not ambiguous.
Even in the most terrible phases of HIV/AIDS, people were absolutely allowed to make their own sexual and sexual-health choices with their own bodies.

Also, not sure why OP randomly throwing "fascist" around isn't getting more pushback.
posted by Klipspringer at 12:43 PM on August 16 [22 favorites]


It's not ok to knowingly spread disease. Never has been & never will be.
posted by bleep at 12:46 PM on August 16 [12 favorites]


The comment box prohibits us from arguing with other users, so your assumption that we’re “ok” with dumb sh*t doesn’t quite hold up.

And I’m pretty speechless over the idea that a single comment is gonna fill the site with loonies. This place is very well moderated.

All in all, uncomfortably hyperbolic.

But that aside, yeah, I will not lose sleep if antivaxer bs is deleted by mods.
posted by svenni at 12:47 PM on August 16 [2 favorites]


Honestly, I think I didn’t flag it because the experience of reading any MeFi discussion about covid these days is so unpleasant and upsetting for me as someone who still cares about protecting my high-risk loved ones, that this was just one more upsetting thing in an already upsetting discussion. I’m going to take a note on my end that even if MeFi as a whole is a lot more comfortable with covid denialism than I want it to be these days and I’ve given up on flagging that, we can and should still flag other problems that come up in those discussions.

(Yes, I know, I can opt out of upsetting discussions! And often do. But in this particular case the comments did convince the OP’s wife to keep masking for now, and I think that made it a conversation worth engaging in even if doing so was not enjoyable.)
posted by Stacey at 12:49 PM on August 16 [17 favorites]


I can't believe we're arguing about whether or not it's morally acceptable to spread disease. This is really the end times.
posted by bleep at 12:56 PM on August 16 [2 favorites]


That is why I wrote this post, taz. I've been on this roundabout before and it always goes like this: a problematic thing comes up in one thread, maybe a couple other commenters suggest a different tack and possibly a mod steps in, but the audience of a single post only a subset of eyes are going to see that note.

Eventually it happens enough that someone puts it here so that slightly more people get the information distributed to them, and sometimes this post here in MetaTalk has to happen several times over time because the initial response is always largely pushback by people who don't want to be told that words are harmful. Eventually sentiment spreads and other commenters stop doing it/push back when they see it, and at some point the usage dies down across the site in general.

The use of "my body my choice" in the US regarding COVID precautions is a deliberate appropriation by the right-wing - fascist - forced birth machine. It is a fascist talking point. Using the phrase in that way is exactly the same as noted proud Christian Nationalists Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Boebert.
posted by Lyn Never at 12:58 PM on August 16 [22 favorites]


Honestly, talking about covid is, in its nature, engaging with idiots. I like Stacey’s comment, and it’s good to vent. The people who do engage and spend energy listening to frustrating bs should be commended.

But that’s why you can’t outlaw this discussion. And policing can’t be too heavy-handed either. Co-options are annoying, but also a fact of life. A slogan is just a slogan. I also see things that make me furious every time I engage with such topics.

I usually opt out now. Because I only engage with draining subjects when I have energy to spare.

To the op: Lashing out against other members and the community is *not* a healthy response. Especially if you don’t see cause to use the report button. Don’t do that.
posted by svenni at 12:59 PM on August 16 [4 favorites]


I can't believe we're arguing about whether or not it's morally acceptable to spread disease.

I'm disappointed that anyone would bring so little nuance or awareness of historical context to that question, so there we are, I guess. Life is unsatisfactory.
posted by praemunire at 1:04 PM on August 16 [31 favorites]


If someone is contagious they don't get to say "My body my choice" and give it to someone else. Physically they can but they don't get to claim that they were within their rights.
posted by bleep at 1:13 PM on August 16 [3 favorites]


How, exactly, should the OP of the question compel their partner to wear a mask? She can, in fact, choose not to, regardless of the wisdom of that choice. It could result in the end of the relationship, but it's still a choice that she can make.

That's what the comments that used the whole "her body, her choice" construction seemed to be aimed at, in my view. And I don't think that the sentiment itself should be out of bounds.
posted by sagc at 1:18 PM on August 16 [11 favorites]


Mod note: A few comments deleted. Please avoid turning this thread into a one-on-one discussion.
posted by loup (staff) at 1:24 PM on August 16 [3 favorites]


sagc — the thing is, "you can only make decisions about what you do, you can't force your partner to do anything" is universal advice that is always true for any relationship, which means it adds exactly zero information. The question is never "can I force my partner to wear a mask/etc", but rather "is it reasonable to expect them to accommodate me by wearing a mask", and by extension, "is it reasonable to break up with them if they don't." So, while I understand what those answers were trying to say, I don't think they're really useful if they don't grapple with the second part of that.
posted by wesleyac at 1:30 PM on August 16 [3 favorites]


The commenters in that thread were _critiquing_ the use of the "my body, my choice" idea in the context of Covid.

It's important to be able to intelligently critique things we disagree with, and it's really impossible to do that without showing/saying/mentioning the thing being critiqued.
posted by amtho at 1:51 PM on August 16 [8 favorites]


I’m not in favor of it, either, but am unsure of how to stop them from using it. Simply claiming a phrase does not make it yours unless it’s trademarked somehow and I don’t think anyone would want that.
posted by JustSayNoDawg at 2:02 PM on August 16


Individually, it makes sense to tap out. But by the same token, that doesn't provide much room to hope the community improves over time vs. degrading. So by that note, I think this is a good topic to talk over as a community.

In another recent thread someone chirped in with "Make Metafilter Great Again". That feels like a similar sort of repurposing/snowcloning where charitably-interpreted it's content-neutral to the point it's trucking in a whole lot else with it; and less-charitably what it's trucking in with it may not be accidental.

Either way, it looks like it was deleted, and that's a decision in micro.
(also, were any comments along the quote's lines deleted from that thread? I was pretty sure reading it before this post went up that there were some that were earnestly doing the anti-mitigations* use of it, but I could be wrong.)

*Avoiding the "oh no, you're conflating antivaxers with antimaskers with..." dance
posted by CrystalDave at 2:12 PM on August 16


Those specific comments in that ask thread really made me angry, and I almost called them out but decided that I wasn’t going to contribute a ton of negativity towards answering what had been asked… I’m just thankful that it didn’t devolve into a big fight, and it ended up that they continued masking in the end.

I’m really not in the mood for people who think the social contract only includes themselves, especially when one of them gifted me Covid last week. And that phrase has so strongly been co-opted by the far right that is is literally on the Herman Cain Awards bingo card.

It’s a balancing act for when someone needs to step in, but given the overall comments being more useful than not I didn’t push for those specific ones to be moderated.
posted by rambling wanderlust at 3:42 PM on August 16 [13 favorites]


The co-opting is insidious, why? Lyn Never does mention fascist and she has been here long enough to not bandy an issue on meta without cause. It made me think and I deleted that in my intial comment, why? Does not add to issue at hand, though it needs some sort of explanation. I linked an NPR story, seems spot-on. The Herman Kane thing is just more fire. The co-opting is a dismissive device to shut down opposition to the blatant war on reproductive rights. It means to belittle and diminish and that's what fascists do, dehumanize the person(s) or issue to justify a position frankly based on hate. I don't think that's the case here.
posted by clavdivs at 5:52 PM on August 16 [2 favorites]


Hope this isn't too much of a derail ...

The AskMe thread made very clear OP and his wife were both fully vaccinated. As the OP of that thread, I'd like to mention that it was the OP and her wife.

Even in the most terrible phases of HIV/AIDS, people were absolutely allowed to make their own sexual and sexual-health choices with their own bodies. That statement doesn't align with this Wikipedia article.

On the point of this thread ... I was taken aback in the AskMe thread by sentiments such "her body, her choice."
posted by NotLost at 8:58 PM on August 16 [11 favorites]


My main takeaway from this thread is that people really should use the "Flag with note" option more. If something bothers you, flag it !
posted by Pendragon at 12:29 AM on August 17 [8 favorites]


I left a note in the thread. I feel like most people here will be glad of a heads-up or reminder to think about this as usage that is often used maliciously, and will want to avoid anything that supports that, even inadvertently.
posted by taz (staff) at 1:25 AM on August 17 [8 favorites]


I think that OP's goals could have been better served if they had received some constructive feedback from the mods monitoring the MeTa queue before this post went live.

Specifically, a link to the thread in question and specific examples of the problematic behavior would, I believe, have helped the audience for this thread to engage with the OP's concerns more directly and constructively.

I also think that the charged language in the OP could have been dialed back a bit with some mod advice in order to support the OP's presumed goals of reducing instances of this phrase popping up / remaining. Basically a plus one of what wesleyac said:
This MeTa was written in a way that makes it feel really hard for me to engage with it, and I do think it's worth being critical of that — between not linking to or quoting from the thread in question, making some really strongly worded statements, and bringing up buttoning, I feel like I need to choose my word extremely carefully, while not really understanding the full context of where Lyn Never is coming from.
Lastly, I want to say to Lyn Never that I share your feelings on that particular co-opted talking point in the USA. It's awful, and it makes me pretty fucking angry every time I see it in this context. I'm sorry you are feeling this way about it too. I hope you stick around, and I hope we can reduce / discourage the usage of this phrase in the context of USA abortion rights and COVID.
posted by lazaruslong at 1:35 AM on August 17 [7 favorites]


I'm going to make a somewhat uncharacteristically frank response to the idea of mods monitoring the MeTa queue: We have done this; we did it for years, and it is one of the trickier things we have had to deal with, because usually the OP is Very Angry about something, and if we aren't allowing them to state it as forcefully as they want (or trying to avoid other problem issues with Metatalks), then usually they want to sort of fight it out with us in contact mail. They are frustrated, and want to vent and state their case, etc. Understandable.

But, it is also stressful, tiring, and takes a lot of time, and we (moderators) don't have a lot of time anymore. We also don't have a lot of moderators anymore. We also don't have a lot of reserves of mental / emotional endurance any more. Well, I should speak for myself. I definitely am scraping the very bottom of the barrel on resilience. For a long time we had what I think Jessamyn has referred to as "concierge moderation," and even though it was hard, we could (just barely) maintain it because there were enough of us that usually someone could sort of tag in when someone else was exhausted or running on fumes. We had shift switches where we could exchange information and support each other from shift to shift. There was almost always someone hanging out on the Slack channel, so we could be like, "could I get a second set of eyes on this?" etc. I mean even in the middle of US nighttime, EM would be checking in during her insomniatic bouts and could offer help / advice on my (eurozone) shift.

But we don't have that any more, and it's probably unrealistic to expect we ever will again. The sort of performance we maintained is actually kind of loony, when you realize that there are multi-billion dollar companies who will just never, ever answer your plaintive requests for reasonable help or information, and little baby metafilter was answering almost all emails within 15 minutes for years and years and years. We were putting in very heavy duty emotional labour every single day, 24 hours a day, on really very difficult and demanding threads and other site issues. Our throroughness was really just kind of ... off the charts nuts. When LM said in her leaving Metatalk post that for years Metafilter was the first thing she checked in the morning and the last thing she checked at night ... that is the case for all of us. Mostly to our overall detriment, because we all burned out. When we were meeting with our anti-oppression consultant, one thing they mentioned over and over was their concern that we were burning out. Because we were.

SO. How does all that relate to the issue here? In the past we would have spent a lot of time working with the poster to try to keep the message as productive and/or noninflammatory as possible. And if I had been working when it was posted, I think I would have tried to do that anyway, because I still cling to a lot of the old ways. But should newer mods be expected to follow the same path as their mod-ancestors and expend themselves as precipitously? I don't think so, and I worry about them. This job is a man-eater, and that may be difficult to understand if you haven't done it. Even a fairly uneventful shift is usually stressful. With Metatalks, the reasonable options are 1) put it through because it's okay enough, 2) not put it through and explain why to the OP (if possible, with an option that they could rework it), 3) hold it a bit because we need more info to answer, or because we know it's going to be heated, and we should put it through when there is most mod coverage. (not weekends, for example). Less reasonable is the old way of working with posters directly to rewrite / rework. It takes a lot of time, and we usually have to deal with anger, and often insults ("THIS is why Metafilter is failing," etc — we get that a lot, btw, on any mod action. Sometimes from both sides of a pro/con issue).

This is just the reality of the world we live in. There are not workable income streams like there used to be from ads, and it's not possible to maintain the amount of staff required to provide the same care and (honestly kind of unhealthily compulsive) attention as in the past. Even when we were doing it, there wasn't enough money or manpower to maintain doing it. If everything were superlalala good with income, we should be in a constant state of training new mods. Maybe mods would rotate with extended periods off to re-energize.

But as it is, we are still going to do the best we can without completely draining ourselves. Loup is doing everything they can to keep us from working during off-time and not get ground down by the stress, while still holding together reasonable (as possible) moderation coverage within budget and dealing with all the business minutiae of running a site and keeping communications open. It's a lot. I worry about loup worrying about us. So, what I want to leave you with in terms of this comment is that everyone actually needs to help in this effort. Moderators cannot be eternal buffers between angry people wanting to fight with each other instead of willingly coming to some level of understanding or willingness to say "agree to disagree, but let's carry on." We cannot intervene in every situation where someone wants to attack other people instead of calming down a bit and commenting more carefully. And we cannot be responsible for no one ever using a word or phrase in a way that is (usually inadvertently) hurtful. We will do what we can! We all care, and we all want the site to be the best it can possibly be. But expectations must be altered to coincide with reality and reason, and members need to be more willing than ever to keep things from boiling over here, even as the world becomes more and more fractured, inflamed, and irrational. We all need to try to be the antithesis of that.

I'm sorry I wrote so much, and I'm not likely to do it again, but there is a lot of hope and new ideas and thinking about the site in the air, which is a great thing, but also a "mods should do XYZ" energy, which makes sense, but I also want people to understand the playing field on that. (Also, I have entered what I (kind of) jokingly refer to as my DGAF stage of modhood. I still give a fuck about the site and members, and always, always will, but I suffered from an awful lot of tongue-biting in the last few years, and feel less inclined to do that now.)
posted by taz (staff) at 4:09 AM on August 17 [132 favorites]


Not to coop the thread but may I suggest that we simply get rid of MetaTalk? As in no link, no section at all? If memory serves, it made more sense when Matt was making frequent updates and asking people about them or announcing new sections of the site. That is practically non existent and the site is completely different now.

I have seen more harm, ill feelings, mod exhaustion and pointless fighting from Metatalk and not much good come out of it. I do not know of any sites that have anything like MetaTalk and there's probably a good reason for that.

For the occasional community announcement we can maybe have a one off microsite and banner. Perhaps town hall zooms with the SC if people really need a forum to vent but that would timebox anything.

I'm not expecting an answer but seriously floating the idea of memory-holing Metatalk and just closing it. I've just seen countless flameouts and hard feelings over the years and I can maybe think of only a few constructive Metatalk threads in literally the last several decades.
posted by geoff. at 4:53 AM on August 17 [11 favorites]


taz, thank you for the detailed response, i found it very helpful.

it sounds like the mod team has even fewer resources remaining than i understood to be the case. i'm sorry to hear that, and it makes sense that you have to prioritize what you have to work with.

personally i think that given the outsized potential negative impact of a contentious MeTa thread (as geoff mentions, this is the place where flameouts and buttons happen), the MeTa queue should be pretty dang high on the triage list for mod resources. but, i am also not a mod and looking at this from the outside, so i could be very wrong on a whole host of assumptions i'm making here.

regardless, i'll be more careful about suggesting that mods should do XYZ in future, as i understand that times are tough all 'round.
posted by lazaruslong at 5:04 AM on August 17 [3 favorites]


This was more general than just a response on that one comment, lazaruslong; I definitely don't want you to feel like this is all about your very reasonable thought there.
posted by taz (staff) at 5:12 AM on August 17 [4 favorites]


There's an assumption that using that phrase for any topic other than abortion rights is right-wing or even fascistic(!). I have no idea of the background of the people that used it in relation to mask-wearing - maybe everyone knows that they're fascists and their presence is what's being objected to here?

But it's equally possible that the phrase was just used in a different context. I used it myself the other day (elsewhere). I can't even remember the exact topic, but it wasn't abortion. It's a catchy phrase, that sums up a position neatly, and I'm not in the US. As far as I know I'm not a fascist. Maybe it was inappropriate, and a gentle nudge would have put me right. I'd have thought it weird if someone started calling me a fascist.

So shouting that the fascists are at the gate and if [something] isn't done, it's time to leave this place, seems a bit much, short of any further evidence. Which may exist, but I haven't noticed it here.
posted by fabius at 5:35 AM on August 17 [17 favorites]


I think it's fine and even good for women (esp American women) to be furious about losing our rights as full human beings, I don't think it's fine to tone police said angry women, and I definitely don't think it's acceptable to compare any woman to a toddler (foot stomping).

The use of the word fascist to describe forced brothers and anti-maskers is accurate. Americans need to start grappling with where this country is going and who's taking it there.

Thanks for raising this Lyn. Sorry about the "you should be nicer" push back. It's disappointing.
posted by Mavri at 5:39 AM on August 17 [20 favorites]


I don't think it's fine to tone police said angry women, and I definitely don't think it's acceptable to compare any woman to a toddler (foot stomping).

Agree times a thousand. Thank you, Lyn Never: this has been enraging.

I have seen "[pronoun] body, [pronoun] choice" in three contexts in my entire life. First, on signs in abortion rights marches and rallies. Second, on MAGA signs picketing school board meetings. Third, in that thread.

Even in the most terrible phases of HIV/AIDS, people were absolutely allowed to make their own sexual and sexual-health choices with their own bodies.
Right. And if they were in open relationships with other people, the choices they made were not just for their own bodies but for the bodies of their partners. If, therefore, they broke a relationship rule that all partners in the relationship would always choose to use barrier methods to protect the sexual health of the other partners, they were making a cruel choice. A terrible choice. They were choosing to deliberately risk grievous harm to another person's or persons' body or bodies.

With a sexually transmitted disease if you choose to forgo a barrier method, you're at least only risking the health of your sexual partners and their sexual partners. With an airborne disease, you're risking the health of everybody you come into contact with and everybody they come into contact with. It is amazing that we're arguing about this now and here. When did we adopt germ theory again? Late 1800s, right?
posted by Don Pepino at 5:58 AM on August 17 [4 favorites]


On the topic of the phrase "fascist" — I was confused by Lyn Never's use of that at first, but didn't bring it up, since it turns out that the vast majority of the people who are interested in having semantic arguments about what "fascist" means these days are fascists who are not worth arguing with.

I read Lyn Never at first as saying that anti-mask ideology is fundamentally fascist, which I do not personally think is true (please do not start a argument about this in this thread, we really do not need more derailing. if you want to talk about it, feel free to MeMail me).

I do, however, think that the forced-birth ideology is fundamentally fascist, and Lyn Never's comment made more sense to me when thinking about it from the angle of forced-birth people co-opting the term in the way described, not for the primary purpose of advancing the anti-mask ideology, but rather for the purpose of trying to dilute it as a pro-choice message.

(please note that this comment does not say anything positive about the anti-mask people — if you read it that way, I'd encourage you to go back and read it again before getting angry at me)
posted by wesleyac at 6:12 AM on August 17 [4 favorites]


Mavri — I'm curious if my comment is part of the tone-policing you're talking about.

I obviously am not going to tell anyone that they shouldn't be angry about what is going on in the US right now — I think people should be angry. But I don't think MeTa should be a place for people to go purely to vent their anger, and I think asking people to provide examples of what they're talking about so that everyone can be on the same page is a reasonable expectation to have for these kinds of posts. I don't know how widely shared that expectation is, though.
posted by wesleyac at 6:21 AM on August 17 [1 favorite]


To me, the mod shortage means that we need to do better as users. That means more thoughtful commenting and giving other users a bit more space. And I realize that is a big ask, because, in the past, we have had serious problems with bad-faith users being given too much space. It's a fine line, and no one is going to walk it perfectly all the time. Some of the things I suggest:

* Reading carefully and as generously as possible
* Reading threads to the end before commenting
* If 2-3 people have made a point before me, then I don't make that point unless there is nuance that hasn't been addressed
* Reining in the jokes in fraught threads
* Trying not to derail threads (e.g. avoid analogies or inserting unconnected areas of concern, however important)
* Keeping in mind the primary framing (ie if the post is about UK politics, don't bring up US politics, if the post is about women, don't introduce men's issues)
* If you see a thread being derailed, try to rerail it by commenting on the original substance

Obviously, none of those get done all of the time and they often don't get done well or skillfully, by even the most conscientious user, but we can try.

How to do that is a huge question, and I don't have a solid answer beyond trying as hard as possible to model the behavior I want to see.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:37 AM on August 17 [33 favorites]


really like that list, and it mirrors my own set of behavior modeling heuristics, though i definitely fall short from time to time.
posted by lazaruslong at 6:41 AM on August 17 [1 favorite]


wesleyac, if all Lyn Never had done was to vent about the current state of reproductive rights in the US, express fear and dismay at the fascist-adjacent (to be charitable) rhetoric and values of the American Right, and complain about the misuse of tern "my body, my choice" in general, I would agree that it would belong as a comment in an appropriate thread rather than a MeTa post. But she is making a direct request of the user base to stop a certain behavior, and that is one of the things MeTa is for. Significant changes in site culture have occurred because of MeTas like this one.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:42 AM on August 17 [8 favorites]


GenjiandProust — Yeah, I agree with all that! What I was trying to say with my comment was that I have expectations that MeTas with the goal of changing site culture come with things like examples of the behaviour that should be changed and explanations of why that behaviour should be changed, and I don't think it's tone policing to ask for those things to be provided. (the comment about "foot stomping" I agree was fucked up, though).
posted by wesleyac at 6:51 AM on August 17 [1 favorite]


"Foot stomping" is extremely mild compared to "horrifying forced-birther intentionally-disease-spreading fascist" in my book. Plus accurately describes the threat to leave unless demands are met.
posted by Press Butt.on to Check at 7:04 AM on August 17 [4 favorites]


"Foot stomping" is extremely mild compared to "horrifying forced-birther intentionally-disease-spreading fascist" in my book.
For sure. Nobody said "horrifying forced-birther intentionally disease-spreading fascist," though. So it shouldn't be in quotation marks in your comment--unless you're quoting from some other source? if not, it sure does look like you're quoting a straw person.
posted by Don Pepino at 7:14 AM on August 17 [4 favorites]


I don't know what the solution is for things like this, but I'm happy to see pushback against very common far-right slogans (which this absolutely is, in this context). Not everyone saying it may be aware of that, which is fine, I don't think anyone's suggesting bans or any other punitive action, but I'm still very much in favour of either removing or posting a comment exactly as taz did.

The stuff about other contexts is a derail. In THIS context, it is widely used as an anti-choice attack.

I'm in Canada, not the US, and we also have a small but very vocal minority of anti-choice people. I have family members deep in that movement so I have some insider knowledge, unfortunately. These people overlap nearly completely with the anti-vax/anti-mask movement (no point in distinguishing those two since there's overwhelming overlap between people who are against them enough to attend protests) and they very commonly and very deliberately use the "my body my choice" slogan on their signs in an attempt to make reasonable people think we have to choose one or the other of their abhorrent views to avoid hypocrisy. They think if they lose on the anti-vax front, maybe they'll at least gain some ground on the anti-choice front. It's obviously not true, but that's very clearly their intention and I don't want to see it on Metafilter either, at least without pushback.

I'm not at all suggesting that everyone using the slogan in this context here is aware of that and doing it intentionally, but it's good to raise awareness so that we can avoid unintentionally amplifying anti-choice messages.
posted by randomnity at 7:21 AM on August 17 [10 favorites]


So it shouldn't be in quotation marks in your comment

Ok mentally remove the quotation marks then. She used those words at one point or another. It's a frequently used form a shorthand, which has been employed by the OP herself in this very thread.
posted by Press Butt.on to Check at 7:24 AM on August 17


I have been reading this thread. I think that it comes down to the simple thought that Lyn Never made a reasonable request in whatever tone you want to ascribe to it, and there is no real good reason not to try to live by it. I ask myself, "Self, is there any need to use the term to describe an aversion to the vaccine or to masking or to anything really?" There answer is, "No, I can say the same thing in a different way" no matter what I think the meaning of the phrase is.

It is no different than my thoughts on masking. I happen to think it is a waste of time, BUT, I do it because some people, especially those with medical issues think (or know) it helps them. How cruel am I to not want to help my fellow humans?

If you reasonably want me to stop using a phrase that has historically been used for something totally different or you reasonably want me to wear a mask or you have any reasonable request that I can adhere to with some low level of effort and does not break my own moral code, why not?
posted by JohnnyGunn at 7:27 AM on August 17 [7 favorites]


personally i think that given the outsized potential negative impact of a contentious MeTa thread (as geoff mentions, this is the place where flameouts and buttons happen), the MeTa queue should be pretty dang high on the triage list for mod resources. but, i am also not a mod and looking at this from the outside, so i could be very wrong on a whole host of assumptions i'm making here.

on the other hand, there is so much paranoia here about the existence of the queue in the first place, and the fear of mod censorship / suppression of ideas / refusal to allow dissent is one of the throughlines in which people are most hostile to the moderation on MeTa generally. I publicly mentioned once I was considering a MeTa, wrote and submitted it to the queue, and mods gave me some feedback at which point I walked downstairs into a family emergency and dropped off the radar for a while. Eventually, someone brought that MeTa up as an example of mods stifling community discussion about norms, implying that the mods had deliberately suppressed the thread!

So mods get to deal with both the potential flameouts of a contentious MeTa thread, but also the potential for flameouts and direct attacks from not immediately greenlighting a MeTa thread, and the longer they pause on a post (especially if the stated reason is "we're all exhausted and wrung out and stretched thin, can we please wait a week before we engage in a new fight")... the higher the likelihood that all the community hostility that sparks the MeTa thread will be directed specifically at the mods.

I think GenjiAndProust's comment to the effect that we need to emphasize changing our collective behavior as a community rather than relying on moderator actions is right on the money. To that note, I do think that some form of community dialogue place is necessary, because you can't raise community issues and talk about strategies for improving problems without having a place to talk about them. I don't think Lyn's request is at all unreasonable, particularly in the political climate we're all navigating here: the combination of the drag of COVID threat and the threat of bodily integrity for people who can become pregnant is an added strain on everyone, and entangling the two is a pretty big pain point.
posted by sciatrix at 8:07 AM on August 17 [18 favorites]


If you reasonably want me to stop using a phrase that has historically been used for something totally different or you reasonably want me to wear a mask or you have any reasonable request that I can adhere to with some low level of effort and does not break my own moral code, why not?

Exactly: it's a trivially simple thing everybody can do to avoid hurting other people. This is the etiquette part of the site, so bringing it up here and explaining how it hurts seems completely legit.

As Molly Realized points out, historically that phrase has been used to protest situations that actually threaten a person's bodily autonomy. All the good-faith examples Molly Realized cites upthread are not insulting or harmful. It's the often cynical if not outright sociopathic co-opting of the phrase to apply it to something trivial that is so infuriating, because it equates not wanting to undergo forced birth, not wanting to be raped, not wanting to undergo forced feeding, people at the end of their lives not wanting to be resuscitated and put on life support, etc. etc. with people not wanting to put a face mask on in the workplace. In other words, it has historically been used for very serious dire things: life or death situations, rape, forced birth, torture. So it's a breach of etiquette to trivialize "My body, my choice" by yelling it at a "no shirt, no shoes, no service" sign the same way it's a breach of etiquette to trivialize the word "rape" by using it metaphorically to talk about, say, your team losing a baseball game, the same way it's a breach of etiquette to use the much more recent protest slogan "I can't breathe" to protest mask mandates. As people have, appallingly, apparently done. If that one showed up in a thread we wouldn't excuse it because of semantic drift, surely?

Anyway, etiquette aside, signal boosting the anti-masker usage is just dangerous. Some people have fallen victim to the propaganda and now actually believe that wearing a mask will harm them. PSA: Wearing a mask does no harm to your health and protects you and those you love!
posted by Don Pepino at 8:27 AM on August 17 [13 favorites]


on the other hand, there is so much paranoia here about the existence of the queue in the first place, and the fear of mod censorship / suppression of ideas / refusal to allow dissent is one of the throughlines in which people are most hostile to the moderation on MeTa generally

I would argue quite strenuously that one of the biggest things the community needs to do, if the site is to survive, is to stop humoring people who think like this, and actively push back on it without expending more valuable moderator time and mental energy.

MeFi is not perfect, and nor are its staff. However, I literally cannot think of another site of its size or larger that is as transparent as it is. In fact, basically every discussion or social media site that has come and gone (whether up, or out) has been more opaque, would not answer emails, does not have a place for people to raise concerns, etc. And yet we've had decades of people claiming that somehow this place is run like a fascist dictatorship.

I'd also note that it is trivial to create a place elsewhere on the internet to talk about the site however you want -- go look at Reddit, these places already exist. Nobody is being silenced all their life from explaining why they think MeFi is horrible and isn't listening to them.

MeFi does not have the resources to humor people who think this way. And fundamentally, if you (the general "you") literally cannot extend even the tiniest bit of trust to the staff to be acting in good faith, maybe the site isn't for you.
posted by a faithful sock at 9:30 AM on August 17 [35 favorites]


go look at Reddit, these places already exist. Nobody is being silenced all their life from explaining why they think MeFi is horrible and isn't listening to them.

Wouldn't it be bananas if there were someone participating in this very thread who was doing that very thing?
posted by mochapickle at 9:48 AM on August 17 [3 favorites]


Plus accurately describes the threat to leave unless demands are met.

Can y'all please stop with this, I don't donate enough to Metafilter for my absence to be some kind of threat. Many people have rushed to assure me here that they don't give the least shit if I'm here, and that's everybody's right to feel that way. It doesn't matter all that much, and most people wouldn't notice.

In the many online communities I have been a part of in my life, my personal bar for participation is, you know: do I want to be in this place? All I can do personally when my feelings about that begin to change is SAY that my bar for participation feels at risk. I said it because I was sad, and because I am very scared, not because I think I'm going to do any damage by leaving. I wouldn't make the same effort in a lot of spaces - no job has ever given a shit why I was leaving, my local restaurant largely doesn't care if I think their sandwiches suck, but in a place like this that is in a formalized process of trying to steer this barge through difficult waters, I absolutely feel like it's the right thing to point out that I see sharks.

I will say this, to make some of you happy: I am absolutely extremely concerned about horrifying forced-birther intentionally-disease-spreading fascists. I will firmly come down on the side of them being bad. Real bad. Fascists are bad. Nazis are bad. Forcing birth is bad. Spreading disease on purpose, through contrariness or denialism, is the opposite of either good or helpful. Doing damage to other people's bodies is bad, on purpose OR on accident even, it's still a shitty deal for the body. I have no apologies to make for being anti-fascist.

Thanks to those of you who have understood where this comes from, and the ones who maybe don't exactly understand my point but do understand good faith. I'm worried about this place, and of course I WANT it to be a place I'm comfortable in. It would be kind of weird to not want it to be.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:49 AM on August 17 [41 favorites]


Many people have rushed to assure me here that they don't give the least shit if I'm here, and that's everybody's right to feel that way.

Is this something that was deleted from the thread? Or are you talking about something outside of the thread? It feels like “tone” keeps coming up because statements like these don’t seem to have anything to do with the conversation that’s happening, and the disconnect is kind of baffling.
posted by a box and a stick and a string and a bear at 10:04 AM on August 17 [8 favorites]


Is that what they said? It looked like they said “Nazis are bad.” With a full stop. Surely uncontroversial.
posted by thoroughburro at 10:14 AM on August 17 [1 favorite]


I fail to see the relevance of that statement unless the "sharks" are mefites
posted by Press Butt.on to Check at 10:16 AM on August 17


Then say that. No need for a bad faith reading up front.
posted by thoroughburro at 10:18 AM on August 17


I am truly asking for clarification. I'd be happy to hear I've misread, but the connotation is actually pretty clear in context.
posted by Press Butt.on to Check at 10:22 AM on August 17


It seems like there’s a reasonable jump from “comments like this further the fascist agenda” to “comments that further a fascist agenda shouldn’t be allowed on Metafilter”. Cuz, y’know, Nazis are fucking awful. So it’s kind of confusing to watch someone argue the first and not the second. If these comments are the fascist-enabling slippery slope that we’re being told they are, we should outright ban them, just like racial slurs and the like, no?
posted by a box and a stick and a string and a bear at 10:32 AM on August 17


I'd really like to see you be clear on this point: are you accusing the people who "horrified" you by providing an answer to a question on AskMe of being Nazis?

We need to do better as users.
posted by box at 10:40 AM on August 17 [8 favorites]


Is it really that confusing? You never hear things like, “Even though it can be unintentional, comments like [blank] really reinforce [blank]. Let’s be careful of that.”? That’s common in my experience, and it’s what’s happening here.
posted by thoroughburro at 10:46 AM on August 17


Or rather, it’s what’s happening here except for Lyn Never’s anger, which is deserved and need not be nitpicked or rules lawyered.
posted by thoroughburro at 10:48 AM on August 17 [3 favorites]


For me taz's post on the thread hits just the right tone - clear that this usage is not acceptable, and informative as to why, for those who aren't aware. That - whether as a comment or a MeTa post - seems like a great first step at correcting a behaviour.

On the other hand, saying that anyone who uses such a phrase in the wrong context is "okay with using the fascist co-opting of" it, as opposed to maybe not being as informed about the details of US politics as those who have been fighting the good fight for decades, makes me bristle. Which isn't the worst thing. I'm not traumatised!

But it does make me nervous about what I might unknowingly post in future. I'm more than happy to be gently corrected - I'm very happy to learn, and I've learned a lot from MeFi - but I'm less happy to think I might be accused of being OK with fascism by accidentally saying the wrong thing.
posted by fabius at 10:51 AM on August 17 [7 favorites]


Sorry it is legitimately unclear to me what Lyn Never means when she says Nazis are Bad in response to someone in a whole 'nother thread using a common slogan in a weird way. She has not been at all forthright in distinguishing the general from the specific. I don't get why her maligning people behind their back is somehow reasonable, but there's lot I don't get about this place. Assuming good faith is one I do understand, however. I think she means what she says and there is an intentional reason she conflates the AskMe responses with GamerGate. Because they are the same in her view.

“Even though it can be unintentional, comments like [blank] really reinforce [blank]. Let’s be careful of that.”

That may be what you want Lyn to have written. It is not what she wrote.
posted by Press Butt.on to Check at 10:52 AM on August 17 [3 favorites]


Here's the gotcha you want so bad: YES, if I see people talking like Nazis, I'm going to be like "oh shit, there's Nazis in there". The purpose of this post was to make sure that people who don't want to be Nazis get a chance to understand how the usage of a really specific phrase to justify harming other people can go "whoops" and stop, and then they won't sound like Nazis anymore.

And the reason I've done that is because I have been the bad person before, and it was specifically here in MetaTalk that I learned to do better and think better. More than once. And I would have no argument that oh I wasn't actually Xist before, I was just uninformed; as far as I'm concerned if I'm perpetuating it, I am it. If you are perpetuating fascist ideology, you are a fascist. If you are repeating eugenicist talking points - which is really what's underlying this particular instance of fascism - you are a eugenicist, viscerally so because the power to harm others is at everyone's fingertips now.

I owe Metafilter a LOT for making me a better person. If the site survives, I hope it continues to offer those things for me and for others, some of whom may be talking like Nazis right now. I want to encourage them to stop, if that is at all something they might still be open to doing. Maybe someone will have their "whoops" moment here. Maybe it won't come for a while yet, because the initial response of "NUH UHHHHH" is overwhelming and sometimes has to be sat with a while. I know I've had to do that too.

The other purpose was so that actual Nazis know that silence isn't agreement, they're not among only allies. Moderators have confirmed they don't have the resources to handle this.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:53 AM on August 17 [22 favorites]


> It is not what she wrote.

Do you care more about what she means, or what she literally writes? You’re displaying such a level of obliviousness that it makes it difficult for me to believe you aren’t, in fact, aware of her (common) rhetorical intent. As such, it sort of looks like you’re trying to bait someone legitimately angry (because women are under open and successful attack) into making further rhetorical missteps out of further anger.
posted by thoroughburro at 10:58 AM on August 17 [7 favorites]


You’re displaying such a level of obliviousness that it makes it difficult for me to believe you

I guess I hoped you'd take me at my word.

I appreciate you're taking the time to elucidate, Lyn Never. Truly. I will leave your thread alone now.
posted by Press Butt.on to Check at 11:06 AM on August 17


The purpose of this post was to make sure that people who don't want to be Nazis get a chance to understand how the usage of a really specific phrase to justify harming other people can go "whoops" and stop, and then they won't sound like Nazis anymore.

That was not how I read it, but that is exactly how I read taz' s comment on the Ask thread.
posted by fabius at 11:09 AM on August 17 [1 favorite]


This being a text-based website, people express what they mean via what they write. Expecting people to just intuit the former is a big ask. When Lyn Never writes “YES, if I see people talking like Nazis, I'm going to be like "oh shit, there's Nazis in there”, people are allowed to look at the comments in question and find a serious and confusing disconnect between what they read and Nazi-sympathetic content. Yes, the users here need to do better. That applies to the OP as well as the rest of us.
posted by a box and a stick and a string and a bear at 11:09 AM on August 17 [16 favorites]


> I guess I hoped you take me at my word.

Absolutely next time, when you don’t start off by aggressively misinterpreting an entirely reasonable and already upset member.
posted by thoroughburro at 11:09 AM on August 17 [1 favorite]


> That was not how I read it, but that is exactly how I read taz' s comment on the Ask thread.

taz is a professional community moderator. This examination of Lyn Never’s literal tone is (whether intentional or not) misogynistic. It needs to stop.

Women in the US just had their human rights stripped away by fascists. They are now being hunted and prosecuted for exercising those rights. Okay? That is what is literally true. I shouldn’t have to say this, but please give women a little room to be angry.
posted by thoroughburro at 11:11 AM on August 17 [16 favorites]


This examination of Lyn Never’s literal tone is (whether intentional or not) misogynistic. It needs to stop.

Wow, I'm amazed. You don't need to be a professional community moderator to word a helpful warning to people. But the initial post, suggesting that "we" are OK with fascist phraseology, and those using the phrase are fascists (according to a later comment) was not that.
posted by fabius at 11:19 AM on August 17 [5 favorites]


The use of fascist-coopted slogans supports and enables fascists, intentionally or not, has been the argument throughout with hyperbole obviously emerging from anger. The refusal to hear the clear argument through the anger is tone policing. This is the very basics!
posted by thoroughburro at 11:22 AM on August 17 [11 favorites]


Maybe MetaTalk isn’t the place for hyperbole, in that case. A lot of us here aren’t perfect at this sort of differentiation for disability-related reasons, and to be told that we’re incapable of the “very basics” is honestly really upsetting.
posted by a box and a stick and a string and a bear at 11:34 AM on August 17 [10 favorites]


I give up. I should never have broken my "never, ever, read MetaTalk" rule.
posted by fabius at 11:35 AM on August 17 [6 favorites]


> to be told that we’re incapable of the “very basics” is honestly really upsetting

Well, I didn’t say that. I said that tone policing is the very basics [of misogyny]. And so it is, that’s just a fact.

As it happens, I think you are entirely capable of not doing it.
posted by thoroughburro at 11:36 AM on August 17 [1 favorite]


I’m going to step away. I’m not a mod, but hoped I was helping to cover until a mod could drop a note. I don’t feel qualified to continue pushing so hard on this without support.
posted by thoroughburro at 11:40 AM on August 17


I said that tone policing is the very basics [of misogyny]. And so it is, that’s just a fact.

No, you didn’t. You said “The refusal to hear the clear argument through the anger is tone policing. This is the very basics!”. Right after accusing commenters of tone policing. What I’m saying is that some of us can’t make the intuitive leaps to the correct answer that you want us to, for reasons that we can’t control.

On preview, it seems like you think you know what I’m capable of better than I do. The ableism in your comments is honestly shocking; I’m out.
posted by a box and a stick and a string and a bear at 11:42 AM on August 17 [8 favorites]


MetaFilter traditionally has done somewhere between so-so and poor in dealing with outright expressions of anger from marginalized people (which, at the moment, pregnancy-capable people most definitely are). So, when someone comes in burning hot, I try to go back to my list above and

* Read carefully and as generously as possible

To ask "why are they angry?" "What are they saying?" "What aren't they saying?" "What is the essence and what is hyperbole?" and so on. MeFites are largely people who like to dissect things and pull at the parts (ask me how I know), so a lot of people have an urge to quibble with imagery and exact phrasing, but I think that's usually a trap, especially when someone is angry or showing other signs of distress.

And this is hard, since, as I said above, there are bad actors, and not all anger is good anger or deserved anger, but, I find that, when the anger is coming from a person whose marginal status I don't share, it's best to proceed with caution. I'll add two additional list items

* Ask "is this comment helpful to this thread at this time from me?"
* If more than 2 people are giving you pushback, check carefully to make sure you aren't the problem, no matter what you intend
* It's OK to not get the last word, to walk away, to take a break and clear your head

I've pretty much learned these items from the brutal beating that my conscience gave me when I realized that I had cause injury in a thread trying to hard to be smart or funny or an ally or just trying to be cute.
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:42 AM on August 17 [10 favorites]


Thanks, Lyn Never, for taking the time to remind the community at large about this problematic use of the term. Reminders are good.

I do wish more people would consider thinking and doing some variation of "Huh, she has a point, I'll keep that in mind" and just move along, instead of engaging in a lot of back and forth that usually just keeps or makes people more pissed off.

I'm generally on Metafilter to do something fun and arguing basic points has long lost any sort of thrill.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:43 AM on August 17 [31 favorites]


thoroughburro, I do just want to point out that you wrote "You’re displaying such a level of obliviousness that it makes it difficult for me to believe you aren’t, in fact, aware of her (common) rhetorical intent", which strikes me as very uncharitable. A lot of people (especially neuroatypical people) have trouble interpreting hyperbole and similar rhetorical devices, and telling those people that you think they're being dishonest or malicious is very hurtful, and will not lead to better conversations.

It is absolutely justified for Lyn Never to be angry, and as GenjiandProust points out, it is important that we keep that in mind and be charitable when interpreting what she's saying. But it's also important that we be charitable in interpreting what other people are saying, and I don't think the people who are disagreeing with Lyn in this thread are doing so out of malice.
posted by wesleyac at 11:58 AM on August 17 [13 favorites]


I don't necessarily know what the disagreement is actually about, except possibly people aghast that someone might interpret a phrase they might or might not use as a dog whistle for something much nastier. It seems very much to me to be an interrogation of tone. Which, given that I happen to have the context of knowing Lyn for quite some time and having observed her taking great pains to be careful about tone in the past, is... weird for me? Like, my impression of her has generally been of de-escalating emotional confrontations, not escalating them, and that context for me underscores "shit, this must matter a lot to her" rather than "oh no, a fight." (Do correct me if you have more commentary on that, Lyn.)

I think it's important to underscore that communication, especially public communication, is something that involves sending signals at all times (sometimes intentionally, sometimes not) and trying to decode similar signals from other people in dialogue at the same time. When the potential set of signals could include threats, which is pretty much the case for everyone at this point, we tend to bend our attention towards potential signals that we have learned correlate with threats. Reproductive health care access and abortion access are a big old landmine of threat right now, and so is meatspace life through COVID, so I think it is reasonable to make sure we talk about potential spines that can aggravate both those issues to make conversations painful and unsafe for many people.

Regarding people making an explicit threat of buttoning, I'm always in two minds: sure, it's often experienced as a threat (in the sense that someone leaving is a thing that many people find distressing and scary and want to immediately soothe). But on the other hand, saying "if this doesn't change, I can't stay here" is also a statement of urgency: this really bothers me. Sometimes, complaining about things with minimal urgency or low stakes gets your comments blandly ignored. It is important to keep in mind that getting effective changes to happen in a community involves aiming for a moving target: enough urgency to make some critical mass of people pay attention, but not so much as you flood and overwhelm a similar critical mass, and the thresholds for urgency for any specific person might or might not overlap. So... particularly if the warning ('if this continues, I cannot stay') is rare and not a pattern for a particular person, I tend to take it as an expensive statement of urgency rather than a threat.

Regarding neurodivergence, the note about hyperbole is complicated--ah, because you know, there are also plenty of neurodivergent people who use hyperbole or emphasizing emotional responses habitually, in part because they (we) have learned that expressing and articulating emotional salience is important to registering the things they have to say as important. This is especially true if you're habitually masking through unpleasant or painful experiences, in my experience, and also particularly true for groups of people whose complaints tend to be ignored or dismissed. Which includes women.

So, anyway:

what exactly is the opposition to Lyn's request to community members to avoid using "my body, my choice" as a slogan relating to COVID threads? What is the objection?
posted by sciatrix at 12:27 PM on August 17 [21 favorites]

Regarding neurodivergence, the note about hyperbole is complicated--ah, because you know, there are also plenty of neurodivergent people who use hyperbole or emphasizing emotional responses habitually, in part because they (we) have learned that expressing and articulating emotional salience is important to registering the things they have to say as important.
Yes! Competing access needs are hard to navigate around. My comment was not intended to say that Lyn should not have used hyperbole, but that when people notice a miscommunication like that, explicitly and kindly calling it out is better than telling people that you think they're lying or being malicious. Obviously things get heated, and we can't all be perfect at it, but we can try to do better. It is clear to me that a box and a stick and a string and a bear was trying to engage in good faith, asking for specific clarifications, etc, and I'm disappointed at how they were treated for that.
what exactly is the opposition to Lyn's request to community members to avoid using "my body, my choice" as a slogan relating to COVID threads? What is the objection?
I have read through this entire thread multiple times now, and I don't think I've seen anyone clearly disagree with this specific aspect of what Lyn is saying, although I have seen a couple people say things that could be interpreted as disagreement, depending on some context that they did not provide. I would like to be charitable to those members, and try to figure out the context they're operating from before putting words in their mouth. (If I missed something here, please do let me know)

I think people are mostly disagreeing with other things Lyn Never has said, both in the OP and in follow-up comments — primarily the idea that the phrase "my body, my choice" does or should refer exclusively to abortion, but also the idea "we are okay with" the phrase being used like that, when it seems pretty clear to me that most of us are not!

One thing I would like to remind people is that the only place that the phrase "my body, my choice" appears verbatim in that thread is in people explaining why it does not apply in the case of COVID-related choices. I think a lot of the initial pushback was because people searched for that phrase in the thread, found it in those comments (which were good comments!), and were confused about how those comments indicated that people we "ok with" the co-option of the phrase, when they were expressing the literal opposite of that.
posted by wesleyac at 1:00 PM on August 17 [6 favorites]


what exactly is the opposition to Lyn's request to community members to avoid using "my body, my choice" as a slogan relating to COVID threads? What is the objection?

(No objection to that here! My observation is entirely that pushback to the, yes -tone- was not inequitable imo as some were stating. Or was meant to be. I apologize for my contributions to the heat.)

posted by Press Butt.on to Check at 1:01 PM on August 17 [1 favorite]


what exactly is the opposition to Lyn's request

The request comes from a good place, but a number of people pointed out that it is a pretty culturally-specific American (USA American) request. Being insinuated as a fascist fellow traveller for not being American would be difficult to hear, not to mention ironic, in these days.

I mean, the C-word is banned here thankfully enough despite it's relatively mild usage in Australia and the UK - there was pushback against that ban too. The current issue is less clearcut as I can see objections that might seem to be tone policing, but which reflect pushback from the huge diversity of English language usages around the globe and the cultural contexts they spring from.
posted by Rumple at 1:32 PM on August 17 [15 favorites]


I wrote one of the "good" comments with the verbatim phrase and have been low-grade annoyed with myself since writing it but didn't really fully understand why until this thread. I knew I didn't like my "to mask or not to mask is only your choice about your body if you live alone" conclusion because it's just not accurate; the harm you could do would not be limited to the people you live with.

But Lyn Never's objection to it as a cynical co-opting of the abortion rights slogan is very much part of what annoys me about that phrase being used in other, less serious contexts. In fact, it's a larger part of what bothers me than the part I was pointing out, that it isn't technically true in the mask debate context. But I didn't say anything about that in my comment. Because I didn't really understand it, yet.

I mean, it's not hard to understand that using that phrase that way is wrong. I knew it was wrong. I knew it was infuriating. I'd seen it on anti-masker signs and rolled my eyes at it and felt bad, but I didn't think it through in actual human language beyond various profanities. I don't know how to do those down-arrow things like in wesleyac's comment, and I'm not going to reproduce the wording here because whenever I see it I get a big fat cortisol dump, and nobody needs that on a lovely Wednesday, but there's a specific reversal they pull on their pernicious posterboard signs that I've seen a few times where they try to claim that their use of the phrase is primary that just... It is galling. To say the least.

So anyway I'm very grateful to Lyn Never for explaining this here. It's hard to do, describe something harmful in words that can explain the harm while simultaneously feeling the harm and feeling fury over being harmed. It's work. It's valuable. It helped me. Thank you.
posted by Don Pepino at 2:19 PM on August 17 [19 favorites]


I believe I addressed in a followup comment that certainly that use of the phrase elsewhere in the world to refer to sexual bodily autonomy should similarly not be degraded by using it to say it's not fun to wear a mask. (Someone correct me if I'm wrong and this phrase is instead being used outside the US to mean one has a right to not use barriers or disclose transmissible pathogens to a partner because it's a bummer? I was assuming it is used to mean "I have a right to sex that is safe and consensual").

If you're from somewhere outside the US where people are using that phrase to assert their right to not be raped (or trafficked, or exploited as children either for sex or labor, or murdered as collateral damage to yet another war), and you are using it justify not wearing a mask, we are back to an inappropriate use of the phrase in a way that - intentional for some, casually dismissive for others - belittles the cause of more vulnerable people. Full stop. It's still nazi shit.

underscores "shit, this must matter a lot to her" rather than "oh no, a fight."

Yes. I've never willingly engaged in a fight on this site, and even any pushback I've ever previously offered to policy has (attempted at least) to err on the side of caution to the point of being sometimes more cowardly than it should have been - there are times I should have shouted louder, because not doing so got vulnerable people hurt. I will at least not regret that this time.

Just always remember that when someone stands up and says "hey maybe not the harmful thing?" and a bunch of people line up to defend their right to the harmful thing, declare it impossible not to do the harmful thing, have a bunch of arguments about what "harmful", "maybe", "thing", "hey", and "the" mean, invent motives, assert the person is only doing this to show off (see the phrase "virtue signaling"), demand proof, explain why it's only specific to /unimportant group/, interrogate the speaker to make them confess they don't like nazis, and otherwise pull in as many excuses as possible to not talk about the problem that's been brought up? It has a name. It is a tactic.

This is also exactly how Metafilter does this time and time again. I'll be the first person to write this MeTa. It'll get written probably two more times, I'm sure by people way more eloquent than I am, over the next 12-24 months. I am afraid that by that point, where the site culture has finally scooched over to being careful about this kind of mimicry (not a great word but something like that, mockery?), there will be so many people dead of the reality of it that it may not really matter, and the userbase here at that time may be well aware already.
posted by Lyn Never at 2:31 PM on August 17 [21 favorites]


(Correction: "It is a tactic" should be "It is a tactic to avoid talking about the harm." While it can be bulk weaponized, it's also a very common first reaction. It's just easier to say all the other things than to stop and consider: might there be harm? Even if Lyn failed to perfectly present a watertight legal case for being better to vulnerable people, might there be some nugget of actionable item in her otherwise unworthy request?)
posted by Lyn Never at 3:02 PM on August 17 [6 favorites]


I really really appreciate you making this post, Lyn Never. As an immunocompromised person, I've had to nope out of most COVID threads so I don't lose all respect for most MeFites, but that turn of phrase is especially upsetting for all the reasons that you've named, and we should and can do better.

If you need cheap rhetorical gimmicks to make your argument sound good, maybe it's actually a bad argument?
posted by hydropsyche at 5:25 PM on August 17 [15 favorites]


Another user buttoned over ableism in here. I’m sad.
posted by lazaruslong at 12:07 AM on August 18 [5 favorites]


a box and a stick and a string and a bear: in case you check back in here and read this, i just want to say that your feelings are valid, i appreciate you sticking up for other folks like me, and i hope you come back.

thoroughburro, you are way out of line here and i hope you can recognize the ableism in your engagement and apologize. it might not bring a box and a stick and a string and a bear back, but the rest of us who have similar challenges will see it, and might be more inclined to stick around through the casual ableism for longer.
posted by lazaruslong at 1:07 AM on August 18 [2 favorites]


I’m very confused. Ableism is among my top priorities at the moment, largely because I suffer its prejudice myself. I don’t think I can apologize for calling out the persistent interrogation of tone I witnessed.

However, I’m convinced my own abilities are not in good enough shape to represent an ideal Metafilter member. Healthier folks with better emotional endurance will be needed.
posted by thoroughburro at 4:11 AM on August 18 [1 favorite]


As someone who occasionally buttons because I'm overwhelmed with the intention of returning later after a break to reset, I'm extremely uncomfortable with characterizing a buttoning as "because ableism" or even as permanent unless you have some source of backchannel information. My emotions sometimes run high enough that I temporarily decide that I'm not capable of engaging clearly without melting down, and removing myself from the site with a temporary button is a way of coping with that and helping myself take that break.

Let's all take a few deep breaths and pause, okay?
posted by sciatrix at 4:37 AM on August 18 [8 favorites]


Ah--to be clear, I mean: one of the access conflicts any online community with a lot of neurodivergent people has to deal with is the essential problem of reactivity to tone vs. ability to control tone.

I understand that Lyn's initial post felt accusatory. I do not understand that the response to that needs to be focused on whether her tone is sufficiently gentle or her wording was perfect. I am in fact incredibly uncomfortable on ableism grounds with requests for accommodation that mandate the level of tone control I think is being asked for, because I am not perfectly capable of maintaining that level of control either. I'm pretty good at it, but it takes a lot of energy to do so, and eventually you run the fuck out.

We collectively need to be able to de escalate from points of exasperation and meltdown, not least because the meltdowns on site may be stemming from a bunch of different sources that other people in the audience can't see or control. I am honestly not thrilled with the original tack a box a string and a bear took in response, myself, and would also have found it intensely frustrating. I do not agree that this frustration is inherently ableism. I do not agree that pointing out the gendered context of that frustration is inherently ableism.

I do think it's wise to point out that fixating on tone, and litigating the details of tone after someone has clarified, is not a great way to have a conversation. For any of us. It sucks to feel accused of being a threat over the use of a phrase that may or may not be obvious to everyone from their original contexts, but bluntly that does not prevent anyone from seeing that phrase and associating you with COVID denial. Talking about that association is pretty much the only way to learn.
posted by sciatrix at 4:53 AM on August 18 [20 favorites]


I don't necessarily want a Steering Committee of perfect ideal users (is that even a thing?) as much as I do one that's a diverse group of people that are committed to the site and willing to do the work.

thoroughburro would know better than me whether they have the spoons to be that person, but, if it wasn't clear already, it seems very clear after this post that that committee needs to hear neurodivergent voices and would benefit from neurodivergent representation.
posted by box at 4:58 AM on August 18 [4 favorites]


thoroughburro has withdrawn.
posted by mochapickle at 5:03 AM on August 18


As someone who occasionally buttons because I'm overwhelmed with the intention of returning later after a break to reset, I'm extremely uncomfortable with characterizing a buttoning as "because ableism" or even as permanent unless you have some source of backchannel information

i don't have any backchannel anything, i just read what the user who buttoned wrote which to my reading makes it 100% clear that they have buttoned due to the ableism present in thoroughburro's comments.

i happen to agree with that characterization, mostly because the thing that was said is something i (and i imagine a whole lot of autistic / ND people) have heard several times before and it sucks. every. time. i understand that you, sciatrix, do not agree about that characterization. okay cool, everyone can have their own opinions, that's fine.

but anyways this thread isn't about ableism on mefi and even if it was i'm not convinced that another round of ableism-on-metafilter discourse on the grey is the most effective strategy to reduce the overall levels. so instead we just lost a great member to ableism (yet again) and that's....that. i hope they come back.
posted by lazaruslong at 7:22 AM on August 18 [5 favorites]


I believe a box and a stick... has stepped away before, so I'm hoping they'll come back someday. I really enjoy their participation here.
posted by mochapickle at 9:03 AM on August 18 [14 favorites]


There was a group of male anti-circumcision protesters outside my workplace a few weeks ago. They co-opted language used by the #MeToo movement to convince passersby of their message, despite the lack of connection to that movement or support of any civil rights or any of the people associated with it.

It seems obvious that it is a similar problem to use "my body, my choice" outside of the context of specific civil rights for people who are able to bear children. Especially by an overlap of anti-maskers and anti-vaxxers looking for any lazy justification for their point of view, however shaky it is to base that PoV on a cheap rhetorical trick that costs these same people nothing to echo, but which — as the loss of protections from Roe v. Wade has shown — places considerable burdens on the bodily autonomy of women and transmen capable of bearing children.

I don't know what the solution is, but in the larger picture, perhaps we don't need to tolerate that ugly crowd here, even with the veneer of just-answering-questions on AskMe.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 4:13 PM on August 18


on the other hand, there is so much paranoia here about the existence of the queue in the first place, and the fear of mod censorship / suppression of ideas / refusal to allow dissent is one of the throughlines in which people are most hostile to the moderation on MeTa generally

Please stop using the word paranoid to refer to people being critical in a way that bothers you. It's ableist on top of being clearly intended to insult, and this is not the first time.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 4:58 AM on August 19 [1 favorite]


Rock 'em Sock 'em, if you have the bandwidth, would you be able to provide an alternate word for paranoid? I hadn't seen this particular word come up before as a concern, so if there's an alternative I'd prefer to use that instead. Thank you, friend.
posted by mochapickle at 8:56 AM on August 19 [1 favorite]


I categorically disagree that everyday references to disability or emotional phenomena are inherently ableist. Experiencing paranoia is not inherently shameful, just as difficulties with emotional regulation aren't inherently shameful. Nor do I see any benefit for disability justice in aggressively siloing disabled phenomena, experiences, and states of being out of our words, our rhetoric, and our minds. It's just one more step on the fucking euphemism treadmill.

I also don't think that "being critical in a way that bothers me" adequately captures the spectrum of behavior to which I am referring, which involves ruminating on hidden, secret signs of malice and inventively diving for the worst possible interpretations from others even in the face of attempts to de-escalate or clarify. This behavior is explicitly why our moderation staff is as burned out as it is. No matter where it comes from, it is demonstrably toxic for this site and community continuing to exist, and it is particularly poison for anyone in a position of leadership or authority.

Would you prefer that I describe this phenomenon as conspiratorial? It does remind me of the way that conspiracy theorists approach governmental institutions.
posted by sciatrix at 9:27 AM on August 19 [21 favorites]


That's the thing, sciatrix. Since my comment above, I've just been hanging out online, trying to find paranoid as an example of ableist language, and from what I'm finding it's just not really addressed as an ableist term except in cases where you are using it as a direct and dismissive insult to someone who has a specific mental illness characterized by paranoia. So if there's a clear alternative, I'm happy to use it. But from what I'm reading, most of the time it's pretty much just a word.

It's so hard to determine where the line is and I feel like for Metafilter to work, sometimes we have to offer a little slack. As someone who's a permanent shut-in due to covid, I often see language here that from my own very specific perspective I miiiiight consider ableist -- there was an Ask this week with someone who was considerably upset about being the worst kind of loser because they lived alone and worked from home and never went out. (A previous Asker this summer defined this way of living as their life being "over.") And that's just... my life. Like, I'm incredibly lucky to even be alive right now. Literally my best possible outcome after 600 sessions on life support and my body being a topographical map of surgical scars is a quiet, uneventful little life in isolation.

And I'm just sort of blinking at the screen at questions about boredom or isolation or lack of social contact because I know these askers intend precisely zero harm or insult or comment to my particular disability and circumstance.

So, like, I don't want anyone to be pained by something I say off the cuff, but I also think too that there's a set of common vocabulary that most of the time is just a word, or just a circumstance. And so I hope Rock 'em replies with some more context, but for now... yeah.
posted by mochapickle at 9:52 AM on August 19 [21 favorites]


I take it as, accusing other MeFites of having paranoia, is abelist.

"Suspicious" seems valid enough to me, without using a clinical term like "paranoia?"

Paranoia means without adequate reason to be suspicious, so it does seem awfully critical and yes, insulting.
posted by tiny frying pan at 10:16 AM on August 19 [3 favorites]


I had a lot of casually ableist language that I used to use frequently — particularly, describing things as "crazy" or "insane". The thing that it took for me to stop using it was meeting someone who was personally affected by those words. We never talked about their diagnosis in any detail, but I believe it was schizoaffective disorder or something similar. I don't recall them ever talking about the word "paranoid", but I suspect they'd feel similarly — that using the phrase to describe fairly ordinary beliefs that other people have can imply that people can just stop having paranoid beliefs, which is… not how paranoia works at all.

That friend died a few weeks ago, I think in significant part because of the huge amount of abelism that they experienced — much of it institutional, but some interpersonal as well. I feel like one of the things I can do in their memory is to keep on pushing back on this sort of ableist language.

I get that there's a lot of nuance in trying to discuss mental health, and a lot of conflicting ideas about how we should think about things, and it can be upsetting to hear that a word that you're used to using without thinking about can hurt people, but I think the least we can do is listen when people tell us that the things we're saying hurt them.

I don't do a lot of trying to explain this to people, because it's exhausting and has a very low success rate and seems like not the most important thing I could be spending goodwill on, but I do just hope that people (and this isn't directed at just sciatrix and mochapickle, also whoever else is reading this) think about the real people who find this stuff hurtful and consider where they're coming from.
posted by wesleyac at 10:18 AM on August 19 [6 favorites]


Thanks wesleyac. If it wasn't clear, I do share your concern for sensitivity and my intention here is to learn.
posted by mochapickle at 10:37 AM on August 19 [3 favorites]


I've written here with a little more depth on why vocabulary choice is not my preferred form of disability justice, so I won't rehash that here again. Instead, my preferred form of disability justice work online* is sharing concepts and encouraging people to incorporate ideas from disabled activists into daily life--bringing disabled people and their experiences into the forefront of their minds and understanding these things as part of human experience.

I will note that I'm not using paranoia here to imply that the anxiety and fear that certain parties routinely express about mods misusing their power is a deliberate choice. Instead, the problem is the behavior that is being expressed as a function of that fear. That behavior is corrosive, and the results of it have real costs and impacts for other people. The underlying emotions? They suck but they're not, by themselves, the problem.

Paranoia is something that I have friends who struggle with, along with things like intrusive thoughts and hyperfixation on perceived threats (which may or may not be real). Anxiety and fear and catastrophizing are things I struggle with. I have a certain sympathy for strong irrational emotions and what they can lead people to say and do. However, uncontrolled anxieties and fears--particularly when there is nothing that anyone can do to allay them--can produce incredibly bad behavior, up to and including actual abuse. At a certain point, behaviors rooted in mental health disability can make spaces completely inaccessible to everyone else.

I will also note, classifying the characterization of mods and site owners as secretly malicious or seeking to wrest power away from users as "paranoia" is actually a more generous framework than the alternative, which is that this kind of hypercritical approach to mod staff is a deliberate and conscious choice. I.... actually think that is a more offensive thing to say, personally? I can't call it "reasonable criticism" with a straight face, not when I assess the conflicting demands that mods are being asked to sift through and when I consider what the actual levels of training and resources available look like. That's why I'm offering up "conspiratorial"--because, as with conspiratorial theorizing, the refusal to consider limitations on the skill, ability, time, and resources available to the mod base can create some pretty interesting theories.

*not the only thing I do.
posted by sciatrix at 11:47 AM on August 19 [21 favorites]


Oh geez. Coming to this late, but I would just like to point out that it is absolutely possible to be pro-choice regarding reproductive rights, and also prioritize bodily autonomy in other areas. Attacking word selection here is really just about trying to win the argument about masks. Come on.
posted by haptic_avenger at 9:31 PM on August 19 [8 favorites]


sciatrix — I agree with much of that linked comment, FWIW.

I agree that the behaviour you're describing is a problem — I think that it is more useful to talk about that behaviour directly without trying to ascribe it to paranoia. If you think someone has a psychiatric disorder (which is not a category I really agree with but this would be a much longer comment if I tried to get into that), I don't think speculating about it in public on the internet is a useful response to that.

I do think that "conspiratorial" would be a better word, but I part of the reason I hesitate to suggest some other word is because I think the ideal thing is to focus on the behaviour of the people you're talking about (badgering the mods, assuming censorship when MeTas are delayed, etc), rather than the mental state that you think that behaviour comes from. But I get that it's a lot harder to do that than it is to replace a word.
posted by wesleyac at 7:01 AM on August 20


The irony is that pettifogging is both a symptom of paranoia, and makes others more anxious about sharing.

If you give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest of men, I will find something in them which will hang him.

Cardinal Richelieu
posted by Brian B. at 8:41 AM on August 21 [2 favorites]


Hi. Maybe the paranoia issue is a derail. This thread seems to have gone off topic and maybe should be closed.
posted by NotLost at 10:10 AM on August 21 [3 favorites]


"As he neared death, Richelieu faced a plot that threatened to remove him from power."
posted by clavdivs at 5:15 PM on August 21


Attacking word selection here is really just about trying to win the argument about masks. Come on.

If you're an anti-masker, you're not marginalized, and if you have to co-opt the language of a marginalized group to defend your point of view, maybe think very hard and very carefully about whether your stance on masks was ever really legitimate to begin with.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 5:26 PM on August 21 [2 favorites]


Yep, NotLost; I'm going to go ahead and close this up.
posted by taz (staff) at 10:27 PM on August 21 [2 favorites]


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