The WAR ON CHRISTMAS has begun again. And frankly, I’m tired of it. The only time I’ve ever heard of anyone “attacking” Christmas is when right-wing pundits and social media shares wax paranoid about the possibility of some horrific Orwellian dystopian future in which everyone is banned from mentioning or even thinking about Christmas.
Public Service Announcement: the use of the word “holiday” instead of “Christmas” is not an attack on Christmas, or your right to celebrate it openly. I’m going to explore this from the angle of this Facebook post a friend shared:
Decorated trees are actually quite secular. They originate in pagan mythologies, have nothing to do with Christ or Christianity (pretty sure they never mentioned decorating a tree in the New Testament), are enjoyed by people of many faiths, and therefor technically aren’t really “Christmas” trees. We just often call them Christmas trees because we do the tree thing at the same time as the Christmas thing. But many other faiths do the tree thing in conjunction with their mid-winter holidays as well. Most faiths have some kind of holiday around this time, because you’re celebrating being “half-way out of the dark”, as they so rightly said on Doctor Who. And who doesn’t love bringing a bit more light and beauty into their lives during a time of year when the outside world is dark and barren? I’ve known people of all sorts of backgrounds, from Jewish to Hindu to Atheist, from naturally born citizen to immigrant, who put up trees at this time of year. It’s a way of feeling connected to the broader community you live in despite other differences, which is a wonderful thing.
If you’re a Christian celebrating a Christian-y Christmas that also includes a tree, calling it a Christmas tree for convenience makes a lot of sense, even if it is a secular tradition. You put up a tree when you celebrate Christmas. It’s a Christmas tree. Fair enough. But if you’re non-Christian and doing the tree thing (which is totally allowed because decorated trees are not a Christian tradition) then having another name for it can be useful. If you don’t feel connected to the idea of Christ or Christianity, but you DO feel connected to the tradition of decorating a tree and celebrating with your loved ones, being forced to invoke the idea of Christ in this non-Christian tradition can feel a bit… off.
Part of it is that it’s annoying to be told you’re celebrating a holiday you’re not actually celebrating. People are like “THIS IS A CHRISTMAS TREE!” and you’re like “but… it’s not? There’s nothing Christian about this tree or about my own traditions at this time of year. I don’t have Jesus or angels or anything on it, I don’t go to Church, I don’t spend any time at all thinking about the life, times, and death of Jesus. Why does MY tree have to be a Christmas tree just because YOU are celebrating Christmas right now?”
Another part is that I feel like it’s really disrespectful of me to be invoking the idea of Christ when I don’t actually believe in it*. The idea of Christ is of monumental importance to many people, and when I throw it around willy-nilly in spite of having no personal connection to it, what does that communicate to people who take the idea of Christ really seriously? Who have a major emotional, social, and spiritual connection to the idea?
Luckily, language is flexible and context is important. Unless you’re in some kind of scientific field conducting experiments, things don’t have single, set, precise names assigned to them. You can call yours a Christmas tree and others can call theirs a holiday tree without all communication breaking down and society falling to pieces. And it makes a lot of sense for secular people and groups, such as atheists, governments, corporations, whatever, to use more general and all-encompassing terms. It’s not actually offensive to say “holiday” instead of “Christmas”. The world doesn’t revolve around you, and just because you’re celebrating Christmas doesn’t mean everyone else has to as well.
*Having said all this, I still often refer to them as Christmas trees out of habit – it’s how I was raised. It makes me a bit of a hypocrite, but we’re all imperfect works in progress and I’m trying really hard to improve myself in this area.These things take time and practice, you know.
Don’t mind me.
So, I read this really difficult (really real) article about why cries of “not all men!” are so damaging, and some asshole in the comments basically acted out what the author was calling out like a friggin’ idiot. I wanted to reply but couldn’t since commenting was closed, and I wouldn’t have commented to the fullest extent of what I wanted anyway since it seems like most people in the comments were being much more respectful than I wanted to be, and I didn’t want to ruin the vibe. Anyway, here’s what I’d like to say to that guy. If you don’t like frustrated rants or profane language don’t read it.
The author’s not just talking about calling out harassment when you see it. She’s telling you to STOP with your “not all men” bullshit, which you somehow missed in spite of it being in the FUCKING title. Every time you divert the conversation with “I can’t do anything” or “but that’s not me” you’re diverting attention from an important issue and drowning out the people trying to talk about it. THAT’s what she means – that certain men are constantly ignoring what’s being said about those who harass or remain idle in favour of taking personal offence. Guess what? Every time you do that and try to make it about you instead of listening to someone else’s problems for once, you become part of the fucking problem. You complain that she’s presuming you’re a problem when you think you’re not, but in complaining you became the person this article was written about and for. Ironic, isn’t it. Think this article’s claims don’t apply to you? Then maybe they don’t and you should PIPE THE FUCK DOWN and let someone else talk for a bit. Not everything has to be about you all the goddamn time. The fact that you automatically took offence and got all defensive like this article was attacking you personally just shows how fucking privileged and self-centred you are. I know that for your whole life you’ve been led to believe that the world revolves around you and your thoughts, desires, and problems, but I have news for you. It fucking doesn’t.
I’m not just calling out your flagrant privilege in a cheap attempt to silence any disagreement. I know your defensiveness is a sign of your privilege and lack of perspective because I’ve been there. A Facebook acquaintance who I admire and respect posted “I hate white people” and my first response was, “hey! I’m not that bad! I try to be a good ally! Why are you complaining about me?” and I was about to comment but I stopped. You know why? Because I chilled the fuck out for one fucking second and realized that if she was saying something that bad, she probably had a good reason, and I know I’m not a bad person and that she wasn’t attacking me personally, so there’s no need to take it personally, and I’m capable of realizing that as much as I try to be a good ally and would like to think I’m not part of the problem, I still might be part of the problem in ways I can’t even comprehend without some serious listening and introspection. Want to know what I did instead of commenting? I PIPED THE FUCK DOWN AND LET HER FUCKING TALK FOR A WHILE.
No, I’m not going to try to come up with some stupid answer to your stupid-ass “what do the construction workers have to lose?” question. Want to know why? Because men in business suits TOTALLY cat-call and harass. That’s a HUGE part of the problem with the idea that women can avoid harassment by avoiding certain types of men or certain areas: besides the fact that it puts all the responsibility on the victim, which is stupid and shitty, it’s actually just terrible advice. Not all men do it, but any man could – there’s no way to tell by appearances who’ll be a danger and who won’t. Construction worker harassment is just a stereotype – some men who work in construction do it, but not always, and not just them. It could be any man. Personally, I couldn’t pinpoint a “type” of man who is more likely to randomly harass me, because they’ve all been so different from each other in any physically apparent variable you can think of. There’s no pattern, except that they’re basically always male. Stop trying to derail an important conversation by asking me to answer your shitty, classist, meaningless questions. We’re trying to have an important conversation over here, and you’re interrupting. You get to talk all the goddamn time so for once could you please just PIPE DOWN AND PUT YOUR FUCKING DICK BACK IN YOUR FUCKING PANTS.
Some time ago, I stumbled across a Facebook post claiming (either on the post or through a shared article, I can’t remember now) that Aboriginal cultures and languages were dying a natural death, that their inferiority/primitiveness/etc. meant that they could never survive and be useful in our modern world, and that all the efforts being undertaken to keep these cultures and languages alive and functioning were a waste of time and energy (I could say the same about social Darwinism). A young woman of Aboriginal heritage responded in a justifiably irate, hurt, and defensive way. She was basically just told that she was destined to die due to her inferiority anyway so there was no point in trying to protect or preserve her. It’s horribly dehumanizing to have such ideas hurled coldly at you by strangers over social media, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if she were to tell me that she has to endure that kind of thing on a regular basis. The original poster, predictably enough, came back on the defensive, told her all the ways in which she was wrong to think she was worth keeping around, using every racial stereotype, sweeping generalization, and piece of misinformation about Aboriginal cultures available in society’s racial arsenal to belittle her pain and anger.
In my own frustration at this person’s inability to conduct a simple Google search, in my horror at his lack of empathy towards the woman he was talking to, and in my inability to refrain from compulsively correcting anyone and everyone when I think they’re wrong, I gave all his misconceptions a lengthy debunking, and after a bit of an exchange he began to relinquish some of his previous viewpoints. Although he still refused to acknowledge how terrible his original comments had been, and wouldn’t entirely let go of his careless and dehumanizing attitude towards Aboriginal peoples, at least he was listening more and being less defensive. It wasn’t ideal, but it was a start. A few days later, he private messaged me to thank me for explaining everything so thoroughly, to say that I had given him a lot to think about and that his opinion was beginning to change, and to ask how I had learned so much and where he could go to do the same.
This seemed like quite a victory. How often does one manage to change the mind of someone else over social media, over an argument in a comments section? And if I had to change anyone’s mind about anything, I was glad to encourage someone towards greater tolerance and a desire to learn more. It wasn’t until much later that I thought of something that really should have occurred to me right from the beginning of the exchange.
When I started my political science degree, I could see the terrible conditions faced by Aboriginal peoples in this country and wanted to help fix them. I had grand visions of coming up with some genius solution that would end their troubles for good. To that end, I tended towards classes and chose research projects directed at learning more about Aboriginal history, politics, and policies in Canada. If you know me personally, and you’re thinking, “I didn’t know she had goals like that”, it’s because I never talk about it, because in hindsight it feels pretty stupid and offensive and like most people, I hate having to admit that I’ve done or thought something stupid or offensive. As I learned more, and spent more time listening to Aboriginal voices on the problems they uniquely face, it became apparent that as a white person it really wasn’t my place to take centre stage and play the part of some kind of saviour, and the idea that I could do such a thing was silly and naive at best. I simply lack the cultural, societal, and political experience and context required to truly understand the full extent and causes of the problems, and therefore to determine and implement the most appropriate solutions to them. I do, however, possess the ability to learn, listen, and empathize. I discovered that in order to really make a difference, my efforts were best spent listening to and supporting Aboriginal people as they attempt to explain their problems and implement solutions. Though this may be a supporting role rather than a lead one, that doesn’t make it small or unimportant or not worth doing. However, white people are so accustomed to having a highly valued voice, the idea of taking a back seat on an issue often doesn’t even occur to them, and when they’re asked to, the request can seem strange, unappealing, or even threatening (even though it isn’t in reality). This is a serious barrier to real progress on issues of inequality. Good people who could be making a positive difference are actually contributing to the problem by digging in their heels, refusing to listen and understand their part in the whole thing, and thereby holding back any progress that could be made.
When that fellow from Facebook asked how he could learn more, my answer to him was that I did so by going out of my way to put myself in situations where I could read and hear the perspectives of Aboriginal peoples and those who study their culture, their history, and their current circumstances. And that’s what bothers me so much today about my exchange with him then. Listening to Aboriginal perspectives is exactly what neither of us did during that conversation. An Aboriginal perspective was offered almost immediately, and he shot it down just as quickly. And instead of supporting her perspective and encouraging him to be a better listener, I offered my own and was readily accepted while her participation in the conversation gradually decreased and finally ceased altogether.
It shouldn’t take a white voice to educate white people on Aboriginal issues when so many more experienced voices are so widely available. Although I would dearly love to go on a debunking spree, complete with amusing gifs, to whitesplain the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to those fellow (mostly white) Canadians who’s negative and dismissive responses have been so frustrating and disappointing to me, I’m not going to. I would be making the same mistake now as I did back then, and while my lengthy debunking wasn’t necessarily wrong, I hope you can understand how that whole situation was extremely problematic. If you want to know which opinions need debunking, Google them yourself. Or you could, just, you know, actually read the Commission and take the time to think it over before jumping on the defensive. This is a time for listening, empathizing, and supporting. Your needs and desires can take a back seat for a little while without your world coming to an end, so get over yourself and try to spend some time listening and attending to someone else’s needs for once. It’s not actually as difficult or as scary as you think it’s going to be. Take the recommendations seriously and consider ways in which you can contribute. It’s really not going to hurt you, and it can make a world of difference to someone else.
I appreciate you reading to the end and listening to my story, but my story isn’t the one you should be listening to right now. Take the time to explore some perspectives less familiar to you, and do so with an open mind, a respectful attitude, and a restrained ego.
A bunch of people in the comments thread of the above video are ironically reenforcing everything Laci is saying by doing what she predicts they will do: justifying a failure to take rape accusations seriously by claiming that some of them are false. It’s a pretty huge leap to go from “some accusations are false” to “we should suspect all accusations of being false, even if it prevents the WAY higher proportion of actual victims from getting justice”. So, I thought I’d show it by writing about another crime in the same way that many people write and speak about rape.
Fraud: a serious crime with devastating effects for victims. Some fraud accusations are false ones, and when a false accusation of fraud is made, it can ruin the lives of the accused. They lose public trust, and as a result can sometimes lose their jobs and find it almost impossible to get hired anywhere. Very few fraud accusations are actually found to be false, but because false accusations of fraud are so harmful to the accused, we should assume all people who cry fraud are untrustworthy, and stand in solidarity behind the people being accused until it can be proven that they’re guilty.
Of course, investigating a fraud accusation thoroughly and without bias is a bit challenging when you start out thinking the accusation is false, as you’re much more likely to ignore evidence or make excuses in an attempt to eliminate the cognitive dissonance that results when evidence contradicts your previously held beliefs about the case, but it’s the price we have to pay for a fair legal system. Sure, the vast majority of fraud victims who have lost everything they have as a result of the crime committed against them, and who may never recover from the experience, are in a pretty tough spot. No one is saying fraud isn’t a horrible crime. But no one ever talks about the victims of false fraud accusations. It could ruin their reputation. They could lose their jobs. It’s truly devastating.
Look, it’s a “he said, she said” situation, so how can we even know that a depositor is telling the truth? Where’s the proof that their banker used their trusted position and control over the depositor’s financial assets to steal all the depositor’s money? If the depositor wanted to be believed, they should have kept all their banking paper work. And why are they just coming out with this accusation now? This fraud happened weeks ago. Why didn’t they come forward right away?
I mean, the depositor gave the banker their money. It’s not really like the banker took it from them without their consent. I think we all can agree that bankers will be bankers, and that this banker had a promising career ahead of them that has sadly been ruined. The depositor was pretty much asking for it, too, when they didn’t ensure enough security measures were put in place around their accounts. They shouldn’t have even been depositing money in that part of town in the first place. Most depositors actually want to lose all their money, but then feel embarrassed about it after so they accuse bankers of fraud to cover up their mistakes. It’s disgusting.
I might also add that not all bankers commit fraud. In fact, fraud can even be committed by people in other professions. So why are we targeting only bankers? It’s reverse-discrimination!
Does any of that sound legit? What if we treated murder accusations the same way? Theft? Arson? Physical assault? Blackmail?
The point of Laci’s video is: we don’t treat other crime accusations the same way we treat rape ones, even though false accusations of other crimes happen at a similar or higher frequency and are just as damaging, which is actually really weird if you think about it. And if you think we have to treat rape differently because it’s “hard to prove” or a “he said, she said” situation, and other crimes are not, then you really must live in a bubble. May your beautiful bubble world, in which all fraud cases can be easily traced and proven beyond a reasonable doubt and all rape cases with hard evidence are duly convicted on the strength of the proof brought forward, never be shattered by the harsh realities of life and the average legal system.
Listen, if we want to solve the problem of false rape accusations, being suspicious of accusers isn’t the way. We’ve been doing it for decades, and there are still false accusations that are still devastating to those they happen to, so it’s obviously not helping the falsely accused. There are also insanely low reporting rates, and of those that get reported, insanely high rates of withdrawals and low rates of trial and conviction, so it’s also preventing actual victims from obtaining justice. Not to mention the power it gives to criminals, who know that they can continue reoffending because their chances of being convicted are so low. Basically, this method of combatting the scourge of false accusations is hurting EVERYONE involved (except rapists) and helping NO ONE (except rapists). Why do we still do it?
We should be striving to better educate the public about legal processes, holding the media we consume to a higher standard of reporting, and putting more robust discrimination laws in place to protect people being unfairly treated following an acquittal, and we should be doing this while taking all accusations seriously* and giving them the thorough and unbiased investigation processes they deserve. But of course, those are logical steps that don’t involve slut-shaming female victims, demasculinizing male victims, and all-around dehumanizing any victims that don’t fit into that binary, so I guess they’re not as fun, right? No, they would involve actual work, and who wants to do that? I guess since it’s the kind of thing the extremist feminazis and their pathetic mob-ruling sheeple followers want, it’s not as edgy or free-thinking. I can see that your insistence on upholding the status quo is so much more radical. Please consider my mistaken belief, that taking rape victims seriously will lead to a fairer judicial process for all, to be duly corrected.
*It should be noted that a call to take accusations seriously is not synonymous with a call to believe all accusers without due process and thorough investigation, so stop acting like it is to create a false dichotomy that you can use to your own slut-shaming and rape-apologizing ends. The reason people like Laci use the word “believe” so often is because when people come forward with a rape accusation, the most common response is “I don’t believe you” or some variation thereof, and it needs to stop.
So this story has had quite a bit of attention lately. And it doesn’t matter where you’re talking about it, someone is going to jump in and defend the men in question, while demonizing Roy for her actions against them. This aspect of the story is perhaps the most troubling to me, because it discourages others from speaking up about discrimination they’re facing, and obstructs public discourse and education about discrimination, sexual objectification, and rape culture.
For those of you questioning Roy’s actions:
This isn’t just adults talking about sexual desire and preferences, or making crude but harmless jokes, and the fact that the conversation was intended to be private does not make it okay (I’ve read many comments on FB posts and news articles to this effect). This is a group of men talking about having violent sex with a specific woman, with whom they have a professional relationship, in a context in which she has no opinion, power, agency, or humanity. Do you understand how threatening it is to have people you work with talk about you in such a demeaning way?
She has to work with them every day, knowing that they don’t see her as an equal team member in their organization but as a sexual object to be used and controlled, knowing that they’ve been spreading and encouraging this opinion between each other and perhaps to others.
It’s hard to feel safe or respected with this kind of conversation going on. You start to wonder how much alcohol or peer pressure is needed to tip that over the edge, from violent conversation to violent action. You start to wonder, am I safe in a meeting with them? At a social event? Can I trust them if they drop into my office, and I’m there alone?
If this happened in your workplace, you would go to your boss (or equivalent) to find some way to remedy the situation and allow you to feel safe in your place of work, so she does the same and seeks action at their SU board level. She seeks support from the organization she works with, so that she can feel safe and respected in the organization. And what does she get? A cease and desist, and a tabled motion.
Basically, the original conversation removed a lot of power and agency from her as a person, and when she reaches out for support, she’s essentially told they said they were sorry and it was a private conversation anyways so she has to just shut up about it already, which keeps her in that powerless position. Unsatisfied with this lack of resolution or action, she makes the issue bigger, and searches elsewhere for support. Is this spiteful or hypocritical or wrong? I don’t think it is.
It doesn’t matter that they weren’t explicitly threatening her, or that they apologized. There are more ways to threaten, harass, and injure a person than by outright saying, “I’m going to rape you.” And how is saying sorry supposed to remedy the situation? How is that, in any way, an acceptable consequence for so thoroughly dehumanizing a colleague, particularly considering the fact that these people are public figures who work with Roy to represent others? Imagine this wasn’t a bunch of students to which you have no personal ties, but your city councilors talking this way about your mayor, or your MLAs talking this way about your Premier. Would you be so quick to defend them and condemn your Mayor and the media outlets reporting on the story? Or would you expect greater professionalism and accountability of the people elected to represent you?
As representatives, they should be taking greater responsibility for their actions than a private letter of apology. To be fair, one of them did pretty quickly. If the other four were sincere in their apology, they wouldn’t have threatened legal action against her, or sent a cease and desist order.
If their main issue is that their privacy was violated, they should be seeking legal action against the person who leaked the conversation, not against Roy. She didn’t unlawfully obtain the information herself, she just reacted to it when someone else sent it to her. I can totally support them seeking such legal action against the indivual(s) who actually invaded their privacy and unlawfully accessed a private conversation, but I cannot support them shirking responsibility for their actions by trying to silence Roy’s complaints through legal action.
This is what their actions tell me: The apology they sent her wasn’t about actually being remorseful, but about regaining control and power over the situation and, by extension, over Roy. They don’t actually see their conversation as being wrong, or damaging. They feel it was perfectly acceptable to talk that way about a colleague, just because it was a private conversation, and that by writing a letter of apology, they should be absolved from any further consequence or action taken to hold them accountable.
So how sincere was that original apology, anyways? Are they sorry they behaved as they did, or are they just sorry they got caught?
As of now, all four of the five who were elected representatives have resigned and dropped their legal threats, largely due to the strength of the public outcry against them. Their reaction to Roy’s complaints, and the way internet discourse has been largely dominated by those who feel Roy overreacted, shows how normalized sexual objectification and rape culture are. But I guess the public outcry that ultimately forced the resignation of these four representatives is a glimmer of hope that we can turn that discourse around in the future.