Tag Archives: Twitter

Language, and civil discourse

21 Jan

Civil Discourse

 

If you don’t use Twitter, you likely aren’t aware of the kerfuffle of the last few days over the use of the term “brokens.”

Really cool people spell it “broekens” or “broekns,” adding an inexplicable Afrikaans note.

In itself it’s not an exceptionally noteworthy kerfuffle, except that it does starkly demonstrate a current conservative attitude to those considered lacking in calibre, how they ought to be treated, and what should be done about them.

Briefly, exclusion is recommended as a method of dealing with Twitter “brokens.” This remedy will be familiar to everyone who has been following governmental human marginalisation projects since the LNP took office.

In the Twitter case the term brokens is used by one group to refer to another whose manner of engagement they consider to be detrimental to public discourse. It is explained here by commentator Mark Fletcher:

The term ‘Broken’ appears to have a few different accepted meanings. One interesting etymology is that it’s related to the phrase ‘Broken Records’. They are the people who endlessly repeat tiny fragments of argument, persistently and unceasingly. I tend to think of it in terms of Broken People: here are people who are fundamentally incapable of engaging with rational discourse… endlessly repeating tiny fragments of argument, persistently and unceasingly.

Fletcher has a point: there are people who attempt to engage in such a manner, and they’re usually referred to as “trolls.”

However, the term “Broken People” has far more levels of meaning than that of troll, a scary strange non-human who in fairy tales hides under a bridge, determined to prevent you from crossing. It’s disingenuous of Fletcher or anyone else to argue otherwise.

The term was interpreted by many people  as abusive, offensive, elitist and controlling, as well as labelling, and as stigmatising anyone with mental health issues.

Here is how Fletcher recommends we deal with Broken People:

Being able to label and exclude the Brokens is important as part of the creation of a quality public forum. We label and exclude trolls in the same way. Where trolls don’t want to contribute constructively to public discourse, Brokens are fundamentally incapable of doing so. We are not better off as a public by including these participants. What value is there in expending a large amount of effort trying to get the Brokens to a place where they can contribute constructively? It’s a better use of time to let them play on the fringes of debate rather than let them occupy the mainstream. 

What is striking is that Fletcher seems unaware of the wider implications of his remedy for silencing what he terms the “brokens.” This isn’t a term can that be stripped of its levels of meaning: there is no way it will be understood as referring solely to someone who mimics a broken record.

I decided to conduct a small experiment. I contacted Fletcher on Twitter and suggested that his attitude could be interpreted as advocating social eugenics. Did I really want to suggest that calling for a higher quality of public discourse was the same as the Holocaust, he replied.

I was astonished at the speed at which Fletcher’s argument collapsed into Godwin’s Law, as well as his apparent ignorance of the history of eugenics which predates Nazi Germany by some thousands of years. I responded along these lines and he immediately called me a “Broken.” All this took place in just four 140 character tweets, only two of them from me, so it’s hardly possible to accuse me of mimicking a broken record and justifying labelling me thus.

My experiment worked. I’d suspected all along that the term broken had little to do with broken records and everything to to do with contemptuous elitist abuse from those who claim to be primarily interested in establishing civil discourse by excluding those they claim are incapable of that level of engagement.

My message to Fletcher and his cohort is: if you desire civil discourse, first take note of your own use of language. If you aren’t capable of considering the connotations, subtle and otherwise, of the language you employ, you aren’t ready for civil discourse.

 

No, sir, you go fuck yourself

1 Nov

Rude space cloud

 

Unusually, I found myself in a Twitter brawl this morning that ended with the male involved telling me I was a moron, that I am everything that is wrong with feminism, a trans hater and an Abbott clone, and he wound it up by telling me to get fucked. He then engaged in this thing you can do on Twitter whereby you can continue to publicly abuse someone, but block them so they can’t respond.

A man telling me to get fucked feels like a sexual threat, and I was somewhat unsettled by his animosity: mostly I tell people to go fuck themselves, which doesn’t require the hostile bodily interference of another. Or fuck off, which actually has nothing to do with sex at all.

Also, given the current state of feminism I usually refrain from identifying myself with that ideology, so if I’m everything that’s wrong with it that can only be a good thing for me, so taa.

Then he told me I was no different from Clementine Ford and that really pissed me off when I got around to thinking about it.

The fight was about bloody Germaine Greer. I was in conversation with a trans woman called Aoifa, who hosts this excellent blog, and a trans woman called Miranda, who hosts this excellent blog. Aoifa had been expressing her disgust with her community for its lack of protest about death threats made against Greer, and Miranda was part of our convo. Suddenly, out of nowhere, this man appeared and told me I was no better than Tony Abbott, and that expecting trans women to protest other trans women threatening Greer with death was no different from Abbott saying Muslims should speak out about minority radicalisation. He is sick, he says, of the way rad fems treat trans women so he thought it would make everything better if he abused me.

He didn’t say anything to the trans women. Only me.

To express hope that communities will speak out when their members issue death threats, his argument apparently goes, is to imply that everyone in the community is in fact responsible for the actions of a minority.

I strongly disagree with this notion. Coming from the position that evil thrives when good people say nothing, I know that were I in the Catholic community I would never shut up about child sexual abuse by priests, not because I am in any way responsible for their ghastly actions, but because my silence on the subject would enable, and implicitly condone those actions.

Likewise, I am a member of a language group that constantly threatens war and genocide for its own gain and I vigorously criticise Western leaders who wage wars, without me taking personal responsibility for their warmongering.  Speaking out against injustice does not equate to me accepting responsibility for that injustice. However, keeping silent, in my opinion, might very well  contribute to my responsibility for injustice.

From this perspective, I can see nothing wrong with wondering why transgender people and their supporters have on the whole been silent about the death threats against Greer that have come from their ranks. If I would ask these questions of my community and every other community, why should I not ask them of the transgender community?

Because, the argument goes, the trans gender community is a persecuted minority and shouldn’t be expected to speak up against death threats. There’s no doubt an excessive amount of violence and hatred is directed towards trans women. There is also no doubt that an excessive amount of violence is directed towards biological women, with two of us dying each week at the hands of intimate partners or family members, and hundreds of us hospitalised every day as a consequence of domestic violence.

Women are a persecuted majority in a patriarchy, and while the reasons for persecuting trans women and biological women are no doubt different, and require separate analysis, the fact of violence against us and the repercussion of that violence are not conducive to hierarchical evaluation, in itself a patriarchal practice  Rather, we have in common a terrifying vulnerability to the violence of violent males.

Hoping for protest against the efforts to silence dissent through fear and death threats does not equate to transphobia. And debate ought not to equate to world war three. You people who tell others you want them to die, you’re going to kill them for expressing opinions that don’t make you feel good? There’s something terribly wrong with you, and I don’t care what community you belong to.

I’ve spoken at length about my own experiences of male physical violence, child sexual abuse, and sexual assault. I will with my whole heart support any woman, trans and biological, in her experiences, whether she talks about them or not. But I will fucking well not be abused and insulted by some fucking male dropkick who has decided he knows what feminism is and what being a woman, biological and trans, is like in this hierarchical patriarchy of which he is a most unedifying example. So, go fuck yourself sir, with an implement of your choice, because I would not wish rape even on you.

 

 

 

Why I don’t have to be offended by the same things as somebody else

29 Jun

 

offending people

 

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) is the 2013 update to the American Psychiatric Association’s (APA) classification and diagnostic tool. In the United States the DSM serves as a universal authority for psychiatric diagnosis.

A friend of mine sent me a public tweet listing the DSM 5 criteria for one of the borderline personality disorders, with the wry observation that Tony Abbott’s public behaviours seemed to fulfil them all.

I thought this was pretty good on several levels, the most imaginative being that I know both my friend and I regard the DSM 5 as a frightful load of bollocks, and using its criteria to categorize Abbott, whom we also think of as a frightful load of bollocks, made a satisfying little irony.

However. Within hours we were set upon by two blokes who stridently accused us of using mental illness as a political tool against an opponent, and in so doing, being unbelievably disregarding of other people’s pain. One of them was a psych student. The other said we had no right diagnosing Abbott when we hadn’t ever treated him. Which is true, of course, except that my friend wasn’t diagnosing Abbott, she was pointing out the self-evident truth that the DSM 5 criteria bore a striking resemblance to Abbott’s way of being in the world, a way of being we can all daily, even sadly hourly, observe.

I am very sorry that I have never treated Abbott. I would give my right arm to treat Abbott, and to what, I will not, at this point, say.

I should say here that both my friend and I have our battles with mental ill-health, and we both feel comfortable with finding certain characteristics in the DSM 5 that seem to scream at us: Abbott. I do not feel using such criteria to describe Abbott is a personal insult to my mental health or lack thereof. That everyone will not share my view is inevitable, as I pointed out to the angry blokes, and I see no reason why they should. However, I insisted, I do have the right to express a differing opinion without incurring abuse, as do they.

What I understood afresh after the increasingly abusive exchanges we were treated to on Twitter, is that there is apparently an expectation that everyone with, say, a mental illness, will feel the same as everyone else with a mental illness, react to stimuli in the same manner, be offended by the same things, and that if you don’t you either aren’t really suffering mental illness, or you are a traitor who cares nothing for the suffering of others. In this mindset, there appears to be little distinction between mental illnesses: they’re all the same, apparently.

This, to my mind, is offensive. The assumption that there is a stereotypical mentally ill person offends me profoundly.

It doesn’t matter to which situation this totalitarian perspective is applied. I’ve heard it used about survivors of child sexual abuse, and  survivors of all kinds of trauma. If this has happened to you, you will think, feel, and behave in these ways. At its source, it is a typical right-wing nut job argument, and Tony Abbott employs it better than anyone: if you don’t think like we do you aren’t one of us, ergo you are bad because we are good.

The totalitarian mind cannot bear variation: what offends it must offend everyone.

Defending against the mindless stupidity of this argument is what got me embroiled in the Twitter fight in the first place: one cannot, in this zeitgeist, pass up any opportunity to take on these hive minds who believe that if you do not think as they do, you are a very bad person in urgent need of re-education. These minds turn up in the most unexpected of places: they are as common amongst the so-called Left as they are amongst the Right. They are why the victorious revolutionaries always become the bourgeoisie.

While there are definitely characteristics common to certain human experiences, reactions to those experiences are as individual as the human beings involved in them. Even within the individual reactions to trauma will change over time, and what brings us to our knees initially will, hopefully, lose much of its force and its ability to hurt.

Everyone has, to my mind, the inviolable right to deal with their mental illness, or trauma, or physical illness in ways that best suit them, within the parameters of everyone’s safety. So I sat in a cafe with my friend who’d just lost a testicle to cancer and we told one another cancer jokes someone else might very well find extremely offensive: does this mean we can’t tell them, even though for us, black humour is a central part of how we cope with our circumstances?

I understand you are offended by my friend’s tweet, I told one of the angry blokes. I am not offended. I do not have to be offended to please you. Are you intending to attempt to bully me into pretending offence, because I will not do that. I have the right to not feel offended. I have the right to be true to what I feel, and I do not feel offence.  Would you like to shoot me, because this is where the continuum you are on eventually leads.

We have a terrifyingly secretive government, and a useless opposition. We are, as citizens, being controlled and silenced to a degree many of us have never before experienced. Our freedoms are being eroded, bit by little bit. There is no freedom without the freedom to offend. There is no freedom without the freedom to decide what is offensive to you, and what is not.  I can imagine a future in which if we are not overtly expressing offence at circumstances the government decrees we must find offensive, we could well find ourselves in all kinds of trouble.

There is no I in team, yet without I, the team is nothing more than a herd.

 

 

The Convoy of Cleavage. In which the breast strikes back.

17 Jun

After a week of astounding personal attacks on Prime Minister Julia Gillard, some of us Twitter women have decided we’re done with this shit, and we’re not taking it anymore.

The last straw (at least up to this morning) came yesterday, when AFR columnist and industrial relations consultant Grace Collier complained on ABC Radio National’s Sunday Extra that Ms Gillard had, offensively, according to Collier, revealed cleavage in the House of Representatives.

The PM had displayed too much flesh, Ms Collier declared, and in her professional opinion cleavage is inappropriate in the work place.

Bind your breasts, sisters, lest they cause any man or woman to be distracted from their tasks by that enemy of capitalism, desire.

It seems to me that if we are to stamp out this irrational horror of the female breast, (see DSM-V: Horror of and Repulsion Towards the Female Breast, A Disorder in Both Genders) we have little choice but to use immersion therapy, in which we expose Ms Collier and fellow sufferers to images of that which they so fear, in the informed hope that they may become desensitised, and return to their normal, hinged lives.

With this in mind I tweeted that obviously we must all post images of our cleavage on Twitter. This suggestion was enthusiastically received by one @MsBaileyWoof, herself a deceptively ditzy blonde with attitude who likes to sleep on picnic tables. In an astonishingly short time Ms Bailey Woof created the hash tag #convoyofcleavage which in turn was taken up by racy Twitter women who believe it’s time everyone accepted that women have breasts and got over it, to the best of their ability.

As MPs return to Canberra today, we hope women all over Australia will join us in our Convoy of Cleavage by posting images of yours, remembering of course to use the hash tag. The Convoy will be led by myself and women who have pledged to join me. (Don’t leave me hanging out there on my own, sisters. You won’t, will you?)

They didn’t!

Update: As I have now unveiled my breasts on Twitter, it seems cowardly not to do the same here. In solidarity with Ms Gillard, this is No Place for Sheep’s contribution to #ConvoyofCleavage

DSCN1988

But wait! There’s more! Understandably there will be women who do not feel comfortable making intimate images public. However, it appears that almost every one of Ms Gillard’s physical characteristics have been fair game for the loons. Please feel free to tweet images of your fingernails,your ear lobes, your hair, your glasses, your jackets, or, if you feel like it, your arse. Do use the same hash tag, in the interests of order.

Yes, this exercise is entirely frivolous and will achieve nothing. Yes, I expect we will be gored by Helen Razer (after Baudrillard) for our mindless capitulation to empty symbolism. Though as that lady recently posted an image of her own cleavage, struggling to escape an appallingly tasteless pink brassiere as she held aloft the dripping carcass of a Peking duck, maybe not.

For any of you who are uncertain about cleavage etiquette, here’s an excerpt from Seinfeld, in which Jerry instructs George on how to behave when two breasts loom.

Enjoy your day.

This does not feature female nipples, or, go ahead, suck my toes…

21 Mar

I know momentous non-events have occurred in our country in the last 24 hours that I probably ought to be writing about but I’m not because I need some frivolity, and this tweet from Damon Young this morning re-ignited my furies and I can’t rest until I DEAL WITH HIM:

Runner up for most popular post: ‘A tale of two trips’ (featuring male nipples): http://goo.gl/ZvByk 

As you may recall, ’twas the blatantly hard-nippled philosopher who inspired the post Breasts Nipples Breasts etc, in which I rail aginst the inequality that allows men to confidently post images of themselves naked from the waist up on the interwebs, when women can’t expect to do the same without CONSEQUENCES.

So when Damon’s tweet entered my feed this morning I took it as a  “haha look what I can do that you can’t” moment.

I might also add that Damon and his friends have sent me more naked from the waist up pictures on Twitter recently, taunting me with their privilege when I was unable to adequately respond because I was in Canberra and thinking about something else.

Imagine if I tweeted this post with the teaser: featuring female nipples. I mean I just wouldn’t would I, unless this was a porn site, which it may very well become before I’ve finished. 

As I swam my laps after reading this latest tweet, I smouldered afresh over the ignominy of this blatant discrimination. The pool was almost empty except for a bloke frolicking in the shallows, bare-chested of course. I find that water over bare skin, especially bare breasts, can give one a remarkably strong erotic charge, and he was likely having it. But was I ? No of course I wasn’t. My upper erogenous zones had to be covered in blue Speedos, because otherwise I’d be featuring female nipples and not thinking of the children.

If you know what it’s like to take your flippers off after half an hour or so, and let your feet feel the water and the water feel your feet, you can imagine what it’s like to roll down your cossies and let your breasts do the same. It’s very nice, and I don’t see why Damon Young can enjoy it when I can’t.

Actually, it’s probably even nicer for breasts than it is for feet, depending on your interests, of course. Nobody has ever sucked my toes, so my feet are a sexually innocent zone. Indeed, my virginal toes are my precious gift to a lover, rather like Tony Abbott says my hymen should have been.

I admit that any attempts to arouse me by stroking my feet have always ended in me screaming and running out of the room, a mood spoiler is ever there was one, but sucking my toes,well, I’m game, just don’t expect me to necessarily return the favour.

Anyways, I was discussing all this with a bestie, and she offered up a whole other perspective on this showing our tits thing, one that I haven’t previously much considered. It is, she claims, highly erotic to only share such intimacies with your lover. It’s thrilling, she swears, to show your breasts only to the one with whom you have chosen to make love. If you put them on the interwebs for everyone to see, this thrill is gone.

Well, I know about the thrill of sharing my breasts with a lover, but I hadn’t thought about how that might be adversely affected by showing them to everybody. I owe my bestie. Just think, I could have totally stuffed up my sexual life for the sake of equality.

The thrill renews itself with every new partner, she assures me, rather like Aphrodite emerging from the waves a virgin every time she has a swim.As, of course, did I when I left the pool this morning.

This is an excellent example of a gift that keeps on giving. Abbott doesn’t get this. He thinks after the first time you give it, it’s all down hill.

I get my bestie’s point of view. And for a while I felt torn. I should be able to show my breasts anywhere I want, like men can. At the same time, I really don’t want to risk losing the thrill.

I need to understand what causes us to feel this way. Desire is constructed, and so is its performance. Judith Butler will help me with this, and I might have to go back to reading Foucault at bedtime, History of Sexuality: The uses of pleasure, or, when sleeping alone, The Care of the Self.

So, you bare-chested, hard-nippled blokes, knock yourselves out. I don’t care.  I’m saving myself for better thrills. You can’t do that. “Nah nah nah nah nah.” Pink: So What? I’m Still a Rock Star

GO AHEAD, SUCK MY TOES

suck my virgin toes

 

BREASTS. NIPPLES. BREASTS. NIPPLES. BREASTS BREASTS NIPPLES BREASTS.

21 Feb

Some weeks ago my fellow tweep, writer and philosopher Dr Damon Young, posted this cheerful image of himself naked from the waist up on Twitter, and on his website.

Damon Young

It was around the time many of us were becoming highly exercised at David Koch’s unfortunate take on public breastfeeding. Breasts were a thing, or even more of a thing than usual because if it’s a thing you’re seeking, you can’t go past breasts.

This coincidence of Damon and David stirred my outrage, albeit for very different reasons. I’ve addressed my Koch angst here.

If Damon can plonk images of his torso all over the interwebs, I railed, without fear of any consequences other than some good-natured joshing, why can’t I? Because no matter how much anybody tells me I can, I don’t think it is actually so.

Damon’s image is unadorned, taken, I imagine, as he paused in his progress from bedroom to bathroom, his mind occupied, I later discovered, with his BMI. There’s nothing vain or self-conscious about the photo: he’s a bloke in his shorts wondering if he needs to take better care of his physical vehicle.

And here we careen into the first thing a woman can’t do that a man is allowed. If I were to post an image of myself in exactly the same state of ordinary (as opposed to contrived) deshabillé, clearly preoccupied (and not with showing myself off) I would likely bring torrents of nastiness down on my head. Why? How long have you got?

Most obviously, because I’d be transgressing the cultural expectation that when a woman shows her breasts she’s got to be sexy about it. We learned that from the Koch situation, with this male commenter making no bones about it. A woman shouldn’t just let her tits hang out, especially at the dinner table, if not for erotic purposes. That is, our tits are only for display when they are being usefully employed in sexually titillating somebody. Standing in your hallway, in your knickers, concentrating on something other than how desirable you have contrived to look in that moment, is likely to be regarded as disgusting. How can she let herself be seen like that?

Nobody says that about Damon, I’m willing to bet.

For a couple of weeks I yearned to post an image of my naked torso on Twitter and this blog, because why shouldn’t I? I was, though, both infuriated and appalled by the powerful ambivalence I felt at the prospect of thus exposing myself to the public gaze. I bet Damon didn’t go through this either, I fumed. I bet he blithely stuck up his picture and thought no more about it. I don’t begrudge him or any man that freedom: I want it for myself. I want to feel as safe as a man does about just being in my body, as it is, but when it comes to publicly revealing myself, I don’t.

I then had a Twitter exchange with Helen Razer in which we contemplated our breasts, confiding to one another and thousands of other tweeps, that we both believe them to be our best feature. Neither of us posted twit pics, however, as people do with their favourite kittehs and puppehs. We also discussed our skin, our feet and our arses, but no other body part, for me at least, has the same frisson. I’m a breast woman. The word alone stirs complex and mysterious emotion in me, all of it good. It’s not until breasts collide with society that they become problematic. Left alone, stripped of imposed culture, they are, quite frankly, gorgeous.

It’s my considered belief that Western culture is alarmingly dysfunctional when it comes to breasts. Author Sarah Darmody explores this normalised peculiarity in this readable piece, titled “Why are we so embarrassed about breasts?” Having lived in the UAE, Darmody is asked what she thinks about life in a society where women are forced to cover up. “What, you mean Australia?” she retorts.

Breasts are fetishised to a degree that is maddeningly unfair. The rules about which breasts may be displayed and how are so deeply ingrained in our collective psyche that to consider transgressing them fills a woman like me with something close to terror. For example, I will not usually go out of my house on a cool day without a bra or layers, in case my nipples expose themselves, hardened, as if with desire, through my t-shirt. This is falsely described as modesty, a commendable quality in a woman, I’m told. It feels like enslavement. It feels like repression. It feels like a shocking waste of my energy.

At the same time I don’t want to send the message of sexual availability hardened nipples signify, because that is a false message and I don’t need to deal with the repercussions. A woman’s day is full of such decisions, made largely unthinkingly, in robotic obedience to received wisdom we absorbed with our infant formula or mother’s milk. There are brave women who make it their business to thwart the ingrained conventions. It’s my goal to one day join them.

Damon’s self-exposure will do nothing to detract from his reputation as an erudite, intelligent philosopher, author and commentator. On the contrary, the image reveals another side to the scholar, one that is endearingly human. Were I, a female scholar, to publish exactly the same image of myself, I suspect I would incur all kinds of lewd and derogatory commentary, and I wouldn’t endear myself to anybody. Especially not my family who would be appalled, and likely wouldn’t find it possible speak to me for some time without averting their eyes.

If a female scholar, or any female exposes her breasts on the Internet, will that become the first thing anyone remembers about her? I suspect the answer is yes.

I’m very fond of my breasts. They’ve served me well, they’ve given pleasure to me and to my lovers, they’ve kept my babies alive and thriving, they continue to please the eye. They aren’t twenty anymore, but I’m told they still have a bit of phwoar factor. Be that as it may, the kind of exposure I’m talking about doesn’t require phwoar: I wasn’t planning a page three spread. I just wanted to do what Damon did.

Well, as you know, I didn’t. I feel like an abject coward. I still can’t even think about doing what Damon did without hot horrible squirmy feelings. If I did what Damon did I fear I would be doubly condemned, on the one hand for revealing my breasts at all, and on the other for revealing them in a non-sexy way, and with complete lack of concern for how they and I look.

It’s taken me weeks to even write this piece, not least because I understand that in the personal and universal hierarchy of women’s needs, the fact that I don’t feel free to do what Damon did isn’t in the top layer. Nevertheless, it does speak to the more urgent problem of how women are gazed upon, and how that gaze affects our way of being in the world.

Neither do I want to extrapolate my personal squeamishness to “women,” but there is no denying you hardly ever come across similar representations of a casually comfortable topless woman leaning in her doorway in her knickers.

Whining is unattractive, I know. But I don’t care. I want what he’s got. I want it really, really badly.

With thanks to Damon Young, whose latest highly acclaimed book is:philosophy in the garden - cover200x312

Entitlement, bullying, and private faith

21 Jan

Since I received defamation threats from Melinda Tankard Reist’s lawyers, I’ve had occasion to consider just what a defamation threat is actually intended to achieve.

If I had done what was demanded of me, that is apologised, retracted, signed and published a letter drafted by the lawyers, and then paid all Tankard Reist’s legal costs, I would now be free of fear. This is the deal. Do what we say and you won’t have to worry about massive legal costs that will break you. Don’t do what we say and you risk ruin.

This is what a defamation threat does. It is weighed in favour of the plaintiff. It does not require a fair hearing in a court of law for it to be effective. It works entirely on fear. It is bullying. There’s no other way to describe it. It’s a bullying scam. The plaintiff counts on you collapsing and doing what she’s demanded, for fear of what will happen to you if you don’t.

You pay all the costs of her instigating this bullying action against yourself. The plaintiff will get exactly what she wants, which is you silenced, and it won’t cost her a cent.

Neither Tankard Reist nor her lawyers counted on their intended victim announcing she’d received defamation threats on Twitter. That wasn’t the way it was supposed to play out. Bullying only works when there’s secrecy. Take it out into the open, shine the light of day on it, and it’s useless as an intimidatory tactic.

Tankard Reist is reportedly horrified at the swell of reaction against her, some of which has been quite foul. I have also received some disgusting tweets from people claiming to be her supporters. I know how to use the block button. I know Melinda does as well. It works. If you don’t want to see them, Melinda, get someone else to monitor Twitter for you. And take responsibility for having created this situation all by yourself.

In her article in the SMH today, Julia Baird says in her last paragraph that it would be a pity if Tankard Reist’s faith was used to try to discredit her.

I’ve never used the ad hominem argument that MTR’s views should be dismissed because she’s a Christian. My argument is that as a public figure, seeking to influence public policy on female sexuality and its representation, and on abortion to which she is unequivocally opposed, she needs to be upfront about her religious allegiances. Women have the right to know if someone who is working to prevent access to abortion is doing so from concern for women, or is fueled by her belief system.

We need to have from MTR evidence -based arguments against abortion, and many other issues she argues on emotive and anecodotal grounds. Because if this evidence isn’t available, her conclusions are subjective. This is not good enough.

No one should be attacking Tankard Reist because of her faith. She should be rigorously questioned on her evidence for her claims and if she has none, then she should be asked to explain on what they are based. This is the price paid for advocating a public morality. I don’t care what she tells her children to do. But once she’s prescribing for women, thats another story.

Baird also asks the question when must a private faith become public? I would say certainly when the believer is in a position to effect public policy making on issues of morality. The churches have considerable power, consider for example their exemption from anti discrimination legislation in the matter of employing gays and lesbians. Any other employer who refused to hire on the grounds of sexual orientation would be liable for prosecution. Not so the churches. Why? Because of their beliefs.

So are we required on the one hand to adjust our laws to accommodate the Christian faith, while simultaneously granting the believers who influence those laws the right to conceal that faith from the public gaze?

Are any Christians entitled to wield such influence, and to demand protection from all scrutiny as well?

I don’t understand this notion of privacy around religion. It seems to me many religious followers, perhaps not all Christians but certainly some, believe that living their faith in the light of day is one of the things their God requires of them. Christian politicians for example, usually seem reasonably up front about where they are coming from. What reasons would a Christian have for demanding privacy for their faith in Australia? They aren’t facing any kind of discrimination or persecution, indeed it is their churches that are enacting discrimination.

This:

Matthew 5:14-16  “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

And this:

Matthew 28:18-20
(18)  And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.  (19)  Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:  (20)  Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

While it seems that faith is regarded as personal in many Christian teachings, it is not regarded as private, and these are two entirely separate things.

Tankard Reist has publicly said that she tries to live her life doing what Jesus wants. Where does Jesus require his followers to be private about their belief in him?

I don’t know how long Tankard Reist and her lawyers can keep their threats hanging over my head. I have no control over this. In the meantime thank you to everyone who is helping me with their concern, interest, signing of the petition, tweets, DMs, blog comments, phone calls, and even dinners and wine. I count myself lucky. Very, very lucky. And I thank you.

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