Yay for Glitterbombing Dan Savage?

Dan Savage got glitterbombed for being transphobic: it’s all over (my) Facebook. For the most part, I think that’s great. He’s said a lot of transphobic things, and to my knowledge, he’s never truly apologized or shown that he realizes why they was problematic and hurtful. I know: I called him on it when he spoke at Bryn Mawr my senior year, and he basically side-stepped the question.

On the other hand, I feel a bit weird saying “yay” to any kind of bombing, even one as harmless as a shower of glitter. Maybe that it’s just me being ridiculous, but it makes me uncomfortable. It feels like using the word in this kind of context trivializes it, which is a problem given how devastatingly serious bombs are in other situations.

My other reaction, honestly, was that it’s unfair to whoever needs to clean it up. If you didn’t know, glitter makes a mess. It gets everywhere, and it’s difficult to clean up properly. There are still little bits of glitter shining out from wherever they’re hiding, even after you’ve spent a bunch of time sweeping and vacuuming. If the person throwing the glitter is going to clean up, fine. But if a cleaning person is going to be stuck with the mess, that’s just not fair. Sequins might be a better choice — similarly sparkly and easier to tidy up.

On a more serious note, some people argue that divisiveness within the LGBT community gets us nowhere. While it’s true that we shouldn’t get distracted for petty reasons, there also needs to be a way to keep people accountable. People like Dan Savage (a white, cis, able-bodied, gay man with a certain amount of class privilege) won’t do much good for the community if they leave the rest of us behind.

If we excuse Dan Savage’s transphobic, racist, misogynist, and rape-apologist statements just because he’s been visible and vocal regarding mainstream gay rights issues (and, to some extent, queer and sex-positive issues) — and started the “It Gets Better” project — we send a message that that kind of language is acceptable. We privilege certain groups of people over others.

Making people like Dan Savage beyond reproach actually weakens the LGBT / queer / trans community and movement (pretending for a moment that there is one). We’ll never get where we want to go if we settle for good enough — we won’t ever reach a point when people are free to be who and how they are and want to be, without fear of violence or discrimination, if we settle for just aiming to get a certain segment of people accepted into a more narrow-minded society.

I’m not saying that we should disregard everything Dan Savage has ever done. But we should think critically about what he says, educating and holding him accountable when he is problematic, as we should with all leaders. We should want to change our society, not ourselves to fit society, and that change starts with our own communities. How will we achieve anything real and lasting if we can’t even hold ourselves accountable, if we aren’t willing to learn and change when we’re wrong?

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7 responses to “Yay for Glitterbombing Dan Savage?

  1. I wasn’t aware that Dan Savage had engaged in racist commentary, although I do personally find that some of his positions on things are not in line with my thinking, race isnt something I remember him making problematic comments about. I’m not saying you are wrong-I’m just interested in seeing what he did say that is racist, because to be frank I may have missed it. Additionally, and again, I am curious, because I read his column but didnt know this about him, what kind of statements of his are you refering to when you call him rape-apologist? I do agree that he is from a relatively privileged university educated white male American background, it is only his sexual orientation that “marks him” as being “other”, and his values and opinions do reflect his position in society. I appreciate that in his column he does sometimes give space to other expert voices, but I dont always agree with his.

  2. You should read this:

    http://slog.thestranger.com/slog/archives/2011/11/15/on-glitter-transphobia-and-hate-speech

    I know that as a cis person (both myself and Dan Savage) it is hard to argue with what is offensive to a trans person, but I also hope that as a trans person you and others who share your views can learn to be patient with the cis community and learn to listen to the intent of the words rather than the words themselves. Dan Savage means no harm to the trans community. He is willing to learn and to change as he has done over the past few decades. As he says, “If I’m the enemy of trans people everywhere, trans people everywhere could use more enemies like me.”

    On a completely separate note, Dan Savage is NOT misogynistic. period. Tell me something he said that you found misogynistic and I will tell you why no woman should be offended by it. Seriously. If Dan Savage is an enemy to women, we could use more enemies like him.

    • There is a whole lot in your comment to deal with, and I will address it when I have the time and energy (i.e. not now). Regarding Dan Savage’s trans-related comments (and frankly, I think the intent behind them is actually more damaging than the specific words), I would like to direct you to a post a friend just wrote for “In Our Words”: http://inourwordsblog.com/2011/11/17/why-dan-savage-deserved-to-get-glitterbombed-twice/.

      Secondly, who are you to decide, for all women, whether something is offensive? Beyond that, there is completely possible for someone to say something (or many things) that is/are misogynistic without being “an enemy to women.” You are the one calling him an enemy to women, not me.

      Dan Savage tends toward creating false dichotomies – like the idea that either he’s either “rabidly pro-trans” or “the enemy of trans people everywhere,” no middle ground. As far as I’m concerned, he’s clearly not “rabidly pro-trans.” However, neither do I think that he is “the enemy of trans people everywhere.” A fair amount of what he says/writes is problematic. He tends to just excuse himself and not actually delve into learning why what he says is problematic and trying to change his worldview accordingly.

    • Oops. You and your fiance . . . . apparently, I have issues recognizing when I know the people who are commenting on my posts. Sorry about that. 🙂

      Realizing that you are, in fact, a friend (and one whose opinion I respect) and not just some random person, I would like to respond to your comment once again. I stand by what I said, though, in that I think you go too far by saying that “Dan Savage is NOT misogynistic. period.” Nothing he has ever said or written has ever been even remotely misogynistic? Really?

      I’m not saying that I think Dan Savage hates women or that he means to be misogynistic. For that matter, I don’t think he *means* to be transphobic, either (probably). That said, intent is not magical. Just because he doesn’t intend something to be transphobic / biphobic / misogynistic / fatphobic / etc. doesn’t mean that it won’t be.

      Honestly, personally, reading just about anything Dan Savage has written is really stress-inducing for me. There’s something about his attitude that just seems gross to me — something about that casually insulting, often offensive, “edgy”-to-get-people-to-read-it way he writes gets me stressed and puts me in a bad mood. He’s just so dismissive. (Also, as he’s shown several times, If he thinks a woman is being unreasonable, he’s okay with a boyfriend lying to her.)

      Again, I don’t think he’s a horrible person. However, that doesn’t mean that he gets a free pass to say whatever he wants without being called out on it if it’s problematic. And he’s not the person who gets to decide whether something is problematic, no matter what he thinks. It also frustrates me that he’s seen as such a great LGBT activist/leader/role model for the community. He’s not the kind of person — he doesn’t have the kind of politics — that I would want for a leader.

      Off the top of my head (by which I mean Google search), a few examples of Savage’s writings that just don’t sit right with me:

      http://www.thestranger.com/seattle/SavageLove?oid=9990
      http://www.thestranger.com/seattle/SavageLove?oid=15715
      http://www.womanist-musings.com/2011/06/dan-savage-post-pregnancy-weight-does.html
      http://www.nerve.com/advice/savage-love/savage-love-an-all-threesome-spectacular
      http://www.womanist-musings.com/2010/11/dan-savage-attacks-rape-survivor-while.html

      • I agree that Dan should be critiqued just like everybody else
        but in my opinion just because he says the wrong thing sometimes doesn’t mean he has sweeping transphobia or misogynistic views. I hope that when we see each other in person tomorrow (yay!) that we can either discuss this further or put this behind us and have a great opportunity to catch up.

        • Whether we discuss Dan Savage or just agree to disagree, this weekend will be a great opportunity to catch up, and I’m really excited to see you.

          But to respond to the Dan Savage part of your comment, I never said that he “has sweeping transphobia or misogynistic views.” I’ve said that what he says/writes is sometimes transphobic / racist / sexist / biphobic / fatphobic / etc. And that goes beyond just “saying the wrong thing sometimes.” Once again, one can say something transphobic without being a transphobe (similar to the rest of the -isms and -phobias). I think in a lot of cases (to be charitable), it may be more that Savage is simply part of a t/r/s/b/f/etc (to save on typing) culture, and so he says things that he doesn’t realize are hurtful.

          The bigger problems are that A) when he’s called on it, he tends to dismiss it (either by saying that he didn’t mean it that way, or that he’s done good stuff in the past, or by turning it into an attack on the people who called him out on it) or to claim that he’s learned (without showing that he understands the overarching oppressive structures that that kind of language is part of, which means that he hasn’t actually learned why it’s problematic and instead has simply learned not to say specific things – in a P.C. kind of way); and B) people assume that because he’s Dan Savage, presumably this wonderful LGBT activist, everything he says is okay, excusable, and representative of the larger community. And those are issues.

          Anyway, I will see you in about 24 hours (!!!!), and then we can either see if our points can be made more easily in discussion and not blog comments, or we can just ignore it for more important topics like Dar and catching up on each other’s lives (because you have big news!).

  3. P.S. Shortly after writing the post, I reassessed the concept of glitterbombing and realized that I’m not in support of the glitterbombing itself (given that it involves glittering a person nonconsentually); I am, however, still in favor of attention being paid to critical analysis of Dan Savage.

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