On this post about adoption that’s making the rounds, I initially put out a disclaimer that’s ineffective and ill-informed. I said that this space was going to privilege birth parents and adoptees over adoptive parents. Turned out, that’s not what I meant. I put that disclaimer out there because in the adult adoptee blog sites I’ve frequented, thread derailments seem to be most often started by adoptive parents who are terrified at having their choices, motivations, and privilege questioned. That’s what I was attempting to pre-empt with my disclaimer, but I soon realized I didn’t draw the net wide enough. It speaks to my own privilege that I did not realize quite how many people take a screed about an industry as a personal attack, and how many people have an invested interest in keeping the narrative of adoption mostly positive.
I don’t mean to make it sound like those are unreasonable, wacky feelings to have. I do think they’re privileged feelings to have. I know this is something I’ve done with other topics. Somebody says something about white allies being a fucked-up mess, and I’m all, “Hey! I’m not a fucked-up mess!” And thus I have proven the point, because one of the reasons white allies are fucked-up messes is because they cannot abide having a conversation not center around them and their feelings. If I take something personally, that means I need to do a personal inventory, and I need to do so on my own dime. Taking up the space and attention of marginalized people and areas isn’t a personal inventory; it’s a public ego salve. But when my privilege gets triggered and I’m not being gracious, I will get in the center of a conversation among marginalized people, about marginalized points of view, and demand that everybody start talking about how I, a person in the mainstream, feel instead. Because how I feel is obviously much more important and needs to be dealt with RIGHT NOW; all that racism shit can wait until I feel better.
I also understand the desire to keep adoption a positive narrative. There are so many kids in the world who need homes, and putting some of the uglier sides of adoption out there diminishes their chances of finding any home. Of course, I don’t believe in any home for children — I believe in the right home, the permanent home, and I don’t think that home can be found if the pill is sugared so much it’s not a pill anymore. So, it’s a perspective I understand, but now that I’m not a member of the adoption industry anymore, it’s not a game I’m willing to play. There are plenty of other people — too many, I think — who are willing to do that. This space isn’t.
When I put up that post, I immediately started getting responses from people with positive adoption experiences. I don’t want to discount those experiences. They are real and valid and good. But I didn’t verbalize well enough what was bothering me about those experiences ending up in my comment threads, and I didn’t prepare myself to verbalize because I am privileged enough that this is new to me. When I talk about adoption in my real life, it’s usually with other people in the adoption industry. And if I say to them, “Adoption is painful and a fucked-up industry,” they don’t disagree. They’ve been in the business too long to disagree. Even though they have most certainly seen some WONDERFUL stories, they don’t disagree. I don’t talk about adoption much with my personal friends, because I tend not to talk about my job much to personal friends, and I don’t talk about adoption in the general public because I don’t go to dinner parties and shit. So, that’s my privilege. I have not taken my perspective of adoption out into the wider world enough to realize just how many reactions I’m going to get, and from whom.
So, I was taken aback by the positive reactions, unable to put my finger on what was bothering me about them, and didn’t lay down clear enough boundaries about what kind of conversations I was willing to have in my space. I’ve been thinking about this more, and am able to do this now.
See, here’s the thing. This site mostly talks about feminism. And it’s especially known for talking about rape. On my posts about rape, I don’t put in disclaimers. It’s never crossed my mind that I need to inform the general public that they shouldn’t bust in here saying things like, “Well, I’ve never known somebody who’s been raped, so obviously this is an exaggeration,” or “Well, I was raped and I got over it, so you’re obviously just bitter,” or, “Well, yeah, that’s horrible, but we’ve really made some great strides, haven’t we? I mean, raping your wife is illegal now kind of! I think you need to talk about the good things more,” or “This is all about women! Don’t you know men get raped, too?” I know that people will bust in here trying to say that shit, but I ban them or delete them on sight and chalk them up to trolls. I don’t spend time thinking about the inner psychology of trolls, or whether I’m hurting their feelings or discounting their experiences. I am, probably, but they’re not my priority, and this would be a failure of a feminist site if they were my priority. People who think rape isn’t a big deal or we should talk about something else or CAN’T YOU STOP BEING ANGRY already get plenty of airtime — they don’t need more here. My priority is the people who need a safe space to talk about how damaging and fucked-up rape is. I’m not catering to anybody else, and I’ve never felt any shame over that, despite how many trolls have tried to make me feel shame by screeching about free speech and limited perspective and your tone is too angry and oh my god she’s using swears.
So, I was all set to make a thorough disclaimer on that adoption post, but then I thought about the rest of this site. I don’t make disclaimers anywhere else. I’m not willing to, and I’ve never felt it’s necessary. If somebody doesn’t get that rape is bad and needs to be discussed, they don’t belong here, and I don’t want them here.
When I posted my screed about rape jokes, how insensitive they are, and how much it makes you an asshole to make them, suddenly I was bombarded with people apoplectic that I was saying rape can never be funny. Never once did I say that. I was trolled incessantly (and still am, it just doesn’t get through the pipeline) about how yeah, okay, maybe I have a point, but that doesn’t mean I get to tell people what they can and can’t say, or can and can’t think is funny, I mean, what are you, the funny police, and by the way George Carlin made a joke once so NOW I DON’T NEED CRITICAL THINKING SKILLS. And never once did I say that. When that post travels elsewhere on the internet, it’s described as a post by a feminist without a sense of humor who thinks rape victims don’t get to make jokes about rape. I, in fact, said the exact opposite of that, multiple times.
In my follow-up to the rape joke post, I noted all these complete fabrications, and talked about just how intense social conditioning is, that it can make a person hallucinate words that did not ever once exist. That’s what “rape culture” is. That’s what a public narrative is. The public narrative is that a feminist saying “That’s not funny” is oversensitive, trying to censor everybody, and setting down absolute LAWS about what can and cannot be said. Even though none of that happened in that post, people hear “feminist” “rape joke” and “you’re an asshole” and concocted a new post out of whole cloth that offered up a much more comfortable strawlady to knock about. Because I didn’t sit down and have a long, patient, loving conversation with every person that came about saying, “But I sometimes think rape jokes are funny, and I’m not bad!” I was suddenly somebody who was only interested in one viewpoint, and obviously that makes me badstupidwrong, like it’s Godwin’s law or something.
I feel like that’s happening here. I have never once said good experiences of adoption don’t exist or aren’t relevant. Even though I did make an “all” statement and say that all adoption is painful, that is not the same thing as saying “All adoption is wrong” or “Nobody who was adopted can ever be happy, not even for one second of their entire lives.” Yet it would be fairly convenient if I did say that, because then all the other nasty shit I said about adoption can be ignored, because I’m a silly strawlady. I haven’t bent over backwards to accommodate all the people who actually aren’t very bothered by this stuff, and haven’t experienced it, and therefore I am ONLY INTERESTED IN ONE VIEWPOINT. I’m interested in a lot of viewpoints, actually. Just not the “I have a privileged and insular experience of the world so START TALKING ABOUT ME” version.
I’m not going to put up a new disclaimer about how I want this conversation to go, because this isn’t a 101 site, never has been, and never will be. People who don’t have a firm grasp of what privilege means and what it looks like are going to get shut down here, sometimes by being banned immediately, and sometimes by having me get all fucked off at them. I don’t abide by this shit on rape threads. I don’t let people come in and derail the conversation with “what about the menz?!!”, and I’m not going to let people come in here and derail with, “But what about the Joliez?” When I write a post about rape, people who aren’t in a 101 space are keen to recognize common derailment tactics. They notice when somebody comes in to try and make the conversaton all the fuck abou them. They notice when somebody comes in and brings up a tangentially related topic because they don’t want to talk about the uncomfortable topic at hand, a la, “Let’s talk about women being raped by men,” getting derailed with, “No, let’s talk about the unfairness of the criminal justice system!” NO. LET’S NOT. Let’s talk about what I posted about, and if you don’t want to, start your own goddamn blog.
I know adoption has generally less saturation in the public sphere, and in the feminist sphere, and in most spheres. Unless you’re intimately connected to it in some way, you’re going to be 101 by default, and many of the people who are intimately connected are still 101, depending on what other privileges they have insulating them. Adoption, like rape, like racism, like any other -ism, is interconnected with all other forms of privilege and oppression, and cannot be discussed in a vacuum. People who are privileged in other ways will drag that privilege into a discussion about adoption. People who are underprivileged in other ways will drag that into a discussion about adoption. The difference is, many many more people are unaware of the multi-layered complexities of adoption, and find it harder to tease all those other strings of oppression and privilege out.
I’m not saying I’m immune to that. This whole post would be unnecessary if I was. My initial first thought was that putting up another disclaimer would be a reasonable thing to do. But if it’s reasonable here, why not everywhere? Why not for every post? Why wouldn’t I put up a disclaimer on a post about rape asking all the people who have “gotten over” their rapes not to come in and tell everybody else that really, it’s not so bad? Why wouldn’t I put up a disclaimer asking people not to come in and dismiss survivor’s experiences? I wouldn’t because the people who would do that aren’t welcome here, and I don’t feel a need to address them, hold their hands, or make the world more advantageous for them than it already is. So I’m not going to put up a new disclaimer here. I’m not going to spell this shit out. The consequence for not having your privilege in check is being called an asshole sometimes. If you don’t like that, check your privilege. And yes, I am going to go that one step farther and say that if you have had a good experience in adoption, that by itself means you are sporting some serious privileges. This isn’t a meritocracy, people. And if you don’t know that, what the fuck are you doing on a feminist site?
Now, here’s the thing about good experiences with adoption. If you want to come in here and analyze your good experience, that’s completely welcome. If you want to come in here and talk about how financial status, race, gender, ethnicity, language barriers (or lack of them), ableism, access to education, access to community resources, familial support, access to therapy, insulation from other forms of oppression, etc. ad nauseum helped make your experience a good one, do it. I want to hear that. That shit is relevant, and topical, and interesting. If you want to come in here and discuss how bad experiences can be made good, do it. If you want to come in here and talk about preventing bad experiences, do it.
But if you read my adoption post and thought, “Well, that’s not true, because my experience was good,” I don’t give a shit and I don’t want to hear it. That is you coming in here and demanding that the conversation be made about you. I’m not going to argue your life experience with you; that’s a losing goddamn battle from the start, which is why it’s called a derailment tactic. But the fact that your experience was good has no relevance to a discussion about bad experiences, unless you have a deep and abiding need to make everybody agree with and focus on your experience. That’s some privileged shit. Just because you won the jackpot in the oppression lottery doesn’t make the rest of us rich. I’m not going to allow comments about, “Well, my experience was good,” or “What about all the happy people?” anymore than I’m going to allow “Well, my girlfriend doesn’t mind when I make rape jokes,” or “What about all the menz?” I will allow comments about, “Well, my experience was good, but I think that’s because my adoptive mother was very prepared and did a lot of research and attended support groups.” I will allow comments like, “What about the people with good experiences? What do you think was different for them?” But this derailing privileged shit, this “stop talking about bad stuff LOOK AT MY GOOD STUFF,” doesn’t fly here, for any topic, for any reason.
ALSO: If you are unable to critically examine my statements and arguments because I use swears, that’s a problem with your ability to listen, not my ability to speak. If you can’t listen to an argument unless I smooth back your hair, whisper delicately in your ear, and assure you that really I am not very angry and here I will hold your hand and sing gently while I say such difficult things, you’re not actually looking to listen to anybody. You’re looking to have your ego stroked, you’re looking to be fawned over, and you’re looking to control the conversation. Not in my space. Assholes get called assholes here, and if that’s too rough and tumble, then admit that you can’t rough and tumble.
I’m not under any impression that I’m being super nice and accessible here. But I do know that people involved in adoption who talk the way I do are viewed as impartial and biased. Well, of course they’re angry, something bad happened to them, but that doesn’t mean adoption has problems. If they would just get over being mad at their mommies, they would see that adoption is wonderful! I’ve got privilege that can be used for good here. I wasn’t adopted. I have not adopted. I am not a birth mother. So when I get angry, when I talk loud, when I make very controversial statements, I don’t have to deal with people saying I’m obviously biased because I haven’t forgiven my adoptive mother or biomom or I got a bad kid or a raw deal. This is something I can do, a way I can speak, and others don’t have this luxury. So yeah, I’m a little harsh. It’s because we’re not talking about my life, and my personal experiences won’t be attacked. I don’t have to mince around out of fear that I’ll be pathologized. So I’m going to be harsh because other people can’t.
And finally: if you don’t know what derailment is, if you don’t know what “What about the menz?!!!” means, if you don’t know what privilege entails, you need to do some serious extracurricular reading before commenting here. And if you don’t like that, good. Go somewhere else.