Why Do Online ‘Allies’ Have To Be So Annoying?

I appreciate all of the people who are advocating for social justice, but why does it seem that so many of them are just yelling on social media, and don’t mention doing anything in the physical world?

Also, why do “allies” have the tendency to be super-annoying and up in one’s face?These are not even their issues, and yet they are laying claim to them in a way that really offends me. I’d rather listen to members of the group in question than some “ally.”

Thank you, and I am, 

Dear Anonymous:

Since I was recently listed on the Gamergate block list as a Social Justice Warrior, I feel uniquely qualified to answer this question.

Let’s tackle this in the order you asked it: yelling on social media. When I get mad about something, I yell on social media. It’s what I do. I’m not sure exactly why, but I feel like I need to share my outrage. I think I do it because it brings attention to issues I don’t think are getting enough attention by the standard media outlets, or because something grabs my attention as firmly as a cute puppy pic would. So I share it and point out what angers me about it.

As far as doing anything in real life, isn’t the Internet real life? I have met some of my dearest friends on the Internet. Some of them, I’ve met maybe only once or twice in meatspace. Some? Not at all, but that doesn’t make our friendship any less real. I’d argue the same goes for discussions, online groups, etc.

Even if you don’t buy the “Internet is real” argument, I have gone to many a meatspace protest, and I have written my representatives about things that matter to me, as well as mainstream media outlets I feel are getting things wrong. I’m not sure how much I post about those things, unless I’m asking people to do the same thing or to sign a petition, but I can imagine a lot of reasons people wouldn’t: a need for physical privacy (many people, especially women of color, receive death threats, for instance. Broadcasting where they will be at a certain time seems unwise). A desire to talk about things globally or nationally without too much of a local focus. I will also say that there are many reasons that people don’t do in-person social justice work on issues they care about, and stick with blogging, sharing on social media, etc.: physical or mental disabilities that make leaving the house really difficult, parenting, too many jobs, etc.

As for ‘allies’ being super annoying and up in people’s faces: I’ve been guilty of that myself, too. While I would never actually call myself an ally of any group, and I find the word as an identity very very strange (more on that further down), I will say that I disagree with you on whether certain issues are MY issue. For instance, white people created racism. I’d say racism IS our issue, and part of what I feel is a white person’s responsibility is to take on other white people who are saying racist crap or doing racist things. I also think that homophobia is a straight person issue — they created it and they perpetuate it.

I also know for a fact because I’ve seen it over and over again: sexist men who refuse to listen to women who speak up about misogyny or sexism will listen to other men who say the identical words a woman just said.Defensive white people who cannot hear what people of color are saying because they are SO defensive and angry often can hear the exact same message when other white people say it.

That sucks, but if the goal is to change people’s minds then allies are actually helping, even as they are annoying you as a person who would rather listen to the source.

I think this leads into your comment about ‘allies’ laying claim to issues, and the whole idea of the word ‘ally.’

There is a certain sort of person who feeds his/her ego through discussions like this. A certain sort of person who dominates panels at cons and won’t let people of color speak when the issue is racism. A certain sort of person who has their identity so closely tied to being an ally or an anti-racist that they can no longer listen to the people who are most affected by the issue.

I think, too, that when you self-describe yourself as an ‘ally’ to any group, and it becomes a part of your identity, you slip into dangerous territory. You are defending your identity rather than your fellow citizens. You are defending your right to talk about an issue rather than shedding light. It becomes about YOU rather than anything else.

I can see how tempting this is.  I’ve fallen prey to this sort of thinking myself at times. But beyond annoying folks such as yourself, it is also dangerous, and unpleasant, and silences the less-dominant voices that need to be heard.And that is seriously, seriously shitty.

This letter originally appeared in bitterempire.com on August 27, 2015.

How Do I Tell If It’s Flirting For Fun Or Flirting For Real?

I seem to have lost the knack of flirting frivolously and freely and devil-may-care.

There’s a woman I keep running into at gatherings far and wide, and I’ll be honest, part of my problem is that I find her distractingly hot, but she’s married (to a man) and I don’t know if she’s queer or poly, and I don’t know her well, and it’s all very fraught because either she’s just flirtatious with everyone, or flirtatious with me but without intent, or aiee, I’m afraid to ask clumsily and find out I guessed wrong.

Help me, Bitter Butch, you’re my best hope! How do I ask her what’s up without making things horrible if it was all meant to be funsies?

Fretfully Flirting

Dear FF:

Some people just love flirting, and I think she’s one of those people.

The reason I believe this is that if a woman is married to a man and wants to have a relationship with someone else, male or female, it’s up to her to make the first move. Our society defaults to monogamous, and unless you met her at a Queer Poly Meetup, she knows that it’s up to her to break the ice if she indeed wants a relationship (even a one-night relationship) with you.

If you want to be sure that you mark yourself as someone safe to hit on, you can certainly mention being poly (if you are poly), or being interested in non-monogamy, or just in general chat about it as a concept and show that you are open-minded on this topic.

That said, telling her that you’re interested is not a nuclear bomb. Asking her what’s up doesn’t have to be horrible if the answer is: oh! I’m just a flirt.

Is there something impossible about saying: “You are such a flirt! Do you mean it, or are you just having fun?” That is a real question; some people find such directness utterly agonizing. If you can’t, you can also just say: “You are such a flirt!” and wait to see if she expands on that statement.

I’m always sort of mystified by people who think they will ruin friendships forever by asking someone if they make them feel a little funny in their underpants. If someone mentions it, or asks someone else out, and that person says no thank you, and then you all move on, what is it more than a small moment of awkwardness?

This letter originally appeared in bitterempire.com on August 20, 2015.

How Do I Fall Out Of Love With My BFF?

How do I fall out of love with my BFF, who doesn’t reciprocate after a year of misery? I told her I was developing feelings for her a while ago and she said she didn’t feel the same way. I said that our friendship was most important and I would try to forget it. Is there ANY way to save our friendship? She acts like I never told her my feelings at all. We connect over genderqueer things and she tells me she is asexual.

As horrible as it is, I don’t know how to believe her. I can’t help but think it’s because of how she’s been raised, that she’s scared of someone loving her for real.

However, she does seem to have a girlfriend that she met through the internet. I flew halfway across the country to go visit her in New York because she was feeling alone, and I love her, and it broke my heart to have her act like she was reciprocating some of my actions, but yet she doesn’t reciprocate my feelings.Everything we did while I was there was like we were dating, all the museums we went to, the restaurants.

Even before that how we both went to our first gay bar and I held her hair back when she got sick all evening on New Year’s. I haven’t been the same since. The whole time I was in New York, it was Kyrsten this, and Kyrsten that (her GF); it was painful.

The worst part is: She means SO MUCH to me. We went to kindergarten and first grade at a Lutheran private school together and she also happens to be my my oldest friend. We reconnected through a mutual ex bf at the same high school years later, after I up and disappeared when my bio parents divorced in grade school.

I feel like I’m falling apart and I’m running out of ways to cope. Is she dealing with this the wrong way? Am I? Most importantly what do I do? I’m not sure I’ve ever felt pain like this.


Dear Busted:

Oohhhhh I am so sorry. Heartbreak is the worst — especially when it’s like this: with someone you share such an important trait with (being genderqueer), with someone you see as your best friend, with someone you have such a long history with.

You asked me how to get over her, and I have some thoughts, but I need to back up and answer the unspoken questions in this letter: The questions you are asking when you say that she acts like you never told her your feelings at all; the question you are asking when you say that you don’t believe that she is really asexual;1  the question you are asking when you say that everything the two of you did on your recent trip was like you were dating.

With these parts of the letter, you are asking: why won’t she love me? Is there a way I can make her love me? Is there any hope?

The answers to your unspoken questions are: I don’t know, no, and no.

I’m sorry. But those are the answers, and she has been telling you this all along.

I don’t know why she doesn’t love you. Love is mysterious. Love is maddening. We can’t make ourselves feel something we don’t feel — no matter how kind the person is who wants us to love them. No matter how much they go out of their way to be a good friend. No matter how selfless and helpful and no matter how deep our connection goes to them.

In answer to your other question, I don’t think she is handling this badly. She clearly stated she didn’t share your feelings. She wants to be your friend, and is taking your word for it that you will try to forget your feelings and focus on the friendship. That is it. Going to restaurants and museums is not dating.I’ve gone to museums and restaurants with tons of friends with whom I have no sexual relationship. (I’ve also held back the hair of many a puking girl I was not dating.) The fact that she continually brought up her girlfriend during this trip tells me that she wanted to be very sure you knew her heart lies with someone else, or, she thinks you have stopped feeling that way about her and she was just in that obsessed phase.

She is being as clear as she can.

For what it’s worth, I don’t think you’re handling this badly, either. Unless you left a bunch out of your letter, you are not hounding her sexually. You are not moping and glaring and putting down her girlfriend. You are just hanging around her, hoping her feelings will change.

This tactic is as old as the hills. And it has been completely unsuccessful for just as long, no matter what all of these stupid poisonous Romantic comedies we all grew up on tell you. You will not win the girl by showing her you are worthy.

She is not going to be your girlfriend. Full stop.

I am sorry if I was unnecessarily rough on you in this letter; I read so much hope hidden in your letter, and the first step in getting over someone is this: crush your hope.

So, um, I’m helping! I’m helping!

After you have crushed your hope, you need some damn distance.

I am genuinely friends with people I used to date. Real, loving, warm, close friendships. But we needed months and sometimes years apart before that was possible. I think for the purposes of this person you need to treat her that way: like an ex. You’ve had feelings for her for an entire year.Unrequited or not, those feelings are real and you need to get over them.

To get over her, assuming you have crushed your hope, you need space. And if you want to continue a friendship, you need to tell her why you require that space. Tell her that you are trying to do what you promised: get over her, so that you two can be genuine friends. Then block her on FB and ask her not to contact you for six months.

And then follow through.

I always advocate getting over a break (in this case it’s your heart that is broken; I stand by calling it a break) with space, time, and other people.

I don’t mean to use other people; I mean to cry for about a week and watch movies and rage angrily about your BFF’s faults: real and imagined, and then to get out of the house. Go to a party. Go to a movie with a friend.

Then get your ass on okcupid and find some folks who just want casual sex.There is nothing wrong with casual sex, btw, in case this worries you, and that’s where all the gender non-normative folks hang out.

Space: keep away from her. Time: for at least a few months. (Six is best. You lost her friendship for a lot more years than that, and it still came back!)Other people: social outings, sure. Sex, even better.

I am sorry. For those of us who are queer in ways that isolate us (in your case, you’re a minority of a minority), a near-miss like this one is going to be really painful, and hard to get over, and I wish it weren’t so.

You are going to be okay. It just sucks.

This letter first appeared in bitterempire.com on August 13, 2015.

How Do I Deal With Fighting And Biting Children?

I have a son that is 4 and a daughter that is 3. They are going through a phase where they fight daily over almost everything – crayons, books, toys. My son is usually pretty physically self-restrained but my daughter pretty quickly resorts to biting him. Any suggestions?

Worried Dad

Dear Worried Dad:

If there is any creature on earth a bigger asshole than a four-year-old, it’s a three-year-old. Good gravy, three- and four-year-olds are terrible people.

My sorrow for you at your misfortune — having two kids at such unspeakable ages in your house at the same time — knows no bounds. Dear god, man. The thought is horrifying.

What do I advise you to do? Duck and cover. Uselessly punish the daughter with time-outs or whatever parents do to make ourselves feel like we’re having some effect on our children’s psyches whenever she bites. (It will have no effect on her whatsoever, but it will make her brother feel that you are at least trying.) Don’t bite her yourself, no matter how much you want to.

Save your teeth for the smug parents of older children who do not remember this time in their parenting lives because they all have PTSD from it and are blocking it out, when they say: “Just wait until they’re teenagers; it’s much worse.” You bite them hard. You bite the living shit out of those people.

Other than that, just try to keep them as separate as possible and wear earplugs. With noise canceling headphones.

I am being ridiculous, I guess, but honestly I feel like there is nothing you can do with kids of these ages except survive it, and make sure they do.

Parenting very young children is so, so hard. And we have so little genuine, honest information. I cannot tell you the number of my friends and family with kids who bite and they’re astounded by this. It takes all of us by surprise. Why? Because no one told us! No one told us that children are bity little biters who bite, and that this does not make them psychopaths — this makes them three.

Not all kids bite, obviously — your son doesn’t. But your daughter does. And she is going to be okay when she turns five, I am willing to bet.

Parents put so much pressure on ourselves, in addition to the pressure from society at large. Your kid bites. Oh no! You think. I’m not parenting hard enough, or gentle enough, or fast enough, or slow enough, or round enough, or pointy enough.

You are pointy enough. You are round enough. You are doing fine. (You didn’t bite her, right?) You’re doing fine, and she will be okay, and your son can use any scars to make her feel horribly guilty someday. Or at least embarrass her in front of her friends.

Hang in there! It is going to get better.

(And by ‘better,’ I mean she will eventually stop biting him. This ‘phase’ of which you speak where they fight over everything? Yeah it’s not a phase it will never end sorry.)

Thank GOD kids show us the world in ways we never thought possible and they are so cute it hurts and they rip our hearts out and show us sides of it we could never reach ourselves and make us so proud we could crap and take our breath away and shine their brilliance on our dull, grownup faces and turn us into entirely different people or else we’d all just be fucked.

This letter first appeared in bitterempire.com on August 6, 2015.