Mansplainer Exposes Mansplainy Tactics, Internet is Polite

Screen shot of Jay Michaelson's article, from Daily Beast.

Screen shot of Jay Michaelson’s article, from Daily Beast.

I’m dashing this post off because I should be working. But it’s such a perfect example of something I’ve had a problem with for a while, that I can’t let it go.

Today, I read an article by one Dr Jay Michaelson, over on Daily Beast. Michaelson sets himself up as a righteously angry ally of transpeople, furious with ‘mainstream gay activists’. Pompously, Michaelson begins:

“For years, some mainstream gay activists said … “Just wait—first we’ll get our rights, and then you’ll get yours.”

As offensive and patronizing as that was, what has come to pass is far worse.”

This sonorous rhetoric would have had more effect, however, if Jay hadn’t mixed up two slightly important words in this debate. For, in the bit I’ve elided in the quotation above, he named the community he felt was suffering so. ‘The cisgender community’.

I thought it was a typo, but it’s not: throughout the article we have references to the many and sad instances of oppression of trans people, consistently referred to as ‘cis’.

Was it some kind of satire? Was Jay just very, very, very stupid? I couldn’t work it out, so I went off to twitter to see what everyone else thought.

Having seen what’s happened to Mary Beard, and to some of my Oxford colleagues, this past week, I did have a fair sense of what I’d find on twitter. We’d simply signed a letter speaking out against no-platforming of feminists, and this had blown up into a storm of (unfounded) accusations of transphobia. So how would people react to this bloke, who’d faked sympathy with trans people in order to take a pop at gay activists, and exposed his own bigotry by failing to grasp the simplest basics of trans-friendly language?

He’d be pilloried, right? Called evil, ugly, stupid, and senile? Told he must be inflicting terrible verbal violence and outrage?

Well … no. “I think you mixed the two up,” someone comments politely. “Lots of questions re. your use of ‘cisgender'” they continue, respectfully (oh, ok, it could be sarcasm, but it’s respectful sarcasm). “Article uses cisgender where it means transgender, I think?” questions someone else. Cos, you know, you politely question mansplainy dudes. You don’t correct them outright.

But worse was to come. I looked and looked, trying to see a glimmer of the outrage I’d have expected, to come upon the single outright insult … a reference to “slightly confused @jaymichaelson”.

Need I underline the lesson? Would this have happened if he’d been, say, a woman?

Update: Popped a screenshot in, as funnily enough, I imagine this will be edited (aka, swept under the carpet) soon enough.

2 thoughts on “Mansplainer Exposes Mansplainy Tactics, Internet is Polite

  1. Now at the bottom of the corrected articled: ‘UPDATE: Due to an editing error, an earlier version of this story transposed the words transgender and cisgender.’

    He presents himself as ‘a professional LGBT activist … for fifteen years’ on his homepage, so I’m hoping this was a mistake by a Daily Beast editor rather than him.

    • Yes, I saw – I’m afraid I don’t really buy it. The whole tone of the article is dubious (someone explained this to him on twitter, and he seems to have ignored it).

      But, the point is how people reacted. I was pretty sure when I wrote that, that no-one would subject him to a storm of abuse like Mary Beard got. And I was right: everyone accepts he can’t have intended to do it. And that is pretty telling!

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