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Words, Words, Words: On Toxicity and Abuse in Online Activism

Although written about activist communities, I found myself making parallels to the recent tenor of discussion in polytheist online spaces as well. I hear so often that people want to blog about important personal moments of spirituality or philosophy, but refrain because they’re afraid of using a wrong word or phrase and pissing off imaginary hordes who sent death threats and sexual aggression. And I can’t lie to them – it happens. I’ve had death threats, been accused of sexual crimes, and been told to hold ideas in less I invite further threats. This is udderly ridiculous and needs to end. There are many ways to state a disagreement or point out problematic theories without calling someone a rapist or a murderer. In 2014, I can only pray our community can collectively work to end such hyberbolic “calling out” culture and resolve to find and support ways to share differing viewpoints and debate ideas without abusing those with the courage to share their thoughts, experience, and feelings – things newcomers want us to be writing and sharing. And those of us with a little cache or respect in the community can stand to listen to anger without responding in kind.

Nuclear Unicorn

To all new readers: I’ve written a follow up to this article.

Not long ago my partner and I were seated in her car discussing the arbitrary nature of certain holidays and I opined, perhaps halfheartedly, that New Year’s was a worthwhile holiday simply for it being a useful vantage point for reflection, however arbitrary. It provides an overlook whence one can see a year of one’s life and world. A recent tranche of writing by severalprominentmembersof the trans and queer feminist gaming community has renewed my faith in that idea– with the overleaf of the year we suddenly find a great deal of penetrating insight into activist discourse and the risks incurred by our silence about certain excesses that have come to define us too often.

The wages of rage in our communities, and the often aimless, unchecked anger striking both within and without have…

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About Del

A shaman who writes about spiritual things, but not in that namby-pamby "everything is light and fluffy" sort of way.

3 responses to “Words, Words, Words: On Toxicity and Abuse in Online Activism

  1. aeddubh ⋅

    Thanks for posting this. It is very thought-provoking, and gives shape to a lot of things I’d been mulling over recently…

  2. I see this in all sorts of activism, including with friends and even have a standard response for it in my practice. I am not sure I can explain all the reasons but it seems a fairly frequent failing of passionate activists all over the world in both light and dark areas.

    Hell, my spiritual path started years ago when friends WERE called rapists and murderers. 😉 I am intimately familiar with such rage. May your wishes for 2014 bear fruit. I have seen one or two hopeful signs.

  3. While there are parallels, I think the calling out culture context isn’t something that translates very well into the pagan / polytheist /spirit worker communities. For one thing, we don’t talk about anger+rage, accountability, and justice in the same ways.

    Take this post, an attempt at accountability happening in my local community:
    http://mandacantu.tumblr.com/post/73174610790/marfmellowanonymous-a-critique-an-essay

    Also, take this essay, about Calling In and finding more ways to help folks behave better:
    http://www.blackgirldangerous.org/2013/12/calling-less-disposable-way-holding-accountable/

    While the parallels are there, I think understanding the differences is as important an activity, especially if we are to create better ways of agreeing and (dis)agreeing.

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