Saturday, July 27, 2013

"I don't like your tone, young lady!"

I follow a lot of people on twitter--people I've found or been connected to through mutual friends or acquaintances--who know a whole lot more than I do about stuff I'm interested in. (If y'all are reading this, you know who you are.) As weird as it may seem, I'm learning immense amounts in 140-character chunks, about theology, gender, feminism, anti-racism, intersectionality...I may have a PhD in Theology and Science but what you really learn in doing a degree is just how much you still don't know. And so my twitterfeed is a constant stream of blessing and wisdom and angry hope.

More than once recently I've followed exchanges on the issue of "tone policing." I've had my own run-ins with this, of course, as has I bet pretty much anyone who's attempted to participate in a difficult conversation from anything other than a position of privilege relative to the topic.

Nowadays, however, this issue has more than simply personal resonance with me, as I am so keenly aware of the burden of appropriate "tone" in my representation of an organization that is so much more than simply me. If I miscalculate as JTB, well, I can take responsibility for that as myself. If I miscalculate in representing's different.

I've been blogging here at "rude truth" since 2005. And because this thing started--as I've said before--as an exercise in finding my "voice" the archive is in some ways a record of my experimentation in constructing it. And it's not always pretty. I am not a pretty girl.

I've done some cussing from time to time, is what I mean. The tone police can go wild on my archive.

While there's nothing I can do--or really want to do--to change any of that, it now feels like a potential liability for And so you'll notice that I've changed some things on the "about" page, to make it clear for everyone that in this space, as JTB, I represent only myself.

So this forms the context in which I've been following these recent conversations on tone and tone policing. I've been working on the fly, following my instincts, worrying about how to get it right, and these conversations have given me a way to analyze the issue more intentionally.

In particular, the twitter exchange between Rachel Held Evans and others a couple days ago, following some tone policing in the commentary of the recent CT article on modesty, captures the issues involved and provides a real-time snapshot of a bunch of smart people processing these things together. It prompted me, once more and for at least the fourth time, to try to write this blog post. But before I could get this done in a satisfactory way, I needed a way to process the issue that drew on all the wisdom of my twitterfeed.

So I made my first story at "I don't like your tone, young lady!" And if you've made it this far in this post, good news: the real stuff is there. You need to go read it, because it's there that you'll find the links to the real wisdom on this. Be blessed.

1 comment:

SJ said...

I liked the contrasting voices and sources you used in writing this. I'm even more daunted by twitter than over lol. Tone is so weird in feminist discussions I haven't been able to find a groove. My gender neutral user only gets me so far until my opposition in any topic is instantly met with hostility. I really like that you drew on the different reasons and contexts for anger. I'd take it even further to say perhaps there's an acceptance of different tones for different reasons for conversing. I think you in contrast to Evans shows how the same media (twitter/blogging) is used differently and maybe this means a different tone is "more appropriate.”(I say this hesitantly, try to read a good intention into it) Looking at Evan's work it’s a lot more about bridging gaps, getting people to engage with feminism who would otherwise call it crazy. You (I'm newer to your writing) seem to focus on justice, on awareness and stuff that's just plain good to be mad about. In Evan's case anger just isn't a psychologically useful think to bring into a conversation. People tend to shutdown, clam up, and get defensive. I think in some other context anger is something useful. Getting Christians out of the PC bubble of peace, love and passivity for one.
My question is, don’t you think feminism itself creates a culture of policing? I’ve just been seeing more and more tone policing in feminist blogs than I’ve ever had before. I’m very sensitive to some of the abusive language thrown around on the internet, but more and more phrases like “you’re being triggering” are trump cards for “shut up I don’t want to hear about your anger.” Just my thought I’d love to hear yours. Thanks.