Ophelia Benson recently wrote a blog post talking about a comment that she feels was unfair to her.
Someone posed the question, “Do you think Ophelia is not physically safe for a trans woman to be around?”
I suspect this asinine question was posed by the popcorn crew – eager to make their entertainment experience more hands-on. I’ve dealt with a few asshole “pitters” coming into my mentions pulling this sort of crap, but I don’t know where this came from or what the context was.
At any rate, someone took the bait and gave a thoughtful answer. It boiled down to the idea that Ophelia Benson was just as dangerous to trans women as, you know, any other person in the entire world including trans women.
To my knowledge, Ophelia doesn’t support political violence against trans women, but since literally everyone in a transmisogynist society (including trans women) will manifest transmisogyny at times, it wouldn’t surprise me if she unknowingly supported (or failed to oppose) some policy that physically harms trans women.
This is how Ophelia Benson interpreted it:
In other words, yes, Leum does think I’m dangerous to trans women.
How does that work?
I suppose it works in the same way as some of the other attacks on Ophelia Benson that she has featured on her blog. For example, interpreting one of the comments on my blog as accusing her of “killing and torturing”. (Several people mentioned how ludicrous this interpretation was and she seems to have edited accordingly.)
There have been critics of Benson who have crossed the civility-line in epic fashion. (By my count, 3 – though obviously I’m not omniscient.) Venting is best done in private and posting public vitriol is, you know, posting public vitriol. I’m not completely sympathetic when nasty public comments are brought to light. However, I do see distinctions between posting global messages on your personal facebook wall, posting personal insults on a widely-read blog and tagging people directly on twitter to yell at them – but all of those are, indeed, “public”.
On the contrary, there is an intense distinction between public statements and private ones. Even though you can’t unlearn what you may have learned in private conversations, sharing those private written conversations publicly without permission is a breach of ethics especially if those statements include personal information. However improbable it is to accidentally come across a private facebook message that has settings excluding you, in the event that you have failed to notice you have committed a fundamental invasion of someone’s privacy, this is really not the way to respond:
Fair point. I failed to notice the privacy settings. I deleted the picture. On the other hand y’all are apparently failing to notice that someone is accusing me of putting her life at risk, when I haven’t interacted with her in at least a year.
She responded by scolding the people commenting for focusing on the breach of privacy and not focusing on the statement that should never have been shared in the first place. She also interpreted the statement as a serious accusation against her and attempted to deflect others from caring about the other person and instead caring about how someone’s pithy private statement about their own mental health made Benson feel.
So yes, this is what we’ve come to.
And no, my thesis for this post is not “Ophelia Benson is an evil person” – my thesis is “There are valid reasons people who aren’t Ophelia Benson are upset.”