27 December, 2021

That Twitter Thread (On Criticism)


Art does not exist to be evaluated on a scale of “harm” to “uplift,” and if we want to talk dog-whistles, that right there is a huge one: it’s deeply anti-intellectual, and it centers a form of toxic individualism that evacuates solidarity/difference in favor of moral purity.

Also, relevant from other recent intra-community trans Discourse: the fact that something triggered or hurt you, personally, is real— but that doesn’t actually make it bad, or wrong, or Harmful (tm) because you *are not the center of the universe.* Other trans folk who have different experiences of gender and the world might be deeply seen by the art that you think is morally bad and harmful personally. To some extent, we know why this is common: traumatic stress forces your focus to be survival oriented, internal, and evaluative. It’s hyper-vigilance! However, what it is *not* is healthy or productive— especially when turned relentlessly outward to hold others responsible for your bad feelings as opposed to processing them, or saying “ouch, not for me.” (Which is not to say artists shouldn’t be cognizant of other people’s pain and the larger social implications of their work, so please don’t reduce what I’m saying here to “fuck it, who cares.”)

The other huge flaw with “the story harmed me” or flat harm-critique is the lack of acknowledgement that, if we’re using that metric, then your insistence on the story harming you is EQUALLY harming to the other trans folk for whom the piece was a revelatory story, or productive.