On Tone Policing

Tone policing is one of the most misogynistic, snakey, harmful, devastating, sad, egregious, divisive, hypocritical, and heartbreaking things to encounter. It is to look at the people who are speaking out — often risking their lives and mental health to do so — and call them the problem. When people use their voices with fire, it is often compared to negativity, disrupting the positivity and calm natured waters that many are accustomed to swimming.

Would a woman — who was property at the time — like Harriet Tubman be considered a troublemaker for courageously "disrespecting" her masters, flinging caution to the wind, and later on freeing enslaved people by way of The Underground Railroad? Her story is slightly removed from the times in which it existed that many are able to view the escape of chains as a necessary part of history — but it is not far enough removed. Simply put, had Harriet Tubman and many other abolitionists of the time remained law abiding, respectful, well-mannered "citizens," many of us might still be locked into more than just the odd metaphorical chain.

Brushing a thick layer of paint to a movement that has existed longer than all of us have is nothing short of colonisation. Many of us have been speaking out against white supremacy, the blatant silencing of marginalized groups, and the tone policing used to control and gaslight more vocal persons in our community. It would be an act of arrogant erasure to claim and crown oneself as a leader in the subsequent racism, diversity, and inclusion discussion. In January of this year, an astronomical movement was catapulted by a series of events into the forefront of social media via the knitting space. That is a fact. Lightning struck. No one is claiming to have started the conversation for change. 

Success will not follow slinging mud at those sticking their necks out the furthest.

If you’re worried about having your "livelihood being destroyed" because you don’t agree with inclusivity, it isn’t our words and actions that have caused your foundation to come crashing down into a pile of untamable rubble.

The idea that people with privilege should first be centered, having their comfort waived at the entrance of the gates, is to disregard marginalised people and their lived experiences; in order for anything to be expressed it must be first made palatable — sifted through an unconscionable entrenchment in maintaining the status quo. 

Instead, understand that marginalized people have generations of safety and survival invested in "communicating correctly" with privilege, combined with unlearning the same generational trauma forced upon them by white supremacy. That in all likelihood, the anger you believe yourself to be witnessing and judging as "too much" is only a small sampling of the safest part of the problem. If digesting these truths leaves you defensive and ready to pounce, then you are ill prepared for enacting change — and even less entitled to gatekeeping that discussion. 

Keep on doing you. 

If that means peacefully, do that.

If that means ruffling feathers, do that.

If that means privately calling in, do that.

If that means publicly calling out, do that.

If that means telling your racist grandmother that the word "nigger" is wrong, do that.

If that means losing the friends who want to keep you caged, do that.

If that means distrusting and disrupting the status quo, do that.

If that means swearing, fucking do that.

If that means speaking out when others wish to silence you, do that.

As Sojourner Truth said: "We have all been thrown down so low that nobody thought we'd ever get up again; but we have been long enough trodden now; we will come up again, and now I am here."

Though you may catch more flies with honey than with vinegar — who wants to catch flies? Who wants to waste honey? Who should we deliver our sustenance to instead? Discourse around racism seems all too often white-centered; the marginalised spend their time coddling and trying to bring others around to how white complicity has harmed. How many have gone unhelped? Should we be redirecting our energies towards those who could benefit from the voices that speak with fire?

Tone policing helps no one but the mouth whence it spills. Similarly, freedom cannot thrive under concrete, clawing for spaces to breathe.

Our words, both tender and piercing, will find a way to thrive.


Unfinished Object