Files Of The Severely Educated
The Thrill Of Tuesday

How Dare You Not Defer To My Lack Of Self-Possession

People often don’t like the words I say or write because they don’t like the way I say or write them. They don’t like the emotion, intention, passion, and words I use to emphasise all of the above. 

In the pages of Scary Mommy, Ms Amber Leventry, a “queer person and educator,” is telling us how it is:

When folks become uncomfortable, they focus on the tone of the words being said and label it as unprofessional, angry, off-putting, or inappropriate. Rather than actually hearing what I’m saying, they try to avoid accountability or problem-solving by advising me to be more approachable or calm. This is tone policing, and it happens most often to marginalised groups and women — especially Black women — and it happens everywhere. It’s bullshit.

At risk of being difficult - and making claims of “bullshit” seem a tad premature - other possibilities come to mind. It is, for instance, generally easier to process calm speech and to formulate a meaningful response. Dealing with agitation and temper isn’t often conducive to mutual understanding, and it’s hard not to be defensive when someone is shouting and swearing at you. Needless to say, fits of vehemence and impatience aren’t the most obvious path to nuance and the clear communication of detail. And it may, of course, be the case that the person doing the shouting and shrieking is simply a bully and accustomed to getting their own way by means of decibels and arm-flailing.

However, Ms Leventry is much too busy to engage with such humdrum possibilities. Instead, we get a hint of the regard in which she holds her peers and employers:

I recently provided a training for K- through third grade teachers about how to make their classrooms more inclusive for transgender and gender nonconforming kids. It was LGBTQIA+ allyship 101. The principal asked me not to swear during the training because some of the elementary school teachers don’t like swearing. This wasn’t a threat; it was an admission that some of her staff would be policing my words and then shutting down if they became offended when I didn’t spoon-feed them G-rated language and in a way that didn’t disrupt their naïve view of the world... Instead of focusing on the content, they would only be able to focus on the tone or package in which the content was delivered.

A pretty good reason, one might think, to prioritise effective communication over any satisfaction to be had in unnerving strangers with incongruous coarseness and bellowed epithets. Assuming, that is, that what matters is the aforementioned content, not adolescent self-indulgence or displays of domination.

This is just one version of tone policing, and it was used to silence and derail the conversation away from the real topic at hand. 

Again, readers may have their own views as to which party is needlessly derailing the conversation.

Inevitably, objections to being shouted at, and sworn at, are framed with great haste as a sign of complicity in oppression:

Tone policing happens because it’s too hard for some people to sit in discomfort, acknowledge mistakes, and move toward meaningful conversations and change. Instead of validating the message, tone policing uses thin and privileged excuses to avoid it altogether. Tone-policing is rooted in colonialism and white supremacy.

In short, then, when a suitably black or gay person shouts at you, you “need to be quiet and listen” - and by implication, you should promptly defer, however wrong or ridiculous, or nakedly opportunist, the shouting person may be. You must “validate” their rage, and any incoherence, with lots of silent nodding, before rolling submissively onto your back. Because, being members of a Designated Victim Group, even if irrelevant or based on nothing whatsoever, they matter, and clearly, you don’t. What with all that “privilege” you apparently have. And because reciprocal courtesies just ain’t woke. It’s the progressive pecking order. Know your place. 

Update, via the comments: 

The lovely Ms Leventry, whose pronouns, we learn, are they and them, has been mentioned here before. As when she boasted of encouraging her own small children to feel hostile and violent towards conservatives and Trump supporters, and to shout profanities at them, randomly, simply for being conservatives and Trump supporters. Because cultivating irrational hatred in children aged seven and nine is the way to combat bigotry, it seems. And she does this while conceding that her own Trump-supporting neighbours have, and I quote, “always been kind to us.” So, not a well woman, or an obvious moral guide.


Heavens, a button. I wonder what it does.