Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Kynn Bartlett, SJW

One of my favorite songs is "'Tain't Nobody's Biz-ness if I Do". It may explain why I have enormous sympathy for transfolk: so long as people aren't forcing anyone else to do anything, they should be free to do what they please.

Alas, Kynn thought everything was her business. (Past tense because Kynn has been much quieter, as Kynn anyway, since Jack's rape charges. Maybe Caoimhe Ora Snow or one of Kynn's other identities is continuing Kynn's habits, or maybe she's learned a few lessons the hard way.)

Kynn was a happy social justice warrior for most of the time I knew her. When she was charged with rape, most of my sympathy was with the people who charged her, but a part of me was sorry that Kynn's friends, like Nick Mamatas, abandoned her instantly, without considering the possibility there might be two sides to the story. Julia Sparkymonster, to her credit, was among the few who tried to take a moderate position, but in the company of extremists, there's no room for moderation: when the mob turned on her, Sparky denounced Kynn.

My first memory of Kynn is from early in Racefail, when she announced that she was having to deal with a transphobic bully. I felt sorry for her and said so. Now I wouldn't be surprised to learn there was another side to that story, because Kynn loved a fight.

My second memory is when Coffeeandink claimed I had outed her. Kynn vowed to spit on me. Since Kynn and I lived in Tucson then and Emma and I were appearing at a book festival there, I spent the festival watching for Kynn. She didn't approach us.

Kynn might've been the first failfan to call me "shitterly." That made me laugh. Bullies used that taunt when I was in elementary school because of my family's civil rights activism. I briefly created an LJ as "shitterly" and commented on Kynn's LJ, noting that if she believed what she said about pseudonymity, she shouldn't out me. Hey, I thought it was funny.

Here are the posts I made about Kynn and her rape charge:

• rape and the righteous community (7/31/11)

or, a little sympathy for Kynn and Sparkymonster, far more for Jack and Alexandra

I'm leaving the following post unchanged, but I wrote under a misunderstanding. I didn't know that Jack had invoked their safeword. That makes the situation unambiguous: No means no. Jack was raped. —WS

Kynn has been charged with rape—not legally, but morally. If you want to track the story, start here:

Tales of MU » Blog Archive » An Important and Personal Note

Unfunny Fandom: Heartbreak & Heroines

Heartbreak & Heroines Kickstarter campaign - Geek Feminism Wiki

My take, which is worth no more than any of the many offered by people who are not Jack, Alexandra, or Kynn, is that Jack is entirely right to feel horribly abused, Alexandra is right to support Jack unconditionally, and Kynn needs help, but Kynn is not guilty of rape—at least, if I'm correct in understanding that consent was given and never explicitly withdrawn.

This is not to excuse Kynn. A sensitive partner in any affair will watch constantly for signs that they're going too far, because too often, people will be led where they do not want to go because they trust someone they should not.

Of all people, Sparkymonster was right when she tried for a nuanced response: "I do believe what Jack says. I also know that Kynn disagrees about what happened. I believe one can support Jack without condemning Kynn."

But Julia has very little practice with nuance. I think she's being condemned by many people in her community for adding, "More hypothetically, can Jean Doe have raped someone and still be involved with social justice movements? Yes they can as long as they take responsibility for what they did, and have done work to make sure they won't do it again."

I agree with her there, too, so far as she goes. But what she omits is that rapists and sexual abusers who try to take part in restorative justice must constantly be aware that their presence will always be controversial, and their presence must always be approved in advance by people who have been raped or abused.

Here's what makes me pity Julia. In the hope of ending the attacks on her, she wrote, "I have been friends with Kynn in the past. After a lot of consideration, I decided to sever that friendship. I sincerely hope that Kynn is able to access the support & assistance she may need. That is not something I am able to do." When a friend does something wrong, you don't sever the friendship. If you do, you're engaging in opportunism, not morality, and what you called a friendship was never one.

I salute Jack and Alexandra for speaking up, and I'm glad they're not being attacked for it. But spare a little pity for Kynn and those who say she should not be ostracized, too. As Alexandra says, "...the therapy Caoimhe is seeking sounds like a really good idea. I hope that she gets it, and I hope it's productive for her. I hope it leads her to better places."

ETA: The question of consent is addressed by Alexandra: "I told myself I didn't know what was going on between them, even though I'd heard the pleading earlier and had known that wasn't part of a negotiated dynamic." And "Their relationship had a safeword, but of course the presence of a safeword in a relationship doesn't make consent universal in its absence."

What makes the legal call of rape impossible to make is that the safeword was absent. Yes, a responsible partner would not require the use of the safeword. But the law, like the failfan community, is not good with ambiguity. That said, the judgment call of abuse is easy: Jack was horribly abused.

• a question about the definition of rape (8/9/11)

littlebbob's TRIGGER WARNING: RAPE mocks the way some feminists use "rape." The post makes me uncomfortable because whatever your definition of rape may be, Jack's feeling of violation is sincere, and based on the pieces of Kynn's account that have been posted, Kynn knows she went too far, even if she rejects the idea that what she did was rape.

Traditionally, a charge of rape is a call for the law or the community to act. Men of all hues have been lynched after being accused of rape. Mention rape in a police station or a lawyer's office, and everyone will assume you think the offense calls for legal action, and the only question is whether the accused can be successfully tried.

There are feminists who think Julian Assange should be prosecuted for rape because he initiated sex in the morning with a sexual partner who has said she did not want sex then but "did not bother" to say no. I believe this is the first case I've heard of in which feminists argue that a person should be charged with rape even if a sexual partner had consented and then gave no indication of withdrawing consent.

Kynn's case is more extreme than Assange's. Jack has said that he used their safeword to withdraw consent. So, if the benefit of the doubt should always be with the person who charges rape, under an ideal feminist legal system, what would happen to Kynn now?

• K. Tempest Bradford is dancing as fast as she can (8/11/11)

Community, Trust, Responsibility, Consequences | K. Tempest Bradford. I dunno why I enjoy watching people desperately trying to dissociate themselves from former friends who shared their habits, but I do. There's an art to evasion that I admire. and while Tempest isn't a Nixon or a Clinton, she does the Not-Me Shuffle better than many pros I've seen.

• Kynnfail? Rapefail? Allyfail? Compassionfail? (8/13/11)

What should the Kynn Bartlett Affair be called? Failfans love to name fails when they're on the attack, but I doubt they'll come up with a name this time. What's appropriate?

Kynnfail '11? I like that because there are so many Kynnfails, but because there have been so many, the name's too general.

Rapefail? This is, I believe, the first fail involving charges of rape in failfandom, but again, it's too general.

I like Allyfail, because this one is all about denying any association with Kynn, now that she's been found a politically inconvenient friend or ally.

I also like Compassionfail '11. It's true that every fail of failfandom has been a case of Compassionfail, but this is the first time they've turned on one of their own. If the charges against Kynn are true—and I'm inclined to believe they are, because Jack and Alexandra seem sincere and Kynn's deleted posts and comments seem to acknowledge some awareness of having gone too far—you would think Kynn's friends would be trying to help Kynn get therapy.

Instead, if the charges are true, they've cast a rapist from their midst to rape again. They've chosen punishment instead of treatment, ostracism instead of understanding. They've—

Well, they've been remarkably consistent. Compassion is something they only offer to the ideologically pure.