Red flags

There are some things that people say that immediately ring the alarm bells, and I know that pretty swiftly they’re going to come out with something awful. These little conversational red flags could, hypothetically, possibly lead to something not terrible, but I’ve never seen that happen in action. What follows is a non-exhaustive list of red flags, the things which set off the Shitlord Klaxon. If you say any of these things, chances are I will jump to the worst possible conclusion, and it’s your responsibility to prove me otherwise. Feel free to pop into the comments and add more of your own red flags!

“Females” TERFs and MRAs alike really love referring to women as females. In the case of the former, it’s because they love dehumanising women into just sex organs. In the case of the latter, it’s because they love dehumanising women into just sex organs. Either way, anyone who says “females” doesn’t respect women or see us as human.

“But… but the false accusation rate for rape…” Never appropriate unless the conversation is actually about the false accusation rate for rape, you derailing rape apologist dickmelon.

“I was just trying to play devil’s advocate” Don’t. Seriously. Don’t pretend you just sent me a big long diatribe as some sort of intellectual exercise.

“I’m just trying to debate this” See above. Liberation and oppression are not abstract intellectual exercises.

“I don’t have privilege because [insert something here]” Go away, be quiet, and learn how sometimes you can have privilege over someone else, even when your life sucks.

[wears V mask] Sorry, mate, but you’re probably a rape apologist with pisspoor politics.

“Explain to me exactly why this was an oppressive statement” I’m not your fucking nursemaid. Also, if this is the first thing you say upon being called out rather than an apology, you’re probably a groaning shitbagel.

“You’re being irrational. Let’s be objective” You know what’s really irrational? Clinging to myths which have persisted since time immemorial. Clinging uncritically to your favourite cherry-picked research. Thinking that research is somehow magically neutral. So stop it.


57 thoughts on “Red flags”

  1. Any mention of rationality or reasonableness. Both seem to be code for “my perspective is valid and yours is not”. You can cite unconscious bias studies or work on epistemic injustice to counter, but doing so is tedious. Yes, the man on the Clapham omnibus wouldn’t agree with me. That’s my point. The man on the Clapham omnibus is a dick.

    Response to criticism of immediately claiming bias or “evilness”, or that a criticism is an existential threat. Usually this is some kind of racist, ableist or transphobic monstering. Countering this is pretty hard, no matter how much evidence you cite. Some otherwise good intentioned women think that any criticism or anger from a trans women is like a threat from a “ticked off tranny with a knife”.

    “Privilege” in scare quotes.

    “Platform” in scare quotes.

    “Trans” in scare quotes.

    1. Very much these things, and actually you also hit on the “man on the bus” excuse, which is almost always ghastly.

  2. This generally seems to be a very important list, and worth putting out there. However, I’m a bit concerned by “Explain to me exactly why this was an oppressive statement”. Sometimes people really don’t understand why what they said was oppressive, and if the first response they get for making it is a lot of people calling them a groaning shitbagel rather than pointing out how they’ve actually said something unpleasant and how to avoid doing so in future, then they’re more likely to go on the defensive and less likely to actually think about what they’ve said / done. I realise this may involve a bit more time/patience than many are up for, but I think the result may be a more constructive debate on both sides.

    1. Wow. “Constructive debate” too. Congratulations, cockface, you managed at least a twofer in there. Possibly more, tbh your comment was kind of tl;dr.

    2. Saying that, you’ve just made me think of another red flag. “Constructive”. It’s got such a patronising, supercilious sheen to it.

      Constructive, as defined by kyriarchy, involves oppressed people very politely explaining to their oppressors what they’d like (please thank you sir) and that’s the only way of doing things. Any show of emotion, any behaviour outside of these rigidly-stacked-in-favour-of-oppressor scenarios are not “constructive”.

    3. An honest response of “I’m too tired to explain because I deal with dozens of discriminatory microaggressions and slurs every day” would be taken as “this person is just mad”. Frankly, being called a shitbaguette is the best possible outcome.

      I’ve had hundred comment long arguments with people – well, men – who refuse to accept that something they said was oppressive. I don’t want that in my life.

      No reasonable, constructive person would.

      *counts down until you dismiss my experience and that of my friends, possibly using slurs*

    4. I think it depends on tone. If it’s a condescending “so what exactly is it you’re complaining about” tone, then they’re a shitbagel (which is a brilliant word which I will now use at every appropriate opportunity). If it’s “I don’t understand, I’d like to so I know not to make this mistake or a similar mistake in the future” tone, it’s fine.

      I had to have it explained to me why certain words used against trans people are oppressive and discriminatory when I first came into contact with the concept in a meaningful way, because I had never thought about anything even remotely related to trans people before then in any greater depth than “Oh that brilliant comedian Eddie Izzard dresses as a woman sometimes” and didn’t have half a clue about the whole thing, when all of a sudden I needed to get up to speed. Had the trans person explaining this to me called me a shitbagel for asking the question, I don’t think our relationship would have lasted much longer.

      But if it’s all about being condescending, arguing for the sake of arguing, trolling and so on, yes, Stavvers is right, they’re a shitbagel.

      1. Further to this, as I pointed out, if you immediate reaction is “BUT WHAT DID I DO WRONG” rather than “Oh fuck, I’m sorry” it’s iffy.

        1. True; I guess what I’m trying to say is if sorry precedes the “what did I do wrong?”, and it’s an honest question with intent to act meaningfully on the response, then asking about the reasons that something is considered oppressive is acceptable.

          1. I’m not sure about the idea of apologising before I know what I’ve done wrong. I don’t want to issue some ‘sorry for any offence caused…’ non-apology.

            At the same time, nobody has a responsibility to educate me on any of this stuff or even to be friendly to me. And really, it’s unlikely that people are going to want to be friendly to me when being my friend means I keep accidentally doing offensive things and then having to have them explained to me.

            It’s like being friends with that guy who always drinks too much at parties and makes an arse of himself offending everyone until you have to drag him away and try to explain why everyone is upset. People wanna tell that guy to fuck off, not join him in his mission of self improvement.

            1. What you’ve done wrong is upset someone with your comment, and if upsetting/ offending someone wasn’t your intention, then I don’t think it’s a problem to apologise first.

              How about “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to say something inappropriate, but I must confess to genuinely not understanding why it was inappropriate… could you please explain so I don’t do it again?” – I do think saying “sorry you were offended” is rather a non-apology and a subtle foist of blame onto the person who’s offended.

        2. It’s a shame you’re removing my replies, but that’s your choice. I think Alice above makes a very good point – people can genuinely use language that’s troubling without realising, and if the only response they receive is abusive – eg, being called “cockface” because they didn’t realise “constructive” is a red flag these days, you can’t expect them to react in a positive, oh-I’m-sorry-I-didn’t-realise manner.

      2. I agree with Alice. Generally, I don’t think that questioning or asking for help as to where I’m going wrong in a debate is a bad thing. And if somebody instantly launches into a scathing attack on me for wanting to understand their reasoning, then I’m not going to want to listen to them. Overall, It doesn’t exactly help further a change in attitudes.

        But yes – tone *is* hugely important. It might be harder to tell online, but either way: there’s a marked difference between genuine concern and condescension when asking this particular question. If people aren’t open to the possibility of being wrong – well. You can see why anger becomes (or arguably, needs to be) a default response for people dealing with such individuals.

  3. Anyone who “doesn’t see race”/ anyone who says what about the menz/ anyone who needs an explanation of why we need LGBT pride or bars/ anyone who thinks a woman can be responsible for her own rape/ anyone who compares a vagina to a goddamn Ferrari.

  4. Look, I think you are all getting a bit too emotional, lets look at this from a purely logical point of view.

    You make some good points but unfortunately they are invalidated because you used the word ‘fuck’, which made me feel bad.

    1. Regarding emotional, fuck yes that needs to be on the list.

      I’m getting fucking emotional because this has an impact on me on an emotional level. It is something which regaularly and significantly impacts on my quality of life and enjoyment of life. It is not a logical matter, it is an emotional matter. If you can’t fucking see that, you are either blinded by prejudice, blinded by priveledge, or a shitbagel. Or a combination of the above.

  5. My hackles always go up when I see a comment starting “You should read…”, if only cos arriving in someone’s comments and giving them a reading list is so often the sign of a condescending arsehole. (Most frequently to be seen posted by a man on an article by a woman who’s an expert in the area: typically someone writes on Cordelia Fine’s Delusions of Gender, gets told they should read John Gray’s Men Are From Mars, etc) In and of itself not awful, but almost always seems to signal a person who has decided everyone else in this discussion needs to Do Their Homework before they’re worthy to be listened to.

    1. Do you have a better suggestion for a choice of phrase? I know I’ve done this a few times, generally because I think the person I’m addressing would find the article/book/whatever interesting, and I’d rather not come across as a total dickbag by accident. (I do it often enough that any reduction in perceived douchecanoeing would be a good thing.

  6. Anyone who says they would be sad if their child was queer because “life would be harder for them”. Usually means “life would be harder for them because of people like me”.

  7. Any response which only shows they’ve read what you said by complaining about the spelling / grammar you used.
    If a person chooses to be oppressive in their username, problems won’t be far away.

  8. And – in the UK at least – I’m usually suspicious about people demanding their right to free speech. Mainly because it’s usually bigots who are demanding the right to piss all over everyone else.

      1. I support this point of view. My early experiences coming to understand feminism were, thankfully, peppered with God’s-married women who took the time to explain things to me, and I’ll always be grateful. for that.
        Having said that I fully understand how frustrating (exasperating even) it can be having to explain something for the umpteenth time that you thought should be well established – something not confined only to feminism.

      2. Anyone who says “ooh, you can’t say that – they’ll have the race relations/equal opportunities/health and safety down on you”.

  9. “Regardless of race/gender/orientation/class/status/etc”


    “Let’s just pretend that equality means societal constructs are inconsequential so I can accuse you of bringing all this shit on yourself.

    Hey, I won another one!”

  10. “You know, men/white people/rich people (wevs) experience oppression too.”

    “Transgenders/a transgender” (these people may not be dicks and may be quite well meaning, but they’re likely to be a bit clueless)

    An only-tangentially-related quote from a well-known author or public figure.

    “Islamist.” (If they ever say “Islam isn’t a race”, it’s not just a red flag, it’s 12 miles of bunting.)

    “Swearing is a sign of a limited vocabulary.”

    “Have you considered the mainstream position?”

    etc etc

  11. With regards to the V mask thing, there’s a hacker from Anonymous looking at a serious number of years in jail for blowing the whistle on the Steubenville rape case (many, many more years than any of the perpetrators of the actual rapes are getting).

    There’s also been an Anonymous Op called Thunderbird which has done extensive work mapping violent crimes against native American women in the US and Canada and highlighting the utter ineffectiveness (often bordering on collusion) of law enforcement officers in those regions with regards crimes again those women.

    I imagine it’s something that will draw in a lot of MRA types, who think they are fighting the good fight from behind their computer screens in a snazzy mask by stopping all those evil women from getting paid the same as men or whatever. But past that Anonymous is a group that has, y’know, done some stuff. Some good stuff, in some cases at considerable risk.

    Also add to the list any man who uses the term ‘beta’ or ‘white knight’ when referring to other men who aren’t rape apologists, or MRAs, or who call them on their sexist crap.

      1. I get that it’s a mixed bag, but my point is that for all the obnoxious little pricks who think they are the Big Freedom Fighter for threatening to rape women there are many people who have acted under the banner of Anonymous and done important, necessary and often even dangerous work.

    1. Wow, reply fail. I’ll try again:

      i) The “Can you be absolutely sure it was prejudice” asked every single time someone raises the issue.

      ii) “Black/gay/etc people can be prejudiced too y’know”

  12. Also add to the list any man who uses the term ‘beta’ or ‘white knight’ when referring to other men who aren’t rape apologists, or MRAs, or who call them on their sexist crap.

    Gotta disagree with that one.

    Us Aborigines are pretty jack of white middle class Australians riding in to ‘save us’ from ourselves and each other no matter how many times we tell them to fuck off and mind their own business.

    “White Knights” seems a pretty mild way of describing them – unless of course they pick up on the KKK reference.

    Or does defending my whole community against bogus accusations of endemic sexual abuse of children make me a rape apologist?

    1. I meant in the context of it being used to shame men for not agreeing with the standard patriarchy fanboy talking points. It probably has all manner of connotations in matters of race and so on and so forth.

      When it comes to sexism though it’s more of an insidious term, because what the MRA guys really hate, more than they hate women, is men who call them on their shit. Thing is they don’t really care what women think, that’s pretty much why they are MRAs in the first place, but a man who won’t toe the line makes them rage.

      So if a man is dismissive of men who are anti-sexism, then the chances are that man’s a turd.

      1. Sorry that post didn’t come out quite right. Didn’t want to imply that it’s not a valid term for well-intentioned but ultimately destructive knobbers in a racial context. Just seems to be used in different ways depending on who is being derided.

  13. While I don’t always agree with you, I love the creativity and texture of your rant and rage. “Groaning shitbagel” is one of the funnier insulting things I’ve read in a while.

    (I think Anon has done/tried to do some real good, even if I do think that the adoption of the Guy Fawkes mask makes them look a little clueless as to history)

    I would recommend adding anyone who declares themselves a “red pill” or calls someone a “blue pill” or “coppertop” in regards to relationship dynamics or feminism. (if you want to suffer a massive aneurysm look at or for an example of this kind of dickery.) Those guys piss me off so hard I nearly want to get a sex change just to disassociate myself from them as far as I possibly can.

  14. “I was just asking questions”

    “____ism goes both ways”

    “I’m not a feminist, I’m a humanist”

    “Listen, men can’t help finding __ year old girls attractive, blame evolution”

    “But she looked [age]”

    “My pastor said..,”

    “Well, a friend of a friend experienced ___”

    “blah blah traditional blah”

    “If [marginalised group] can do/say that, why can’t i?”

    “,,,special rights,,,”

    “I’m pro-choice, BUT…”

    “He’s a male nurse/carer/nursery assistant”

    “She’s a woman pilot/surgeon/professor”

    “…lifestyle choice…”

    “…rape rape…”


    “Well why can’t I be proud to be white/straight/whatever”

    “Why’s there no Int’l Men’s Day/Music of White Origin Awards/Straight Pride?”

    “Life begins at..,”

    “[hate group/the Tories] have a point though…”

    “Liberal” in scare quotes

    “Things were just so much simpler back when…”

    “Politically correct” in scare quotes.

    I could go on all day… oh wait, my absolute breaking point is breached by anything like the following:

    “Genuine claimants have nothing to fear”

    “We’re just trying to make sure that the most vulnerable will be protected”

    “Well I know this man who’s on benefits and he looks fine to me”

    “Must be nice to not have to work and to rake in a fortune on Benefits”

    “Well yes I was on [benefit] but that was different”

    “My taxes…”

  15. “But… but the false accusation rate for rape…”

    Gotta disagree there too.

    I think it’s entirely appropriate to raise false accusations in the context of demands to reduce or reverse the onus of proof in rape trials.

    Keep in mind that a lot of false accusations aren’t made by victims at all, but by cops and/or forensic scientists.

    And don’t forget that wrongful rape convictions disproportionately affect men of colour.

    Maybe you need to do a little privilege checking here, stavvers.

    1. Depends on context for a start, doesn’t it? Arriving on a post about a survivor, silencing of survivors, basically where the focus is on the survivor (as is clearly what this post specifies) and saying “yeah but false accusations” is totally inappropriate and troll-ish. Are you insinuating that the survivor is making a false accusation? Otherwise what does it have to do with anything?

      Also, false accusations for rape are the same as basically any other crime – and false accusations disproportionately impacting men of colour is also not limited to rape accusations.

      Do you go to articles about arson attacks and say “yeah arson is bad but what about all the insurance fraud that goes on”?

      If it’s actually an article/post which is discussing false accusations then naturally it makes sense to discuss them. But to drag it into every discussion of rape? Like it’s of equally common occurrence? Or even equally bad? Because I’m sorry I know there’s a whole “if you’re falsely accused of rape it ruins your life” thing is popular, and in some cases perhaps it does, but seriously, in some cases, in fact in many, most cases, REAL PROVEN CONVICTIONS for rape don’t even ruin the rapist’s life! Especially if he’s rich/famous/etc.

      Most rapists don’t even get anywhere near a prison.

      So yeah popping up on articles about rape with “oh but false accusations” does make you, to nick Stavvers’ word, a dickmelon.

  16. ‘I’m just confused’ gives me the twitches like nothing else, because it usually means ‘I have no intention of educating myself, but expect you to justify your existence to me’.

    Second-worst for me (as a genderqueer raised female, now read as male) is ‘you could never understand because you’re a man’ coming from people who call themselves feminists, but don’t actually want men to understand. Punching down without looking guys! (I feel like I have to duck after admitting that one.)

  17. I’m guessing that red-flagging “reasonable” and “effective” is not about being uninterested in being reasonable and effective, but about being uninterested in people who imply that you are not reasonable and effective already? It took me a second to notice the distinction.

  18. “I don’t understand why do ” to which I invariably reply “So would you like some help understanding, or is this actually just you saying you don’t approve?”

    The one that pisses me off the most, though, is the supercilious “…but don’t you think that ?” to which I invariably reply “Well no, obviously I don’t think that, or I’d have said what you just said, instead of saying what I just said.”

    1. (Grumble, bloody comments system removing things written in square brackets… Try again… these are the sentences I’m railing against):
      “I don’t understand why (minority group) do (random activity)”
      “…but don’t you think that (alternative explanation)?”

  19. “Some of my best friends are…”

    Extra points for “Some of my best friends are x and they don’t think they should have marriage rights/mind if I call them the N word/disapprove of violence against women/have a problem with page 3/think transphobic jokes matter/want abortion rights/care about racist jokes” etc etc

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