No, I will not discuss this over email...

EDIT: the comment ”do send me an email” was, apparently, not to me! But I am not going to remove this because the principle stands. Also, the person the comment was directed at also agrees that such a convo is not worth it.  

#ClassicsTwitter is a weird place. There are a handful of people with followers in the 10-300k follower range and a somewhat larger group (to which I belong) in the 5-10k range and then the majority below that. Its a perfect microcosm of social systems where those with privilege and prestige positions have the ability to spread their influence and opinions...except when it doesn't. One of the great things about #ClassicsTwitter is that it gives a space to those without high visibility to not only have their voices heard (especially on the state of the discipline), but to also shift the conversation, to teach those of us who are a little older, but not necessarily wiser, and to find community with others who also are unhappy with the "business as usual" of the discipline and academia generally. As you might imagine, it doesn't always go well.

One of my favorite things is when the people of #ClassicsTwitter complain about #ClassicsTwitter even thought they ARE #ClassicsTwitter. Or when they complain repeatedly about how #ClassicsTwitter exemplifies the bad state of the discipline overall instead of doing the analysis and trying to understand how #ClassicsTwitter propels and embodies the positives (and negatives) of change. Nothing brings out these dynamics more than a MB Controversy™. 

In this round (see previously the Oxfam Haiti, NasserGate, RMF, and Pompeii episodes), a low follower account of a fellow academic noticed that MB follows quite a few TERF accounts. (And for those not in the know, a TERF is a "trans exclusionary radical feminists", i.e. a woman who calls herself a feminist but espouses explicitly transphobic positions.) Anyway, MB saw the tweet somehow (does she go around looking for references to herself?)--she was not tagged, but maybe she does searches for her name? Or someone else does and shared it with her? Maybe there is a team of people who scour social media for references? Who knows. Regardless, the tweet got retweeted with an ambiguous "Is this a problem?" and then problems ensued.

What problems? Well, MB has almost 300k followers and many of them are nothing short of sycophants and many many of them took her tweet to be in support of transphobia. What is one to do? Well, I suggested that a better response to the criticism would have been to make a simple tweet that says "I support trans colleagues and rights and know that transphobia is bad." Her response (and, really, I am feeling like I have leveled up because I GOT a response) was to suggest I converse over email about it. I will not. And this is why:

When someone says something on Twitter that can be perceived of as harmful to or that seems to be actively encouraging harm to marginalized and vulnerable people, they need to repair that harm on the same forum and they need to repair it not with ME, but with the people they have harmed. Discussing it with me off line in a private space does no one who is a member of the trans community any good. The only good it might do is allow the person who asks to go offline to try to save face or justify themselves to ME. BUT I AM NOT THE HARMED PARTY. I do not need or deserve and explanation. I will not offer any forgiveness or understanding or absolution. I do not matter here.  So, no, I will not send an email and have this discussion away from the public forum. 


This is not the first time someone has asked me to take a conversation to email because they were uncomfortable (maybe?) with having it publicly. They blame the shortcomings of Twitter--its character limit--, but not everyone seems to have the problem of saying badly worded, inappropriate stuff on Twitter. Many people, recognizing the power of the platform, their own position in the food chain, and as people who make their living studying words and putting them together to discuss ideas, use Twitter just fine for nuanced and important discussions. When someone doesn't, it's a choice.

If you make the mistake in a public forum, then address the mistake in a public forum. If you don't think you have made a mistake, then own that in public as well. But please do not ask me to have a backroom convo with you when I am not the harmed party in the event. My opinion does not matter here. Talk to the people who are harmed (trans members of our field), not the armchair commentator (me).