This is an email I received – in reply to one from me to a few people working in the arena of gender and masculinity – a few months ago. It is from professor Eric Anderson and as you can see it accuses me of being a ‘homophobic psycho’, a ‘wannabe academic’ with ‘mental illness’ and a ‘persecution complex’. Anderson also says I lack ‘dignity’ and ‘integrity’.
Below is screengrabs of comments by Mark Mccormack and Eric Anderson’s husband Grant Peterson, accusing me of ‘harassing gay academics’ and of ‘homophobic discourse’. These were part of a campaign by Mccormack, Anderson and Peterson to have my review of Mark Mccormack’s book on the Declining Significance Of Homophobia taken down from the website Sociological Imagination where it was published. They succeeded and it was removed.
Mccormack has also accused me on twitter of ‘harassing gay academics online’ and he tweeted his support of Paul Burston‘s outing of me (as a ‘troll’ and a ‘bully’) back in March this year. Mccormack said:
Why am I writing about all this now? The reason is that a senior colleague of Mccormack, Professor Ian Rivers, who claims to be an ‘International authority on homophobic bullying & bystander mental health at school’ has just published an article on ‘cyber bullying’.
I left a comment underneath his post but it was not published, and the editors of the site said:
I am publishing this evidence to back up the comment I left under Rivers’ article, and to prove it is not ‘libel’ but is rather, the truth. My comment reads:
I find this article very simplistic.
I have been labelled a ‘cyber bully’ and a ‘homophobe’ including by Ian Rivers’ colleagues Mark mccormack and Eric Anderson. I was also ‘outed’ by Paul Burston a gay journalist, as a ‘troll’ and a ‘bully’.
But of course the police have not been involved at all, as in fact, I am not a bully. They just outed me because they disagree with my politics, and my criticisms of some of their work.
The police did though get involved when I received hate mail in the post I do not know who it is from.
So who is the ‘bully’ in this case? who the ‘victim’? and why was my ‘anonymity’ allowed to be taken away by Paul Burston?
Dr Elly Tams
Quiet Riot Girl
If anyone I mention in that comment wants to argue about the truth of it, taking into account the evidence above, they are free to do so here.
The fact is, Mccormack especially is walking quite a confusing path here. His book, which I have read and reviewed, with approval from a number of academics including R Connell and K Plummer, is about declining homophobia. In his book he says homophobic ‘bullying’ is on the wane, and language is changing. People now use the term ‘gay’ to mean ‘rubbish’ often and it is rarely in a homophobic context. With that in mind, it is very odd that he and his ‘mentor’ Eric Anderson have rushed to accuse me of being homophobic and a bully of ‘gay academics’.
In his article on language, Mccormack is eager to point out that homophobia is now ‘stigmatised’ in our culture. People do not want to be seen as homophobic, it is looked down upon and challenged. So, I think he, Paul Burston, Eric Anderson and Grant Peterson are well aware that to label me as a ‘homophobe’ is to label me with a socially unacceptable trait. They know it tarnishes my name to call me such a thing. You could even argue, using Mccormack’s logic that these days, to call someone a homophobe is not dissimilar to calling someone a ‘fag’ in previous eras.
Another word that is stigmatised in our culture, that Mccormack does not mention, but that Paul Burston and others have called me is ‘troll’. When you think of a troll what do you picture? an ugly, inhuman creature? Yes, me too. Ian Rivers, in an organised live chat on twitter recently, used the term ‘troll’ completely uncritically. For someone who is supposed to be a leading academic expert on bullying, this is worrying to me. The term ‘troll’ is used in a variety of contexts in relation to a variety of people and behaviours. One of the reasons it is a powerful insult, is the ambiguity of its meaning. On a recent programme on TV the broadcaster Richard Bacon, for example, highlighted the problem of ‘RIP trolls’ who left nasty comments on facebook tribute pages for people who had died. And yet I am also called a ‘troll’ simply for annoying some groups of people in academia and the media. This seems unfair to me.
Another issue that Professor Rivers seems unable to grasp, is that of power. A bully can only intimidate someone if they have power. In my interactions with him, Mccormack and Anderson and Peterson I don’t see how I have any power. They are established academics, two of them are professors, meaning they are high up in the hierarchy. And, more importantly they are a group. They know eachother and work together and socialise in real life. I am a lone individual and I have no status in academia, and no networks to use against my ‘enemies’ as they have to use against me. Ian recently ‘protected’ his tweets. Anderson has done this before too. As public academics trying to promote their work I think this is not a good move. I also think it is an attempt to take the ‘victim status’ as if Professor Rivers needs ‘protecting’ from someone like me.
Sometimes bullying can occur when a power dynamic at face value looks like it would go the other way. For example there is currently a case in the news of bullying of a teacher by students, which caused her to feel she had to leave the teaching profession altogether. But again I would say that those students formed a group against a lone individual. And they knew each other both on and offline, and probably knew how to use social media more expertly than the teacher. ‘Power is everywhere’ as Foucault said, and those young people had power in that situation.
I am aware that this Thursday is the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO). LGBT Groups are publicising it as a day of action. But again I find their presentation of what is in fact a complex situation, overly simplistic. I know plenty of Gay people who are actually transphobic (Julie Bindel springs to mind). Creating a day against ‘homophobia and transphobia’ seems to give all LGBT people instant ‘victim’ status, when life is not quite so clear cut. As I asked in my (unpublished) comment under Professor Rivers’ article, who is the victim in my situation? Who the aggressor?
Professor Rivers’ advice for people dealing with cyber bullies, is to ‘block’ them. I think this is very convenient as it means if he does not want to engage with someone (e.g. me) he can label them a bully and then block them online. As I have pointed out in my 101 Wankers post, blocking is a very common way of blanking out opinions and perspectives and people you don’t like. I am blocked by over 80 people now. Have I bullied them all?
If I had, surely I’d have to have been an actual psycho. Someone like Anders Breivik had ‘power’ over innocent victims because he used violence, in his case, murder. I am not a violent person and unlike some of my detractors, I don’t even use threats. I just say things that piss people off and am sometimes rude. That does not make me a psycho!
Someone else who has in the past been called all sorts of names, such as ‘the Gay Anti Christ’ and a ‘brainy thug’ is Mark Simpson. He has kept very quiet in this situation whereby I have been outed, not only as a ‘bully’ and a ‘troll’ and a ‘homophobe’ but also as some kind of ‘Kathy Bates Misery’ figure in relation to him and his writing. Frankly, I don’t blame him. Some of his old friends have attempted to use him in their attacks on me and I can see why he has tried to keep out of it.
But. I know that Simpson is very familiar with the kind of ‘brickbats’ thrown at me, for they are the same kinds of things which have been said about him. And, if I do have any power in this situation, as Simpson knows full well, it can only be down to my intelligence and my ability to sometimes touch a nerve.
Once, when Simpson and I were still on friendly terms, he advised me to ‘wear my brickbats like bouquets’, to stand tall and be proud of my unusual position and perspective. And now, even when that friendship is faded and lost, I am taking his advice.
The gaylords who call me a homophobe can suck my metaphorical dick.