Sound Reflections: Questionable Quotes

I read a lot online. I read a lot of news, a lot of information, mostly so when I write on here I don’t come off as an under-informed dilettante. In the last 48 hours I’ve read a number of things which have made me frustrated. So we’ll talk about a couple of them.

This is a new segment on Feminist Sonar, named after the way in which sonar gets targets. The targets give off sound reflections. This is what I found.

Let’s start with an interview with Deborah Feldman over on XOJane, about her book “Unorthodox” which is a book about growing up in the Satmar Hasidic community in Brooklyn, New York. I’ve read the book and I have a number of opinions on it, but her book isn’t actually what concerned me. It was her use of the diagnosis of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder which had me questioning her opinions:

“So many of the strict Hasidic laws seem to have been created in response to the horrors that Jewish people suffered during the Holocaust. Is all of this just the sort of thing that happens when an entire community suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?

That’s exactly how I see it. In fact I’ve used those exact words. I’ve come to the conclusion that when a community is founded on PTSD, you can pass that PTSD on to the next generation, and maybe even on to another — but with every generation it’s going to be diluted, and the motivation for keeping your community and traditions alive is going to fade. My view is that if this community does not adapt and reform, it will eventually collapse and lose its youngest generation. And the new generation now has smartphones and the Internet; when I was growing up we were really isolated, but there’s no way to keep tabs on people right now, there’s no way to keep them from accessing information like they used to. People are wising up.” – Interview with Deborah Feldman

I would really like it if people would stop using Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as short hand for “bad things happen and now everyone is fucked up.”

I’ll let you in on something that isn’t a secret at all: I have PTSD.

I do not think that I will pass my disorder on to any children I may have in the future. I do not believe that we can GIVE PTSD to a future generation. By saying this about the community she comes from, Feldman doesn’t just dismiss the fears of her community (many of which are valid – though perhaps they could lay off on a number of measures which cause outsiders to label them as insular and cruel) but she dismisses the trauma her elders may have faced, and the trauma others have faced in order to gain the diagnosis.  Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a very difficult thing to live with, we have to fight to regain control of our memories, we have struggles to control our sleep patterns, and to learn to live with deep seated fear. I have no doubt that many Hassidic people have made choices about their lives based upon the events of the Holocaust, but this isn’t PTSD. PTSD has symptoms, it has specific experiences. It’s a diagnosis, not shorthand for reactions to horrific experiences. Please don’t use it as such.

Our second quote comes from an entirely different source, and for those of you who read Feminist Sonar frequently, you probably know what it is.

“If we cannot have moral feelings against homosexuality, can we have it against murder? Can we have it against other things?” – Justice Antonin Scalia

Justice Scalia really stepped into it this time. He has a habit of saying things like this about any number of topics which can cause most liberals to froth at the mouth and cry for justice – but in this instance what really bothers me is that he jumped directly from homosexuality to murder. No pause, no consideration. Murder. Look, I know that much of the conservative portion of the United States believes that having sex with a homosexual is the worst thing you can do, but the fact of the matter is – it’s sex. It’s just sex. You can have good, bad, or somewhat OK sex.  But unless it’s unwanted sex, you can’t really have evil sex.

The point is, comparing sexuality to murder is ridiculous. It’s overblown – and it tells us that Scalia has no intention of even considering the question of same sex marriage. I shudder to think of what he considers to be the rights of transpeople.
Scalia isn’t going to grant same sex couples marriage rights in this country – other justices are ( we hope), but these kinds of statements do not lend any confidence to me in terms of believing that Justice Scalia can be objective on any matter. His comparisons reek of privilege and of self assurances. I would hope for more decency from a Supreme Court Justice but apparently that isn’t how this works.

The sad fact is that this kind of a comment would be called trolling if someone were a nobody saying this out loud – but because he’s a Supreme Court Justice we actually have to take him seriously. This should be a line from a farce by Moliere, not something we have to take seriously. C’mon, people. You can do better.

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