As you know, this February was the very first month of the Carnival of Aros, and it started with a joint event with the Carnival of Aces on the theme of “The relationship between the aro and ace communities“. The carnival was largely perceived as a bridge-building exercise, with many people trying to make positive comments and rein in negative comments. But personally, I’m really interested in the negative comments, and I think we should discuss them without the pressure of having to build a bridge.
The carnival itself
The Aro Soulmate Project and eatingcroutons, criticized the launch of the carnival. The choice of topic was legitimate, but inappropriate for a launch topic, because it specifically touches on a sore spot in the aro community, and is exclusive of the same people who are systematically excluded by ace-led activism. And there is a major optics problem with having an initiative led by aces (many of whom are aro, but some of whom have more ties to the ace community), and basically telling aro people to talk about us.
Each of the people involved in the carnival launch (TAAAP, Sennkestra, and me) had good reasons for doing it this way, but I’ve already said my piece about that in direct response to the two articles. What I want to say here is, these complaints are legitimate, and I hope all my readers can see why. But I believe the carnival will overcome this, because ultimately a launch theme is just one theme out of many. I’m glad that the next edition of the carnival is hosted by one of the critics of the launch.
Allow us to reintroduce ourselves
But one thing’s for sure: the Carnival of Aces only comes from a certain part of the ace community. We should really introduce ourselves!
The Carnival of Aces is not mainstream. It is popular among off-tumblr ace bloggers and their readers. Someone once dubbed us the “awesome serious bloggers”. While many of us have ties to the ace tumblr community, most of us are based outside of tumblr, and many of us find ace tumblr inaccessible or irritating (in fact I was just talking about this). A lot of us are aro-spec. We tend to be older and more over-educated. And some of us–the old guard–have been involved in ace activism for a very long time.
So many of the complaints from aro bloggers about the ace community… definitely don’t feel like they’re targeted at us. And it’s understandable! You know, I have a lot of similar complaints about ace tumblr, but do they listen to me? Ha!
But I can see that feels like a cop-out, to dodge responsibility by saying “not me”. We may not have been the aces you were looking for, but we have our own variety of mistakes to work through. I for one have been noting down various tropes that hurt aros, and will try to spot and criticize them in the future. I am also involved in other initiatives to help the aro community, and I will use this experience to do better.
Things that annoy the old guard
Now that you know who we are, I want to explain why ace bloggers get annoyed at the things they do, especially the old guard. I’m sorry to say that this involves a lot of explaining our side and not so much the other side. But this is all in the spirit of opening up new lanes on this bridge for critique. I very much want to see traffic in both directions, if it’s manageable.
So, one thing that particularly annoys the old guard, is pseudohistory. There is something infuriating about being told something that directly contradicts our personal experience, and sometimes deprives us of credit.
A case in point, is the history of the word “queerplatonic”. As early as 2013, people in the aro community were making false claims that “queerplatonic” was a term originating in the aro community, not the ace community. This is kind of a sore point, because it didn’t originate from just any part of the ace community, it originated from this part, the ace blogging community. I was literally there.
But it’s not like the aro community is solely at fault for pseudohistory. One thing I learned from the carnival is that the aro community also finds itself having to fight pseudohistory. With regard to queerplatonic, the aro community has been vexed by bullshit claims that “queerplatonic” means romantic non-sexual, or that it originates from allosexual people.
Which brings me to this carnival submission by Magni. In the section “Vocab discrepancies”, Magni counters several pseudohistories regarding “queerplatonic” and other words, but also incidentally repeats the claim that queerplatonic is a word “by” aros.
I say all this with a dose of humor. But I think it’s illustrative of the problem. The aro community finds itself urgently needing to counter absolute bullshit, but in the process they sometimes make claims that aren’t quite right either, in a way that particularly irritates the old guard–and sometimes we lose sight of what the aro community is itself trying to fight.
So, this is what the ace blogging community is like. We’re perfectionists, and want to insert critical analysis and factoids everywhere. Did you know: in Japan, the alloromantic ace and aromantic ace communities have always been separate, under different names? Does that sound nice? Not everyone thinks so. A compare/contrast analysis is in order… but not right now.
Another thing that off-tumblr ace bloggers are peculiarly concerned about, is The Thinking Aro. I briefly described the controversies around her in my submission, and several other entries mentioned her as well. (They all cite me, because nobody wants to actually talk about her.)
I imagine a lot of people in the aro community have never heard of The Thinking Aro before, and that’s fair–I’ve never heard of a lot of tropes that aro bloggers are criticizing. But some people perceived The Thinking Aro to be part of a broader trend, and perhaps that trend still exists today.
If you know nothing else about The Thinking Aro, know this: She did not believe in the aro spectrum, and pushed a very narrow aro narrative. A lot of the people who were most hurt were people on the aro spectrum, especially gray-romantics, demiromantics, wtfromantics, and people who didn’t use the split attraction model.
I’ve watched the ace community take many years to truly be welcoming of its various parts, so there’s a certain base skepticism that the aro community is really as inclusive as it would like to believe. I’ve said my part about how efforts at including romance-favorable aros seem to be repeating mistakes from the ace community. I also see, e.g. Ace of Arrows mentioning that the aro community now seems to rigidly define “aromantic” as “not experiencing romantic attraction”. This definition is ahistorical, leaves some aro-spec people cold, and I think imitating the rigid definition of “asexual” is just repeating mistakes.
But overall I’m glad to see how well the aro community is doing on diversity. In the carnival, I saw perspectives from grayromantics. I saw that allo-aros were represented and not just included hypothetically (like it used to be). I also love these treatments of the split attraction model. I think when it’s done right, the aro community is even ahead of the ace community on these issues, and we in the ace community could learn a thing or two.