Aro complaints about ace communities

When I started keeping tabs on the aro community on Tumblr, and I saw many complaints about ace communities.  I think it’s important that ace communities are made aware of these complaints, so I offered to publicize any complaints that were sent to me.  Here I’ve compiled several responses, and I’m presenting them without commentary so that you may discuss them in the comments.

No WordPress account is required to participate.  Just use a pseudonym, any pseudonym.  And please be nice–it was brave for people to send me these replies, without really knowing much about me or what to expect.

For each of the responses, I suggest the following discussion questions:

  1. Is the issue being described something you’ve personally seen?
  2. Do you agree that the the issue being described is a problem?  Are there any complicating factors?
  3. Did you learn anything?  Is there any aspect you don’t understand?

as21-7 said:

A lot of our frustrations come from 1) ace bloggers posting asexual-only content in the aromantic tags and 2) from the default assumption that “aromantic” means “aromantic asexual” unless otherwise indicated.

Exclusionism adds another layer to this, which is why we vent rather than try to get the wider ace community to pay attention most of the time. Because aromanticism is so rarely discussed outside the context of asexuality, almost all of the aromantic community understands that any of our complaints will be thrown into the Discourse and used by exclusionists to pit the aromantic and asexual communities against each other. Therefore, the most discussion of asexual-erasing-aromantic I’ve seen so far is intracommunity discussion of how aroaces have, in trying so desperately to get away from amatonormativity in asexual spaces, created an aromantic community that was mostly aroace and did not allow aroallos room to discuss their experiences of sexuality in light of amatonormativity. That has changed somewhat, and hopefully will continue to change and make the aromantic community more inclusive.

However, the wider ace community does not seem to care so much about amatonormativity, and it pushes aroaces like me out of those spaces sometimes because aromanticism (in my experience) shapes our daily lives at least as much if not more than our sexuality does.

intergalactic-lithromantic said:

I just get annoyed that when I search for aro content, most of the posts are ace. AroAce posts are expected — they’re aro too. But posts about asexuality and not aromanticism should not be tagged as #aro etc if they’re not aro. Thats just how hashtags work. Common tagging courtesy.

Siggy’s note: for examples of “asexual-only content in aro tags” here is a post with screencaps.  This is one of the most common complaints I’ve heard.

An anonymous person said:

I’m an aro and I do have a complaint about the ace community as a questioning ace: I feel like the ace community as a whole is focusing on the fact that “real aces” are artists and creators, not cold scientists. I’ve also never seen anything that directly supports that view, but I’ve always gotten that vibe. As someone who’s generally seen as “cold” (I’m just like that, I take no offense and I don’t view it as at all connected to my aspec-ness) and is a scientist, that sort of feels… wonky? Idk.

techno sent me links to two articles.  First, an Open Letter to the (Allo)Ace Community, from an aroace, excerpt below:

The years of having my aromanticism treated as a subset of asexuality, even of my own sexuality, have worn me down. And yet, have I casted you aside? I will not disown myself. I will not let you get rid of me or sweep me under the rug. No matter how much you erase aromanticism, I will still be here. I will always be one of you, a less than desirable piece of the ace community that you wish you could push away. I will not be your pawn. I will not let you tokenize my aromanticism as a one-off slide on every asexuality powerpoint presentation for diversity points.

Second, a comment on erasure of aro characters, excerpt below:

Friendly reminder that aro erasure, even if a character is still asexual, is arophobic. Ignoring, condoning, or celebrating the erasure of aromanticism makes you an arophobe, even if you are asexual. Being asexual does not give you a free pass to be arophobic; we are not the same.

Aro erasure is not just a price to pay for asexual representation. Ace representation can not be a win if it is at the expense of aroaces.

Finally, techno had the following additional comment:

A lot of us aros simply take issue with ace folks who don’t identify as aro speaking over us on our issues or treating our communities and language as completely interchangeable. Ace being treated as an umbrella term (and, conversely, the umbrella term aspec being used to only mean acespec rather than its proper usage, which is to cover both the ace and aro spectrums) for aro and ace is a major pet peeve. As an aroace, I have become increasingly frustrated with the amount of non-aro ace folks assuming that our experiences are the same, that all ace representation or resources immediately include me, and/or that my aromanticism is simply a facet of my asexuality rather than its own concrete identity.

About Siggy

Siggy is an ace activist based in the U.S. He is gay gray-A, and has a Ph.D. in physics. He has another blog where he also talks about math, philosophy, godlessness, and social criticism. His other hobbies include board games and origami.
This entry was posted in aromanticism, Articles, asexual politics, Community, Guest post. Bookmark the permalink.

24 Responses to Aro complaints about ace communities

  1. Coyote says:

    And please be nice–it was brave for people to send me these replies, without really knowing much about me or what to expect.

    It’s true. I appreciate that. It’s one thing to vent about a problem among friends and entirely another to attempt to broach the subject directly. Thanks for adding the discussion questions, too, Siggy. They provide a good guideline.

    A lot of our frustrations come from 1) ace bloggers posting asexual-only content in the aromantic tags and 2) from the default assumption that ‘aromantic’ means ‘aromantic asexual’ unless otherwise indicated.

    I’m not sure if I’ve seen the second one, but for the record, I found an further explanation of the first one recently. Here’s the link for anyone interested in what examples look like.

    I think it should be noted here, on this subject — when they say “ace bloggers,” I suspect what they mean is “ace tumblr bloggers.” The two aren’t any more synonymous than “aromantics” and “aromantic asexuals” are, and I think it’s worth drawing attention to this because as far as I’ve seen, this isn’t a problem on other blogging sites like Pillowfort (where people use comms, not just the tag search) or on WordPress (where people don’t care about the tag search in the first place). That doesn’t mean it’s not a problem, of course; it means it’s a problem that’s localized.

    (and, conversely, the umbrella term aspec being used to only mean acespec rather than its proper usage, which is to cover both the ace and aro spectrums)

    huh! This marks another instance of asserting a “proper usage” of “aspectrum” — I created a thread asking about that recently. It’s interesting to me that even though that’s what it was originally created to mean, you’ve also got people who are ready to define it differently than that — including not just aromanticism and asexuality but other “a-” identities as well. Personally I haven’t even started using the term yet (besides to question what it is or means).

    • Irrelevant tags are a problem in general on any large platform. It’s not ace people deliberately singling out aros to erase them. It’s people who don’t give a damn spamming their posts with dozens of pointless tags. The #asexual tag is always full of selfies or K-Pop stars or pointless “inspirational” nonsense, etc., and those are almost always tagged with the full alphabet soup. Here are some actual tag sets I’ve found on things in the #asexual tag just today:

      “#sunset #aesthetic #ace #zen #bed #tumblr #leg”
      “#lgbtpride #genderfluid #pride month #gay pride #demigirl #gender #genderflux #genderqueer #gender nonconforming #binder #binding #ftm binder #ftm binding #im so excited #lgbt pride #lgbt #lgbtq #lgbtqai #queer pride #pride”
      “#minecraft #fortnite #gayswag”
      “#love #pansexual #lgbt #lgbtq #body positive #lgbtqa #beautiful #chubby #panromantic #queer #single queer #wlw #single wlw #girls into girls #girls who like girls #girlswholikegirls #thicc #thick #chubby thighs #cellulite #stretch marks #tbt #throw back thursday #me #send me asks #send asks #chubby gay #chubby gang #fat”
      “#lgbt #lgbtqa #🏳️‍🌈 #gay #gaypride #lesbian #lesbianpride #trans #transgender #transpride #bisexual #bisexualpride #aesthetic #gayaesthetic #queer #asexual #gaymeme #gaynews #gayart #loveislove #wholesomememes #nicememe”

      None of these posts have anything to do with asexuality or half the other tags they’ve used, and the people who are tagging them don’t care and will never care. Counting tag spam as a critical inter-community issue is just weird to me. Tags just… suck.

      • Coyote says:

        Good grief. Those are quite the examples. I don’t actually use Tumblr directly/browse tags, so I didn’t know it was *that* bad.

        But anyway, yeah, seriously, it just goes to show — tags < venues with community moderation options.

      • aceadmiral says:

        Seconding this. Part of my job is monitoring our social media accounts (twitter, facebook, linkedin) and trending topics. 80% of the time when I click on something to see why it’s trending, the top tweets are people posting random whatever with a list of all of the trending tags, and it’s about 50/50 the very top tweet is a gif of a kpop guy.

  2. Laura G says:

    To those who submitted, I would like to reiterate what Siggy and Coy said. I think it’s really important to have a discussion about these things, and I appreciate the work you’ve all put towards making that conversation happen.

    I did want to comment on complicating factors when it comes to aro erasure – particularly with the two characters mentioned in the post referenced here, Jughead and Raphael. It absolutely isn’t my intent to say that there aren’t issues with how the characters were adapted on-screen, or that there aren’t problems with how (allo?) ace people talked about those issues. I just think there are also problems with how the aro community talks about this as well.

    Specifically, the statement “their aromanticism was erased” is incorrect for both Jughead and Raphael. Jughead doesn’t canonically identify as aromantic; it would be more correct to say that his romance-repulsion, touch aversion, lack of crushes, etc. was erased (otherwise, this is implying that there’s something wrong with real-life aces who don’t identify with the word “aromantic” even if it would fit). I recently looked back at some posts from the Jughead debacle and I think there was more talking past each other without understanding each other’s points than I realized.

    As far as Raphael goes, this one I’m a bit more personally hurt by because there is nothing about how he was portrayed by the show that makes him alloromantic, and I actually relate quite a bit with his portrayal as it directly relates to my aromanticism, not my asexuality. (Again, this isn’t to say there weren’t problems with the whole thing.) I’ve talked more about that here, (as well as more about Jughead under the cut):

    [Moderator’s note: edited to remove embedding]

    • Siggy says:

      Jughead doesn’t canonically identify as aromantic

      That doesn’t sound like a mitigating factor, it sounds like part of the problem. It wasn’t so many years ago when we were all demanding that asexual characters be explicitly labeled as such. There are many reasons for this. Informing unaware readers that asexuality is a thing. Letting ace readers know that the author knows what they’re doing. And in the context of serials and franchises with many authors, it “commits” the creators to a particular stance–which doesn’t always prevent creators from changing their minds, but lends more credibility to critics if they do.

      • Coyote says:

        I don’t know much about Archie comics, but I got the sense that “the author knows what they’re doing” was probably not at all a part of the picture — he didn’t seem like he was intended as Aro Representation so much as… you know… a joke character, where the joke is “he likes food more than women.”

        • Siggy says:

          I think a lot of complaints come from the fact that in the more recent Chip Zdarsky comics, Jughead is explicitly asexual, and aromantic by word of god.

        • Siggy says:

          Now that I’m looking around, I’m not sure Zdarsky ever says that Jughead is aromantic. But everyone seems to agree that Zdarsky’s version is.

        • Siggy says:

          Looking at articles on Jughead, I find stuff like this:

          It was a huge milestone when they confirmed Jughead to be aromantic asexual.

          This is frustrating, because I think it’s factually inaccurate–Jughead was not confirmed to be aromantic. So it’s not only spreading misinformation it’s also kind of premature celebration. So then when the TV show Riverdale chose to portray Jughead as alloromantic, and people say “well he was never confirmed to be aromantic in the first place”, that’s adding insult to injury.

          • raavenb2619 says:

            I feel like the panelist probably didn’t consult any aros about saying that Jughead was confirmed as aro. I’m always careful to say that Jughead is canonically ace and heavily aro-coded, and I don’t think many aros would see the canonical, in-text confirmation of asexuality and say that also counted as aro confirmation. So I guess you could add this as another complaint along the lines of allos speaking for, over, and about aros in a situation that’s not really about aromanticism in the first place?

          • Coyote says:

            This also happened to be the thing that people got into a huge fight with Vesper over, so that’s the main thing I associate it with now. Well, that and people in that fight consistently talking to them as if assuming they’re alloromantic.

      • Laura G says:

        That doesn’t sound like a mitigating factor, it sounds like part of the problem. It wasn’t so many years ago when we were all demanding that asexual characters be explicitly labeled as such.

        Yes, but calling it part of the problem implies that real-life aces who identify as asexual and who “don’t get crushes”* but also don’t identify as aromantic are also a problem (which, they’re not). That’s not to say that we don’t need word-on-the-page aro rep, but that doesn’t mean this different kind of rep is bad. Another thing that complicates it is that while maybe as-is it does represent how real-life aces identify, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it isn’t the result of misconceptions on the part of the author.

        I think it’s important to recognize this, because someone might say something like “Jughead isn’t aromantic” and they either mean one of two things: they are ignoring the fact that he is clearly aromantic-coded, or that they are asserting that not all aces who don’t get crushes identify as aromantic. It might be easy to misinterpret one of those for the other. (This is unrelated to aro things, but this also happened when people said the show “erased Jughead’s asexuality” and others got upset by this because at that point, it was only clear that he was romantically involved, and they felt that phrasing implied that being romantically involved with someone means they can’t be asexual.)

        Using the fact that Jughead has not canonically had the word “aromantic” applied to him as an excuse for erasing the traits that he shares with people who do identify as aromantic is absolutely not okay, though.

        (Also I want to note that I did say complicating factor, not mitigating factor.)
        *This is an actual quote from Jughead (2015) Issue 9

        And in the context of serials and franchises with many authors, it “commits” the creators to a particular stance–which doesn’t always prevent creators from changing their minds, but lends more credibility to critics if they do.

        Yeah, this doesn’t seem to be holding up in Jughead’s case. There hasn’t been much ace or aro coding in the comics since Chip Zdarsky stopped writing them, there was the whole Riverdale fiasco, and I recently read the parts of Jughead Time Police that have been released so far and there is at least one version of Jughead (yes there are multiple) in that that is certainly not aro-coded.

        • Siggy says:

          Yes, but calling it part of the problem implies that real-life aces who identify as asexual and who “don’t get crushes”* but also don’t identify as aromantic are also a problem (which, they’re not).

          I strongly disagree. Thinking through it by way of analogy… There are a lot of characters who were ace-coded, but never explicitly identified as asexual. I say that’s a problem. There are also real people with ace-like characteristics who don’t identify as asexual and I am among them. Am I implying that their existence is a problem? I think not.

          I find it tremendously unsatisfying when characters who “don’t use the word” is just the default choice for creators, because I feel like my own choice to not use the word was anything but default.

          • Laura G says:

            We may just disagree here, but as a point of clarity, I think there is a problem with the pattern of the word “aromantic” not being included in-text, but I think the solution to that is having more characters who do identify with the word, not having less that don’t. I think the problem is the pattern, not the individual characters.

            As someone who would prefer to identify as just asexual, but feels forced into identifying more strongly as aromantic in order to have a right to speak to my experiences within the aro community, I don’t feel like the parallel with asexuality is perfect? I think there is very much a problem (that is getting better) within the aro community where it is sometimes hostile to aroaces who prioritize their asexuality and aces who do not identify as either aro or alloromantic, but who find aro terms, narratives, etc. useful. Sometimes the way the topic of ace characters who do not explicitly identify as aromantic are discussed mirrors this problem in ways I find uncomfortable.

  3. Blue Ice-Tea says:

    I will say that I haven’t witnessed most of the problems described here. I haven’t seen alloromantic asexuals granted a privileged place in the asexual community; I haven’t noticed asexual-only content “tagged” as aromantic. Perhaps, as Coyote suggests, this is simply a platform issue. I spend most of my time on WordPress and have little familiarity with Tumblr.

    What I have noticed during my time in the asexual community (about 14 years, now), is that both aromantic and alloromantic aces get a lot more exposure and attention than those of us who don’t understand the concept of “romance” at all. “Aromantic” and “(allo)romantic” have always been presented to me as equally valid options. “None-of-the-above”, not so much.

    I can see how many people would perceive aromanticism as a sub-set of asexuality, given that it was in the asexual community that the idea of aromanticism developed. Is that a problem? Well, it’s not a problem that asexuals came up with the idea of aromanticism; the term has been very useful to many people. It is a problem that some people still think all aromantics are asexual, but I also think that’s rapidly changing. As the aromantic community expands and aromantic allosexuals become more prominent, there will be more recognition or aromanticism as a separate thing.

  4. i-am-non-sam says:

    I frequent tumblr and instagram and sometimes when I search #aromantic or similar tags, the result page is very purple. Lol. As an aro who is not an ace, it’s exhausting to scour through the purple ace posts to find something relatable. (If they’re aroace posts, it makes sense they’re tagged that way, and I’m just digging for allo content I guess.) Maybe being more selective about tagging would help? It’s not just aces or aroaces who seem to do it. I see other LGBT+ posts that have nothing to do with aromanticism whatsoever tagged with every label under the sun just for exposure. That’s not always a helpful thing to do. Tagging systems exist for a reason: to find the content relevant to what you’re looking for.

    I do notice the aro erasure in the aspec community. A- often refers to just asexuals. Less often it includes aros, and even more rarely – agender. I’m not ace, I don’t even use my sexual attraction as part of my identifier. So when people lump aro topics under ace and assume it’s relatable to everyone, it’s realllly not.

    As Blue Ice-Tea mentioned, I agree it’s becoming more accepted that aromanticism is separate from asexuality. It’s pretty slow-going though, haha. However, it’s nice to see the occasional encouraging post validating alloaros and non-SAM aros because those briefly pull us out of all the ace stuff. It’s good to share a simple reminder that not all aros have the same sexuality!

  5. aceadmiral says:

    I wouldn’t ordinarily make a direct response in a public comment, except this person is anonymous, and :

    I feel like the ace community as a whole is focusing on the fact that “real aces” are artists and creators, not cold scientists.

    As the administrator of ASPeN, and as someone who’s read hundreds of scholarship applications, this is simply not borne out by the demographics of either of those. As far as fields of study and employment go, aces are widely varied. This is not particularly scientifically rigorous, but as I don’t believe that the Asexual Census has ever looked at fields of study/employment (thought I did find one poll on AVEN), I think I might actually be the best-positioned person in the community to speak to the numbers(?)

    However, it is self-evident that the numbers really don’t mean much in the scheme of the feeling or vibe that one might get in the community–and to that end, I’d like to challenge the ideas that being an artist or creator, being cold, and being a scientist are in any way correlated and/or exclusive. Anonymous, you say yourself you don’t think your “coldness” is correlated with your aspec-ness, so why would it be that the celebration of artistic achievement you’ve seen has to do with someones aspec-ness? Further, given that science requires a great deal of creativity, I wonder what about whatever it is you’ve seen makes you think it is a celebration of creativity specifically excluding the scientist type?

    …which is why I wish I could talk to you directly, because it is very difficult for me to respond to what you’re talking about (especially because this part of the ace community where I hang out is, uh, scientists all the way down). If you’re reading this, I’d like to invite you discuss this in a more one-on-one manner if that would make you more comfortable.

  6. Siggy says:

    Some various replies…

    The tagging issue, while I sympathize, is a non-issue in my own life, because I do not use tags to advertise or discover content. I think the people who add irrelevant tags to their content are being jerks, but I’m not really sure there is any way to get them to stop, because they are numerous, and not present for our critical conversations.

    Confusing “aspec” and “acespec” also seems like a local issue. I hardly ever use either word! “Aspec” seems potentially useful, since I don’t know of another quick way to refer to the union of aces and aros. “Acespec” seems totally unnecessary, because “ace” means the same thing, is shorter, has a longer history, and is not a homophone with “aspec”. I feel like I only ever hear “acespec” in the context of aro spaces, and I think they should just use “ace” instead, especially because of the homophone issue.

    I’m barely familiar with Jughead, and never heard of Raphael Santiago until now. Erasure of aro characters sure seems like a thing, though. One thing I would say is that ace characters are actually pretty common these days–at least from my perspective where I’m comparing to last decade–and also because I look for characters in webcomics and books, rather than TV shows. And so erasure of ace characters is not really the thing I most worry about. Aro characters are a lot less common though, so I see where this is coming from.

    • Coyote says:

      I feel like I only ever hear “acespec” in the context of aro spaces

      That’s an interesting observation. I haven’t been keeping track, personally, but yeah, now that you mention it…

    • Z says:

      As far as I know, acespec came from “the discourse” where people would talk about aspec issues (or aspecs or whatever (since aspec itself hit high popularity due to “the discourse”)), but then only mention asexuality/asexuals, and, inevitably, someone would come along and point out that if you’re only talking about asexuals then it should be acespec. This could have come from aro spaces (that I’m not sure), but it was never from anyone who, you know, seemed to know that ‘ace’ had any kind of inclusive history (cause, like, it’s only inclusive if you include the spectrum word /s).

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