Did you know that Ace Day was on May 8th? No? Or perhaps you knew, but only learned that fact on the day it happened? You aren’t alone. Most people, if they found out all, discovered this on the day it happened, perhaps through Twitter or Reddit. Most people reacted to this discovery with pleasant surprise.
But to an activist like me, who keeps an ear on the ground, the appearance of a surprise event is not pleasant, it is suspicious. It betrays a lack of advertising and planning. Even a seemingly innocent event such as this can be sunk by poor organization.
But it gets worse. I have heard about Ace Day. And what I have to say about it is not nice, not nice at all. Reader beware, it’s time to burn bridges, and dig up dirt.
Ace Day was an event created in 2015 by Sara of The Asexuality Blog. It is not to be confused with Ace Week (recently renamed from Asexual Awareness Week), which was independently created by Sara Beth Brooks and David Jay in 2010. Ace Week is and was an event intended to stimulate activism, especially in offline student groups. Ace Day was not a day for activism, but for in-community celebration on social media.
From the start, Ace Day was plagued by controversies. It was first announced on April 6th, to occur on April 8th under the name “Ace Visibility Day”. Since this was a mere week after the Trans Day of Visibility, it was considered disrespectful. So it was moved to May 8th and renamed to “Ace Day”. They also had this idea that people would hold up ace cards, with the suit indicating what kind of ace they were. On the surface this sounds fun, but no such categorization could possibly include everyone, and many found it hurtful. My own criticism, best captured by Elizabeth, is that it felt rushed, lacked clear goals, and did not take the most basic steps to advertise outside of their direct followers.
These, and numerous other criticisms can be found in Sennkestra’s Ace Day history roundup. But a month later, The Asexuality Blog wrote a heartfelt apology, and it was moved again to November 26th, 2015.
Although it was not the subject of public controversy, I would say that November 26th was also a poor decision. In 2015, it was the same day as Thanksgiving in the US. I for one would not have been on the internet that day. I do not know if that is why, but the November event had much less activity.
Ace Day was for most practical purposes defunct from 2016 to 2019. I found only scattered acknowledgments using time-constrained google searches. And in mid-2019, The Asexuality Blog and its archives disappeared, for reasons unknown to me.
Failure to learn
In 2020, Rose of Fuck Yeah Asexual (henceforth FYA), who had also been involved in organizing the first Ace Day event, decided to revive the event. And though The Asexuality Blog had learned from their mistakes, apparently FYA didn’t learn anything at all.
Yet again, there was a failure to advertise. As far as I can tell, FYA first publicly mentioned Ace Day on Twitter on May 5th, without even a clear indication that they were planning to celebrate on May 8th. The next day on their blog, they advertised an “#aceday watch party” for May 8th–a twitch stream featuring Ace and Anxious and Selah and the Spades. Also on May 5th, AVEN’s twitter account tweeted:
Do you know as well as Asexual Awareness Week in October, there is Asexuality Visibility Day on 8th May?
There is an attached poll, which demonstrates that indeed few people had heard of the event. The poll lacked the correct response, which is that Ace Day was moved to November 26th, before becoming defunct in 2016. It is unclear to me if someone informed AVEN’s folks of what was to come, or if they were relying on incorrect information dated to 2015.
Yet again, there was a failure to vet the day chosen. Soon, people complained that Ace Day fell on the same day as VE Day, which celebrates victory in WWII.
Despite the poor organization, some ace activists made something out of it, most prominently Yasmin Benoit (whom I have criticized in the past but I do think is wonderful). Yasmin and others succeeded in making the hashtag #acevisibilityday trending in the United States.
A trending hashtag is cool, but I have to ask, what was the point? What is the next step for someone seeing the #acevisibilityday hashtag? Because of poor planning, no permanent page explaining “Ace Visibility Day” was created, leaving people to do their own searches. I did my own search, and prominent among the results was this scathing criticism from 2015. Visibility is nice, but in this day and age aces have more visibility than ever before, and activists must spare some thought towards what happens after visibility.
After Ace Day, many activists were left with a headache. What to do with these VE day complaints? What to do with an organizer who had five whole years–with hindsight!–to recognize mistakes, and had not done so?
Yasmin heard complaints about the conflict with VE day, and created a poll for other day suggestions. This poll was poorly conceived on a number of levels. FYA was apparently unhappy that Yasmin did not coordinate with FYA to create the poll, and the provided date options were poor. (Yasmin later stepped away from the poll and the conversation.)
Frankly the entire idea of deciding by poll is untenable. First-past-the-post voting doesn’t work very well with 4+ options, and obviously 4 options are not going to capture the full range of choices. Choosing a day requires planning and vetting, which is something I cannot expect a crowd of people to do. Please, please, take it to a committee, and announce your events well beforehand so that there’s time to hash out problems. To my knowledge, this is how Ace Week dates are decided.
In 2015, we did a poll and over 2000 aces selected may the 8th as the date. The idea that I picked it on a whim is all around false.
So what you are telling me, is that you made the same mistake that Yasmin did, but you did it 5 years ago and still haven’t learned from it? And you think your poll is better because it had more people in it? Even though the date was later changed, accompanied by an apology? I am gobsmacked.
Furthermore, contra FYA’s claim, it is apparently true that they picked the date on a whim. In another tweet, they say:
It’s “May the Ace” that’s the date pun.
That’s right, May 8th was chosen because of a strained pun. And yes, May 8th was chosen and publicly announced before the poll was made, and obviously a plurality of people were going to select the option that had first been anchored.
Other laughable assertions include:
Ace Day was never designed as an international holiday. It was a grass roots movement of a bunch of tumblr aces saying we love ourselves and each other.
This appears to be a response to the VE Day criticism, since VE Day is not celebrated in the US. Please! We are on the anglophone internet, only about 60% of us are in the US–and that goes for Tumblr too. If the intention was to keep the event small, then this was not remotely clear in the (absence of) event materials. Nobody knows what the goal of the event is. It is not people’s fault for misinterpreting the intentions of the event when you didn’t even bother to make a permanent page.
In another thread, FYA says:
I feel like a million years old when I watch the exact same debate happen five years later.
If we didn’t learn anything back then, why start now?
FYA has been a very active blogger for many years, and has been on the frontlines against some of the worst aphobia on tumblr. In that sort of environment, any and all criticism develops a deeply negative association. The problem is, we need criticism to survive. You can’t just call all your critics aphobes, you can’t just accuse them of trying to divide the community. Every activist makes mistakes; the good ones avoid repeating their mistakes by listening.
We deserve better
Let us return to all those people who first learned about Ace Day on the day it happened, those who were pleasantly surprised. In criticizing the event’s shoddy organization, I feel that I am dashing that joy. Hopefully you knew what you were in for from the title.
I’ll be honest: I would not enjoy Ace Day even if it were well-organized. I do not personally enjoy Ace Week, even though I have great respect for it. Ace Week is a week I have obligations. I have work. And I do not enjoy most of the art or affirmations I see on social media, I never have. I know that other people enjoy that, and I’m happy for you.
But you deserve better. You deserve activists who will do their homework. Activists who will make your trending hashtags meaningful. Activists who will listen when they make mistakes. Demand competence and accountability from the activists who purport to represent you.
Acknowledgments: After drafting this article, I solicited feedback and fact-checking from Coyote and Sennkestra. But the views expressed–as well as any errors–are my own. Coyote separately and simultaneously drafted an article expressing their own viewpoint, to which I gave feedback.