Ace Day was incompetently organized

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.

Ancient History

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.

Activist hangover

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.

FYA, bitter about Yasmin’s poll, pointed to their own date poll, conducted in 2015.

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.

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 activism, Articles, asexual politics. Bookmark the permalink.

20 Responses to Ace Day was incompetently organized

  1. Pingback: Aces Have More Than a Day: Failures of Community Memory & Advocate Integrity | The Ace Theist

  2. Kathleen says:

    I was one of them many to have no idea of the day until it came. Like you day the lack of knowledge defeats the point. X

  3. aceadmiral says:

    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.

    I agree with this sentiment wholeheartedly, and I wonder how it is we can instill a culture of this sort of activism as opposed to the build-it-from-the-ground-up, stumbling-in-the-dark sort of activism that characterizes many asexual spaces and events now. I know Aces & Aros is trying to build resources, and I applaud them for that, but I think the problem extends beyond “not knowing” into “not even having the right frame of reference.”
    So many people I talk to on this subject either don’t actually want to do any work (fair) or have an attitude that they’re “just” doing something, sort of downplaying their expertise but sometimes also their reach/responsibility, even a lot of the people I would say are doing a good job. In addition, when people do actually band together, they seem to do it without really looking at what’s already out there, and without a lot of trust/support between groups.
    I don’t have an answer for this and am not necessarily asking you for one. Furthermore, I am certainly guilty myself on many counts (although, in my defense, my “just doing” project is centered around trying to get people to actually think about community infrastructure :P), but I feel like there are so many people getting in over their heads because “just” doing any activism takes a lot of work and a lot of skill, and I don’t see that being recognized widely. What does it mean to demand better from them when they don’t even realize better could be their goal?

    • Coyote says:

      Hitting us with the hard questions here, huh.

      Hmm… “Not even having the right frame of reference” seems about right (from my perspective, for what it’s worth). I’m not confident I could thoroughly sketch out what the “right frame of reference” even is, myself, honestly. I’ll toss out some tentative starting points though, in case that helps prompt anyone else to say more:

      I really want to see people escape the focus around “visibility”/”awareness” as a keyword, which is something I’ve written about some before. While stuff done under that banner isn’t necessarily bad, I do think it sets some off-base/superficial priorities and puts people in the mentality of, like, an advertising campaign — which I think must’ve played a part in how we had one activist end up literally participating in an advertising campaign.

      In its place I’m interested in frameworks like advocacy and consciousness raising, i.e. not just “teaching” people “information,” as if brains are just receptacles waiting to be filled with facts, but actually changing the way existing information is understood and evaluated. So, for instance, that classic shift from “I don’t think people are sexy, so I’m broken” to “I don’t think people are sexy, and there’s nothing wrong with that” — that’s what’s captured in the term consciousness raising. And that’s important because “educating” people with “asexuality exists” is no good to me without purposefully couching it in terms of “you’ve been taught these ways of being are bad or lesser, and they aren’t.” It’s not just informational, it’s political/moral/ideological. …Hopefully that distinction makes any kind of sense.

      I also figure the right framework has to really lay its foundation in collaboration and consensus-finding (as contrasted with more hierarchical modes of engagement). I think maybe folks *think* that they’re doing the collaborative thing by throwing up polls and such, because that’s Voting, and voting is Democracy (except not exactly, but moving on). This of course ignores that the poll options are still selected in advance by whichever user is popular enough to get a lot of polltakers and argue their poll is the most legitimate on that basis — and while other people can technically bring up other ideas in the comments (if there’s even comments), naturally the most “support” (poll votes) is gonna end up going to the predetermined options. In other words, there’s still a hierarchical element to that kind of format, and popular figures can develop a lot of undue control over the whole conversation, even without meaning to make it that way, especially if there’s not a lot of space for more extensive deliberation/dialogue. Could get into alternative approaches but my comment is already getting pretty long here.

      Anyway. In my own post on “Ace Day” I talked about the problem of not taking criticism well, but if I had to guess? That’s intertwined with approaching projects in these individualistic and hierarchical ways, like it’s more important to claim credit for a success story than it is to engage in more thorough consensus-finding (which can be hard! because tbh my culture trains people on obedience, not collaboration). …Speaking of, somebody remind me to write another post about consent stuff, because that’s another thing that’s been on my mind.

      • Siggy says:

        One interesting thing is that Ace Day 2015 appeared to decenter visibility, insofar as “visibility” was actually removed from the name, and it contrasted itself with Ace Week by emphasizing that it was more of an in-community event.

        But Ace Day 2020 spontaneously turned into #acevisibilityday, which again comes down to the lack of clear direction from the organizers. So that’s one lesson learned, an ace event will turn into a “visibility” event unless someone pushes back. Now there’s a frame of reference problem.

        • aceadmiral says:

          This is a very good point! …I wonder if it isn’t some conceptual/expectational overlap #ThisIsWhatAnAsexualLooksLike

          • Sennkestra says:

            I’m not sure if you were saying this because you were already aware, but #thisiswhatasexuallookslike was popularized by the same person who popularized #acevisibilityday (@yasminbenoit), so, there’s definitely a connection there.

      • aceadmiral says:

        I’m not confident I could thoroughly sketch out what the “right frame of reference” even is, myself, honestly.

        I know I’m a broken record on “the right tool for the right job,” but I think one of the reasons people have trouble with not being in the right frame of reference is that it depends on the situation which one is the right one. I’m about to agree with basically the rest your comment [spoiler alert], but I do think we need to keep in mind that there are a lot of different audiences someone putting things out might be trying to reach, different preferred styles of engagement within those audiences, different types of authors, and different purposes for those messages. I think we need to encourage activists to recognize the diversity in our community and to be purposeful and deliberate when considering what they’re trying to say, how, and to whom–but I confess I am not sure how to foster willingness to engage with such an approach when so many people are stuck in that Level One mindset.

        i.e. not just “teaching” people “information,” as if brains are just receptacles waiting to be filled with facts, but actually changing the way existing information is understood and evaluated. […] It’s not just informational, it’s political/moral/ideological.

        !!! This is so important! I think this is also why both clapbacks and validation posts wear thin so quickly; they generally don’t alter the thinking behind whatever opinion they’re trying to change, and contrary to popular activist belief, most people did arrive at their conclusions through a process with internal logic. Expecting that if you just present “facts” you change the conclusion is so distorted and arrogant. Excellent point.

        I also think that as far as actually building glue between people consciousness raising is very effective and something that I do think used to be more common in ace spaces but outside factors pushed us away from it and over time it compounded. If I’m not mistaken, TAA was created in an attempt to escape those factors, and it’s been incredibly successful in a lot of ways. I also think a lot of meetup group organizers are focused on this and finding success.

        I also figure the right framework has to really lay its foundation in collaboration and consensus-finding (as contrasted with more hierarchical modes of engagement).

        Ohhh we need so much more collaboration. Just doing a survey of existing efforts, there are so many people concentrated on one or two things duplicating effort, while huge gaps are clearly visible in other places. I think the “just” doing things problem is really salient here, because it’s so very “I’m just going to start with the problems I can see that matter most to me,” which is a great motivation for getting in to activism, but not a recipe for being effective at it.

        If you can only see the people who are in front of your nose, or like you, you’re going to end up forgetting about and then alienating everyone else–because people generally don’t stay where they’re not wanted. It’s an impossible task for one person to do alone, so why are you trying???

        especially if there’s not a lot of space for more extensive deliberation/dialogue.

        This kind of ties together the two previous points, but I don’t understand why people don’t see those deeper discussions as essential to the long-term health of the community and it’s members. Diversification of efforts and styles and focus is important to actually serving community members over space and time.

        Hitting us with the hard questions here, huh.

        At least I did it in plain English with neither extended metaphor nor amorphous vagueries? 😛

  4. I knew of the event, but wasn’t aware of the background. Thank you for making it so clear.

  5. Owen Michael says:

    I was slightly confused as to how it seemed to be quite sudden and I’d never heard of it before when it had apparently existed for years, thanks for explaining the background (I kinda liked the date because it happens to be my birthday, but yeah this doesn’t seem well thought out or planned),

  6. DasTenna says:

    Your review and critique is quite helpful since it shows me what to take into consideration when planning an event comparable to Ace Day, but broaching another issue.

  7. Pancake says:

    Absolutely great commentary! One of the best and most precise I’ve seen so far! Is it okay with you if I were to share your article on my blog or rather not? Anyways, thank you, Siggy, for this insight!

  8. Pingback: Ace Day was incompetently organized — The Asexual Agenda – Aces NRW

  9. LJ Conrad says:

    Bizarre to have the ‘whoops we put it on Thanksgiving because we’re not American’ and ‘whoops we out it on VE Day because we are American’ mistakes about the same thing.

    • Siggy says:

      I know right? I’m guessing FYA is US-based (given their “international” comment, only people from the US could be so unaware), but maybe TAB was based somewhere else?

      The rationale for putting it on November 26th is that it’s International Cake Day. And their main concern about the date was not that it fell on Thanksgiving, but that it might be considered silly or childish.

      I feel for them, because it sure seems like every single date they pick has problems. They probably think it’s unavoidable, so they should just stick to something and accept that “days are multiple things” (in FYA’s words). And yet, they persisted in holding themselves to a completely unnecessary constraint, that the different dates be weighted according to their symbolic significance.

      • FYA and TAB are/were both US.

        • LJ Conrad says:

          Well that just doesn’t make any sense. It is true that every day is something, to lesser or greater degrees of authenticity and official…ness, but you’d certainly think you could at least avoid the really big holidays where people aren’t going to have time to focus. Perhaps they thought with Thanksgiving that families could celebrate their relative’s sexuality together, but that would only work for some. Many would feel very awkward or isolated.

          Not sure that I follow why it was offensive to hold it near the trans visibility day though. If you start bringing ‘nearness’ into it to cancel out dates then you really are stuck with nothing. Although tbh I don’t really understand why you need a new Ace day – surely there is one in June pride month and in that case, wouldn’t it make more sense to promote that?

          It would help if different awareness weeks tallied between continents though. Last year I was making a list of days and weeks I wanted to celebrate/commemorate and very often the US and UK ones are at totally different times of year. (This would make more sense to have difference between northern and southern hemisphere countries due to the seasons – always nicer to celebrate in the summer!)

          • Siggy says:

            Perhaps they thought with Thanksgiving that families could celebrate their relative’s sexuality together

            Based on the AVEN thread announcing the November date, I don’t think that’s it. It just weirdly seems to be hardly a consideration at all.

            Not sure that I follow why it was offensive to hold it near the trans visibility day though.

            I’m not sure I agree with that particular criticism either, but if temporal and conceptual proximity causes trans and ace people to swipe at each other, that hardly seems like a good thing.

            Although tbh I don’t really understand why you need a new Ace day – surely there is one in June pride month and in that case, wouldn’t it make more sense to promote that?

            I don’t oppose having additional “days”, and Sennkestra’s link roundup included a few other examples that seem to have some success. But you certainly aren’t the first to say it feels unnecessary. I think it comes down, again, to a lack of direction from the organizers. When all we know is the name, “ace day” or alternately “ace visibility day”, it’s not clear that it adds anything new (even if, in truth, it does). If it were something like Aggressively Arospec Week, which is very clearly targeted at fanwork creators, then nobody would question whether it was necessary.

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