[Content Note: Privilege; auditing; fat hatred; racism; rape culture; violence.]

Last week, my friend Jessica Luther published a Storify on "The Subjectivity of 'Evidence'" and the ubiquitous habit of privileged people demanding that marginalized people provide objective "evidence" of their claims of oppression, alienation, and/or harm.

The very next day after she published it, I tweeted this example of pushback I got in response to my assertion that dehumanizing images of fat people are harmful:

screen cap of a tweet authored by me reading 'LOL FOREVER' followed by an image of a tweet directed at me reading 'So what 'harm' does the media to fat people? Do you have any real scientific evidence? Remember: Correlation is not causation.'

Jess, fresh off deconstructing this very flavor of bullshit, challenged him to explain, exactly, what sort of "evidence" he required, quickly revealing, as always, that there is an impossibly unattainable threshold for "proof" to convince any person who needs "science" to confirm widely reported lived experiences of a marginalized population.

Because demanding "evidence" is not about ascertaining whether people are being harmed; it's about denying that they are.

After all, denying people the right to be authorities on their own lives is itself harmful. No one who participates in that harm gives a fuck about not hurting people. Their entire objective is to hurt people.

Though that's never the explicitly stated intent.

This fellow was so intent on discrediting the value of my own reports of harm as a result of dehumanizing images of fat people that he compared my lived experiences to people who report having been abducted by aliens:

screen cap of two subsequent tweets authored by me reading: 'You are literally saying that my lifetime of experience as a fat person is equivalent to claiming an alien abduction. And then you're asking me to provide proof that fat people are harmed, without a trace of irony? Ha ha fuck you.'

Again, the thing about the demand for "evidence" is not just that it's derailing, not just that it's the reddest of all red herrings—although it is certainly those things, too—but it is actively harmful. It is saying that people who observe and document their own oppression cannot be considered reliable witnesses.

I want to draw a very clear line between this extremely common silencing and discrediting behavior and the rape culture: In crimes of sexual violence, survivors' accounts are often not considered evidence of a crime, which fundamentally sets them apart from crimes like robbery and non-sexual assault.

It is not a coincidence that there is a cultural habit of silencing and discrediting the voices of marginalized people who experience harm on the basis of their identities, when those are the people also most likely to be targeted by sexual violence.

I also want to draw a very clear line between this behavior and the way self-defense "crimes" are prosecuted. It is not a coincidence that men like George Zimmerman and Michael Dunn are given enormous amounts of latitude and sympathy as people actively urge them to make excuses for murdering black children and urge us to listen to their justifications, while women like Marissa Alexander and CeCe McDonald and the Jersey Four, black women who were not predators and clearly acted in self-defense, are persecuted, prosecuted, and silenced.

Where's the evidence that you were harmed, beyond your own claims which we are not obliged to believe?

Challenging these demands for "evidence," in a way that suggests marginalized people's testimony about our own lived experiences is not sufficient "evidence" of harm, is a crucial social justice issue.

To address the inevitable complaint, I am not suggesting that any marginalized person who makes a legal claim of harm be believed without investigation. I am, however, suggesting that such legal claims of harm be investigated with equal vigor and seriousness, instead of routinely being dismissed out of hand with abdicating turns of phrase like "he said she said."

And I am absolutely and unapologetically suggesting that people who are sharing their personal experiences of marginalization and abuse in the process of advocating for sensitivity and decency be heard and believed. Be regarded as experts on their own lives. Be free from reprehensible demands for scientific, peer-reviewed, published, blahblahfart "evidence."

If one genuinely cares about harm done to marginalized people, one's primary instinct should be to listen to them when they speak of it. And believe them.

There is perhaps nothing more basely dehumanizing than purporting to know someone's life better than zie knows it hirself.

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