I’ve written numerous times about how the “die in a fire” meme used by transactivists (both those who are Trans* and those who self-define as cis) is a deliberate invocation of the mass murder of women by fire throughout history. It is chosen because fire has been, and remains, a way in which violent men control and punish women. It is used today by men committing domestic violence just as it was 400 years ago to punish women deemed ‘witches’.
Telling someone whose politics you dislike to “die in a fire” is replicating male patterns of violence and control. Telling anyone to “die in a fire” is a deliberate and malicious silencing tactic. I do not accept the theory that there is ever an appropriate time when this threat is acceptable, nor do I believe that any class of people are ever so oppressed as to make this statement acceptable.
Today, Sian published a very personal post on having experienced having her hair set on fire as a teenager. Until I read this post, I had thought only of fire in terms of domestic violence and the control of women throughout history. I hadn’t thought of the times in junior/ high school when boys thought it was “funny” to threaten to set fire to my hair. I hadn’t thought of the times that all of my friends were threatened or the time my stepsister’s hair was actually set on fire. I hadn’t made the connections in my own mind between the threats made about fire by boys and how often fire was actually used to punish and control my friends: particularly by burning homework or books.
In all the times I have written or spoken about unspeakably hateful the “die in a fire” meme is, I hadn’t made the connection with my own experiences. I had othered the threat so as not to have to think about just how real that threat is – not just for abstract women online but for myself. These people bandying about the “die in a fire” meme are deliberately triggering women’s experiences of male violence in order to shut them up – no dissent is ever allowed and any questioning immediately requires a threat of violence.
These threats are real. They are not just words or justified by ‘oppression’. They are nothing more than male violence. If you struggle to understand how fire is a violent threat, then please read Karen Ingala Smith’s blog which names the 16 women in the UK whose brutal murder either involved fire or who were set on fire after their deaths between January 2012 and December 2013.
And, think about how many women are either killed in a fire or their bodies desecrated by fire on a daily basis on our planet.
“Die in a fire” is hate speech. It is hate speech used to silence women and it is used to kill women.