The Fallacy of Limited Fucks

Apr 02, 2014 • Causes

The field where fucks grow

On Monday, I posted on social media about International Transgender Day of Visibility. Almost immediately, someone responded to the post, asking about the “more important issues out there” that people supporting this cause were obviously ignoring, such as “global warming, child abuse, animal cruelty, famine, etc.,” because they were so busy worrying about this one, single thing.

Anyone who’s ever written about transgender rights, gay rights, sex workers rights and even feminism has encountered this silencing tactic. This derail is so common, it’s one of the better known logical fallacies. Usually, such comments are ignored — a fine response considering their worth — but I want to take a moment to address this issue just the same.

Sometimes, when something happens that impacts me but I don’t have the emotional bandwidth to deal with it, I joke that I’m “all out of fucks.” Occasionally, I even do this to the tune of the pop ballad “All Out of Love” by Air Supply. And I’m not the only one who describes concern in terms of a fuck: “there goes the last fuck” renders 49,500,000 results in Google. Countless gifs have been made illustrating the many fucks given — sometimes in flight, sometimes in a glass, and always in association with scarcity. We either don’t want to give a fuck, or we have no more fucks left to give.

This isn’t actually descriptive of how concern works. Concern isn’t a limited resource. There is no allotment of fucks we all get at birth that we need to ration, lest we run out in our thirties. When we lobby behind a cause, we’re not giving up our fucks, never to care about anything again. And, certainly, if we lobby publicly, we’re not attempting to get everyone to give us their fucks so that they can’t worry about anything else ever again.

Actually, once you start thinking critically about human rights, or the system, or conservation, it’s a lot more likely that you will pick up on other causes worth supporting. Looking at the world this way isn’t limiting — it’s expansive.

I got into sex workers’ rights through working to fight labor injustice. Sex workers’ rights took me to the realities of poverty, homelessness, police brutality, racism, legal overreaching, a broken welfare system, and more humanitarian causes worth supporting, though not related to sex work. Simultaneously, concerns over lack of sexual education took me to freedom of speech, privacy, and scientific literacy, which in turn took me to global warming, pesticides, and animal welfare, among other issues. These are only a handful of the many things I care and worry about. While it’s true that we only have so much time, posts are not the only way that people signal support for change. A sex blog will only cover a handful of the issues I care about, but there are a number of ways to participate in other causes — including donations, logistics planning, and volunteering.

Supporting a cause that has at its focus the improvement of the world is something to be applauded. Our contributions might not be great, but it all starts with that moment we say, “you know what? This isn’t right.” The direction that we take this initial concern might not crystallize immediately, the places it might take us might not be immediately obvious, but it all starts when someone stops and realizes that the way things are could be better.

That’s why these posts and discussions matter. That’s why people who seek to derail conversations about change by pointing out that there are “bigger problems” out there aren’t just unhelpful, but serious barriers to effecting any change at all — even change regarding the issues that they actually care about.

Header image via Lionel Lauer.

  • Grant Stone

    You are absolutely right. Caring breeds more caring.

    I also hate this deflection, “You can’t say there is a ‘War on Women’ in the USA, when women are being disfigured and murdered in Afghanistan!” Just because you can find someone somewhere who has it worse, that doesn’t mean everything is fine here. And no, we don’t have to solve all the world’s problems before we are allowed to deal with problems here at home. And NO, the people who actually oppose Feminism don’t get to set the agenda for Feminists.