I don’t understand why so many people seem to think “you’re not in my head you don’t know what I think” is a get-out-of-(debate)jail-free card. I mean, if anything, it’s a do-not-pass-go-do-not-collect-$200 sort of card. Because, if you think about it, it’s a retort that pretty much makes your opponent’s argument for them.
That thing you said/did was upsetting for X reason, says person A.
No, it wasn’t, retorts person B. You don’t know my mind. You don’t know what I meant to say.
Exactly, person A thinks. I don’t know. Which is why I have to go off what you say and do. I have no way of ever knowing what you meant; I have only your actions. Your intentions mean nothing.
And they mean less than nothing when you expect them to be the final word on the matter.
About a week or so ago, there was a big(ish) debate on this subject between Dynamite comics, writer Paul Cornell, artist Jimmy Broxton, and a group of disturbed fans. Broxton had created a transphobic variant cover for Vampirella #3 (pictured at left). Cornell and the editors at Dynamite had signed off on it without thinking. When the furor erupted, Cornell and Dynamite unequivocally apologized. Broxton dug in his heels and asserted that he knew what his own intentions were and anyone who thought he’d made a transphobic cover was just flat-out wrong. But, of course, his intentions—well-meaning as they may have been—mean nothing.
Life would run a lot more smoothly for everyone if we could all just admit that the author is dead. Intentions shape our everyday thoughts and deeds, it is true. Intentions determine our words, our plans, our art. Intentions guide us in the pursuit of our best selves. But some intentions pave the road to hell. And once a word is spoken, an act is performed, a work of art is let go into the aether… its meaning is no longer yours to control.