Category Archives: discussion

Micro vs. Macro

by cacophonies

This is a post where I hope to see readers’ participation. I’ve devoted a lot of blog space lately to how I think feminism “ought to” be, but I don’t want any ensuing discussion to be yet another feminist echo chamber like so many blog posts we often see, and I also hope to avoid arguing for the sake of arguing. Hopefully we can learn something from one another and bring up some ideas for change– no matter how theoretical or utopian. Hopefully we can help elaborate on one another’s ideas and provide contructive criticism when necessary.

It seems that the majority of disagreements that occur between feminists and non-, or anti- feminists occur because the parties involved in the debate are not coming from the same place in their arguments.

One thing we all see repeated over and over in blogs, in discussions with friends and acquaintances when discussing social justice issues are situations where a discussion like the following occurs:

Woman: “Women bear the brunt of institutionalized sexism, are the majority of victims of sexual assault and domestic violence, and earn, on average, less money than their male counterparts.”

Man: “But my friend Tim, who has a doctorate, was turned down for a job he was more than qualified for because a woman applied. She wasn’t as qualified as Tim; they only hired her because of Affirmative Action. That’s blatant sexism, and it is sexism with men as the victim. Sexism is not only a problem for women.”

Woman: “But that woman may not have had another opportunity for that job. Where do you expect her opportunities come from? What about the countless women who are turned down for promotions that they are qualified for, only to have an under-qualified male hired instead, because the male boss didn’t trust that a female would have the necessary drive or intellect, even though she had more than proven her intelligence and worth to the company?”

Man: “The system that you are talking about is legalized sexism toward men and toward white people, plain and simple.”

Woman: “Think about it this way. A man, Bob, and a woman, Sue, work for a company. They do the same job, they started on the same day 5 years ago, they have the same level of education, they achieve identical results on their performance reviews. One day it comes out that Bob makes $60,000 a year and Sue makes $40,000 a year. Since they both perform equally as well, are identically educated, and neither has seniority over the other, Sue is rightfully angry. She confronts her boss, who states that he has exactly $100,000 in the company budget to pay the two of them. There is not a cent more they can squeeze out. He is under obligation to make their pay equal, or he faces a battle in court that he will certainly lose. He decides to do the right thing, and make Bob and Sue’s pay equal.

In doing so, Sue got a $10,000/year raise. Bob received a $10,000/year pay cut. They continue to perform the same job with equal skill and dependency.”

Man: “That is not fair. Bob does not deserve to have his pay cut just because the boss was sexist in the first place. The boss needs to figure out a way to please everyone and make things fair for Sue, but Bob should not be penalized for it. He did nothing wrong and was not involved in the decision to pay him $20,000 more per year than a woman of equal education, skill, and experience.”

Woman: “But there is no more room in the budget. Should Sue continue to earn less than she is worth because the boss is sexist, and because it’s not Bob’s fault?”

Is this fair?

Well, that’s hard to say. The man has a point when he says that it’s not his fault that the boss made a decision rooted in sexism, and that he should not have to pay the penalty for being favored initially.

The woman has a point when she says that it is not fair that the woman not be compensated equally for equal work.

The boss, however, made it clear (and let’s assume he is being truthful) that there is no room in the budget to put them both at $60,000/year. And furthermore, where does the equality that is missing come from? It doesn’t materialize out of nowhere; it must be redistributed from existing resources.

What is fair, then?

You could argue that if Sue is not earning what she deserves, which is half of the payroll budget for half of the work, then Bob is earning more than he deserves, since he does not have more experience, education, work ethic, etc. than his female counterpart. No, it is not his fault, but he has also done nothing to deserve more compensation than what was allotted in the first place.

Focusing on the fact that most women earn less than their male peers in the workplace is what often occurs in feminist discourse, on the internet and elsewhere. Focusing on Bob’s experience, and Man’s friend Tim’s experience with Affirmative Action is what tends to occur in non- or anti-feminist (or MRA) discourse– or, more often than not, their polarized arguments are yelled back and forth at one another.

Both have valid points, as we’ve explored already. Bob doesn’t seem to deserve a pay cut; he wasn’t a part of the sexist decision-making that caused the problem in the first place. But Sue is representative of scores of women who are systematically compensated inadequately and unfairly for equal work, education, experience.

The problem with feminist discourse is that no one is willing, apart from the outspoken critics of feminism, to discuss what happens when we try to dismantle the patriarchal structure from the top and watch everyone fall down. Would we benefit from working our way up, from the bottom, instead of scrambling to put the pieces back together after everything falls to the ground? I think we would be.

Most of us agree that “the patriarchy” as it stands is the root of many, if not the majority, of our social problems. Do you think that the current “macro” approach to solving these problems is beneficial? Would focusing on a “micro”approach yield better, or faster, results? What are your theories? Are there lessons from personal experiences that may prove beneficial if applied across a given populace?


Women & Friendship

by cacophonies

(as I’m talking mostly from personal experience, this post is pretty hetero-centric)

Throughout my adult life thus far, the women I meet tend to fall into two categories: those who are primarily friends with men, and those with whom I share absolutely nothing in common.

It seems to be a trend among women that I encounter these days. Women are primarily friends with guys, and the women who aren’t don’t even register on my social radar. This tends to happen because I am also one of those women, the one who historically tends to only consider men as prospective friends.

In my general observation and experience, the cycle goes like this:

Girl meets boy, they become close friends, she sees him as only a friend, and he secretly pines for more. She bitches about her current boyfriend to her boy-BFF, he listens and lets her cry on his shoulder. She can tell that he wants more than friendship, but is comforted by the fact that he says nothing, because she knows that if he did, she’d have to end the friendship. Ultimately, her relationship with her boyfriend dissolves, and she and boy-BFF start dating. She acclimates to his circle of friends, mostly guys, and hangs out with them and becomes, as she sees it, a solid member of their group. She meets some new guy from work, school, wherever, he becomes new boy-BFF. Her relationship with former boy-BFF dissolves, and as a result, so do her “friendships” with the guys in his social circle. Having no other friends to speak of, save for a couple stragglers from her childhood other school years that she still maintains periodic contact with, she quickly finds herself spending all of her time with boy-BFF and his friends. She and boy-BFF start dating.

The cycle repeats.

This usually begins with a slow severing of old ties with former girl-BFFs, and swearing off other women as close friends because of the alleged cattiness or back-stabbing tendencies of other women (of course, they’re different than those other women).

This, clearly, is not healthy. The men that this proverbial woman is finding herself in “friendships” with are also good friends with primarily other men. Most do not tend to have many girl-BFFs and stick with their core group of “guy friends” that they’ve known since they were 12. Not too many guys tend to hang around solely women.

In my personal experience, I have felt hurt countless times by friendships with men that I thought were strong and real dissolve because the guy confessed that he’d always been interested in me romantically, or because we started dating. It felt like there was no real friendship to speak of, that I was being fooled, like he was only hanging out with me and feigning this close bond because he wanted to be in a romantic relationship with me, not because he really valued me as a friend and person overall. I’m sure the guy was just as hurt, thinking I was just leading them on or something. I swore them off as friends, but quickly realized that I had no idea how to be friends with anyone other than guys that I suspected might have a crush on me.

imnotme and I were talking on the porch earlier tonight and the topic of friendship came up. It was mentioned because I no longer have an expansive social circle as I did in my single days, and it’s been affecting my mood lately. I’ve cut ties with many of those people, whether intentionally or circumstantially, and while I call a lot of people my “friends,” I’m no longer the social butterfly that I used to be. Most of my friends came directly as a result of starting a relationship with imnotme. My friends are the people he hangs out with, nearly all of whom are other men.

I love his friends; don’t get me wrong. I appreciate the hearty debates over beer and chain-smoking on our glorious 3-season porch, I love the rational yet sensitive way that they all interact with one another and discuss their girlfriends or children or jobs. I like how they seem to be fond of me, as well.

The thing is, though, they’re not so much my friends as they are imnotme’s. Obviously, right? I’ll call them “friends,” but I’m not likely to call up imnotme’s best friend to hang out when I’m bored if imnotme isn’t there, too. That’s pretty much the difference that I see. It’s not a big one, but it’s enough.

I mentioned that, while I like all of his friends a great deal, sometimes hanging out exclusively with groups of males can be… well, exhausting. I like hanging out with them because they’re nice, fun, and intelligent people, but I needed to relate to someone on a more basic level. Where I didn’t have to defend my emotional reactions to something or argue about why something is sexist or fucked up, where I could actually discuss whether or not I should cut my hair in whatever style without the response being silence and looks of utter confusion.

Now I’m making a concerted effort to make friends with women. I have female friends, a precious few of them, and I manage to leech off of those ones when I can to get to know more. Most of my female friends are stricken with the same affliction, though, and are also friends with mostly males. I guess we’re the only chicks one another can stand to be around. In the process, though, I have managed to meet and hang out with many intelligent, passionate women with a lot to say and who have taught me a great deal. I’ve also managed to be at a loss for how to interact with them. I’m so used to being around guys that I feel like I can’t read women’s signals, or their hints or cues. I find myself grudgingly accepting some stereotypes as true and unable to be completely ignored because, even if those behaviors are socialized and not innate, it is most certainly not acceptable for me to attempt to convert other women to my way of life or view of the world as it is. I used to find the whole idea of close friendships with females who call each other “sister” and love each other and hug a lot to be sickeningly unrealistic and fake; now I crave this kind of interaction and just want a real, genuine friendship with a like-minded woman. It feels like too much to ask, and I envy the women who’ve maintained strong ties with other women.

Try as I might, I can’t quite figure out why this would happen more often to women than men. Is it as simple as being a product of a society that tries to pit women against each other and create competition? For one, I’m not even sure I understand that theory. But what other reason could there be? Is it the extra attention women want? I would hate to generalize like that. Why wouldn’t men seek out the same attention, if it were that important?

Why do you think that is? What is the difference? Do you see the same thing in your social circles?

Such a Nice Guy

by cacophonies

I was at a party the other night, imnotme’s older brother’s girlfriend’s 30th. BirthdayGirl throws many parties and is a fabulous host, and the party was a great time, as usual. There was one guest, however, that didn’t quite jive with the rest of us.

For a little background information, the crowd that typically gathers at BirthdayGirl’s trendy Uptown condo parties are mostly white, mid-to-late twenties and early thirties professionals, with careers in design, advertising, or copy writing. They’re generally fairly comfortable financially and most have bachelor’s degrees, some have continued further in the pursuit of higher education. In fact, if they weren’t all so friendly, welcoming and talkative, I’d feel terribly out of place with my broke-ass, in-and-out of college every couple years self. But alas, I manage not to.

Anyway, as you can imagine based on the nature of my blog and the people that you would assume that I would willingly spend time with, everyone in the group is pretty left-leaning and feminist-friendly. In contrast to this general ideal, though, imnotme’s younger brother brought a friend along with him to this recent bash. “Jake” is not from our neck of the woods (Minneapolis, MN) and hails from Minnetonka, a wealthy suburb of Minneapolis known for… well, rich, bigoted white people, and a fairly large lake.

Jake is known amongst people who meet him as a “nice guy.” Everyone agrees that he’s a bit boisterous, a little too in-your-face sometimes, but you certainly can’t speak ill of a guy who’ll bring over an eighth of kind bud and tell you to help yourself, as he goes into your kitchen and selects a beer to bring to you, beer that he brought over.

In his circles, he’s just a Nice Dude. In ours, we make sure we’re tentative when we agree. But it’s unanimous, right? Dude is just Nice.

The problem lies in the fact that, while he’s generous and overtly (to the point of seeming ingenuine) friendly to you and your friends, he defaults to the lowest common denominator when in a group of people; especially new people, as was the case when YoungerBro brought him to BirthdayGirl’s party.

Lowest common denominator conversations in parties where yuppie-ish, progressive white people are drinking beer and socializing with people they barely know tend to gravitate toward one of two things: sex or sexism. The sexism part, of course, is never hostile or necessarily malicious (or even conscious), but rather a grasp at a common thing that you can safely assume that everyone’s thought about. Differences between men and women, girlfriend/boyfriend problems, what makes guys dump girls and vice versa.

So back to the main point: Jake, he’s kind of a “big dude.” You can tell that the majority of his weight is made up of muscle mass, the deliberate, obsessive kind, where he makes it a point to be as muscular as possible just so he can be as “manly” as possible. Most people probably assume he was a football player in high school and college. He makes a remark to YoungerBro about how skinny he is. YoungerBro, never one to admit that he feels insecure or insulted, pauses briefly and haughtily agrees with him. Jake says, after realizing that his comment could have caused potential uneasiness, hurries to “Hey, it’s a good thing. It’s better than–” (he lowers his voice and even crouches down a bit) “–being fat.” He pauses for a minute as the only people who presumably heard him, imnotme and myself, give no response. YoungerBro also elicits no response. Jake briefly measures the pauses on his Gauge of Social Awkwardness, and quickly attempts to apologize for the remark by muttering half-apologetically, half arrogantly, “Man, that was real shallow of me to say, huh?”

Well, no shit. The thing is, not one outside on that patio was “fat.” Plenty of people were “skinny,” including a few guys, and no one had anything affirming to say in response to his assertion that being skinny is better than being fat. Imnotme and myself were the only ones that presumably heard him, but the fact that no one even bothered to affirm his assertion seemed to spark his Gauge. Perhaps it had something to do with the underlying implication that, in order to be compared to fat people in the way that Jake did it to YoungerBro, you’d have to be what he (and his peers) would deem to be too skinny. You know, for a dude. Dudes can be big, chicks can be skinny. Dudes don’t get (relevant) shit for being big, chicks don’t get (genuinely negative) shit for being skinny.

One more glaring, obnoxious example of ridiculous expectations that men and women are faced with, perpetuated by someone that everyone thinks is such a goddamn Nice Fucking Dude.

There were other examples of the ways that Jake occasionally stuck out like a sore thumb at this party, but I can no longer remember them all. The point remains, though, that someone may be extra nice to you, and a real asshat to everyone else, and in Jake’s case, it likely has everything to do with where he grew up, and his privileged background. It’s really easy to grow up white, rich, and sheltered. It’s really easy to quickly pass judgment on the people you see every day who don’t look exactly like you. It’s really easy to assume that because someone isn’t like you, that they are somehow defective, unreasonable, or lazy. It’s really easy to be known as a Nice Dude when you don’t even notice what a dick you are otherwise. It’s so easily forgivable, right?

It’s hard to be in a situation like that, for me personally, and listen to people like him, voice booming, about things like how being “too” skinny is better than being fat. It’s hard for me to stay quiet, but it’s even harder for me to say something confrontational or to correct his arrogance. At least there’s a bright side. The bright side is that, 5 years ago, if I were to have gone to a similar party and a Jake showed up and started running his mouth, 90% of the other partygoers would have joined in. My social circles haven’t changed much– they include different individual people, but the ideologies shared in the various groups remained the same– so it’s not necessarily that I just started hanging around better people. Maybe we’re all just growing up, realizing that things aren’t as black and white as we thought they were before, and now, 90% of the people at the party will, at the very minimum, cringe.

I don’t think that Jake is not a nice guy; I will willingly allow him that label, but I will not feel comfortable allowing him the grace of being ignorant when it’s avoidable. Maybe that is the distinction; if a person is aware of their ignorance or arrogance, then they have enough sense to change their ways, and only pride or stubbornness is standing in their way. That is a choice, and therefore, in my mind, unforgivable. If one has the mental capacity to consider whether or not they are in the right or wrong about an opinion or statement that they made, then one has the sense to be a progressive and respectable individual. If they are not a progressive and respectable individual upon realizing that they have the choice, then in my mind, they are no longer eligible for my social forgiveness or good graces. That does, of course, mean that I am declaring that I have the “right answers”; otherwise, how would I even be capable of making a decision about this person’s societal worth? The problem is that I am perpetually annoyed by people or groups that declare, or at least believe, that what they think, feel, believe, etc., is superior to other ideologies, so naturally, I do not want to be one of those people.

I’m not sure that I believe that people can change who they are and what they believe in a matter of minutes, or based on a class or a conversation with someone who holds a different perspective than theirs’… but, I do believe that people can change their minds and I believe that anytime someone changes their mind, it’s probably a good idea.

We’re Back

by cacophonies

imnotme and I moved a little over a week ago, and just got the internet hooked back up this past Saturday. We’ve been enjoying the crap out of this new place, and unpacking, and managing to host what feels like a party a day for the past week since practically everyone we know has come over to see where we live, so neither of us have had much time (or energy) for posting.

I still have a bit of writer’s block left, though, so I’m going to kind of cop out here and post a couple questions, in hopes of sparking a good discussion:

What do you consider to be the greatest (rather, most prevalent) privilege that you currently hold? Let’s leave sex and/or gender out of this one.

Now, consider that same privilege in light of your sex and/or gender. What changes? Anything?

Challenging Feminist Groupthink

by cacophonies

I’m of the mindset that for any social movement to be effective, supporters– especially people who identify as a member of the group that is fighting for any kind of rights or better treatment– must be willing to educate the people whose support they would most benefit from. It helps absolutely no one to make every attempt to alienate anyone. A prime example would be the “groupthink” mentality of most groups– namely, modern feminism. With the language used on many feminist blogs and in many feminist circles these days, you’d almost have to assume that these “feminists” don’t actually want to further their cause, or achieve any kind of equality. They seem to go out of their way to make sure that anyone who could be of help to their cause (like the people responsible for perpetuating sexist behavior) are effectively removed from their realm of education and discussion.

For those of you who are not already readers of Feministe, they often have guest-bloggers who post for a week or so about various issues, from varying perspectives. It’s a pretty great idea, and usually works out well. I’ve touched on it a bit with Queen Emily‘s introduction/ensuing comment hell, and written a follow-up post about the way that commenters were treated by the regular commentariat and moderators, and how the general treatment– or even the allowance of those comments to be published in the first place– is problematic and ultimately detracts from the point at hand.

One guest-blogger, Miranda, caught my attention, though, as she’s pretty young as far as standard good bloggers/writers are concerned. She’s an excellent writer, and from what I’ve read, quite knowledgeable.

Some of Miranda’s posts have been related to youth- or teenage-centered topics, which is great, because we can talk about young women and issues they face all day long, but it’s far more valuable to have a (I am assuming) 16- or 17-year-old actually speaking from her perspective.

The other day, Miranda posted what seemed, at face value, to be a thoughtful post about womanism, and appropriate language for white feminist-identified woman to use to show their support for womanism. She used the blog’s wide readership to basically ask what kind of identifier would be most appropriate for her to adopt. Is it better to say she’s a womanist ally, a womanism supporter, etc.?

The commentariat did, of course, find several ways to tell her that she was very wrong in even posting that piece in the first place, and that it was a very glaring reminder of her white privilege. To be fair, there was some reading and effort needed that Miranda didn’t seem to get to before writing that post, but the comments nearly made that point completely irrelevant by turning it from a suggestion to a personal attack and insulting her intelligence and displaying blatant ageism.

…This isn’t just a rant about Feministe’s groupthink behavior or PCer-than-though attitude, though. This time, several people spoke up with thoughtful, arguably sensical complaints about the idea that people belonging to oppressed groups should never be expected, or even respectfully asked, to even minorly help aid in the education of a person who has more privilege than they do (in relation to the question being asked; in this case, race). For context, here’s what Miranda asks in her original post:

I want your insight on how we can acknowledge the ways The Feminist Movement has and continues to fuck up, while still identifying with its goals. Specifically, I’m wondering how I, a white woman, can acknowledge the dire need for womanism without stepping on the toes of women activists of color.

One question, for commenters of all demographics, with particular emphasis on WOC/self-identified womanists: is it fair to call myself a pro-womanist feminist, as a move towards accomplishing these goals? If not, how else can I humbly and respectfully identify myself?

There are a few suggestions and ideas, then Caoimhe Ora Snow responds to Miranda’s question with this:

Probably makes sense to ask the womanists you support, rather than here at a non-womanist site?

I’m just sayin’.

Miranda responds directly to this criticism by informing her that she has emailed two prominent bloggers, who are women of color, and asked them the same question. (Renee from WomanistMusings responded to Miranda’s email via a post on her own blog.)

Fair enough, right? Unfortunately, Caoimhe was wrong (according to other commenters) in instructing Miranda to ask anyone questions. No one calls Caoimhe out on this, though. My guess is that it’s because s/he’s already criticizing the original poster on her unintentional display of privilege, so she’s gained points within the community for calling someone out, and therefore is privileged enough to avoid criticism or her own call-outs. But the following comments take it from there, further criticizing Miranda for daring to ask women of color what they would feel comfortable with in terms of how she, as a white woman, identifies herself when it comes to being a supporter of womanism. Allison gently informs her that:

I know this might seem like a post that aims for nuance and complexity, but in asking for Renee or Tami to give you “input” — you are asking both of them to instruct you on language. It is not their job to teach you or provide you with a consise label for your activism.

..and is very gracious in providing several links where she feels Miranda should have consulted instead. Restructure! finds it appropriate and useful to inform Miranda that:

I got here via twitter expecting something insightful, but I find a white woman’s mini biography. The part about actual womanism is quoting a random Womanist Musings post, which I’ve read before, a long time ago.

Allison further explains that

It is a function of privilege to request someone’s input, knowledge, and experience to serve as your guiding post for philosophy.

ZC uses the “insults and ad hominem attacks work better than constructive criticism” method, complete with patronizing reassurances about eventually learning how to be a real, smart person when she calls Miranda names:

Well, Miranda, sometimes it sucks being young and dumb, but fortunately we got to read some great links as a result of you sticking your neck out, including the fantastic We Don’t Need Another Racism 101. That’s it. Labels don’t matter, actions do. Live your convictions whatever the hell they’re called and learn from everyone. I stopped calling myself a feminist a long time ago, and decided to BE one instead.

The blatant contradiction that ZC has posed, where s/he states that it’s not important what you call yourself (since we are constantly inundated with new, more appropriate things to call ourselves), can be left for later.

There are, of course, many more ways in which Miranda is criticized for asking how to be respectful toward people over whom she holds privilege, but I don’t want to copy and paste the whole post, so I’ll get to my point:

None of these comments suggest an alternative to Miranda’s supposedly disrespectful and problematic questions other than “read.” No one even went so far as to let her know how it is that she should be expected to know what to read, and where to find it (although a few did provide a couple of links that they themselves were already familiar with fr one unknown reason or another– prefaced by a snarky remark about how easy it was to Google it). Fortunately, like a breath of fresh air, we see several commenters sticking up for her (in indirect ways) by intelligently and clearly critiquing the expectation that privileged people should automatically be aware of their privilege, be okay with being considered an ass hole by everyone all the time, and not ask questions. Manju, who is presumably a woman of color, counters:

of all the new-fangled anti-racist rules out there, the one that leaves me the most gobsmacked is the “don’t ask POC for instruction” or its many variants.

its totally counter intuitive, to the point that anyone who’s outside the narrow echo-chamber of the radical left would find it preposterous. And i suspect that includes the vast majority of POC. Has there been some survey indicating we find this offensive? normally asking for instruction is a totally respectful thing to do

Shah8 is very insightful and makes many good points when s/he says,

While I understand very much about the whole privilege of asking for the signposts as if you were tourists asking for assistance from the native guides, I think this issue can be abused the other way around. I think that context and judgement is really important in deciding how to handle n00b questions.

I hate insular behavior, and creating “safe spaces” gives you the right be *curt*, not abusive.

We should always judge whether the n00b is an asshole, rather than assume so. The latter is treehouse politics.

(emphasis mine)

Tumbril says it well with:

All these syntax games and competing to see who can be the most sensitive, and of course, call out others on their insensitivity, making you their moral superior and in a position to lecture them, are really unhelpful. Do we want people to know what we’re talking about so we can affect change, or do we want to impress each other with an ever-expanding plethora of labels and sub-categories that mean absolutely nothing to anyone other than us?

(again, emphasis mine)

I’m happy to see that, while it’s important to be inclusive and respectful in language and considerations, people are finally speaking up in larger numbers about being consistently expected to grovel at the feel of anyone over whom they hold any kind of privilege, to beg forgiveness for merely existing. Miranda is clearly not an asshole, and should not be treated as such unless (not until) she proves herself otherwise. Who wouldn’t expect that treatment?

Piny from Feministe wrote a quite controversial post challenging a trans woman of color who was notorious around her circles for being unreasonably rude, mean, and insulting to everyone, and using her oppressed status as an excuse for that behavior. The comment thread ended up ripping Piny a new one in several ways, but ultimately, Piny had the guts to come right out and call a woman out for using her oppressed status to abuse other people. While it angered many people, it’s clear that it also got a lot of other people really thinking, and potentially reconsidering their propensity to be loud-mouthed assholes to everyone without considering whether or not they actually deserve it.

I’m glad to see that some people are really embracing the idea that groupthink just isn’t a very good idea.

Counter Point to ‘Thoughts On Privilege’

by imnotme

I have been reading and reflecting on Cacophonies’ last post on privilege, a post I very much enjoyed, and instead of commenting, thought I would simply counter-point since my comment is truly another perspective and not necessarily a criticism.

Cacophonies wrote, and I will summarize rather than quote/cite, that, while oppression and privilege exist in varying degrees, does not each individual existing along that spectrum have their own right to lament or have concerns regardless of their level of privilege? To this I say yes, each individual has that right in-arguably. However, there is a further ethical question here… or, an additional axiom with which to calculate preferable behaviour. A consideration that I think is quite fair since the original complaint of Cacophonies is a social one, i.e. it is the social repercussions of ‘people with privilege who complain’, that would cause people to say things like “you know, Paris, others have it worse, so don’t let your day get ruined over this chip in the paint on your favorite Ferrari.” It’s possible that the roots of this sentiment are envy, but I don’t think it’s very likely. I think the sentiment is altruistic in nature and that it’s generally said one privileged person to the next. So that one investment banker would tell his stressed out coworker at their private spa that “Hey, your portfolio fell flat this week, but you know, look at us, we’re doing fine, be grateful.”

This to me is not a criticism of the plaintiff’s feelings, but a reminder that things will probably turn out okay given their relative well standing, be it economic, medical, spiritual, or social privilege that a person enjoys. Additionally, people do not tend to console each other over types of privilege they do not have in excess. This means that a wealthy woman would be less likely to remind her wealthy friend who recently lost a loved one that they are privileged as an effort to lessen that person’s pain. Contrarily, a person of very little wealth may indeed console an equally impoverished friend on the loss of their loved by reminding the bereaved that they led a rich life and shared many beautiful moments together. So I believe that the impulse to console, or temper if you will, another person’s emotional reaction to a perceived or real pain is done so by individuals who share the same privilege.

On a brief sidenote, I am accounting for the underprivileged who either feel they are, or actually are oppressed by the ultra elite as separate from this argument in that polarized class struggle is a social phenomenon, and therefore, it is another topic entirely.

Back to the point then. I would offer up the notion that personal excesses beyond survival necessities (say, food and shelter) can readily be called ‘privileges’ since they do not enter the realm of life and death, and furthermore, easily open the door to exploitation when labor or resource distribution are factors. I offer this notion as additional to Cacophonies’ general thesis and not necessarily contrary or irreconcilable to it. Yet, using this more definitive approach to privilege it certainly follows that those with privilege, or those with more than they need to survive, may not have a socio-ethical “right” to complain about their privilege-dependent concerns (although, here the court would, of course, withhold any harsh convictions upon children raised in privilege and simultaneous ignorance).

In this sense I would readily accept the burden of holding my tongue when my computer fails, because it is more than I need to survive, and survival is a pretty accurate indicator of whether or not one’s needs are met. And I hasten to restate now, that I hold the unsatisfied elite in great contempt when they lament within the context of their privilege, but would never console them about their lost child or dying relative within that same context. With that I feel that I have touched on a more mysterious universal truth of sorts, in as much as people can mostly agree that reasonable people who are poor or unskilled are generally provided a basic standard of living, and reasonable people who achieve incredible privilege are pressured in some way to give from their excess (and by reasonable, I mean non-malicious or non-predatory).

Finally, if it is the right of one person to complain, then it can only be the right of the next person who shares the same type of privilege to say, “hey, you may have lost a rug here, but it seriously could be worse.”, and it would most certainly also be the underpaid fast food worker’s right to roll their eyes at the tirade a wealthy person unleashes in front of them about the quality of their fast food.

25 Reasons Why I Am A Feminist

by cacophonies

There was a meme floating around Facebook for a while titled “25 random things about me,” or something to that effect. My friend Erin participated, but changed it to “25 reasons why I am a feminist.” (You can find Erin’s list here, if she allows non-friends to view her notes, which I’m not sure about.)

I decided to do the same thing. Here’s my list (note that I wrote this a few months ago, so some reasons referenced current events that are no longer so current):

1. The craze over Natalie Dylan’s virginity auction. I’m not exactly sure how I feel about how that looks, about her reasons, or about the whole idea in the first place, but that’s part of the problem. It’s not my place, or anyone else’s place, to decide what another woman should or should not do with her body or sexuality. It’s hers, period. This is clearly a choice, not coersion or desperation, and therefore it should be allowed to happen without scrutiny from people not involved.

2. Men who cite “but I’m expected to be manly and make a lot of money and never show emotions” as a reason why they think that feminism is invalid, useless, or that men are “more oppressed.” It’s not because our society is oppressing men, but because the things men “aren’t allowed” to do is show any sign of weakness or other stereotypical feminine quality. Because femininity is not valued in our society and masculinity is. That’s institutionalized misogyny.

3. We are all held to rigid and unachievable gender expectations. This will continue to happen as long as we don’t acknowledge feminism (aka, as long as we continue to act as though females are inferior to males– even if we don’t say it out loud).

4. Any time I go to get a haircut and tell the stylist how short I want it, they ask if I’m sure, over and over.

5. There are still people who think that my potential fetus is more valuable and important than I am.

6. I get letters at work every day from customers who address them “Dear Sir(s).”

7. People think that a good insult for a woman they don’t like is to call her a “cunt” — a name referencing her genitalia. As though we should be insulted by a reference to it.

8. I’m marketed to EVERYWHERE by companies owned by men that sell products to get rid of any natural vaginal odor I might have, cream that will rid me of any sign that I’m over the age of 21, that promises I will get rid of stretch marks from childbirth, “mommy surgery” to rid my body of any signs I’ve given birth and bewilderingly, to change the shape of my labia to match those of airbrushed, surgically-enhanced centerfold models. Similar products are not marketed to men in any similar frequency or abundance on mass media (not including email spam about penis enlarging that even I’ve gotten). And if they were, we should STILL be concerned, but that’s another issue.

9. Many men, most of whom don’t even realize they’re doing it, will all but completely ignore my presence in, potential interest in, or ability to contribute to, a conversation that starts with him, me and another male about politics, science, music, or anything else that requires any level of critical thinking or opinion-giving. I may have contributed to the beginning of a conversation, sparked a conversation thread, but it will consistently end up being the males that make eye contact with each other and finish the conversation. I stop being included once my token contribution time has expired.

10. When I was a kid and into my teens and twenties, when I would walk to work along a busy road, I would be cat-called, whistled at or yelled obscene phrases to, regardless of how I was dressed, what I was wearing, whether I was even paying attention to the cars on the road. It’s only less frequent now because I work with my male significant other, and when I’m walking around downtown before or after work, it’s generally with him. Men won’t hit on me now because they see a man with me, which indicates that I am someone else’s “property,” an idea that they are willing to understand and respect over someone being their own person, instead of someone else’s property.

11. Any time I sign on to MySpace, Facebook or LiveJournal, I see advertisements for new diets, how to lost 25 pounds in 10 seconds or something, and even one banner with a before-and-after picture asking me, “Are you 25 and overweight?” My boyfriend primarily sees either ads for electronics, or ads on how to meet hot, single women.

12. Pixie waifs as the new trendy way to look if you’re a female, because long-haired waifs are SO last season. Not because there’s anything wrong with someone who would fit into the category of “waif,” but because only showing that one image of beauty is only reinforcing the idea that we are only valuable if very thin.

13. When I go to Target to buy deodorant withOUT antiperspirant, I have a choice of 3 over-priced and stinky “all-natural” scents, from one brand. When my boyfriend goes there for non-anti-perspirant deodorant, he has the same options I have (they’re unisex) PLUS an additional variety of non-anti-perspirant in all the major, recognized brands.

14. When I was in high school, my friends and I were being picked up after school by a male friend of ours who had long hair that he wore in a ponytail. When he drove up to the front of the school, a group of guys talked about the chick driving the nice car and, upon realizing it was a male behind the wheel, proceeded to make fun of him and laugh at how “girly” he looked, just for having long hair.

15. When I worked at the Geek Squad and would answer the phone “Brooklyn Center Geek Squad, how can I help you?” I would often hear a long pause, then, “Uh yeah, can you transfer me to the Geek Squad, please?” This did not happen to other departments located in the same Best Buy we were in, who were each also given a “for (blank) department, press (numbers)” option like we were, and who did NOT say the name of their department in their telephone greeting. I know this because I worked in other departments before transferring to the Geek Squad. This also did not happen to the rest of the (male) Geek Squad employees.

16. Because transgender people who transition from male to female are routinely made the butt of jokes, even on prime time television, and routinely abused, murdered, or driven to sex work because of their MTF status. They are overly sexualized the same way (if not more derogatory) as non-trans women while simultaneously being ostracized for giving up their inherent male privelege and social status– not to mention their PENISES, OMG, while transgender individuals who transition from female to male are hardly even mentioned at all. This is not only because they tend to “pass” more eaily as the desired sex (because we rely primarily on masculine cues to help us distinguish between genders in others), but because it seems more accepted, even expected, to want to trade in womanhood for manhood, femininity for masculinity.

17. Because I can’t just bleed on my damn kitchen floor.

18. Because if I wanted to spend my entire paycheck on a bra for some reason, Victoria’s Secret’s sizing is as follows: For underwear, take whatever size you’ve worn your entire adult life and purchase the one 4 sizes below it. This is to make you feel like your butt is smaller, because we’re all concerned about that, right? Then take your bra size and add 4 inches and at least one cup size, so you feel like your boobs are bigger. Obviously, we all want giant boobs. Or, you can just do like I did and live with too-big underwear and a too-small bra because you don’t want to return to the store for a 3rd time to exchange the bra you should have just tried on at the store but didn’t think you needed to since you’ve worn the same bra size for 7 years… and returning underwear is gross and probably not allowed, anyway.

19. The fact that someone adjusted the way women’s clothing is sized so much that they had to create a size zero

20. If I actually had any desire to try to be in the modeling industry, I would need to lose at least 20lbs to be considered “normal” weight for my height (not that I’m tall enough to be a runway model, anyway, but proportionally-speaking). The only person/entity who would consider me to be overweight would be that particular industry.

21. On some level, that actually bothers me, and it wouldn’t if unrealistic and unachievable expectations weren’t placed on women and their physical appearance

22. When I’m a mother, whether I stay home or go back to work right away, someone will be pissed off. If imnotme went back to work, no one would bat an eyelash, and if he stayed home, he would be praised for being such a wonderful daddy.

23. Because some people think that just because we can wear pants to work and vote, we’re equal and now we’re just complaining too much.

24. Valid emotions and feelings are brushed off as PMS, menopause, pregnancy, or just “girly melodrama.”

25. Because a lot of people, both women and men, haven’t even considered many of these things at all.

Anyone have anything to add?