Category Archives: Uncategorized

I moved

You can find me at EthEcoFem from now on.

Thanks to everyone who enjoyed this blog and participated in discussions! Similar topics will be discussed often at the new place, and the same rules apply. If anyone is curious about whatever issue I am bringing up or simply wants to engage in a respectful discussion or debate, I’m always willing.

Once Again

Many comments in my most recent post about The Pill indicated that readers thought that I was calling people selfish for taking prescription medication, especially hormonal birth control, and that I was proposing that all people on medication should stop taking it. This isn’t the case. I want to clarify my point.

While I am lucky enough not to suffer from chronic conditions like endometriosis and others that were mentioned in the comments of that post, I do understand that others do and that, for them, hormonal birth control is the only way they’ve been able to find relief. I also understand that there are a wide range of mental illnesses that, without the aid of anti-depressants and other prescription medications, can be excruciating–or impossible– to deal with. While I think that we need to be looking for other methods of treatment for various alments and conditions, I understand that we cannot (and should not) simply take it away from people who are dependent on the medications. That would not be morally right.

This is why I repeatedly stated that I was not advocating denying people’s right to medications and forms of treatment.

It’s clear that, because of the angry, flippant tone that I used in that post that this message may have not been made as clear as I intended.

There are a lot of inconsistencies in my argument; this, I am aware of. For one, besides conditions like endo, synthetic hormones improve the lives of many transgender people, and I have no desire to inform transgender people that they must either find a different way to transition, or “deal with” being trans without the option to transition.

Instead, what I was trying to get across was how obnoxious I find it that so many people in various feminist communities, for some reason, flat-out refuse to acknowledge negative affects of The Pill and other pharmaceuticals. In a similar vein, in these communities it is often also rarely acknowledged that in the US, at least, people are over-diagnosed with mental illnesses, disorders, etc., and many anti-depressants and other medications are often over-prescribed. I realize that this silence is often in attempt to shield the people who actually have conditions that are relieved in at least some way by various pharmaceuticals of more ostracization and disbelief than they are already unfortunately accustomed to. It is my opinion, however, that the truth needs to be accessible to everyone and that, as typically progressively minded people, we should not take off our critical thinking hats when faced with people in our own community.

My position on the pharmaceutical industry has not changed, nor has my opinion on oral contraceptives changed. While I do not wish to forbid the use of pharmaceuticals to people who need them, I do hope that we can all agree that the industry is under-regulated, for-profit in the worst way, and in desperate need of an overhaul. We need to be searching for alternatives that are better in the long run for people who need them, and others who don’t. Enough allowing them to exploit our legitimate problems and issues for their financial gain. Where is the accountability? We can’t turn a blind eye to them just because we like the convenience of The Pill when it’s used as a method of birth control. They need to be held accountable, and we deserve better. We are not stupid; we are not sheep who should be expected to trust everything they offer us. They’ve proven themselves not to be trusted.

That said, it’s become almost funny that I maintain a blog called The Nice Feminist when I’ve been writing such angry and disillusioned posts lately. So, as a result, I’ll leave this blog up, but for future posts (since I still love blogging and can’t help but make sure I type my opinion at as many people as I can), I’ll be starting another blog. Because I’m a feminist and committed to equality, these topics will be the majority of the content of the new blog, similar to this one. I anticipate many of the first posts to be me attempting to suss out the inconsistencies of the various philosophies I hold, so expect minor navel-gazing, but with a hopefully more relevant, analytical approach.

For any regular readers who do check back often and enjoy the posts here, I will be posting a link to the new blog when it’s up.

Thanks to everyone who has enjoyed this blog and the content in it. I appreciate your readership, and the blogroll will also be moving to the new blog. I hope you’ll stop by and check it out when I figure out what to call it and get it up and running.

imnotme, who seems to have forgotten that he can post on this blog, can still be found at his personal blog, which is imnotme.wordpress.com.

Later.

Considering a Move

Clearly, The Nice Feminist has gotten too angry to maintain a blog with the word “nice” in its title.

I’ll probably be moving this blog elsewhere and broadening the range of topics. If/when that happens, I’ll post the new blog address.

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.

Gender Equality

by cacophonies

For anyone who reads this blog with any regularity, you’ve no doubt noticed the lack of posts in the past month. Well, imnotme and I moved, we’ve been getting ready for school (imnotme transferring and me enrolling for spring) and are settling into a new routine, and blogging has just become an afterthought– although imnotme has started a side project, blogging about his experiences on Trazodone, a prescription that he’s just begun taking for insomnia.

In addition to (and maybe of because of) that, I’ve been reconsidering my motives for starting and writing on this blog.

I still “believe in” feminism, at it’s core. I am still grateful for those women and men who are activists and change minds and policies every day. But I’m also changing my focus, whether I really wanted to or not. I’m in no way saying that I no longer care about the ways that sexism and misogyny affect women and try to (and do!) hold us down. But… I can no longer say that I feel that it’s important for us to focus solely on the ways that sexism hurts women.

While it’s important and useful to personalize and identify your passions and activism, to not spread yourself too thin, feminists tend to flat-out ignore the ways that misogyny, patriarchy, and sexism affect men. You tend to hear more these days, but they’re barely scratching the surface, with their quickly forgotten, sentence-long statement about how “patriarchy hurts men, too,” before moving on to how sexism against men is really just another manifestation of misogyny.

The thing is, I tend to agree with the assertion that hatred and fear of femininity is the root cause of most, if not all forms of sexism against men. What needs to change is that we need to stop focusing on this, stop using it as a rhetorical sound-bite to illustrate to the masses how misogyny is still alive and well.

When men are discriminated against because of their sex or gender identity, when they’re being held to ridiculous gender expectations, we, as feminists, need to stop screaming “feminism!!” in their faces. Perhaps embracing feminism is one solution, but it’s certainly not the only. Ordering a man to embrace feminism when he’s been the victim of sexual discrimination at the hands of a woman isn’t going to earn you his trust right away.

Imnotme and I had an incredibly enlightening and emotional discussion about physical standards men are expected to live up to. Throughout the conversation, as I listened to imnotme talk about the pressure to be a “buff,” muscular dude, I had to restrain myself from interrupting him to remind him of how many young women struggle with anorexia and other eating disorders, how the pressure to be thin, as a woman, was, in my opinion, far more dangerous and affecting. And I’m glad I did manage restraint, because imnotme was being candid and open with his struggles with gender conformity and expectations, and who was I to make it “all about the womenz”? Feminist blogs use that statement all the time– only, of course, replace “womenz” with “menz.” Men stumble across a feminist blog, read about rape statistics, and argue that no one cares about prison rape, men are wrongly accused of rape all the time, etc., thereby making it “all about the menz.”

Trying to assert that misogyny is more significant or damaging than misandry (if you even agree that misandry can exist– some radical feminists and other left-leaning bloggers would disagree, since men are the ruling class and oppressors) is to try to split sexism into neat little categories of importance, diminishing the voices of so many other oppressed people, invalidating their experiences.

I’m tired of fighting on a “side.” There’s no sense to it anymore, and even if we finally get where we’re going, it’s taken much longer than necessary.

I’m still going to get angry when I see pictures of celebrity women that are Photoshopped beyond belief, the subjects turned into disproportionate waifs with no hips or breasts to speak of, that we are supposed to strive to look like. But I’m also going to get angry when I see Calvin Klein ads with men who are 6 feet tall and 190 pounds of muscle, huge biceps and discernible abs and square jaws, that men are supposed to strive to look like.

I still identify as a  feminist, but I’m not going to act on one side anymore. I’m for gender equality, not just the equality of women.

Quick Note

by cacophonies

imnotme and I moved this weekend and won’t have home internet access again until this upcoming weekend. If comments take longer than usual to get out of moderation, that’s why, although we will be able to periodically check from work in the meantime.

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.