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.

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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?

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.

NPR Rocks This Week

by cacophonies

I have the luxury of a desk job where I’m able to listen to my mp3 player/FM tuner while working. I alternate between radio and mp3s, depending on my mood, but I always try to catch two NPR broadcasts: MidMorning (of the MPR variety), and Talk of the Nation, which are my favorite programs.

Monday on Talk of the Nation, athlete Steve McNair’s murder at the hand of his girlfriend sparked a discussion about The Violence We Ignore; men as victims of domestic violence. It was a great discussion that I hope you’ll listen to.

In other NPR news, Monday, July 20 was the 40th anniversary of the first human landing on the moon. NPR staff reporting on the anniversary continually referred to the event as the day that the “first person” walked on the moon. Hooray for non-gendered language being deliberately used to remember an event in human history!

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.

An Apology/Clarification

by cacophonies

A little while ago, I wrote a post in response to some comments on a Feministe thread about whether or not it’s transphobic to not date a transgender person, when the reason is because they are trans.

The comments that I received in response to that post were not hostile and did not come across as particularly angry, but I know that I offended some people.

I want to apologize for offending anyone. This apology is not a “sorry that you took it the wrong way” apology (which I find to be disingenuous and completely useless) but serious and heartfelt.

While the purpose of the post was to illustrate how I believed that a particular action is not necessarily transphobic, upon rereading that post a few times, I now see that many of the things I said could easily have been read as transphobic, or that I was painting myself as a transphobia apologist. This was absolutely not my intention.

When writing the post, I knew that the sensitive nature of the post itself was likely to cause a bit of a stir, but I didn’t realize that my often overly-wordy, rambling, and tanget-making style of writing distracted so much from what I was really trying to do with the post, which was to simply defend good or well-meaning people from being labeled as transphobic. That perhaps there are people for whom choosing to not be romantically involved with a trans person is not necessarily phobic or inspired by hate, but instead the consequence of certain non-bigoted or prejudiced goals, beliefs, or orientations that the person may have.

There were concerns brought up that I was primarily focusing on situations where one part of a hetero couple came out as trans when I gave examples; this is just because I was in a situation where that happened in a past relationship, and I was familiar with the issues that can arise. The other examples I used (fertility issues, mostly) could be applied to any romantic relationship; I was not very clear about that.

Thank you to everyone (especially people who are trans) who commented on that post with constructive criticism of what I said, or with other valuable insights. I hope that people who are transgender who read that and were offended at anything I said will accept my apology. It was not, and is not, ever my intention to make anyone who is transgender feel like there is yet another person who thinks it’s okay to discriminate against them based on their trans status.

Please understand that I am not asking for praise or “cookies” for my apology. I just want anyone who may have been hurt or offended by that post to know that I recognize the problematic things that I said, and that I am sorry for them.

Your beliefs are counter productive

by imnotme

What about mine? I have… few. Precious few. Honestly, I struggle to identify a single one. Which I suppose at least partly explains why I have become less socially effective and more aloof.

Or, for the sake of full disclosure I can definitely name one belief that I do have, which is probably counter-productive whether or not I want to admit it: that people ought to be considerate. I really believe this no matter how much evidence (mostly deconstructivist or theorist) is presented to me. I believe that, regardless of your beliefs, you should be considerate.

With that in mind, I would like to address political/social/religious/economic/legal/any-other-word-that-encompasses-the-notion-that-some-general-concepts-are-necessarily-bound-to-infinite-dead-ends, behaviour versus discourse… OR, it’s possible I mean to address discourse versus behaviour. It’s possible that I will address both now by stating the following:

In no uncertain terms you are accountable for every instance of your being. Regardless of how this becomes manifest. So basic is this assertion that I would say, with confidence, that any reader who understands the first premise of my argument will also concede the following: that those who recognize accountability also recognize their own offenses, AND FURTHERMORE, will then be necessarily tethered to an obligation to speak in their own defense or apology. This is a trick few have mastered in tandem with maintaining what dignity they feel they should have in a given situation. Yet, this is precisely the trick that I feel yields the most valuable written discussion/argument.  If not for its pleasantries and freedoms then for its security. You see, atmosphere is something that most people seem to innately understand. IF you stumble across this blog and find it “combative” then we have failed. If you meet me in person and find me to be “pompous”, then I have failed.

Yep. It’s on one hand elementary and on the other an issue that demands such refined attentions that high academia would only be jesters in its court. The ‘recognized polarity’* and unity of this concept is precisely the same reason socially minded discourse often turns violent, or at the worst, counter productive. Some groups of feminists, some groups of masculists, some groups of atheists, some groups of theists, some groups of ethicists and some groups of moralists have been and will be prone to ‘group-think’ as it is a human problem; therefore, self-assuredness would be the ultimate crime one could commit in terms of bringing their own beliefs into discussions that seek definition and reconciliation (which I truly believe both Nice Feminist and Feminist Critics really seek).

One last note, and this will sound simple to those of you who have been interested up to this point, that I would like to point to is that Male/Female is abstractly congruent. Whether it be an artistic, academic or sensual impression, it is hard to find ways in which the norms of sexual expression are symbolized as obtuse. Stated otherwise: it is problematic to defend one belief against a sea of perspectives. Stated otherwise: it is permissive to defend one perspective against an ocean of beliefs.

For further illustrations of this problem (and a further defense of why consideration is possibly the ultimate ‘virtue’-whatever that means to you) read “On Contradiction” by Mao Tse-tung.

[if you’re wondering what in the hell this has to do with feminism simply wonder on the nature of being pro or anti a “stance.” I.e. wonder on the productivity of choosing a “side” as it were]

*The conflict of perception versus absolutism