Thursday, May 31, 2007


Back in September. Nothing's wrong; it's just time for me to step back and figure out how much of my time I really want to spend arguing with various people on the internet. Right now, that quantity of time is zero. Too much else I want, and need, to work on.

Doesn't mean there won't perhaps be new posts here. You never know when Genni or Daddyslittlegirl are going to show up and amaze.

Have a great summer!

Thursday, May 24, 2007


Just clearing up a few things here and there, some totally unrelated to each other, but all stuff I missed during all The Excitement:

The Girl From Marz was awfully kind to me here. Thank you, Girl From Marz! And thank you for reminding me of this conversation at Fetch Me My Axe. In it, Sara from F-Words astutely observes:

I don't think the "don't identify with the assholes" model really is very helpful, since we're talking about a lot of unconscious and inadvertent behavior here. I could just start to ignore anything that makes me uncomfortable, because I get to think, "Well, it's not me that's doing racist thing x, phew."

This is true, but I must say it was very mean of Sara to tap into the heart of my angst about that post having so many links into it like this. Meaning: Its chief feature, which I think is that it's conversational in tone and structure, and therefore easy to read, is also its chief flaw. My boyfriend and I have known each other going on eight years now, and like all longtime couples do, I suppose, we talk to each other in a sort of shorthand you wouldn't observe between people who had only recently met, or even people who had known each other six months, a year, etc.

So in the discussion, when we get to this bit:

"A lot of the guys written about on feminist blogs do things I would never do."

"Then don't identify with them. It's not about you! You stand to pee, they stand to pee, beyond that, what's the commonality?"

--what he realizes, which Sara reminds me the reader may not realize, is that I am absolutely not giving him a free pass to stuff his hands in his pockets and walk away whistling that, yay, he's not the problem at all, ever! As Sara says, a lot of this stuff is unconscious, so to overcome it, first you have to recognize it: "Oops. I'm doing that thing, that asshole thing, again." And if your sole response to reading about racist or misogynist acts is, "Great Scott, what is wrong with these inhuman monsters? I would never," etc., you risk exempting yourself from self-examination where it might be desperately needed.

I could go off on a long tangent here about how there are still-to-this-day left-leaning political blogs that I won't read, because the focus is too much on Those Inhuman Monsters with Whom We Have Nothing, NOTHING in Common: Republican Voters. Instead, I will go off on only a short tangent:

Notice I didn't say "Dick Cheney" or "David Horowitz"--I'm fine with demonizing public figures nine times out of ten--but when it bleeds over into these asinine How Evil is Half the Country Anyway, Huh? discussions, I'm out. Because--and this was equally true for me when I was coming at this from the opposite direction, as a Republican--I'm still related to Republicans, just as back then I despised "Libruls R Traitors"-style blogs because I was still related to Democrats.

If you think Americans who vote Democrat are wicked traitorous monsters at heart, fuck you: That's my aunt we're talking about. And if you think Americans who vote Republican are vile capitalist pigs at heart, fuck you again: That's my mother we're talking about. Either way, I'm not down, and I sometimes think that the shorthand definition of feminism, that it's the radical notion that women are human beings, needs expansion, because I'm not sure we've even grasped yet that human beings are human beings.

End tangent. For more in that vein--not that specific vein, you understand, but on the general notion that humans is human (crazy talk!)--I'm going to direct you back to Belledame's for this. That woman's been on a roll lately. Much respect, Belledame.

To bring it back around to race for a minute, though, one more thing I appreciate about Sara's remarks is that, well, she's right: Too often the horrified gasps of How Could They? are not followed up with any introspection at all, i.e. "Wait, wait: While maybe I personally would not ever do such a thing, can I at least see (1) how someone else could and (2) what societal forces might influence them to do so and (3) what part, if any, I play in shoring up those forces?"

And here I just deleted a recent example of this dynamic at work because I'm in enough trouble for now, but read this post of Sylvia's about recent events in Jena, Louisiana, and, damnit, pay attention here:

I also encourage you to stop yourself before distancing away from Jena and painting it as a special place with special problems. Our actions affect others’ realities. It is highly likely that if the school officials took decisive action after the nooses were placed on the tree, the resulting incidences would not have occurred. Perhaps I should say: we need to pay attention to those small matters and discuss them seriously before they escalate.

Because that's it, exactly. That's what I'd like to see more emphasis on in coverage of racial hatred: How are we as a society contributing to it, and how do we stop? Throwing up our hands and saying "Oh, well, what will you? It's The South," is inadequate.

When I started this post I was certain I had somewhere to put this post at Tiny Cat Pants, also via Belledame. Now, of course, I can't remember for the life of me how I was planning to tie it in. Read it anyway, though. Especially:

Look, I wrote a nice post on the spiritual implications of mythological and fairy-talish women who come in sets of three. I even used the term "we" without bothering to say, "We folks of European descent from a Christian/European pagan background." Three's an important number for us. It doesn't have the same importance to other cultures or, if it is important, not in the same ways. But I threw "we" out there like my audience all shares my same traditions, even if they don't practice them in the same way.

Is that racist? Yes. Is it the end of the world? No. Am I wrecked with guilt, as so many assume all good liberals are? No. But it is what it is, me forgetting that my experiences aren't standard.

It might not seem like the most insidious form of racism, but it is--because it's so easy to slip into, it's such a difficult habit to break, and it's hard to fight against.

And that brings me to my next clarification, which I'll save for its own post because I'm still working out the kinks: I owe Rachel of Rachel's Tavern a response to some questions she had for me at Feministe, questions prompted by my inept babbling upthread (and no, I don't know who the hell I think I am either). Apologies, Rachel! Threads the last few days have gotten away from me faster than my youngest cat trying to make an escape. Since the thread's gone stale I've been trying to sort out what I want to say and to an even greater extent, what I'm even thinking to begin with. I'll try to sort that all out and have something up here in the next day or two.

Finally (did I say "finally" already? Well, this is the REAL "finally," then), and this is not so much a clarification as a gush of admiration, Magniloquence of Feline Formal Shorts puts Chris Clarke through the mixer. Results are vastly more fabulous than frozen margaritas. Check it out!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

A Preview of Coming Attractions

So listen up, Ms. Jared, and anyone else walking in Ms. Jared's shoes right now. This is a rough template of how it's going to be:

You're going to read people saying, "I must diversify my blog-reading habits." Maybe, like Ms. Jared is right now, you'll even be saying it yourself.

Whether you branch out yourself or you don't, you're going to learn something: A lot of people make this promise the same way they'd say, "This year I'm going to exercise more." Or like I do: "This year I'm going to get those thank-you notes written on time."

Still you will believe them. It isn't nice to do otherwise.

And if you're branching out yourself, you'll be much too busy to care what anyone else is doing. So much good reading! So many ideas you hadn't considered before! So many new voices! It's going to be a lot of fun. No lie.

Of course, it's going to sting a little at times, too. You'll read, maybe, that "middle-class white Americans are untrustworthy and unreliable," and you'll squeak inside, "Not me! Not me!"

Or you might read a post like "An Open Letter to Feminists of the Paler Persuasion" and spot where something you just wrote about is cited as an example of the stupid, airy-fairy bullshit on which white middle-class feminists tend to fixate. And you might think, "Damn, was that necessary?"

You'll probably remind yourself then to focus on the damn point of what she's saying (because it's not about you, not centrally), and with a sinking feeling you'll realize, she's right: The white feminist blogosphere didn't have a lot to say about that. And you, you didn't have anything to say about that, because you didn't even know about it. You hadn't been reading.

You will check out some of the linked source material and realize, this nightmare is over a week old already. In that time you have heard nothing, read nothing.

Then you see that another white blogger you know is already on it. She's way ahead of you. She's been reading while you've been screwing around playing computer games. Does this excuse you from saying anything yourself? Do you have a free pass to skip this one?

No, you don't. So you leave off tending your wounded ego, and you get in there.

After awhile, you'll start to notice you're seeing things you never saw before, perhaps couldn't see before. Things that made no sense to you even just a few months back, suddenly make too much sense. Where before you saw legitimate complaints against OVERSENSITIVITY and PARANOIA and JEALOUSY and PETTY DIVISIVENESS, you now see an order and a method. But the order is all out of whack and the method is brutal and graceless. The order constrains what you would see free, and the method is only used to punish whatever, or whoever, threatens the order.

Things look different, and things don't always look so good. Your White Lens is shrinking. It isn't filtering your vision as well as it used to. Instead of seeing everything bathed in a pale rosy glow, you see more individual colors. You see more light, too, but the light reveals much that disturbs you.

Some days you about claw your own eyes out trying to put that lens back on. Like a relationship you know is no good for you that you nonetheless return to occasionally for familiarity, for comfort, or for sex, so is that lens. But you can't revive that dead relationship and you can't seem to make that lens grow back to its original size, either.

Spoiled now is the way you used to see things. A lot of pleasant reading has turned coarse and awkward. Where before you would read:

I think what is most amazing to me is that this doesn't take place in some tent in the middle of the desert or a stone hut. These people are not dressed in tribal garb --- they are wearing jeans and t-shirts and the whole thing takes place in a street in what appears to be a modern town.

--and say, "Yes, how odd that is!", now you're aghast. You wish you could find another interpretation for this besides, "I wouldn't be shocked by such brutal behavior from primitive savages. But from modern, Westernized people? Bizarre!"

And you know that it is anything but bizarre, and you know the author knows it too, and you know that is not what she meant, so now you worry. You worry that maybe you, too, are becoming oversensitive. And is it really important? People are dying. You should fight the real enemy. Don't be petty. Don't get so hung up over mere language. They're just words! Don't be divisive. George W. Bush is still President. Focus! Fight the real enemy.

Plenty of real oppression to tackle without you imagining more from people who mean well. Let it go.

But you will remain uneasy. You will have been reading different points of view than you once did, and you will notice something ugly the purveyors of these viewpoints have in common: They will all, at some point, or maybe often, maybe even daily, have been told to shut up and fight the real enemy. They will have been told this by people who have hurt them, even as those same people swear they mean well.

Because of this, the people you are newly reading will sometimes make the same decision you just did, the decision to let it go; but they will not always make it for the same reasons you did. Sometimes that decision will be made to stave off an inner exhaustion you don't have. Other times it will be made in a heartache you don't know, and still other times in a rage you can't imagine.

No, you will not know what any of this could possibly be like. You will only know that you hate to see it.


It will cross your mind once or twice or twenty-seven times or more that we could all focus more easily and fight the real enemy better if we were all more respectful of each other.

"That's what I'm trying to tell you!" the well-meaning people will say. "When these people say, 'Get off our backs,' they need to say it respectfully!"

You will see the futility in explaining the problem. You've seen it explained. You've seen it explained over, and over, and over.

You'll stew over what to do sometimes. You may think on occasion that you could speak up, perhaps should speak up, but what's the point? And what will it cost you? Who will it cost you? Who will still be there when you quit speaking? Who will have stormed out before you could finish? In whose address books will you still exist?

Certain phrases will haunt you right up until the moment of decision, when a well-meaning person wounds someone just a little too nearby. You've been able to ignore it while it happened over there, in that neighborhood, or over there, in that other one. If only it had stayed far away, if only you had your lens back.

You will charge ahead and say something. It won't come out quite how you wanted it to, but nevertheless, instantly a weight will lift. You will have your voice back, for awhile. You will be so relieved to find it still works.

It is not long after this that you will lose, at conservative estimate, about 70% of your friends. It's a lot to process at once, but you won't worry long, for you will soon make more. In fact, as much as you detest hierarchies, you still will have to concede to yourself that it feels like an upgrade process at times, this dropping off of old friends and getting to know new ones.

It is true that when you have time to think about the loss, you will grieve it a little. But in fact you won't have much time for this, because there will be no shortage of new grief. You'll quickly become angry at yourself as you realize how much of this grief was being shared around you before, all this time, that you're only yourself just noticing.

"Is this usual?" you will ask one of your new friends, even though you know it's a fucking insensitive, dumbass question--and besides, you already know the answer to it.

Her answer will be what you knew it was.

You will realize you have another question, one you can't ask anyone, one you have to figure out the answer to yourself:

Now what?

Monday, May 21, 2007

What Silencing Is, and What it Isn't

Lots to be heartsick about today.

I bleed for Samhita, for knowing she's in a lot of pain right now. Samhita writes:

. . . I am not a token. I am not here to talk about all WOC voices. My being here doesn't inherently fix or solve the white-centered nature of the political blogosphere (please believe). And my brown-ness doesn't make me the spokesperson for all things brown, and similarly Jessica or the other white ladies, spokespeople for whites only. To discount the contributions of all the women that write for Feministing, while upholding Jessica as the embodiment of all that is wrong with Feministing and feminism, erases our contributions and ignores the fact that we are all working TOGETHER. What does it mean when Jessica is singled out for blame for posts or threads that we ALL take responsibility for?

All of the women that write for Feministing, from DAY ONE, have incorporated an intersectional analysis (please go back to archives and read). All of the writers at Feministing believe that a race, class and sexuality lens is necessary to inform our feminist action and writing. It's an integral part of our work, evidenced not only by what we write and how we write it, but also by who we bring in to work with us and the connections and collaborations we seek on the ground. To argue otherwise not only feels dismissive to us, it feels intensely hurtful and wrong.

I can't imagine anyone is really unclear on this point, but I want to emphasize it anyway just in case: I would never label any woman of color sharing blog-space with white women a token, not least because it simply isn't my place to. As a white woman I don't have the right to apply that label, or even to hint that it might be applicable to someone.

Further, I'm generally uncomfortable with labeling of that sort in ANY instance. It would require me to assume too much about motives and means. I simply don't know enough about why someone's in this space and not that one, doing this but not that.

And finally, I just don't think it's helpful. When Samhita says it feels dismissive, I can't argue with her. That is exactly what the word "token" is designed to do. It's designed to dismiss. It's designed to silence.

Now if only anyone had actually called Samhita a token, we'd be in business.

I know it sometimes comes off as patronizing when a blogger resorts to riffing off a dictionary definition to explain herself. In this case I'm going to risk being patronizing, however, because I think it's important to define terms. So, from Merriam-Webster online:

Main Entry: 2silence
Function: transitive verb
Inflected Form(s): si·lenced; si·lenc·ing
1 : to compel or reduce to silence : STILL <silenced the crowd>
2 : to restrain from expression : SUPPRESS
3 : to cause to cease hostile firing or criticism <silence the opposition>

We can dispense with the first definition, as there's really no way for any blogger or group of bloggers "to compel or reduce to silence," though if my inbox is anything to go by lately, that doesn't always stop people from making the attempt. I hope we can agree up front, however, that short of hacking someone else's blog to take it offline or deface it, none of us really has the power "to compel or reduce to silence." This is not to say we can't try so hard that our target eventually concludes the struggle is not worth it. We can do this, and too often, we do. And then we say, "But gosh, no one made her quit." In the sense that no one put a gun to the ex-blogger's head, that's true, but it doesn't excuse us from examining our roles, if any, in her decision.

And although the third definition may also apply in a few specific instances, it's the second definition I want to focus on: "To restrain from expression: SUPPRESS." It is here that my sympathy for Samhita bleeds into exasperation, because I will not be argued out of the following:

When you respond to your critics without linking to their words, you are withholding information from your audience, information necessary for your audience to generate informed opinions on the matter. That is suppression. That is silencing.

And I'm seeing way too much of it lately. It angers me. It pisses me off something fierce. And my saying "I don't like this; it makes me angry," is not silencing. It's me expressing an opinion, an opinion you are wholly free to disregard.

And just to stop the noise before it starts, my saying "This pisses me off" isn't a personal attack, either. One thing I'm surer than ever of after the last few days is that we have all got to do a better job of distinguishing between "I don't like your actions" and "I don't like you." These two sentiments are not the same. I didn't like Jill's first post on Full Frontal Feminism, but I did like her second one. Now: What changed between those two reactions of mine as regards how I feel about Jill as a person? NOTHING. I respected and admired her before, during, and after. Doesn't mean I'm going to boogie down with everything she writes, and the beautiful thing is, she isn't going to do that for me either. Disagreements happen. This is the internet. We are all grown-ups, we know this, but in the heat of disagreement it's often easy to forget.

I have often forgotten it myself. The next time I forget, I'd be grateful if one of you would kick me in the pants and remind me to re-read this excellent post by Brownfemipower at The Silence of Our Friends*:

I also want to address the idea put forth by Samhita (and many many maaaany of Jessica’s supporters) that women of color bloggers are “hating” on Jessica.

I met Jessica from feministing and Amanda from pandagon at the NAPW conference earlier this year. I liked both of them a lot. Especially Amanda—who, for the first time, made me see why people think southern accents are sexy.

At the conference, I joked with Jessica about the size of her boobs, talked at length with Amanda about Texas/Mexican border issues and living on farmland—I liked them both a lot, and was really happy to that I met up with them.

And then I got back home, and continued blogging and continued to be pissed off by Amanda’s analysis of X and Jessica’s understanding of Y.

Disagreement happens. Disagreement happens even when we really, really like each other. The problem isn't the disagreement, which is inevitable, and the disagreement isn't silencing! As a link piny included in one of her recent posts states:

15. If we attend to your work closely enough to engage in angry, detailed criticism, don't take this as a rejection, crankiness, disordered ranting and raving, or the effects of testosterone poisoning. It's a *gift*. (And it's praise: there must be something we value about you to bother to engage you, especially since such engagement is often painful, as well as time-consuming, for us.)

(Emphasis mine.) And I wasn't the only one who recognized its applicability to recent discussions; in the comments to piny's post, Nanette says:

I was thinking of writing almost this very thing earlier, just for people to keep in mind, but I came across someone who put it better, in piny’s link to the trans how-to piece[.]

Lest anyone remain unclear: "Angry, detailed criticism" is not silencing. PERIOD. I swear, if I see "criticism" equated with "the suppression of criticism" one more time, I'm going to flip the fuck out and quit myself, because I have reached my saturation point with this stupidity, so much so that I wonder whether terming it "stupidity" isn't actually being too kind; stupidity arises from ignorance, and I'm no longer confident that ignorance is the real problem here. "Deliberate obfuscation of the issue so as to promote one framing over another," which I hope I don't have to remind you is another suppressive and silencing method, might be the more accurate description of this bizarre phenomenon of equating "criticism" with "silencing."

When I see people I respect reacting to only one side of the story, as Scott Lemieux does here:

Fundamentally, there's no line of argument stupider than alleging that women of color are not "real" women of color, and that goes triple when people make this offensive argument in order to support a fact-free a priori narrative about a site's content.

--my first reaction is to get angry at Scott. But then I realize, I don't actually disagree with anything Scott said! And then after that, I groan at "fact-free a priori narrative about a site's content," because what Scott's responding to is at best a fact-deprived a priori narrative about what Samhita's critics have actually said. And the blame for that, I'm afraid, lies squarely with Samhita:

In light of the conversations surrounding Jessica's book, I just wanted to touch on some of the issues that have come up. I am going to admit first and foremost, I haven't read all of them and I am not going to cite any people, just some themes that are coming up and the feelings they are bringing up for me.

The problem with this approach is it allows the author free rein to interpret those themes for her audience in any way she sees fit, and someone as hurt and upset as Samhita is currently may naturally be expected to interpret them to paint herself in the best light possible and her critics in the worst. "They said this"--and how is anyone reading supposed to know who "they" is, or whether "they" really said "this?" One must either take Samhita's word for it or make fumbling search attempts using Google.

Or you can be an unfeeling bitch like me and go to the source. Despite Samhita's claim in the comments that she was wounded by "conversation all over the interwebz about Jessica's book, our comments policies and how we lack intersectional analysis at Feministing," found in "some of the threads at Feministe," I'm dubious that Feministe is the real culprit here, not least because I find, at last check at least, no mention of "how we lack intersectional analysis at Feministing" in any of the Feministe threads on Full Frontal Feminism.

So regarding intersectionality, at least, I suspect this thread is more likely the source of Samhita's pain. Some excerpts:

Samhita! Don’t go away! Talk. I love your contributions but other people seem to have a problem with it. They made me think deeply about it and they we feel you can be more hardcore about it. You don’t stand alone. Im kind of hardcore about it but I’m just a commenter.

It meaning intersectionality. And Feministing has been talking about intersectionality since the first page in 2004. You always talk about it but talk about it more as in don’t back down from being hardcore.

Samhita, TONS OF PEOPLE and WOC read you. It’s shocking to hear you feel alone. Just don’t back down.

Very hurtful. Very silencing! But that isn't to say there wasn't some anger expressed to Samhita:

I want to tahnk you for finally showing up to Sylvias place to throw yourself a YOUVE WOUNDED MY FEELINGS PARTY. while sitting pretty motherfucking silent while it happened to us.

BUt shit your voice erasure is more important than ours, your inability to read the fucking posts is less important than how wounded you fucking are cause we really are doing this while we cry and comisserate and weep and desperately try to get some attention to our life and death situations .

We’re doing it to piss you off.


(Blackamazon's last two sentences are meant sarcastically, just in case that isn't readily apparent.)

Radical? You? Where were you when that bullshit was pulled on Nubian? You and the other “WOC” there let it ride too. The least you could have done is smacked down the racist and white privilege comments there, if you even recognize them, and I seriously doubt that.

It's Samhita who interprets the above as an accusation of not being a "real" woman of color:

Donna, you are trippin. Am I not women of color enough for you?

And this is met with several responses, among them, Brownfemipower's:

samhita, if you recall I DID come to your defense, do you recall that?

or am I not women of color enough for *you*?

how many times have you come to *my* damn defense? how many times have you commented on *any* of our blogs?

And also, Blackamazon:

And somehow your writing about it si teh same fucking thing as actually engaging about wit which never seems to happen until you want to come up into OUR spaces to tell us how wrong we done ya.

YOU must be out your mind.

You can’t even bring u p any damn facts or specifci posts jsut your hurt feelings like me Sylvia PP DOnna BFP etc etc haven’t been basically jumped for teh past four fucking days lumped in with everyfucking body and called covertly or overtly fucking stupid.

I tried real hard to be polite but I’m fucking done with this shit.

But while there's a lot of (to me, perfectly understandable) anger expressed in that thread, there's also a lot of reaching out to Samhita:

Samhita, don’t get defensive, just let the sense of the comments penetrate.

The reason for the anger is patiently explained:

samhita, I have never and will never comment on your site because of all the reasons that have been laid out endlessly. it is a site that is patently unsafe for any type of thought that does not fall right into line with what all the rest of the mainstream feminists are saying. bint, amazon, nubian–they all represent a perspective that I am in tune with an identify with and they have all been attacked mercilessly on your site.

Again, and again:

christ, samhita, YOU have been attacked on your site, and where the hell are your own co-bloggers????

if you can’t feel safe on your own blog why in the holy hell do you think any of the rest of us are going to go over there?

You’re awfully slow if you don’t already know that you tell the white women what they want to hear there or get trashed. How very supportive of Jessica! We figured it out long ago and that’s why we aren’t there. If they treated us like we have a brain in our heads we would be there, we would see these threads you are talking about and defending you along with the rest of the readers, even the white ones, because that is the kind of atmosphere they would have cultivated. Instead they cultivate one where WOC are hung out to dry if they get uppity.

Reassurances are given that this isn't personal:

Even though we don’t like your shenanigans, we can still like you as a person and stuff.

samhita gets severely trashed on her every other post by racists because she is a woc.

samhita, remember it’s structural, not individual. take these criticisms constructively. and remember, nubian stopped blogging.

And this just plain makes no sense coming from a would-be silencer of Samhita:

samhita, i’m so glad you’re here and read this blog regularly.

I had an email request today for a show of solidarity for Samhita. I regret only a little that I cannot grant that. I don't stand with dishonesty. I don't stand with "shenanigans" of this sort. I don't stand with suppression of dissent. I don't stand with silencing.

To the extent I am permitted to, I stand with her. And her. And her. And her. And her.

That's who has my solidarity. That's who has my respect. That's who has my support.

For what it's worth.

UPDATE: And, especially, her.

I don't know how you do it. I hate that you have to do it. I hate that your allies have let you down. I hate that the people who keep this going do so by covering up what's really going on in favor of an increasingly ludicrous persecution narrative that simply doesn't hold up once you have all the facts.

I hate that posts are linked to which endeavor to be fair to both sides, but go unread. I don't have time to respond to everyone.

I hate that arguments are made and promptly turned to straw. But of course no book could be everything to everyone.

I hate that feelings are being hurt right and left, but only some feelings matter. These attacks on Feministing are unfair.

Most of all, I hate that the so-called attackers are seldom named, never linked, never responded to directly. They're just jealous. They're not worth responding to.

Here's an idea: If they're not worth responding to, then shut the fuck up. This "I'm not going to link to it, but SOME PEOPLE have said--" gambit is foul. It's dishonest. And if that doesn't get through to you, let me remind you that it's also a favorite conservative tactic.

Some feminists--

When I wrote this, I worried afterwards that the comparison I made was unfair. Now I'm convinced that it is unfair--to antifeminists.

This has to stop.

*Another good reason to bookmark this one: If, like me, you aren't always sure what people are talking about when they reference "intersectionality," I think you will find Brownfemipower's explanation, especially as it relates to the concept of inclusion, very helpful.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Everybody Say Awwwwww

The groom looks shy. The bride is a knockout.

But you can't beat that ringbearer for cute.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

I'm Sick of Working Weekends

I want my damn time back.

For those of you who do have the time to be reading and discussing, you will not do better today than:


Piny. Also, piny.


Nezua (Note to people weary of The Book Thing: NOT ABOUT THE BOOK THING! Don't say I never break up the monotony.)

And if you have a minute go congratulate Sylvia on having completed her first year of law school. Lawyers, look out!

UPDATE: And my other favorite law student, who I missed before because I tend to spaz when I realize piny's posting again.

I can't tell anyone what to do, and I'm often guilty of being a Pollyanna about the world, but my feeling is that Jill deserves fair hearing. Her ability to write honestly has always been something I've admired and envied.

Friday, May 18, 2007

A Thank-You, an Apology, and a Rant

First, the thanks:

Everyone who stopped by and dropped me a comment yesterday pretty much knocked me out. Even the comments I was arguing against were instructive--I got something out of everything contributed, even when I wasn't always keen on what I was getting.

I know it's not all about me and my personal growth or whatever, but at the same time I think it would be a bit selfish of me not to acknowledge what I got out of the dialogue; not to acknowledge that I benefited. When Blackamazon, Little Light, Donna, Sylvia, and other writers I admire stop by to say what they think, and they're willing to take the time, use up some of their energy stores, make the investment--I know they are not doing it for me. And yet I benefit. To pretend otherwise would be horribly rude.

It goes to the heart of my anger yesterday, really, that such powerful voices are not always getting heard. That is a whole other post, or series of posts, but that brings me to the apology: I have a lot of work-work, you know, the boring kind that pays the bills, ahead of me the next two days, and it's gonna be a little bit before I can get back to the blog.

But this I can say right now:

This is one of my most popular posts, even still. I still see posts by others linking it with--and I'm not trying to be all bigheaded here--huge cheers and enthusiasm, like, "Yay, someone gets it!"

And not to spit on praise, which heaven knows I LOVE, because I am a fatheaded slave to vanity, but, all due respect, I think there was a portion too many fans of it overlooked.

[Oh no help me I'm about to quote myself.]

That portion is:

"I mean, if someone who'd never really read Feministe just went over and all they read was that post of piny's--well, no, not so much that post, or even Feministe necessarily, but like, I can see how some of these guys get the idea that you all hate men. Because you're talking to the regulars, and the regulars know you don't hate men, but some new guy reading some of this stuff, he's going to be all, wait, what did I do? I didn't rape anybody, I never beat up a transsexual--"

"No, I get that," I interrupted him. "That's a lot like--like, I used to have the same reaction reading blogs by people of color. I'd see something like 'white people sure suck sometimes,' and I'd be all, 'Hey! Wait! Not all of us! Not me!' Even though I probably do suck as a white person sometimes--but I mean, I'd take it too personally."

"It's hard not to take it personally."

"It's not as hard if you move yourself out of the center of everything, though. That's what I finally got through my thick skull. It's not ABOUT me, always. And even if it is about me, so what? I'm not perfect. Why shouldn't I have to take some shit once in awhile? Heaven knows I dish enough out in a day. Would it kill me to get an attitude adjustment? Would it kill me to listen to someone unlike me for five minutes?"

Now the fans of this post love that I halfway got a het guy to understand that in feminist spaces, he needs to stifle himself; he needs to respect space designated for other people not like him; other people who, even if they are not oppressed by him personally, remain nonetheless oppressed by those who ARE like him.

But I don't know how many fans keep in mind that this goes double for women of color spaces, that I was only able to explain this to my boyfriend BECAUSE women of color had explained it to me first--not by telling me, but by showing me. By just doing what they do.

But to just take this concept of safe space, and the reasons that space is necessary, and to use these ideas to explain my super-special white girl problems to the guy who has his foot on my neck (even though he doesn't mean to!)--to do that, and to then fail to give it back by pointing out those lousy times when the newbie intruders are not white men, not even just white women, but white feminists--that would be thievery.

I aspire to be a lot of things. A thief isn't one of them.

I am angry about this post because what I see is a lot of good criticism mixed in with even more two-bit cheap-shot criticism--Google search results from WAY down the list--all thrown into one bag labeled, "TO BE THROWN AWAY."

And I think, to ignore the parallel between that act, and acts like--

* equating "Deb Frisch" with "the left"

* equating "Buffalo Bill" with "all transpeople"

* equating "some loon who sent me a death threat" with "the entire anti-war movement"

--is to be willfully blind.

I understand the impulse to defend a friend. We all do it.

But I've also had to tell friends to grow up. That once you put it out there, it's up for grabs. That if you are unwilling or unable to defend yourself, you're not ready to put it out there.

And if one of your friends has to shit on smart young women from whom, take it from me, she could really benefit, well beyond what she could ever repay, in order to defend you, then you know what?

Your friend just became that What-About-the-Menz guy.

She's THAT GUY. Her concerns about "being silenced" sound exactly like concerns about what the firing of Don Imus does to free speech, or concerns about what the Duke lacrosse case does to the rights of innocent young wealthy white men, or concerns about what all that mean man-hatin' shrillness is going to do to harm the "effectiveness" (read: palatability to heterosexual men) of the women's movement.

For crying out loud! You live in one of the wealthiest cities in the world, you have your own book deal, you attend one of the best law schools out there, and you run a hugely popular blog, and nearly all of that also applies to your friend. YOUR FRIEND IS NOT BEING SILENCED, and neither are you. You're just being that guy.

And I really wish you would stop, because if you can't tell the difference between Petitpoussin and Alon Levy, then something is very, very wrong.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

For Those Who Prefer Words to Code


I have nothing to add. Every once in awhile you find a post that's just perfect start to finish. This is one of those posts.

And no comments here; you run along and talk to her if you have somethng to say. I made the mistake today of playing interpreter for someone whose words need no interpretation, and I'm not doing that again. It insults her, it insults me, and it insults the person I'm talking to. Bad all around. No more.


if (young_women_reached_by_book - young_women_repelled_by_book > 0)
result = net_gain_4_feminism;
hit_points_of_patriarchy = hit_points_of_patriarchy - net_gain_4_feminism;

if (people_clicking_pie_ad - people_hating_pie_ad > 0)
result = net_gain_4_markos;
hit_points_of_Republicans = hit_points_of_Republicans - net_gain_4_markos;

It's not the book. It's not what's in the book. It's not even entirely the cover of the book. And for the last time, it's not personal animosity, it's not cattiness, it's not a circular firing squad. It's the way discussion of the book is playing out--or, often, not playing out, because one side is playing deaf.

You Can't Hit What You Can't See

I'm not certain how to approach this. This post may disappear, I guess I should warn you up front, because if asked to remove it I won't hesitate to do so. And someone might well ask me to remove it, because I'm going to talk about another post that disappeared, but which I can't get out of my mind all the same.

And I guess I should throw up one other caveat: This post might be guilty of the white feminist habit of taking an issue important to women of color and making it all about What the White Feminist Thinks About That. Because that's very important stuff to know, and there's a real dearth of white feminist opinion out there!

No, it's like this, though: I can't write with any competence about anything except what all goes on in my head. And it's a white feminist head, so there you go. What I don't want it to be is an overbearing, oppressive white feminist head that tells the brown or the black or the any-other-tinted heads to shut up. That's what I'm trying to avoid here.

Here goes:

Brownfemipower is on vacation. One of the items she posted about before taking a break was the Cinco de Mayo party hosted by some students at the University of Delaware. You can read about that in more detail here, but for right now I think this is one of those times when a picture is worth a thousand words--though not the words on the backs of these shirts:


Here I have to paraphrase from what I recall of this missing post I wanted to yak about: Brownfemipower pointed out that the women at that party doing their best "spicy Latina" impressions weren't "the patriarchy." And this was said in a larger context of, white feminists tend to blame everything on the patriarchy, when meanwhile women of color are just as likely to have the feet of other women, white women, stomping all over them as they are to have any man's.

Brownfemipower was a little fed up with this, with the whole blame-patriarchy-not-me business, and speaking of blame, I sure as hell don't blame her for being angry about that, because who could? She's right.

Yet my defensiveness kicked in, because it always does, so that on first read of this, I thought, "No, no, that is CLASSIC patriarchy--the internalized version." And it is, you know, because patriarchy's whole gig is pitting women, all women, against each other. So one of the socially-encoded numbers you get whipped on you all the time if you're a white woman is the paradox that (1) it's not okay to be sexually provocative, because that makes you a filthy whore, but (2) it's not okay to be sexually demure either, because if you get too content in that role, your man might leave you for someone more enticing. Someone more naturally sensual. Someone with a more voracious sexual appetite. Someone more . . . exotic.

And this is a swell one-two punch, really, because it reinforces racist stereotypes and sexist ones, intertwining both, and it can be flipped right back around for men to wield against women of color: Don't flaunt yourself, don't act so ethnic, why can't you know your place/be gentler/button up more like a white woman, blah blah.

Given all that, it doesn't completely surprise me that some particularly stupid white women would welcome the chance to revel in racist stereotypes like this, because they're getting a stale, crusty, but nonetheless real benefit out of it: They're getting to try on a sexual persona that they believe permits them to act like a whore without actually being labeled a whore. That is precisely why they can't be reminded often enough that they're only escaping the "whore" label by earning the "racist" label instead. They are earning a few hours' sexual liberty on the backs of women of color.

So, deservedly--racists. I'd like to know: Is it worth it now, white female students, to feel so sex-ee, so spicy, so exotic? You know, you're in college; you're supposed to be learning things--including how to recognize and fight against the bullshit standard that says white-heterosexual-female-desire dances like this, but Latina-heterosexual-female-desire dances like this. And that bullshit standard is the stock in trade of Ye Olde Patriarchy, which loves having so many flavors of sexy to choose from.

But here is the thing:

Alcoholism is a disease, or like enough to one to be thought of that way.

If you have dealt with alcoholics at all, you know that sometimes they're total fucking assholes. They're total fucking assholes because they're drunk, and they're drunk because they have this disease, and having that disease isn't their fault, so maybe nonalcoholics shouldn't blame them for being total fucking assholes, but--

--but, when someone is in your face being a total fucking asshole, yelling at you, insulting you, maybe even attempting to get physical with you, you do not see an amorphous blob labeled "ALCOHOLISM." You do not see a cartoon bottle of Jack Daniels before you. You do not see The Big Book. You do not see "a disease." You see a total fucking asshole, in your face and no more than five seconds away from gettin' clocked--by you, because you hate that person just then.

The rage you feel is so deep your bones threaten to snap from it. A disease called "alcoholism" doesn't get drunk and get abusive; a human being does that. Yeah, it's a human being in the throes of a disease that will destroy her eventually, but you don't see that! You see the human being, the person who at the moment you'd almost prefer to see dead.

One thing I will not ever, ever accept is that anyone has a right to shut down the nonalcoholic partner in a relationship with an alcoholic by telling him or her, "Oh, don't get so mad at him/her. She/he has a disease." Listen, the nonalcoholic knows that, and probably a ton better than you do. You don't need to remind them, and you aren't entitled to tell them not to get pissed off, because it's a very pissing-off kind of disease.

And that, I realize, is more or less how I've been feeling about the color divide within feminism lately--like a lot of us need to quit telling women of color to don't get so mad at us, we have a patriarchy. The analogy is flawed in many respects--racism doesn't suddenly sober up and come home with a gift for you, ready to kiss and make up and swear off the hate forever--but it works to illustrate the title. You can't hit what you can't see. I can't hit "alcoholism," not literally, but I can sure as hell hit the jerk trying to drag me down with him, and I have done so, and I'm not sorry, because the jerk hit me first, and hitting him back was unbelievably satisfying.

This is why I say that when Brownfemipower says, "That wasn't the patriarchy," she's right: Some amorphous blob labeled "PATRIARCHY" didn't dress up stupid for a Cinco de Mayo party and have big laughs over racist stereotypes; white women did that. Asking women of color to ignore or excuse that is asking them to ignore whose heels are on their necks. White women, and white feminists especially, we who are supposed to be a little more sensitive to this oppression business, are not entitled to tell women of color to quit being pissed off about their realities, nor are we entitled to "helpfully" correct women of color about what they should really be pissed off about, namely, the patriarchy. You know--"We'll get to your pet issues later! But first--patriarchy."

Look, I don't know Brownfemipower personally, but I know her writing is sharp and I figure from that that she's sharp and so guess what?--I'm pretty sure she knows about patriarchy. I don't think she needs any well-intentioned reminders.

And white feminists know about patriarchy, and we say so all the time, but we don't always acknowledge our own participation in it. Sometimes, I am realizing, I am the drunk fucking asshole. And a breezy "I blame the patriarchy!" isn't going to heal the damage I do when this is so.

By Me Is So Big the Mouth, So My Foot Always Goes In

Sometimes you gotta get burned to learn.

I made the mistake of offering condolences to Hugo Schwyzer upon learning that someone had called him a simpering, sanctimonious little prick, or somesuch similar. The following then transpired:

* I learned who had said it, and in response to what.

* Hugo's thread was promptly enlivened by a throng of MRA trolls back-patting him, defending Falwell, and insulting everyone else, including me, the moron who'd sort of agreed with Hugo in the first place.

* Deservedly, I felt like an asshole.

And now, a little story:

About ten years ago, my mom was working on a talk for her church, and for whatever reason she solicited my advice on the thing, specifically asking for honest criticism. (The cool thing about my mom is that if she does that, she's game to hear what you have to say. She's not kidding around. You can tell her, I like this, not so hot on that.)

Even so, I hesitated after she'd finished reading it to me, because I had good news and bad news. The good news was, as Mormon talks go, hers was a good one. The bad news was, she'd wound it up with a sentence beginning, "I challenge you, my brothers and sisters . . . ."

Maybe Ms. Jared can back me up on this: "I challenge you" is common parlance in the Mormon church. I don't remember what the challenge in my mother's talk was--it could have been to read the Book of Mormon in its entirety (admittedly a real challenge because, damn, is that book boring; I never finished it, myself), or to do your geneology work (it's important to know who your dead relatives are, so you can baptize them by proxy in case they were heathens), or one of any number of things Mormons are "challenged" to do by their peers every single day of their busy lives until they are finally relieved from duty by sweet, merciful death.

It's exhausting being a Mormon.

Anyway, "I challenge you, my brothers and sisters," is very common Mormon-speak, and I had always, always hated it. I really started hating it when some substitute Sunday school teacher used it long ago in my Sunday school class, a class of seven year old children. He had challenged us to bear our testimonies in Sacrament meeting that Sunday. This is where you get up and thank God for everything and then tell everyone that you know that the Mormon church is True, just like the Spandau Ballet song.

People, I write, but I don't talk. Didn't then, don't much now. And I sure as hell was not equipped at the tender age of seven to get up in front of the entire church and tell everybody how fervently I believed the church was true. The prospect was terrifying.

As it happened, my family ditched out on Sacrament meeting that Sunday, so I was off the hook, theoretically. Practically, however, I could not relax. I got more and more upset, thinking how Brother WhoeverTheHell had challenged me to do something I could no more do than I could fly, and how I'd told him I would do it, and now I wasn't even in Sacrament meeting, which meant I had broken a promise and lied to my Sunday school teacher, and while Mormons aren't the sort to threaten eternal damnation with any real frequency, surely lying to a Sunday school teacher was a wicked, awful thing to do.

When I eventually confessed in tears to my mother that I had promised my Sunday school teacher I'd bear my testimony "as challenged," she snorted and told me he had some nerve scaring little kids like that; now come set the table. Where is your father? He knows we're going to eat in five minutes.

And that was the end of it. But I never forgot it, and I never stopped grinding my teeth whenever I heard some fellow Mormon challenging people.

Because, as I explained to my mom when she asked me what I thought of her talk ("Very good! Love almost all of it! Hate the challenging!"), the problem with "I challenge you" is that it presumes the speaker is in any such position to be challenging people (or as I think of it, tasking them with silly self-improvement assignments so they can never know peace or serenity) to begin with. You see what I mean? Who's Sister SoAndSo to be challenging me? Sister SoAndSo beats her kids with a ruler! Who's Brother SomeGuy to be challenging Brother JelloSalad? Brother SomeGuy keeps a liquor cabinet down the basement. And it's not empty!

My mom saw what I was saying, and she revised the concluding sentence to ix-nay the allenging-chay. But she also said it was interesting to her that I felt that way about it, because she had never even imagined that interpretation of the phrase before.

This makes sense, because my mom LOVES challenges. She'd tell you she doesn't, but she does. I know it sounds all hokey-cliche to say she sees problems as opportunities, and I'm not saying she feels that way about all problems always and ever, but in general, my mom likes challenges. So she had never considered that there might be anything offensive about "I challenge you."

To me, though, there definitely is something deeply offensive about that, and ditto its stronger, more bullying cousin, "Shame on you." Who's anybody to be running around putting shame on people? Especially to be putting it specifically on friends? I can object to that even before we ever get around to the power dynamics, to noting that it's a white Christian male trying to shame all Falwell's favorite targets on a feminist blog.

It was a bad, bad move, one destined to end in being called a sanctimonious prick. And I made a bad, bad move by reacting to only one side of the story.

All comment buttons should read "Think before you post." I have to do better about remembering that.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

My Mother

My mother is a complex person and my relationship with her is not simple. She is not an easy person to write about, and she would not want to be written about in any depth without her consent anyhow.

I can write about my father; indeed I have done. My father and I are simpatico. He is muy amable, un bueno amigo; no solo mi padre, pero un compañero. It is easy to write about my father.

It is not easy to write about my mother, even though I owe her so much.

For example, the privacy thing: That is feminist in its essence: My life is mine. My experience is mine. My body is mine. I own me. Trespassers will be shot on sight.

I remember reading this as a young girl:

"I never thought of that," Tucker said, "but it's true. In my own case, I didn't even have any idea my mother had any ambition to be anything but my mother. She took this temporary job when my father was fired and I thought she couldn't wait to get back to just being my mother again. What she really couldn't wait to do was stop being just a mother. She wants to be something more important."

"I know," Natalia said. "That's neat."

"It is neat," Tucker said, "because she's been stuck being just my mother for fifteen years. I suppose that was important when I was little, but what good would it do her in three more years when I go to college?"

"'Dear Tucker,'" Natalia said, "'This is just your mother writing you again for the third time this week to ask how is my son.'"

"Exactly," Tucker said. "I don't know why I didn't see it before."

"That's why I never want to get married and have children until I'm very old," Natalia said. "The minute you get married and become a parent, you're nobody. You're just somebody's mother."

--and I thought, "Yes, my mother." But my mother couldn't say that. My mother couldn't hint at it. My mother was born in the wrong time. She was able to see that "you're nobody. You're just somebody's mother," was wrong. But she wasn't able to do anything about it.

So the story my mother tells is that she had to go to work when I was still a child, she just had to, because my father didn't earn enough and they would never have been able to buy a house otherwise. She did it for us, she did it for the children.

But my father tells a different story, one of a woman coming to him saying, I can't take this. I can't be shut in with children all day. I am losing my mind. They are driving me crazy. I need more.

There should have been room in the world for my mother to feel whole as a mother and whole as a woman and whole as a human being. There wasn't. There still isn't. Always with the women it's a trade-off. You do this at the cost of your wholeness in that identity, you do that at the cost of your wholeness in this identity.

Whereas a man is a man, always and forever.

I read sometimes the complaints by the younger feminists about the older ones, the dialogue between the third-wavers and the second-wavers. I don't participate in it; I think to myself, it will work itself out. One of the ways I think it will work itself out is, I think the third-wavers will grow into the understanding of why their elders fought what they fought and did what they did.

I say that because when I was young I did not understand why my mother did what she did, said what she said, hid what she hid. Now I know: She was doing the best she could, and when I look at the circumstances in which she grew up, in which she became an adult, and then a mother and then an elder, I cannot fault her anything; in fact, I find a lot to admire. Here are a couple of those things:

* My father, my mother, and I were sitting around watching TV sometime in the mid-90s. Some infotainment channel (by which I mean CNN) was running some piece on Tracey Chapman. My father said something like, why doesn't she do something with herself. She looks so unattractive.

My mother said, calmly, "She looks like a young African-American woman. She looks happy. Who are you to say she looks bad or unattractive? Not everything you find appealing is universal to all people. Not everyone wants what you want."

My father argued with her, but I don't remember the details. I was too busy thinking, "My mother gets it. My small-town-born-and-raised, stereotyped-as-provincial, lifelong-Republican mother gets it. My mother understands that the white beauty standard is bullshit."

* My parents are Mormons. My father is a convert; my mother was born into it. Unsurprisingly, if you pay attention to the religious and don't just write them off as superstitious folk who require a crutch to get through life, my mother who was born into it is more cynical about it. And perhaps cynical is not what I mean, because she still loves it and I do not. More pragmatic, maybe. Less inclined to see it with blinders on.

And when I was living with them in the mid-90s, my mother started signing us up to feed the missionaries once a week on a Sunday. If you are not Mormon then let me explain, briefly, that Mormon missionaries eat on the charity of other Mormons. To have enough to feed extra and not to offer it is a terrible thing. My mother had enough to feed extra and extra on the extra; she signed us up.

Only after many of these meals did she say to me, "I hate when they ask your father about his job."


"They ask him about his job--they never say, 'And Sister _____, what do you do?' And it's my money, my cooking--it's my work. But they just see the man of the house and they ask, 'Brother _____, what do you do?' Even though they know I work."

"They weren't brought up with women who worked, and they're ignorant."

"I know, I know . . . ."

"But I'm not saying that so you'll feel guilty. You shouldn't feel guilty. You're right. They're wrong."

"Well, no . . . no, if I'd married a hardworking man, if I hadn't married your father, I wouldn't have to work . . . ."

I talked to my mother recently and she was depressed. She was tired, she said, of going to work. I tried to draw her out: Was it the actual work, the actual tasks she was sick of? "No, I'm just tired of getting up and going to work." Okay; was it the people? Was someone being mean to her? "No, I'm just tired of getting up and going to work." I tried my best to offer a point of comparison, to identify using examples from my own life, but this only frustrated her more, and she became more direct: "I just don't want to do it anymore." She sounded just like Peter in Office Space. No, not just like--she sounded like a woman raised with the idea that real women don't work, who nonetheless felt that "women don't work" shortchanged her. She sounded like a woman caught between what she should do (which she didn't like) and what she had once dreamed of doing (which she was now thoroughly sick of).

She sounded, in other words, like a woman feminism failed. And this is the thing: Feminism does fail those women who expect they are going to see results in this lifetime. Feminism doesn't always offer results in this lifetime. And in that sense, and that sense only, it is a little like religion: You don't get the results in this life. You get them in your daughter's life (if you are lucky) or in your granddaughter's life, or, for those of us who are either childless or child-free, you and yours don't get them at all--you have only the vague hope of "future generations."

"Future generations" will benefit because you stood up when you should have sat down. "Future generations" will consider it normal for an analytical, no-nonsense woman like my mother to be CEO of Merrill Lynch; "future generations" will not say, stupidly, "If that's what she wanted, and she had the ability to achieve it, why didn't she?"

Me, I hope "future generations" will understand that the chains you are taught from an early age to wear are the hardest to shake off. Because what my mother wanted and what she chose (you young ones, always with the choice! You have no idea) to do were what the chains of her age permitted her to do--no more, no less. She WANTED, I think, to write, to think, to float ideas, to spend loving hours wandering abstractions--but of none of this did she dare dream. A good Mormon woman puts her family first. And of course she has a family, of course she buries her needs and her wants in a perfect graveyard of service to them, to others, to anyone at all but herself.

She works, she works, she works, and she has nothing to comfort her. Her own daughter is a disappointment to her. Her own daughter lacks her work ethic, lacks her discipline, lacks her swift and clear thinking, lacks her potential, lacks her competence. Her own daughter forgets to write thank-you notes, dodges emails, lets phone calls go to voicemail. Her own daughter has not been able to make things better, and that would be tolerable, maybe, except that all she has done has not made things better either. All the carrots my mother peeled after a long day of work because my brother and I would not eat canned vegetables--for nothing. All the potatoes she mashed because her children complained loudly about being served instant--for nothing. All the Hostess snacks she packed in our lunches, all the treats she made sure we had for the asking--for nothing.

Children she thought would go to Ivy League schools barely graduated their high schools--didn't graduate high school, in one case. Neither of them have college degrees, but she does. She went back to school when she couldn't take being a legal secretary anymore. It was not easy, to say the least, but she did it. She graduated with a 3.9, and she still feels bad it was not a 4.0.

My mother is an amazing woman.

And I live still in a world in which my own mother was never allowed to be a fully-fledged human being. It had nothing to do with reproductive rights, it had nothing to do with abortion, but it had everything to do with the thinking that supports restrictions on either. It had everything to do with my mother being a woman rather than a person.

I can't go back in time and fix this. I can't go back in time and whisper in my mother's ear, "Get out of here. Leave this town and this state and this country. Do not go to college locally; find the most affordable ticket to Europe you can buy and get out of here. Do not have children, do not have a husband, do not tie yourself down until you are 60 or more. LIVE. Live your life, your way. Do not follow the formula you have been given, for it is a death formula; not for every woman, no, but for you, certainly. You were meant for something else."

I can only do what I can to prevent this curse falling upon any other woman. And thanks to all the failures listed above, what I can do is not much.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

YouTube Cheers Me Up

I don't want to hear any complaining, and I for damn sure do not want to hear any "calling out" regarding the "problematic nature" of some of Rock's "questionable statements." Dear I'm-Calling-You-Out Enthusiasts Everywhere: Here is fifty cents; go call yourself out. Real entertaining, listening to your busybody knowitall shit come burbling down the line, isn't it? So, you see.

Readers with further questions on the matter are hereby directed O'Malley-ward. And also from Sheila, because I love it so:

And now - a small tangent about my blog: One of the issues I have with the way some people comment on blogs - not all - SOME (especially those who spend most of their time reading political blogs, and then come to visit me ... they bring that judgey rigid tone HERE - it's like that's the only way they know how to speak, even though I'm posting about Mae West and not the Republican fucking debates - but still, it doesn't matter: they are in the habit of being positional, judgmental, and rigid - where I am so not interested in having that type of black and white conversation - even if I DID post about politics - that tone ruins everything. I don't read blogs who have that tone, and I don't want that spill-over here)

To be fair, people who are consistently judgey and rigid don't last long here. I don't tolerate it, because it ruins my fun. But still: it happens on occasion. Anyway - one of the issues I have with that kind of commenter is that it makes for a boring conversation. It's too positional. As in: Richard Bach = BAD. And people who love Richard Bach = STUPID.

And that misses my point. I'm not interested in having a political-type audience, who can only take positions on things, who are only in opposition, etc. Whose main attitude appears to be: "What in the hell is wrong with everybody else except me?? Why can't everybody be as smart as I am??" You know the type. Yawn. Also: it seems to be that that type of attitude is geared towards ENDING conversation, rather than continuing it. I'm all about the talk, and the conversation. Even with strong opinions - it is a hope of mine that we can still continue to TALK about things. But "what is wrong with everyone? Such and such is BAD and that's final" is not intelligent, and not a continuation of anything. No place for that here.

No place for that here. Especially--oh, ESPECIALLY--if anyone wants to tell me that what I post about is not "compatible with Pandagon." Hello, illiterate motherfucker! This ain't Pandagon.

That means sometimes you are going to get a post that does not call Ayn Rand the worst writer EVAR!!1! I am a mix of a whole lot of things I have read or heard or seen that don't necessarily go, that are not necessarily compatible, with a whole lot of other things I have read or heard or seen, etc. I like this about myself. I like being a tangled-up mess. It is not my job to tidy up this virtual space for you. Accept the messy or fuck off.

Keep it up, and I'm going to start posting about my conversion to Catholicism. We'd all love that, wouldn't we? See, that's what I thought.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

I'm Not a Film Critic, I'm Just Crabby

Spiderman 3: Oh, how I wish I could unsee this movie.

Possible spoilers follow.

Kirsten Dunst was merely so-so in the first movie, a vague background annoyance in the second movie, and the worst thing ever in this movie except for Tobey Maguire and his extra chin. That chin should have received second billing. But Kirsten Dunst has two expressions in this movie: "Silly schoolgirl" and "stricken." THAT'S IT. I can't act for beans, but even I could manage to portray two entire moods for 2-1/2 hours. I might even be able to do it for an entire day. Now I'm tempted to try! People will ask, "What is wrong with you?" and, stricken, I will tell them, "I've got a bad case of the Dunst." Or perhaps I'll give them silly schoolgirl and giggle, "Dunst! I've come down with the Dunst, can you believe it?"

There is singing and dancing in this movie. I like singing and dancing. I like Spiderman. I like garlic. I like peanut butter. BUT NOT TOGETHER.

There is Topher Grace in this movie. Would someone who has some authority on the subject please sit me down and tell me whether Topher Grace can act or not? Because I have no idea. I think he makes a good bad guy, but I'm worried that I only think that because every time I see his face on screen I yearn to kick it. Does it count as being a good movie villain if the sole reason everyone hates you is your highly kickable face? "Starring Topher Grace's face"--that would tell me all I'd need to know.

The most human character in the movie is made of magic sand. I love Thomas Haden Church. I have loved him since he was Lowell on Wings, also known as "the only reason I watched Wings, so shut up." I also love comic book physics.

In the first two movies I thought, "James Franco is playing this for camp, like he's on a soap opera. Knock it off, Franco." Now, I just think he was ahead of the curve. He knew where this was going to end up and he made sure to get there first.

Everyone in this movie acts like they're auditioning for the original version of Melrose Place--the one before Heather Locklear, back when the producers still thought everyone would tune in weekly to see Andrew Shue and Courtney Thorne-Smith deliberate endlessly over whether fucking each other would ruin their friendship. I remember thinking, "You have the most boring friendship ever! Just fuck already!"

Everyone has an opinion about Peter Parker becoming a dick in this movie except me. I don't have an opinion because this is all that went through my brain during those scenes: "Wash that hair. Lose that chin. Wash that hair! THAT CHIN. Hair is beyond washing. Shave it. The chin is showing signs of independent behavior. HAIR! CHIN! Hair exacerbates chin! Rock smashes scissors! Eyes hurt! Brain hurts!--Ugh, I hate when movies show men hitting women. Then again, it's Kirsten Dunst. HIT HER AGAIN, CHIN!"

By the time Venom had Spiderman tied down and Sandman was whaling on him, I was rooting for Sandman. How many direct whole-body blows do you think you could take from a gigantic sandbag? Even if you were blessed with superhuman spider strength, two should be the limit.

Everyone in the audience laughed at inappropriate moments during this movie except me. I was too busy cursing everyone on screen for making me hate their characters and becoming accessories to the murder of my childhood.

I would like to see a cheesy-death-scene-off between William Shatner and James Franco. I'll bet ol' Bill's still got it, but Franco is definitely a contender.

No one in the audience laughed during the Saturday Night Fever-style strut scene. I didn't exactly look around to check but I suspect it's because they were all doing what I was: Wincing so hard my bones ached. I'm still sore today.

I wouldn't piss on Sam Raimi if he were on fire.

Friday, May 04, 2007

The Problem with Condescending to Young Women Is That They Might Figure out You're Condescending to Young Women

I have really, really tried to hold my virtual tongue about this, but I can't take it anymore:

What’s with the cover, the title printed across a woman’s bare torso?

I’ve taken a lot of shit about the cover—somebody called me a patriarchal whore. But let’s face it, no young woman is going to pick up a book with the woman’s symbol with a fist on it.


I bought this book at the relatively tender age of 22. And while I've written tangentially about that purchasing decision here, I think I should fill you in on some details I left out.

As many of you know, I was brought up in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, better known as the Mormon church. For instilling patriarchy in young women, it's a tough church to beat, though certainly there are plenty of contenders. A conversation I had with my Seminary instructor at the age of 16 will suffice to illustrate my point, however:

Me: Brother Searle, can I ask you a question?

That smug asshole, Brother Searle: Shoot!

Me: You said that in the Celestial Kingdom men will have multiple wives.

TSABS: Now, hold on--that's not official Church doctrine. It's just what many elders of the church think likely.

Me: Do you?

TSABS: It seems like this is bothering you, Ilyka. Does it seem unfair to you, perhaps?

Me: Heck yes it does.

TSABS: Well, let me ask you a question: If you're trying to raise chickens, how many roosters do you need?

Me: One.

Me: [stunned horror at realization that Seminary teacher is comparing people to fucking chickens]

TSABS: [smirk to end all smirks]

TSABS: So, you see.

But the thing was, I didn't see. I didn't immediately walk out of the Seminary building vowing never to set foot in it again. I didn't tell That Smug Asshole, Brother Searle, that his analogy was perfect only in the sense that indeed, he WAS a worthless cock.

Even though I left the church not too long after that conversation, a lot of Bad Ideas about how women are, how men are, and how women should be (but never how men should be) stayed in my system for YEARS afterwards as a result of my religious upbringing. You don't shed that skin all at once or overnight. It all bleeds out slowly. Especially if you're me and you're a little dumb-n-naive to begin with.

By 22, I hadn't been a Mormon for years. But I still felt that women should be gentle, kind, nurturing, and all that happy horseshit. I still felt that my relationship problems, which included a fractured nose and a black eye or two for lucky winner me, were 90% my fault.

I still endeavored to be: Pretty, gay (in the lighthearted and jovial sense), accommodating, gracious, generous, empathetic, cheerful, sparkly, fun, and, yes, sexy. I was as in the game as a young woman could be.

And I remember the first time I saw this cover in the bookstore.

--except it didn't say "Search Inside!" on top of it, BUT ANYWAY, MY POINT.

Yes. I saw that cover and I thought something like, "Holy shit, that's harsh. War? There's a war on us? It seems so extreme."

So naturally I had to pick it up to see what this crazy shit was about an undeclared war against American women. I mean, A WAR! Fantastic! Unbelievable! Preposterous!

And I read:

To be a woman in America at the close of the 20th century--what good fortune. That's what we keep hearing, anyway. The barricades have fallen, politicians assure us. Women have "made it," Madison Avenue cheers. Women's fight for equality has "largely been won," Time magazine announces. Enroll at any university, join any law firm, apply for credit at any bank. Women have so many opportunities now, corporate leaders say, that we don't really need equal opportunity policies. Women are so equal now, lawmakers say, that we no longer need an Equal Rights Amendment. Women have "so much," former President Ronald Reagan says, that the White House no longer needs to appoint them to higher office. Even American Express ads are saluting a woman's freedom to charge it. At last, women have received their full citizenship papers.

And yet . . .

Behind this celebration of the American Woman's victory, behind the news, cheerfully and endlessly repeated, that the struggle for women's rights is won, another message flashes. You may be free and equal now, it says to women, but you have never been more miserable.

Holy shit, I thought, that's true. That's what they say, in the women's magazines, on the news, in the movies--

And I kept reading for a couple more pages and then I motherfucking bought that book, me the beat-up ex-Mormon girl, me the mousy little codependent.

And I can tell you that I have changed a great deal since I was 22, and I can cheerfully admit that society also has changed a great deal since I was 22, and I can freely confess as well that I don't hang out with young people, that I'm 37 going on 38 and I spend more time kvetching that I don't get the kids these days than I do asking them what they think, what matters to them, what do they love, what do they hate. I am a grumpy old lady, that's certain. I am out of touch.

But I'm also dead certain that I would have recoiled from the cover of Full Frontal Feminism with a sneer of disgust and a pang of anxiety (my body doesn't look like that!) at 22. Unconsciously, I was searching for something that would help me make sense of my sex, and the last, I mean THE last thing I needed, was the cover of Cosmopolitan and the implied sexual availability in the title. I was already trying to look good for The Man, I was already making myself sexually available to The Man, I was trying so hard, and I was failing, and I was miserable, and I blamed myself, and I didn't know why, if women were so free, life seemed so fucking hard.

I respect Jessica Valenti--no, I admire her. Hugely. And I've got a link on the front page of Feministing, and I couldn't be more humbled-but-proud to have it. She's tons sharper at 28 than I was. Feministing is an invaluable feminist resource, and Jessica doubtless knows her audience better than I do.

But I hate, hate, hate that cover. And I find that defense of it--that young women need to be marketed to in the very same way women's magazines do it--offensive.

By the way, here's the last feminist book I bought, even though it clearly wasn't intended for my generation either. Gosh, I sure hope that defiant-looking young woman on the cover didn't scare off any of her peers.

Grumpy old lady OUT.

UPDATE: Recuerda, las mujeres jóvenes no les gusta el símbolo femenino con un puño:

First off this is my tattoo (Click here) I’m assuming all of you shall know what it is but for those few who read this and don’t It is the symbol for being a feminist.

I knew I wanted a tattoo, I’ve wanted one since I was a child even before I really knew what a tattoo was, I knew that having stuff drawn on my skin intrigued me and I always saw it as having a work of art on you forever. So I basically started counting down the days tell I would turn 18 and finally the day came.

I turned 18 on April 9th [this year--ed.]. Getting my tattoo was one of the bonuses of finally being legal besides being able to vote. (which had me completely giddy with joy and I sent out for my voters registration card a week before my birthday so I would have it as soon as possible) But anyway the tattoo was what I was looking forward to on my birthday.

I won't hotlink the photo of Elizabeth's tattoo--how rude would that be?--but I hope she doesn't mind if I reproduce it here:

Anyway the kids don't like it, that symbol, because it is so old-fashioned and ugly. They would never buy it.

WHAT'S THIS? ANOTHER UPDATE?: Yeah. So, it's like this: What I'd like to tell you, I can't really tell you, because it'd be betraying a confidence and I'm kind of big on my policy of not doing that.

But it's like this: You know how sometimes something will get buzz and media play, and then the person it was about, they are like, "Hey, I was quoted out of context?" And then, if you hold that person in low esteem, you sneer and go, "Sure you were, buddy--sure you were." But if you hold that person in high esteem--well, nowadays, you go search up the complete transcript on the internet and see for yourself. But if you can't do that, you probably think, "Yeah, that does happen," and you believe that person.

Have I mentioned that I hold Jessica Valenti in high esteem?

And there's another factor in this purely hypothetical situation, which is that feminists get this treatment from the media all the time. "Andrea Dworkin (or Catharine Mackinnon) said all sex is rape." "Margaret Sanger founded Planned Parenthood to promote eugenics." You know the drill.

But I have to say, I'm pretty overall pleased with the comments, because the people who come here and drop me a line, they get it. This hasn't turned into a down-with-Jessica referendum. It's turned instead to what I think is the big question: How do we turn this around? How do we fix it so the next blogging feminist to publish a book doesn't get shoved between a rock and a hard place?

That's a discussion worth having.

Quote of the Day

"Live by the sword, die by the sword, motherfucker."

Yes, I have a childish attachment to the word "motherfucker." And a huge blog-crush on Bitch, Ph.D., the woman who saved my boobs.

Doing Nothing

I cannot call myself an activist. I never get off my ass if I can possibly help it. I never lift a delicate lady-like finger unless it's absolutely necessary, that is, unless I am out of cigarettes. Or coffee. Which reminds me, we only have one more pot's worth of coffee in the house!

Oh, damn. See? Tomorrow I am going to have to lift a finger. Already I am depressed just thinking about it.

So I suck at doing things (blogging doesn't count). But I was thinking about what motivates people to do or not do things and I was thinking, particularly, about how you get people to do things when the problem seems--no, is--really, really bad.

This weird thing happens sometimes at Pandagon: Someone will write a post about a problem and some commenter, sooner or later, will basically show up and say, "Quit telling me about this problem." Lest anyone think I am bashing a gig I love here, let me add that this isn't most commenters or even a good handful of 'em. But there are always one or two. Sometimes they say it nicely. Other times it's just "Chris Clark suxx." I had one commenter complain that I had merely lectured him about a problem (that he already knew all about, thank you!) without providing any ideas for solutions, and he did it in a post where I'd linked MULTIPLE (I hate this phrase) "action items" for solution-oriented hipsters like, you know, himself, to pursue if he desired. This proves that some people still (1) don't read and (2) love shooting the messenger.

What else is new.

But the anger surprises me. And I want to add that I think the other side to that coin, that "Quit Bumming Me Out with This Depressing Shit" coin, is, "Why Do You Post About Such Superficial/Trivial Stuff When Serious Problem No. 11,287 Is So Much More Important?" Let's clear that up right now: Because no one is ON all the time. No one. I don't care if you're scheduled for 37 super-important activist events in your 24-hour day--you're not on all the time. Sometimes, but especially if you're me, you are thinking about whether anything can be done to save Lindsay Lohan from herself, and does it seem sometimes like she doesn't really appreciate being a natural redhead? Because it seems like that sometimes to me. And then sometimes you're thinking about a loved one or a pet. Sometimes you're thinking about nothing in particular and sometimes you're thinking about nothing at all.

And sometimes you want people to think about a specific thing and you want to do your little bit to get them there, maybe even get them from thinking about it to doing something about it. Luckily, I can tell you all about how to do this, because I am a highly regarded and influential person.

No, I have no idea. But I think from reading some of these angry comments--you know, it's true: You learn as much from your critics as your fans. Doesn't mean I don't want to kick the critics in the pants on a daily basis, but I have to grudgingly acknowledge that they serve a good purpose sometimes.

(Please skip the rest of this post because it is all things everyone else already knows but I am just figuring out now. So it's interesting to me, but probably not to you.)

The critics seem to go gunning for the messenger when:

People feel they cannot contribute effectively to solving the problem.

There's a mentality I run across that's more common to left-leaning blogs than right-leaning ones, and it's this weird sort of Jesus mentality that says, people shouldn't do things because they enjoy them, they should do things because they're the right things to do.

(Remind me to write that post about how I still like Ayn Rand and I am probably never going to stop, and then remind me that I should write that post because I don't have enough people quarreling with me in my life; I need more.)

Anyway, that's a bullshit mentality and Rand did a good job of explaining why, but I don't even need Rand for this. You just have to look at the Great Blogroll Purge of 2007 to see it. And what you see is that an awful lot of people with impeccable leftist credentials went waaaaayyy Howard Roark when it was suggested to them that they owed anyone a blogroll link--that they should link smaller blogs because it was The Right Thing To Do.

"You mean I blog for some reason besides my own pleasure? I blog to help other bloggers? I have to put aside my own preferences for the greater good of the lefty blogging community? Well! That does it. I'm dynamiting this blog."

Sure, I'm exaggerating, but not by that much.

People aren't altruists by nature and, bad news here, they're never going to be. You can guilt 'em temporarily; you can nag one or two suckers into linking your small-but-deserving blog on their blogrolls. But most people want to own their efforts and they want to be rewarded for those efforts because they earned them, not because someone inspired them with the importance of blah-blah-community.

That's why the whole blogging-as-meritocracy thing won't die, even though there are times and situations in which it should, even though blogging clearly ISN'T a pure meritocracy: Because telling people "you didn't get here through merit; you got here through the grace of the almighty power law" devalues their work. So when you point out that blogging isn't a meritocracy, some douchebag like Kos gets all offended because he thinks you're telling him his work isn't all that--which it isn't, if you ask me, but let's not derail.

The point is, people want some fucking appreciation, they want to feel they've earned it justly, and where I agree with Rand still is that this is not a bad thing, and certainly nothing to run around trying to shame people out of. If you're gonna do that, just put your fundie clothes on and go whole hog and renounce all sin (except the sin you commit, because of course that is different). Don't go screaming at people that they should care about truth and justice. People already know this, that they should care about truth and justice! Now what they would very, very much like is to believe that their caring about truth and justice (1) will make one fuck of a difference and, yes, (2) will make them feel good.

People like to feel good and hate to feel bad. This is not difficult.

People are intimidated by the enormity or pervasiveness of the problem

Goes hand in hand with the one above, but--well, this is a perfect example:

"Oh, dear," you say, "That's ten minutes long." Let's see: Shall I lecture you that you should care and watch it anyway because it's the right thing to do? No, I think I won't do that. I think I'll say: Skip the first 3 minutes, or just slide the little scroller until a helicopter appears. If you skip to 5 minutes in I won't tell anybody, but definitely watch what happens when the people do as they're told by the riot police, and begin leaving MacArthur Park.

The police, you may note, keep advancing, and firing. That black line just keeps going, and going, and going, well out of the park, several blocks away from the park, meeting no real resistance, but firing at people all the same. In the Soviet Union? No. Here.

This is a despair-inducing, overwhelming problem, and I don't know about you, but I'll tell you what I'd much rather do with my time than contemplate this problem: I'd rather read TBogg's account of Ann Althouse's account of the Republican debates. That's some funny fucking shit! I love how she can scarcely be assed to name any of the participants.

What would I do without Ann Althouse? What would any of us do? If she didn't exist, someone would have to invent her.

So a problem being too big becomes a problem in itself: What the fuck do you do against riot police? Especially riot police going after people who weren't rioting in the first place? I mean, you can hardly decide to start rioting then:

"We were just hanging out, peaceful-like, but then you pigs had to show up in your riot gear with the tear gas--I think NOW we're gonna riot."

It sounds real noble, but you're not running towards a rubber bullet any more than I am. A handful of people might, but that handful of people, you know what's going to become of them. They're going to jail, the all-star package with special super-fun bonus FREE injuries besides.

Although, I have it on perfectly good, secondhand authority from some clown calling himself Jack Dunphy that--

. . . there are no broken bones or bleeding head gashes among the injuries, suggesting that the police might have been more retrained in their tactics than their critics are alleging

--so it's okay, and we should thank God that those brave, under-appreciated officers showed the restraint that they did (however did they manage it in the face of such horrific peaceful assembly? Truly Our Lord was with them that day), and graciously refrained from breaking bones or splitting any skulls open with an axe.

You see what I mean? It's overwhelming. But if I say it's overwhelmingly horrible, I'm the bad American, I'm the anti-authoritarian unpatriotic lefty loon; whereas if Dunphy writes that the press owes the LAPD hugs and kisses for not actually bashing any heads in, he gets whatever they're paying not-very-good freelancers at the National Review these days. Best of all, hardly anyone with any influence will stand up and say, "Great hairy goat balls, this Dunphy's a psychopath." Which you'd have to be, to suggest this nakedly that if people don't shut their complaining pieholes, next time they're gonna get worse. And, you're welcome, Angelenos!

A sternly-worded (but eminently civil) letter to William Bratton, or the LA Times, or your Congressional representatives, seems an anemic response, but what the hell else can you do? Call a general strike? Look: I'm not losing my job for truth and justice. I like eating and sleeping with a roof over my head and things of that nature. I can hold a red bell pepper in my hand; I can feel that I'm not sleeping in my car. Truth-n-justice, well, it does give me warm fuzzies and all, but if I want warm fuzzies I should probably mention that I'm also a huge fan of electricity, which powers this, which delivers way warmer fuzzies, if you know what I'm saying. Anyway electricity costs money, and for that I need a job, so I'll be clocking in as usual on August 1. Sorry.

I am sort of putting on a selfish-asshole persona here; I hope that's apparent but, you know, in case it isn't, there's your disclaimer. My points are (1) that persona is not entirely fabricated and (2) we're all both good people and selfish assholes, sometimes even at the same time. What I am trying to figure out is how to fix it so the good people win and the assholes lose, and that is not easy when the assholes are in riot gear, and the good people are in the park with their kids, and some piece of scratch paper we used to call "The Constitution" is apparently being used to make spitballs or something.

But I think the trick is to try to break the big problem down into several small ones because otherwise . . . otherwise, the good people feel helpless, and then they do nothing, because what's the point. And then, well. Like a broken bone with that tear gas? We're offering a discount, 2 for 1, on special this week only forever.

People think the proposed solution is imperfect.

Taken to extremes, all proposed solutions are imperfect; any solution less than "all creatures on earth have enough to eat, enjoy perfect health, live exactly as long as they want to (including forever) and die exactly when and how they'd like to (including never), and get along splendidly with each other, and spend every waking moment blissfully happy," is imperfect.

Who gives a fuck? If you don't like solution A, by all means, say so, but then one hopes you have somewhere in your back pocket a solution B or C or X or Q or whatever that is not completely at cross-purposes to A. Unless A sucks, of course; but I still think it's important to say something besides, "A sucks." It's fun to sit around bitching about A, and how it sucks, and how much it sucks, and what's wrong with the people who proposed it in the first place anyhow, do they suck too? But it doesn't get anything happening.

Naturally, I say all this as someone who loves to sit around complaining about how much things suck. What else can I say? It beats lifting a delicate, lady-like finger.