Thursday, May 17, 2007

Pseudocode

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;
}
else
{
quit_being_so_mean();
}



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;
}
else
{
sanctimonious_womens_studies_set_boo();
}

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.

52 comments:

Amanda Marcotte said...

*shrug* I can't take seriously anymore the grad student set that called me a bougie snob while I was working as a financial aid officer for grad students. God only knows what snobbery they attribute to the barista.

ilyka said...

Sylvia, the 22-year-old linked under young_women_repelled_by_book, is, like Jill, a law student. She is not Bitch|Lab, nor any of the other people who used that term with you.

By no means should you read what she has to say or distinguish her from anyone you dislike. That would be humanizing.

ilyka said...

Also.

Amanda Marcotte said...

The thing about the pie fight, I thought, was not to get Markos to roll over and disappear. Nor was it to hash out past jealousies. And if it was that he had to roll over and agree with people or else, I want nothing to do with that. I actually came to the same conclusion as he did about the ad, which was to run it. My issue with him was being condescending to people who made the complaints.

I don't doubt some people joined the attacks on Markos for the reasons they go after Jessica, especially when attacking things (ads, books) that help you actually pay rent while being an activist. I also don't doubt when my book comes out, even though I'm utterly broke and still trying to figure out how to become financially independent again, I'll be considered too successful and attacks on that success will be forwarded by people who don't read the book and disguised as "criticism". It's very easy to abuse others for compromising their ideological purity to make a living, because you're not the person who suffers financially for the ideals, you want someone else to do it.

Not that I'm saying you're doing that, but I think that we need to firmly reject people that are watering down the discourse by using the right to criticize to tear at people's professional successes. Though I suppose I can't blame them---the older I get the more I see that 90% of successful people get that way by backstabbing and ass-kissing. So doing what Bitch Lab is and piggybacking on Jessica's success to make a name for her site is just business as usual. But it makes me appreciate people like Jessica, who come by their success honestly, all the much more. I want to be her, not tear at her.

Amanda Marcotte said...

I did read it. She uses the Serious Person trump card, the classic mainstream media manuever to discredit bloggers. I'm not so sure she read the book, though, because all the issues she says aren't covered in it? Are.

Amanda Marcotte said...

Okay, I apologize to Sylvia---my criticism of the "piggybacking" thing is meant for Bitch Lab. I thought Sylvia's criticism was mostly misguided, same as Maia's. I'm very happy they enjoy reading feminist tomes for Serious People. I do as well. But the whiff of elitism---okay, the stench of it---is deeply off-putting. I don't see why it's wrong to praise the sexual pleasures of feminism and then turn around and crow about the pleasures of feeling superior and self-righteous. I'm very both/and. Why can't you feel self-righteous and sexy all at once? ;)

Kai said...

Ilyka, I think I'm going to start petitioning all bloggers to reduce the central logic of their "blog war" arguments to pseudocode. That's awesome. So fresh and so clean. ;-)

ilyka said...

So fresh and so clean. ;-)

Alas, not as fresh and clean as I would like--it has a never-used, memory-wasting variable in "result."

I am definitely stripping that out for the alpha version.

ilyka said...

The thing about the pie fight, I thought, was not to get Markos to roll over and disappear.

Nor is this, that I've seen. No way am I going to try to claim that no one in any of these discussions doesn't secretly wish that for Jessica, because I don't know that, and I'm not familiar with every single participant. But that hasn't been the main point I've been getting out of them.

A point I've been getting out of them is, "We tried to discuss this with you, you put this up for discussion months ago, and then as soon as one of us spoke up, you announced you were through discussing it, and now when we give up and discuss it amongst ourselves, you say we're only doing it out of spite."

I'm paraphrasing, and there's room for disagreement over whether that is what actually happened, but I didn't see in any of this a wish for Jessica to disappear. "I can't give this to young people I know who aren't feminists, because they'll conclude right away it doesn't speak to them" is not "Go away Jessica."

Nor was it to hash out past jealousies.

Amanda, as one hugely self-absorbed vain person to another, I gotta advise you to quit while you're ahead. Not all roads lead to Burqagate.

But if you're going to keep bringing up L'affaire Burqa then here's my position on it: The dumbest arguments about the most trivial things are (1) chiefly dumb and trivial in the eye of the beholder (and if you piss off the beholder, you can guarantee the beholder will insist more loudly and often than ever that THIS IS VERY SERIOUS AND IMPORTANT), and (2) the most likely to yield up not-dumb, not-trivial problems and solutions.

The week-long Girls Gone Wild debate was dumb and trivial, but it was worth talking about regardless because it got people thinking, whereas if someone had said "Let's talk about agency and consent," it'd have been zzzzzzzz among everyone but the very hardcore.

You could say the same for the blowjob wars. Or my exquisitely dumb crusade against the fatphobes at Sadly, No. We all do dumb and trivial, but sometimes smart stuff comes out of it.

The trick is not to shut everything down from the get-go with "How dumb and trivial," or "That isn't important right now; this is," or "You're just jealous."

My issue with him was being condescending to people who made the complaints.

That looks suspiciously like my point.

It's very easy to abuse others for compromising their ideological purity to make a living, because you're not the person who suffers financially for the ideals, you want someone else to do it.

Right, and I know from absentee finances, but can we please cut the shit? Jessica's not being abused. Yeah, chasingmoksha called her a patriarchal whore, but chasingmoksha's crazy, everyone but Heart's figured that out by now, and to cap it all off, it's the internet. If BL marches over here and complains that you called her a "theory whore," I'm not going to agree that she's being abused either.

I think that we need to firmly reject people that are watering down the discourse by using the right to criticize to tear at people's professional successes.

I think it's hugely condescending to reduce all criticism to a mean-spirited attempt to tear at people's professional successes.

And I think it's totally perplexing that anyone would ever refer to feminism as a club, and certainly not as a club from which one could be firmly rejected.

So doing what Bitch Lab is and piggybacking on Jessica's success to make a name for her site is just business as usual.

For what it's worth, I don't like Bitch Lab, I don't read her, I don't think she's very bright, and I think the main thing she piggybacked on recently was a comment thread to a post she didn't author. Nice appropriation, that.

At the same time, I notice that her post is the only way this, ah, professional-success tear-down, came to Sara's attention, and thus to yours, Jill's, Jessica's, and everyone else's on that list.

So: Don't like Bitch Lab? Join the club, and don't read her. Read the women she rips off instead. They're better.

But the whiff of elitism---okay, the stench of it---is deeply off-putting.

I'm not getting that, and Sylvia's as broke as you are or I am. Maybe broker.

I don't see why it's wrong to praise the sexual pleasures of feminism and then turn around and crow about the pleasures of feeling superior and self-righteous.

I don't think Sylvia said it was wrong so much as she said she disliked it. I'm sure she has her reasons for that, but more likely she's just jealous.

Blackamazon said...

Past jealousies?

So gotcha feeling hurt and used is jealousy when we do it and viable when someonelse does it!

and a group of twenty year olds reading abook targeted to twenty year olds objecting to the mocking of prudes and christians to preach teh gospel of pleasure and quoting chapters and trying to do it AWAY from everyone who seems to like it is a problem

Got that to

And i get that not appreciating a r rapid fire often wildly varying tone that glances over whole chunks of theory

( and by theory I mean discussion in any way that addresses why WOC ain't such fans of the mainstream movement or ageism beyond a speech at now or the context of one Audre Lorde quote or or...)

and why that may be a turn off to feminism is elitist.

and teh supposition that feminism is dedicate dto pleasure which makes those of it who aren't attached not

These are all elitist or concerns of women who didn't read.

Got it!

and ilyka from one coder to another

I'm loving it

shannon said...

Hey, what did the crazy do to be compared to chasingmoksha?!

nezua limón xolagrafik-jonez said...

DAMN did someone light an elitism candle up in here? i don't think it was sylvia.

just sayin!

Donna said...

I have a little problem with net gain 4 feminism vs net gain 4 markos. It would make more sense to me if it was either net gain 4 feminism and net gain 4 liberalism; or net gain 4 jessica and net gain 4 markos.

This is because those who are pro-FFF do think it might be a net gain for feminism, and I think those who sided with Kos think that his site is also a net gain for liberalism.

On the other side some do think Marcos is mostly in it for himself, I have heard time and again about his ad revenues, and how DKos hurts progressives with it's centrist philosophy. And if Jessica's book isn't really helpful in advancing feminism, then she is the only one gaining anything. Less likely money in the present (not much money in a first book usually), but prestige, future writing deals, speaking engagements, etc.

ilyka said...

Hey, what did the crazy do to be compared to chasingmoksha?!

[cracks up]

Very, very true. I retract that portion of my statement.

ilyka said...

It would make more sense to me if it was either net gain 4 feminism and net gain 4 liberalism; or net gain 4 jessica and net gain 4 markos.

Shit, you're right. I am RUSTY.

ilyka said...

did someone light an elitism candle up in here?

I think we need to firmly reject this crass attempt to water down the discourse.

FIRMLY.

gennimcmahon said...

I wag my finger. FIRMLY. Shame, shame.

Anonymous said...

Bitch Lab actually came out with a lot of criticism for the folks throwing vitriol Jessica's way--especially the very people who haven't read even bothered to read the book.

Look, she and I don't exactly hang out over Guinness. But let's put credit where it's due--she's not piggybacking on this, and she's been very fair in her writings about Jessica, FFF, and the reaction to it.

Unless she's had an about face since yesterday, when I checked her blog.

--Sheelzebub

Blackamazon said...

Also to add I do like B|L

not at all agreeing with her anlysis here but I do like her

and it's strange that her criticism is piggy backing considering most of he rposts CHALLENGED the critics and supported Valenti

But that would once again mean reading would be involved

Donna said...

Yep, BA. B|L is siding with Jessica and taking on the critics. But someone didn't get the memo, or do a little reading. Kind of ironic since she is accusing others of not reading, eh? And makes you wonder who is hashing out past jealousies?

Anonmyous2 said...

Amanda, you claim people are jealous of Jessica because of her popularity here too: http://www.feministe.us/blog/archives/2007/05/16/full-frontal-feminism/#comment-105083

can you tell me with all honesty, why it is that you and Jessica are so popular? It's not like any of the rest of us work less harder than you two. It's just being white, middle-class and pretty does help - which means most of the rest of us here, will probably not get that kind of attention.

Heraclitus said...

Okay, I have no idea what your original post means, and also know nothing about this "Kos pie" business (nor do I want to--everytime I learn something new about Kos, I feel my life has been ever so slightly diminished). But I think it's clear this "debate" is going nowhere.

On the one hand you have people, some of whom are patently enormous douchebags (though I may be thinking more of folks in the peanut gallery here--and trust me, Ilyka, you'd agree with me on at least one of them), attacking the book without having read it or having read it in a spirit of unflagging hostility. Some of them are obviously being unnecessarily nasty to Jessica. So then you have people responding, focusing on these nasty, mean-spirited, and often uninformed attacks, and ignoring or shunting aside the more serious criticisms like, say, Sylvia's (just to mention one that I've read).

The dynamic that's developing or that has developed makes the whole set of exchange worse than pointless, because everyone is feeling more and more frustrated, ignored, mistreated, and angry. I really do think it's a huge problem that the larger problems with blogs, publishing, etc., and especially the reception and visibility of WOC in these areas, are not really being addressed here. But, let's face it, the snide comments about Jessica is too pretty or some kind of lightweight aren't helping one whit.

Heraclitus said...

Oh, and the editor/marketer who pushed the bare tummy cover on Jessica was a fucking idiot, unless the point was to generate a bunch of nasty internets controversy. I hope that person sees that now.

Amanda Marcotte said...

Well, and I think the criticisms that she's not discussing it are unfair. I remember getting that too, when I was the center of a shitstorm that blew up way beyond the original issue, mostly because people resented me. I got all this, "Why don't you respond right away to criticism?" crap. First of all, I was at work. Second of all, when literally dozens of people are spilling 10s of thousands of words and flinging every accusation under the sun, responding is actually physically and emotionally impossible.

I actually didn't think the criticisms about the burqua were dumb, and said so. I thought they were important and interesting. What was dumb, and is dumb, is that I didn't react as expected---I didn't pull the obtuse white girl crap of "whatever", but apologized, took it seriously---and they had their shitstorm anyway. Some small detail like, "Amanda didn't actually get defensive and dismissive," wasn't going to get in the way of calling me defensive and dismissive. That was what was stupid.

I'm not getting that, and Sylvia's as broke as you are or I am. Maybe broker.

It's the idea that Jessica's attempts to appeal to young women who might be disinclined to feminism are misplaced that it elitist. A lot of the condescending accusations seem to come from the fact that Jessica reassures the reader, a lot, that she's not going to hit them over the head with a bunch of thick theory. She approaches it from an activist/personal viewpoint, which is entirely appropriate for the intended audience. "Young women" is a broad group, but what it roughly means in the pitch is "young women who aren't into feminism", a category Sylvia doesn't belong. So she's not in the intended audience, and posturing as if she is in order to tear it down is disingenous.

I can't even say that the first books I read on feminism were big tomes, really. In fact, I was more drawn in by rock music. I'm lucky in that---most academics of my generation are so in awe of rock music, they won't sneer at that as insufficiently intellectual, though it totally is. But Jessica is fair game, because there's nothing about her book that is cool in the countercultural sense. In fact, the opposite. This book is for sucking in the sorority girls.

The "Jessica's condescending" complaint is a Trojan horse for others. What will it be when she and her co-blogger do the interview to address the criticisms, the real ones, not the "Jessica's got a big ego" ones?

I saw some of Bitch Lab's comments, though, and they were very fair. I should really stay out of this, because I'm trying to finish writing my book and the rather inevitable shitstorm when it comes out can't be on my mind.

Blackamazon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Blackamazon said...

Whose " they"?

And Frankly you don't get to decide if your apology was enough, you may have done all you wanted to do , but no you don't get to tell us how we feel about it.

And THEY are here and remember it just fine thank you.

And A book claiming to be from young women is not supposed to be judged by young women as they are not the right young women

GOTCHA!

Veronica said...

Wait, wait, wait.

Make up your mind.

"It's the idea that Jessica's attempts to appeal to young women who might be disinclined to feminism are misplaced that it elitist."

and

"This book is for sucking in the sorority girls."

So... it's "elitist" to complain that a book is aimed at sorority girls, instead of a broader spectrum of young women?

See how that doesn't work?

ilyka said...

and they had their shitstorm anyway

Well, that shitstorm was largely attributable to people like me, and Marc, and Lindsay, and Alon, and dozens of other bloggers who jumped in to shout How Dare You? and Who're You Calling a Racist? at the critics. No way am I traversing the eight million comments to that mess again, but I seem to recall several remarks along the lines of, "It's not Amanda or Auguste, it's the fan club," acknowledging that you'd engaged people fairly. Only later, when you got back into it, did people largely start leaving off "it's not Amanda."

I will add that just because some critics are acting out of spite and jealousy (a certain ex-PAB blogger comes to mind particularly here) doesn't mean all of them are. But honestly, I resent that I'm participating in this rehash at all, because I'm not the one drawing parallels between this and the burqa wars. You are. And I'm being kind with "drawing parallels," given that it's the first reference you made here and it had nothing to do with the material I'd linked.

Young women" is a broad group, but what it roughly means in the pitch is "young women who aren't into feminism", a category Sylvia doesn't belong.

Right. Little Light noted as much in the comments, and I think Sylvia's aware of that herself.

posturing as if she is in order to tear it down is disingenous.

I guess I'm not seeing the posturing. She references an earlier bad experience she had in a women's studies course but it isn't as though she's pretending to still be there, or to be all "jury's out" on the value of feminism, or to be 15 or whatever.

I do think finding out how women in their early 20s react to a book like this is interesting, because even if they're not the target audience, they're far closer in age to it than I am.

This book is for sucking in the sorority girls.

I get that. Most of the criticism I've seen is not so much criticism as it is questioning the selection of that demographic to target. One quick answer I can think of is, "Because that's who grows up to be a huge pain in the ass, voting Republican and enabling patriarchy right and left." I see ntohing inherently wrong with deciding to target sorority girls. I also see nothing inherently wrong with wanting to discuss whether that's really the best group to pitch to.

The "Jessica's condescending" complaint is a Trojan horse for others.

That seems a little paranoid to me. Given the competing possibilities that (1) this is all about tearing down Jessica and (2) this is all about trying to discuss reactions to the book, perceptions about the book, who the book is written for, who it includes, who it potentially alienates--you ignore Occam and choose #1.

I just don't believe that's the more likely possibility, although as I said earlier, I can't rule out jealousy as a motive for everyone, simply because I can't see into everyone's heads. But I think the less condescending option than "fuck it, they all just want a shitstorm anyway," is to engage the remarks on the merits. That way, the petty stuff doesn't waste your time, as it's usually clear when a remark has no merit, but the worthwhile stuff doesn't get overlooked either.

Donna Darko said...

Chasingmoksha?!?!

B|L, BD (who said bougie snob)

a certain ex-PAB blogger

It's INCREDIBLY UNFAIR that four white women are being used to hurt women of color! and insulting because it means only white women are listened to in the first place!

It wasn't Amanda but

Marc, and Lindsay, and Alon, and dozens of other bloggers who jumped in

The "Jessica's condescending" complaint is a Trojan horse for others

I take what I said at BA's that it's condescending. It's not to the targeted audience.

This book is for sucking in the sorority girls.

I think people have the most problems with the demographic the book is targeted to. I said it's for "Valley Girl mallrats." In case anyone cares, Valley Girl mallrats = sorority girls, to me.

I get that. Most of the criticism I've seen is not so much criticism as it is questioning the selection of that demographic to target. One quick answer I can think of is, "Because that's who grows up to be a huge pain in the ass, voting Republican and enabling patriarchy right and left." I see ntohing inherently wrong with deciding to target sorority girls. I also see nothing inherently wrong with wanting to discuss whether that's really the best group to pitch to.

lol, can we all agree about this? I correctly said it's for white girls who eventually marry privileged white men who eventually have all the influence.

Donna Darko said...

I take what I said at BA's that it's condescending.

I meant


I take BACK that it's condescending. It's not to the targeted audience.

Donna Darko said...

Like I said at Sylvia's, I hope it's publishing pressures that lead to the demographics of the book. And that's what it seems to be. So Jessica should have said the cover and book are targeted to sorority girls and avoided all the criticism. But her publisher probably won't let her say that either.

Sylvia said...

I don't see why it's wrong to praise the sexual pleasures of feminism and then turn around and crow about the pleasures of feeling superior and self-righteous. I'm very both/and. Why can't you feel self-righteous and sexy all at once?

Well...you see. Hmm. How do I put this...

You know how you said this book wasn't written for me?

Well, this book isn't really written for you either. Or most of the people who claim that any criticism of the book from people who are closer to the target audience than they is moot. When they bloviate about the awesomeness of this primer that is not an educational tool but will convince young women somehow someway, their opinions are just as bunk. So while you feel very both/and about it; a lot of young women -- even those within Jessica's target audience -- may feel rather neither/nor because she makes some assumptions in diction that she is preaching to her choir.

And I'm not quite sure how I came off as elitist by suggesting that young women may be able to handle something that doesn't try as hard to dress down and still conveys a convincing argument for feminism. And that doesn't pay lip service to other demographics. While you don't need heavy theory to sell feminism, you also don't need expletive showers either. Call me confident in young women's abilities to think for themselves; some do it even without feminism's help.

And I also think people are taking this opportunity to dish out very hefty ego trips. Criticism of a book is not the same as criticism of a person. I don't know how many times this fact has to be said before it sinks into people's minds, but it's not.

As I said before, I was waiting for this book to come out and prove me wrong about what's inside and what I would look forward to as a way to reach out to my contemporaries who don't ID as feminists. I was involved in the cover debacle; I reflected on the fact that we returned to the "young woman" = "white woman" crap again. I watched Nubian essentially get her ass handed to her because she called out the white normativity and everyone automatically started assuming that meant women of color wanted brown bodies plastered everywhere. People keep arguing envy when we're really talking about erasure. Young women of color can look at that cover and read that book and realize feminism wasn't meant to matter to them, or that the few women of color and references that are in there talk more about the worst of a woman of color's existence and her experiences pushed aside for theory. The same theory that people didn't want to bludgeon over the heads of "young women" is great for talking about women of color. Our relevance to feminism exists only in theory.

And then, ironically, I watched the release of a similar book for young women around the time of the cover release for FFF -- another primer about feminism and empowerment promoted a few days later on Feministing with different young women wearing clothes with a promising hook. Jessica endorsed it, even. So it got my hopes up about what Jessica would say in a similar effort. I was wrong to do so. I didn't write any criticisms of that book to get Jessica to respond to me. I wrote what I thought of it on my blog after that experience and after I learned about its release. That's what I tend to do -- write my opinions of situations on my blog.

And just because I'm sick of seeing this:
Jessica's not being abused. Yeah, chasingmoksha called her a patriarchal whore, but chasingmoksha's crazy, everyone but Heart's figured that out by now, and to cap it all off, it's the internet.
Ilyka's right: on the day when women of color decided to engage in a conversation about the book cover on Nubian's site (because Feministing commenters were too busy calling her a racist and a traitor to whatever and evil because it was so soon after Burqagate that Jessica only required blank praise and adoration), many commenters asked Jessica to take the time to read Nubian's criticism and reply. And the only thing she gathered from the whole long 100+ comment discussion is "patriarchal whore." The only thing.

She used that silly trope to dismiss any chance for discussion then, and everyone's using similar tropes to dismiss chances for discussion now. And yet the people who are trying to voice concerns and share dialogue beyond superficial shaming are the elitist self-promoters? Oh please; fucking grow up. Not everyone on the blogosphere takes up a site to out-grok Markos Moulitsas and put their e-fingers in honey pots.

And I feel so sorry for sorority girls right now, especially the ones who join the sanctimonious women's studies sect and see what their newfound contemporaries thought and think of them. Maybe their newfound automagical empowerfulmentation will soften the blow.

Donna Darko said...

elitist self-promoters? Oh please; fucking grow up. Not everyone on the blogosphere takes up a site to out-grok Markos Moulitsas and put their e-fingers in honey pots.

omg Sylvia is sooo not an elitist or self-promoter; neither is BA.

ilyka said...

People keep arguing envy when we're really talking about erasure.

Ah, you're just jealous of T-Rex and Firedoglake.

Wait, I forgot: That was totally different.

It's INCREDIBLY UNFAIR that four white women are being used to hurt women of color! and insulting because it means only white women are listened to in the first place!

You're absolutely right, and as I overlooked that myself, I apologize.

I'm also suddenly and guiltily aware that I've said I don't like two of them. Now, I am wondering whether that is me having a plain old personality clash with a couple people, or me unconsciously stuffing those people into the race traitor bin, e.g. "I don't like them because they're so divisive, they're always acting like they're so much better/less racist than I am, and that makes me uncomfortable."

Donna Darko said...

Ilyka,

I'm glad you wrote these posts.

People can say what they want about B|L or BD but they are generally right, i.e., on the side of justice.

One more thing is Markos and Matt are insane if they think Dems can win over the long term by ignoring 70% of the population - women, gays and minorities, environmentalists.

little light said...

Thank you, Ilyka.
I've been trying desperately to stay out of this, and getting more and more upset, and just when I was reaching a breaking point you and Magniloquence, between you, have said most of what I have desperately felt needs saying.

It's not about the book. I don't give a good goddamn about the book, no matter how good it is. What I care about is the dynamics and reactions that have gone on here--and frankly, the fact that I have felt so intimidated by the players in this fight that I've delayed my own responses, in part, due to fear of getting stomped by people out of my league. That's a worrisome dynamic, on top of the rest of it, especially since I seem to have made most of my readership by getting my ass flamed.

It is not about ridiculous envy conspiracies. It is not, for the most part--at least with the people I pay attention to--about resenting that Jessica has found success. Best of luck to her. May her success continue. There's no success pie, and it's not a zero-sum game. (I've never thought of Jessica's brand of feminism as mine, or her as a spokeswoman for me, anyhow; her success isn't really much my business, except that she seems nice enough, so it's nice and all if she does well.)

It is more goddamned complicated than that. And a lot of this explosion? It's about the fact that when a given contingent speaks up, they're essentially told to shut it and go back to the kids' table, because the only possible motivations they could have for criticism must be poisonous envy, or personal animosity and vendettas, or, y'know, cattiness. Bitches just be jealous. They just hate her 'cause she's pretty and popular. It couldn't possibly be principle. If it's backed up with sources, well, they're not even speaking from their own experience anyway--they're just theory whores.


Jessica deserves to be evaluated on the strength of her content. So do her critics.


With this dynamic, is it a surprise that some folk got angry enough to get mean? Now, me, I'm apparently Jenny Sunshine around these parts, and it's all about the being nice with me. I'm not so much a fan of cruelty, and I don't hold any truck with it. But I'm not surprised that even the best of the substantive criticisms have an edge of anger in them. Not one bit. And some of it's a long time coming and justified.

This is not about who deserves, and doesn't have, a book deal--not really. It's not like the Bucket o' Book Deals isn't, in the end, bottomless. It's about, in part, the fact that the women-of-color contingent of the feminist 'sphere has lost two bright-shining and brilliant voices because they couldn't take it any more--not from MRAs, or anti-feminists, or avowed racists, but from the people we're told are our own. We can't aim at, say, Jessica--she's One Of Our Own, and that there's a circular firing squad, and ruining the movement, and just pulling down whoever gets successful!--because we're being told who our allies are. We're being told, goddamnit, I'm your ally, back off. And you know what?

We get to pick our own allies. We get to decide whether or not we're being shut out. No matter how fine a feminist a given white woman might be, if a stack of people of color who agree with her on a whole lot else tell her she's not doing so hot on issues of race? Saying "shut up, you're wrong, I know this stuff and I've got it covered," is, in fact, the wrong answer. Saying, "god, they must just hate her 'cause she's pretty," that's not the right answer either. And when those critics are challenged to back themselves up, and then when they do so articulately, are called dirty, dirty elitists?

Well, sure makes us feel like grunts in someone else's movement, now doesn't it?

I don't like the nastiness. I don't like the ad hominems. Anyone who knows me from Around knows that. But I just can't get the taste of this whole thing out of my mouth.

magniloquence said...

Eee! Ilyka, this is great. I'm not so good with writing code myself, but I do love how it gets to the heart of things.

(And you linked me?! I am now swooning in fangirlish delight. In the middle of the public library, heh.)

What I care about is the dynamics and reactions that have gone on here--and frankly, the fact that I have felt so intimidated by the players in this fight that I've delayed my own responses, in part, due to fear of getting stomped by people out of my league. That's a worrisome dynamic, on top of the rest of it, especially since I seem to have made most of my readership by getting my ass flamed.

LL, I've been feeling this too. That was why I titled my post "I really shouldn't get into this..." partially because it was getting nasty and was probably something I shouldn't contribute to, but partially because all the people involved were such Big Names. It's vaguely terrifying to critique, especially when one or more of them might choose to visit you (or worse, direct their fandom to your place). Not that that's always bad... but I'm vaguely terrified when a Big Name comes by to say something nice.

Anyway, my time's growing short here, so I have to move on. I'm glad to see that this is being talked about, though.

Pinko Punko said...

I don't know if I have all the threads of this straight in my head, but I have read posts here, at feministe, BA and B|L.

Hopefully, I can single out little light without insulting anyone else as a person who I strive to emulate in the middle of these shitstorms. ilyka also blows me away- I hope in my comments I can emulate her self awareness.

This being said, I agree with little light to a point, but I think there is something here that is actually about the book, or perhaps the idea of a book. This is a book that exists to be marketed to a demographic. Marketing is a dirty word because there are ideas that it can suggest either compromise, watering down or packaging of an idea for sale, regardless of the actual idea. And frankly, Jessica is part of the package. The book stems from the blog and the blog from the persona. The persona was deemed as marketable. I think of these things as somewhat of facts, or perhaps part of a larger reality in which the book exists. The book is not a treatise.

I think treatises (plural of treatise??) get published not because of the author per se, or a persona, but because of the content. I don't think this distinction argues against the contents of Jessica's book. I think however the fact that the book is tailored to an audience, causes a feeling of packaging, and regardless of the content this fact can make people uncomfortable. I think that our patriarchy of course propagates itself, but that corporate marketing actually accelerates or worsens aspects of patriarchy because stereotypes are REINFORCED to make them easier to market to, or perhaps large corporations prefer consolidation of the market to leverage lowest common denominator ad campaigns. Thinking about this sort of environment I think that people could see a Jessica Valenti™ brand as actually worsening the playing field and not expanding it as it is purported to do. I think an underlying theme is the coopting of the feminist message to a controllable or marketable box. I'm not saying that ANY of these things are the case, but it is just a vibe I am getting.

That spiel being spieled. My personal opinion is that you title the book "Full Frontal Feminism" you practically guarantee that is gonna be the cover. The problem is the cover is a done deal and an author having acquiesced to it, she's in a corner and she is gonna behave like someone in a corner.

She can trash her own book cover which will piss off her publisher while the book is under promotion, and being the author of the book, she by definition endorses its premises and contents, so she can't trash the book beyond that either. If she tries to brush off criticism of this done deal, or tries to defend it in anyway, the critics will just get louder because they think THEY are right and then it will snowball. And then the response will get even more dismissive because the argument literally cannot be solved RE: the cover, and then the contra book crowd will get even louder (they will be accused of being repetitive) yet all the while more issues are being piled into the discussion and then it proceeds to happen on 50 blogs SIMULTANEOUSLY- I am shocked that anyone still even talks to one another and I give massive kudos to the discussion I see above even with all the history.

Of course that last statement will look like my wiener just passed judgment on the whole debate. This really is not the case. I was just trying to summarize how I understand a lot of some issues I think are percolating indirectly.

Pinko Punko said...

I took so long to write that last one that my verification code expired.

belledame222 said...

oh jesus, Amanda, are you still on about that? There was no -set.- -I- said that, I apologized for it, in public, yet, could you maybe consider, you know, getting the hell over it at some point? Not for me, God knows, but you know, the -other people- who are -not me- who -didn't say anything of the sort- to or about you?


and Bitch | Lab is not a grad student, nor is she bougie. -I- am bougie. We're really not an undifferentiated mass, even the white chicks.

belledame222 said...

and yeah, what ilyka said about chasingmoksha. For chrissake, you should see some of the shit she flung at me, or at many, many other people. I'm sorry I or any of us were ever even remotely associated with her. Oh boy, you don't even know how sorry. She's...yeah. Anyway.

but yeah, you know: I feel like, if it wasn't that, it'd be something else.

belledame222 said...


It's very easy to abuse others for compromising their ideological purity to make a living, because you're not the person who suffers financially for the ideals, you want someone else to do it.


And, ironically enough, that is exactly what Bitch | Lab has said all along. Whatever else you might think about her, on that she's been remarkably consistent. With good reason.

You know--I have no beef with Jessica. I never really gave a damn about the cover. I certainly have no problem with her making good with a book deal--go, you! I say. I've now read part of the book in the bookstore, and I could probably voice some specific critiques, but you know--I'm really sick of the whole thing. And, it's not really about the book. Just like it never really was about one photoshopped picture, or one high-profile luncheon. It never was.

What the hell. Either you want to hear something or you don't.

belledame222 said...

and for the record: I have never given a rat's ass about -ideological purity-, nor have i ever said a goddam thing about what you might or might not do to earn your bread, Amanda. Never have.

I threw a string of invective in your general direction because I'd reached saturation point with a number of things you'd said and done online, and, mostly, what I saw as a remarkable ability to not only not hear anything you didn't want to hear, but, infuriatingly, to make larger issues that affect a number of (real! live! individual and specific, three-dimensional!) people, -all about you.-

Which, I can't think -why- I felt that way, but, you know, I'm a -multi-degreed asswipe- who said meen and unfair shit about you, and therefore you can cheerfully ignore -anything- I have to say; or indeed anything said by anyone I've ever been friends with, spoken to, or even sort of vaguely reminds you of me, if you stand on your head and squint and stick your fingers in your ears. Terrific.

belledame222 said...

I will note, back to the book, briefly:

one thing BL pointed out is that in fact Seal Press has a pretty good track record; and as a matter of fact I just picked up is, while also targeted at young women, a bit different in tone and scope from FFF (it's an anthology, for one thing):

Listen Up: Voices from the next Feminist Generation", ed. Barbara Findlen.

the cover of the copy I'm looking at has a the fact of a young Black woman rather than the one pictured at the link; you will note that both are rather different from the one for FFF, and in both cases, I think, are a reasonable representative of the...approach you'll find inside the covers, respectively.

belledame222 said...

oh, yea, "also," also, also

belledame222 said...

What I did take away from my skim of FFF, okay:

I had the impression it was aimed at young women who only or primarily read "mainstream" teen or "womens'" magazines and teevee, maybe Daily Candy or suchlike; and books that have nothing to do with politics, and get their main idea of "feminism" from whatever their family or friends or teachers say, or the morning DJ's, or Fox News blaring in the background at the bar, or suchlike.

As such, I think the places where she said things like (paraphrasing from memory), look, next time you're in the newsstand, just give Bust or Bitch or Ms. a try, you'll like it, I promise. That, you know...sure. It'd be a start.

I did think that, while it clearly wasn't designed to go into depth about theory and so forth, at minimum, if you say you really dig Angela Davis, say, it'd be better to follow up with a concrete example of -why- you like her, even a brief one.

Anonymous said...

I was right along with Little Light until she said this: This is not about who deserves, and doesn't have, a book deal--not really. It's not like the Bucket o' Book Deals isn't, in the end, bottomless. It's about, in part, the fact that the women-of-color contingent of the feminist 'sphere has lost two bright-shining and brilliant voices because they couldn't take it any more--not from MRAs, or anti-feminists, or avowed racists, but from the people we're told are our own. We can't aim at, say, Jessica--she's One Of Our Own, and that there's a circular firing squad, and ruining the movement, and just pulling down whoever gets successful!--because we're being told who our allies are. We're being told, goddamnit, I'm your ally, back off. And you know what?

Because Little Light, your words and feelings are exactly how feminist fathers feel when told at our various feminist websites that we are not feminists, that we are in fact patriarchs that abused our wives and children, and that there isn't a wrong headed movement by NOW and other feminist organizations to keep the courts from considering a rebuttable presumption of joint custody.

We are feminists, we have daughters, we were born after title ix, we watched our mothers go to work each day, and we want to parent our children.

But time after time, self-identified feminists with more power than us, keep telling us that we cannot say we are feminists and that we have to shut up, and that we have to go away, and today, that includes you.

It is sad and depressing and has nothing to do with equality or the best interests of our children.

ilyka said...

It is sad and depressing and has nothing to do with equality or the best interests of our children.

Oh bag it, assface.

I'm only leaving that comment up because I SHOULD HAVE KNOWN that the mere mention of MRAs would, yes, bring out the MRAs. You don't even have to turn the lights out and say it before a mirror three times to make it happen.

Ah, sweet privilege, how I love thee.

little light said...

You should come by my place some night, Anonymous. Come by Tuesday; that's amateur night.

(Thanks, Ilyka. I was tempted to, y'know, respond.)

little light said...

...sorry, I just really needed to flex my plagiarizin' muscles.

belledame222 said...

heh heh heh. I tried that once, the deliberate "Candyman" approach to callin' M. ARRR. AAAAAYS. I got one, but it was too small for fryin', so I threw it back.

wv: ecubuh

exactly.

Patrick said...

Since I teach first year composition at a public university, let me add an empirical observation that may or may not affect how this goes.

There is a non-trivial percentage of sorority women who identify happily with the designation "feminist." More than you might expect. And many of those who identify in this way, can and will read challenging theoretical interventions if they need to in order to accomplish some task that's meaningful to them, for example constructing an argument about income equity or body image.

The ones I teach tend not to be terribly sensitive to theory by and about people of colour, especially women, but then they're young yet and that's what education's for, right?

It's weird--in academia, I think sorority women get disrespected more than, say, fraternity men, or disaffected stoners, which strikes me as at least partly a matter of holdover sexism.

But I don't think "addressed to sorority women" counts as a defense of a book that may be lacking intellectual or theoretical heft. (I have no idea whether that's the case, here. I'm just saying.)