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.

31 comments:

Amanda Marcotte said...

Well, like I said to you in email, the fear of being silenced, while unfair, comes from the sense that the only solution to shut up racist voices would be to eliminate white people's voices altogether, since white people are, by definition, racist. There's nothing a white person can write that isn't racist. I'm not complaining about that, it's just a fact. The defend-a-friend issue is this---someone like Jessica is not the cause of Jessica's privilege. Racism is systematic. Thus, personal attacks on her for being privileged---even as she actively tries to tear down white privilege as best as she can---seem deeply unfair. I don't try to do that to men who are allies, because it's unfair. I ask they own their privilege, but when they do, what else can I ask of them? They can't take a personal action to get rid of their privilege, nor should they be a martyr and fall on their sword or whatever, because the last thing feminism needs is to lose male allies. So.

I realize no one is asking Jessica to fall on her sword. (Okay, that's not true---some people plainly are, thus the sense of jealousy.) But it's simply frustrating when you're at an impasse and you feel obliged to do something and there's nothing you can do.

Amanda Marcotte said...

I should have stayed out of it, dammit. It's just hard, because the fundamental question for a writer---what to write about?---is at the center of all this. Jessica wrote this book and not that book. She wrote her book. I've definitely had it drilled in me that inclusiveness is a virtue, and that comes straight to heads with the #1 rule of writing, which is write what you know. Catch 22. You write about the world from your point of view, you will write something that is compelling, interesting, and will reach people. Or you try to include the voices of people that you aren't, and it comes across as phony, condescending, and weird---worse, really, in my opinion. But if you don't do that, you've opened yourself up to charges of not being inclusive enough. In academia, I'm afraid, the impasse is breached by writing thick, caveat-heavy, unreadable theory. But obviously, not Jessica's aim.

Blackamazon said...

Thank you for once agin not reading anything of the criticisms posed by the people who did take the time and courtesy to read jessicas book.

At this point the ' woe is white women " thing niether flies nor seems sincere.

BEcause the simple solution would be to talk to WOC who have problems. Not one of US ( Me , BINT, PP,Donna ,Nubian BFP, Fire fly, little light) expressed an opinion to teh book not being published.

And trying to tear down white privilege by lumping in WOC critiques with ad hominems, avoiding us , and when engaging us making sure the focus is squarely on how bad you feel and how much you can or can not do.

There is a solution it's be offered many times and frankly that solution it seems is far to big for people to take.

It's not unfair , it's not too much. People just don't want to do it.

It means taking a minute and for once shiny moment not thinking how do I want to do it , but actively reaching out and asking how would like it done.

If you want to be inclusive for this type of work thats what you do.

I can not get over how much it seems to skip the minds of people that the markings of allies and the recognition of allies come s from teh g roup not the purported allies.

But hey why adres steh pain hurt and problems of the people who are syaing this is not for us heres why in reasonably civil terms when we can play STOP BEING MEAN with teh peopel who obviously aren't.

Cause you know thos eshe b easts have no feelings at all . We'll get over it when we see how sorry or how hard everyone tried

The Unapologetic Mexican said...

yes, i had to have that conversion from reacting and taking women's complaints all personally, myself. what a sweet change that was. just happened one day. related to other work i was doing for myself that i did not know was so related.

you work hard at thinking and growing. i am like that too. i like seeing it in someone.

Pinko Punko said...

hey, BA are you responding to amanda or Ilyka's post?

Ilyka- I think you are kind of right, but one prob- of people tell friends or acquaintances that they are wrong in the form of a blog bulletin, after the point where it is clear that everyone is taking things personally and the arguments are a much more difficult minefield for anyone involved (I know people are very frustrated and pissed), kind of fuels the fire. I think Jill's post did exactly that, because the closing ranks style, "we must defend" (to quote Red State), toss the partisans some red meat raw emotion doesn't work that great. There are all sorts of vibes (and people are never responsible for their commenters) that say "defend defend" but come across "attack attack." The thing is almost everybody involved here have really thick skins when it comes to outside criticism, but total blindspots when it comes from their own side.

Minutes after Jill posted I commented about the "red meatism" of the post- it was honest and fueled by emotion, but there is a subconscious line being crossed, a line towards playing to the crowd (like a twisted entertainment- these fights must work because they seem to drive traffic)- instead of a stepping back with a simple "I don't agree with this, but let me instead discuss the substantive issues." People getting linked in a rant, its like calling them out, but its not advancing past those issues. And going to the bottom of the barrel for the worst of the shit that was lobbed at Jessica is only gonna shine a light on that, and nobody is gonna talk about the rest of it.

This is not a criticism, I just don't know to get past this shit. I feel like there has got to be a way to impersonalise the discussions somehow, so we can have them without bombs being tossed.

Donna Darko said...

Jill has a book deal?

if you can't tell the difference between Petitpoussin and Alon Levy, then something is very, very wrong

lol

Donna Darko said...

This is not a criticism, I just don't know to get past this shit. I feel like there has got to be a way to impersonalise the discussions somehow, so we can have them without bombs being tossed.

Lots of people are asking this and lots of people have said read the blogs mentionned on Jill's thread. It's no different than asking Kos to pay attention to women's issues and put women bloggers on his front page.

Blackamazon said...

The response is for amanda and it's not meant to be acerbic but at this point non inclusion adn derision means nubians gone we're praying BFP comes back

and thats somehow less important than the feelings of writers and bookdeals like we have no concept of what it's like to write a book( and no no one said that because of fair after being brushed off so many times)

Because everytime you hear but my feelings I couldn't think clear

it's essentially oh sorry you feel kicked in the fucking teeth and throat a damn gain

but your not be forgiving of me hurts me and THAT

THAT IS WHATS IMPORTANT

HWO CAN I CHANGE HOW CAN I

and

we've told you wnat we'd like we've been pleasant since before my young
ass was a twinkle in my daddy's eye.

And you just won't do it.

It's not a mistake anymore. It's intentional , the fact you are being deliberately mean doesn't make us feel any damn better and now we won't go away.

Blackamazon said...

That should be

aren't being deliberately mean

ilyka said...

On a quick break from work and have only skimmed this, but, Pinko Punko, I give ya PlainsFeminist, via Donna:

The hard thing, though, is to bring it to the fore and start examining what racism means in our own lives. I can think of embarrassing and painful stupid-ass racist things I've thought and said and still cringe about, and I'm sure you all can, too. I have the uncomfortable feeling that there will be more of them to come in my life. And when anxiety and fear about this overtake us, this is white guilt.

White guilt is not a useful emotion. It makes us focus on shame and embarrassment, and it makes us feel yucky, and it doesn't usually prompt us to anti-racist work. So we sit there, and we either feel guilty, or we conquer that guilt by 1) insisting that the racism isn't occurring, or 2) shifting the focus away from ourselves by focusing on other people's racism.

I think white people who want to do antiracist work, to move past that white guilt, need to do four things:


That's right, I left you hanging, you'll have to read it to find out the four things.

I think it may answer some of your questions, or at least let you know you aren't the only one who has struggled to "get past this shit." And you definitely aren't, because I am still muddling my way past it myself.

(Not trying to short-change the rest of the commenters here but I have to get back on the clock now. Just thought I could drop a link in here real quick while deleting the stupid spammer.)

(Also Nezua--thanks; from you that is HUGE HUGE HUGE. I will become insufferable now!)

Pinko Punko said...

I-

thanks a lot. that is a great link

I wasn't being as articulate as I wanted- some of what I was trying to say was "how do we get past this shit without throwing bombs back." The inevitable it seems escalation that follows similar patterns, and with every unresolved little fight, all the interpersonal actions get layered and layered and layered like an onion in reverse.

I try to follow this stuff because I am always learning (even amidst the carnage), but everything is always personalized via shots people take that are tangential to main points. For example, my online personal relationships are built in a really weird way (or not weird)- if I have a positive interaction with someone, I start to feel like they are on my team somehow, whether we agree or not on everything. For whatever reason, I've had some nice onblog and offblog (maybe even one nice e-mail) interactions with folks as disparate as Amanda, Twisty Faster and belledame- this pretty much puts me in a weird no mans land on a lot of issues- but the fact that those relationships exist, perhaps I would try to be diplomatic about disagreements, as I think you do. There is just this natural feeling of people kind of being in factions based on these personal relationships that drive stuff into "with me or against me" situations, and all it takes is for one shitty comment to bring to the surface all this stuff that never really gets resolved.

What I am trying to say is that there exists this massive web of personal relationships that I think affect how many people view all of the opinions that are flying around. I have no idea what the hell has gone on with Bitch|Lab or who thinks she is stupid or hates her, but that backstory is really crucial to a lot of people in how they react to her. Yet I read a random post at Qware Dewd's (not realizing this is Bitch|Lab) and it is actually highly reasonable, but other people might never see it that way because of who wrote it and all the other stuff that goes on. People are constantly complaining about other people "not reading" posts or comments, but what is happening is people are keeping kind of a running sum of all the comments people have made, or their entire personal history as coloring motivations for saying things that can be interpreted through many filters. This is of course normal human interaction. this is the shit I was talkign about getting through, of course the other shit is the shit that is after this shit. I 100% completely endorse that link. I think I am trying to do those things.

Just to add- I liked the bit about working constructively beyond a public shaming. You know like the sandwich incident, I would like many people I have relationships with to understand where criticism is coming from and not be dismissive of it, but given that disagreements may persist, what can be a workable, incremental solution without nuclear escalation?

belledame222 said...

Great post.

and yeah, "we have met the asshole and they is us" is never a fun moment, and it's a delicate balance between acknowledging that and spinning into "godDAM i/we suck slime off the bottom of manky Birkenstocks, flagellate flagellate;"

the thing about so-called "white guilt" (male guilt, straight guilt, what you will) is, it tends to put the emphasis back on the guilty, self-flagellating party;

THAT's the real problem with it.

and, also, there really isn't a need to go into "goddam i just totally, existentially suck," then--for -anyone-. there shouldn't be.

just, you know: well, damn, I can't say it any better than BA or donna (either donna) or Little Light or any number of people have been saying, and I wouldn't presume to try:

-Just listen, dammit, will you?-

"Only connect."

It may not be sufficient of itself, but it sure is necessary.

ilyka said...

what can be a workable, incremental solution without nuclear escalation?

Having my hot-tempered ass keep out of it.

THANK YOU! I'll be here all week.

Pinko, you're my favorite peacenik because you think about this stuff whereas too often I just fly off the handle. And I fly off the handle because I bottle up for months first. I need to find a balance so I'm not accumulating so much anger that only a volcano eruption can release it.

the thing about so-called "white guilt" (male guilt, straight guilt, what you will) is, it tends to put the emphasis back on the guilty, self-flagellating party;

THAT's the real problem with it.


Thank you for that, it's perfectly put.

It's a form of conceit. I quoted some excerpt from Dinky Hocker Shoots Smack back on Mother's Day, and the excerpt I chose follows right on the heels of one I love even better, where Natalia points out to Tucker that massive and paralyzing insecurity is actually the flip side of massive conceit. Because insecure people are convinced everyone is thinking about them/looking at them/whispering about them and, hello there, ego! Nine times out of ten no one's doing anything of the kind! It's YOU spending every hour of the day thinking about yourself!

Conceit. It's a form of conceit. Just because it doesn't feel like vanity doesn't mean that isn't exactly what it is. Both "I hate myself" and "I love myself" share "I" as the subject.

ilyka said...

at this point non inclusion adn derision means nubians gone we're praying BFP comes back

I worry that this keeps getting ignored. I don't want it to be. It's KEY to understanding this whole thing.

How many white feminists have we lost to MRAs and online stalkers? Not saying there haven't been any, but funny thing--I can't think of even one.

The silencing is not happening to white feminists. And even when silencing attempts are made, like what AutoAdmit did to Jill, like what Althouse did to Jessica, there's this HUGE FUCKING DIFFERENCE: Those attempts were not made by other feminists.

belledame222 said...

It means taking a minute and for once shiny moment not thinking how do I want to do it , but actively reaching out and asking how would like it done.

...just doesn't get any plainer than that. I'd like to stencil it on...something.

"Objectification" comes in a lot of shapes and sizes and with lots of different labels and even shiny packaging to pretty it up, but at the end of the day, the result is the same.

Lots of people are asking this and lots of people have said read the blogs mentionned on Jill's thread. It's no different than asking Kos to pay attention to women's issues and put women bloggers on his front page.

And--yeah. Why, why, -why- is this so difficult? There's a pretty big gulf between "fall on your sword, simply self-negate" and "be able to take some specific criticisms, maybe rethink the way you do certain things."

Which is exactly what happened with the Kos thing. No one said, hey, you're a dude, you shouldn't have a high-powered blog at all, apologize for your very existence. People took umbrage with something very specific. He responded in a way that made it abundantly clear that not only was he not planning to change (his prerogative), but he responded in such a way that made it abundantly clear that he simply didn't give a damn about -those people and their pet issues.- People took a lot -more- umbrage, then.

Which, you know. You pays your money and you takes your choice. If you decide that a particular population can like it or lump it, and it's worth potentially alienating lots and lots of members of that population--well, godspeed. But then don't get all surprised when you, the person what's supposedly trying to build a -democratic, grassroots movement,- you know, CHANGE things, liberty, equality, all that good shit-- find yourself needing the support of those people and--oops! How strange. Not so enthusiastic. But but why? The -other people- are so much worse, and we -mean so well-...

It's so frigging frustrating. Big fleas and little fleas and littler fleas. We all have our gates to crash; for some reason we never see ourselves as gatekeepers, because--well, gosh darn it, -we're the good guys.- And, and, we're members of oppressed/out of power groups ourselves, so we simply -can't- be doing unto others what we're bitching about being done to ourselves; we're all in this together, aren't we, guys?...Guys?...

ilyka said...

This also I have to cheer loud and long:

I can not get over how much it seems to skip the minds of people that the markings of allies and the recognition of allies come s from teh g roup not the purported allies.

I won't lie--this was hard for me to get. Very very hard. In my head, I would be all, "But I'm TELLING you I'm a good person; why won't you take my word for it? Isn't it awfully bad faith for you to just assume* I am lying? You'll never get anywhere being so distrustful like that."

And that is like a BOILERPLATE thought process for what are often termed Nice Guys(TM). You know: "I'm a Nice Guy! I love women! But feminists don't believe me when I say that! They are always being mean to me! You feminists are never going to get anywhere being so distrustful of my amazing Niceness!"

I had to put two and two together: "Let's see--if Nice Guys are almost never truly nice, and quite apart from being friends to women, they're often enemies; and if I sound exactly like a Nice Guy . . . then however much I might want to think I'm a friend to people of color, I'm actually--ooh, ouch, shit."

I wallowed in that for a long time. But like Belledame says, you can't wallow. It doesn't fix anything. And it's conceited.

*And of course, it isn't an assumption at all; it's a perfectly rational judgment call based on the bitter past experiences of people who've been burned by "but I'm your buddy" too many times already.

belledame222 said...

...and you win for mentioning "Dinky Hocker Shoots Smack." god be with the days, now I'm all full of Proustian memories of the junior high library...

and, I'm so glad someone else is awake at this ungodly hour

belledame222 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ilyka said...

Why, why, -why- is this so difficult?

Speaking of conceit, here I go with me-me-me again:

I personally found it difficult because I was completely unused to thinking of myself as anything but a fab wonderful person. whom everyone in the en-tire world would just LOVE, if they would only give me a chance.

And I felt ENTITLED to be given that chance. Without having to ask for it, without having to earn it. I ASSUMED that chance would always, always be there. I assumed it so much, I didn't even notice it when it was there! Its presence in my life was the default. Its availability to me was what I called NORMAL.

Until it wasn't there. That's when I noticed it. That was discomfiting:

You mean I can't just show up and babble whatever comes to mind and be welcomed with open arms?

You mean I can't just have a civil disagreement with you? Just a lil ol' civil disagreement? In which I treat your problems as an abstract political issue while insisting that my problems are more important? That my problems are YOUR problems, because my problems are everyone's problems, because I am the default human being here?

But I am being respectful of you! I'm treating you just the way I'd treat another white person! Isn't that what you want?


Discomfiting. It takes awhile to get your balance back if you're so cocooned in privilege that you never even noticed anything else.

As much as I really, really didn't like Jill's tone in that post, I recognize some of it. It's the shock of realizing that in some spaces, the default is not, "Everyone likes me, and everyone likes everyone else who is just like me, because everyone else IS just like me."

And in the sense that most matters, or that should most matter, yes: Everyone is just like everyone else and we're all human beings, yay yay.

The problem occurs when every time you read "human being," or for that matter, "young women," you see only white people.

belledame222 said...

How many white feminists have we lost to MRAs and online stalkers?

Depends on what you mean by "lost." There have certainly been a number who've gotten disheartened/disgusted and quit; the shitslinging going on between a number of the smaller (mostly white) radical feminists and uh whatever you want to call the rather more motley group of some of the rest of us has had casualties on both sides. Not really "stalking" per se; the closest thing that came to that, well, admittedly subjective, but, well, my TBTB entry on that is as good a primer as any, I suppose, or at least the hyperlinks from there would be. nobody's quit since then, I should add; still, yeah, there's internecine crap on several fronts.

belledame222 said...

And in the sense that most matters, or that should most matter, yes: Everyone is just like everyone else and we're all human beings, yay yay.

The problem occurs when every time you read "human being," or for that matter, "young women," you see only white people.


Yup. "I see no color" is kind of exactly the problem; or rather, it is the problem when the -reason- you see no color is because you have, in Nezua's term, "the white lens."

per the first part of that, here's a wrinkle:

maybe the other hard part of this is, if we have to identify with the people we've been righteously furious at (i.e. white feminist suddenly realizes that all this time she's been Blaming the Patriarchy, someone else is Blaming the White Supremacy), then we either

1) have to dole ourselves a heapin' helpin' of the -really scorching rage- we've come to accept as our schadenfreudische due, maybe even believe is the key to any real progress (revolution, even!) as long as -we're all in it together against the bad guys-;

2) or, goddamit, we have to start really seeing the Oppressors as more three dimensional again, which is just too fucking raw, because that feels like going right back to square one and -nobody- likes that.

so, you go for option 3), i.e. just try to shove the contradictions to a small locked box at the back of your brain and hope no one notices, especially if you try really hard to be -a good person-;

only trouble is, as we see here: it's not really an option, because it doesn't work.

So:

belledame222 said...

...actually I think what PP was saying wrt "red meat" is closer to what I meant by "letting go of the rage." I don't really mean "don't let's get angry" (it'd be hilarious if I did say that), I mean: letting go of that rank-closing impulse. that really satisfying sense of bonding that comes from "us and them."

Because I think, you know, that maybe that's an even deeper source of the resistance: we really want to believe we're all in this together, not -just- because we want to hold onto our privilege or stay where it's comfortable or flatter ourselves,

but because it -feels good- to believe we're all in this together. United, as it were, against a common enemy. The Republicans. The Insider Belt. The Patriarchy (because we all know how easy it is to maintain anger at a reified abstract System without letting it degenerate into anger at specific groups of human beings). The star-bellied Sneetches, whoever, you know, THEM.

And you know, a lot of the time, it's really easy to do that, because THEY have indeed been truly sucky in many easily identified ways.

But also: it's the easiest way to build solidarity, and thus intimacy, good fellowship feelings and maybe even an effective political movement. At minimum, -bonding.- Us-Them.

Take that away, and not only do we have to deal with the pain of -fuck I'm the bad guy too-, but -there goes the Party.- There goes the -bond.- There goes everything we worked for; and...goddamit, -maybe there is no we at all.-

Kind of existentially upsetting there, really. Among other things.

The good news is, there are, in fact, other ways of building community, building -movements,- power, even, besides "let's gather together into an organized unit to shout as with one voice across the aisle at Them."

They just take more work.

Blackamazon said...

Pinko yes sometimes it's teh sum but peopel have straight out NOT READ and ADMITTED AS SUCH or dodged it when brought up to them

mE Sylvia and PP

falt out not read it

Heraclitus said...

I agree with a lot of what you're saying, Ilyka, and I understand your frustration, but I don't think the comparisons between Jill and the statements or rhetorical maneuvers you mention at the end are unfair (I also think the comparison of Jessica to the Duke Lacrosse team is extremely unfair). In particular, I don't think it's at all fair to compare Jill's post to the Buffalo Bill thing; I don't think Jill's post is motivated by hate, and I also don't think commenter at Twisty's had a point about some transpeople being serial killers (while there are clearly some petty and mean-spirited attacks on Jessica out there).

As for the other examples, I don't think Jill was trying to dismiss all criticisms of Jessica's book. I think she saw some nasty ones, maybe went looking for more, then wrote an angry defense. I don't think there's anything wrong with any of that. The problem, to my mind, is that this isn't happening in a vacuum, and the same voices and concerns are being ignored again, whatever the motivation.

In any case, I don't know why these things always have to go in the direction of personal attacks, complete with quantified hierarchies. It reminds me of conversations we used to have when I was a stoner in high school. "The Doors suck. The second side of Dark Side is worth more than everything The Doors ever recorded." "Dude, what about Skynard?" (Someone wings a glass bong at Skynard boy's head.) "What, man, it's like I said The Allman Brothers." Or similar debates among pretentious university students. "Said is such a lightweight he can't even be called a popularizer. To compare him to Foucault is laughable." "Said's influence extends far beyond the academy, and therefore he is much more important. Foucault's work is only significant because of a few basic ideas, which you can basically get from Gramsci anyway." (And yes, I am posting this comment mainly because, having thought up those two snippets, I can't bear not to put them out there on the internets.) Maybe Jill only has twenty points of awesomeness, and bloggers X and Y have 75 points each, and Jill can never hope to catch up. But even if that's true, I'm not sure what's accomplished by saying that.

rrp said...

Ilyka, this is a great post and has generated sharp, thoughtful, and righteously angry comments.

thank you, thank you, thank you

Lesley Plum said...

As for the other examples, I don't think Jill was trying to dismiss all criticisms of Jessica's book. I think she saw some nasty ones, maybe went looking for more, then wrote an angry defense. I don't think there's anything wrong with any of that. The problem, to my mind, is that this isn't happening in a vacuum, and the same voices and concerns are being ignored again, whatever the motivation.

I think that when you specifically set out to address only the "cruel and insubstantial" criticisms, you are elevating those in importance over the substantive ones. At any rate, you're giving the reader some idea of what you think is more important. It was more important for Jill to defend Jessica against insubstantial criticisms than to even initially acknowledge that there were substantive criticisms out there, let alone address them.

So while conceptually there is nothing wrong with defending someone against insubstantial criticisms, if you do so at the expense of acknowledging and/or addressing substantial ones, then you've made a tacit statement. That tacit statement meant that, yet again, the voices and concerns of WOC were ignored.

Also, the whole "Go out and get your own book contract thing?" Horrible. There's obviously institutional racism that prevents WOC from getting their own book contracts. While that's not a criticism of Jessica's book, it is a criticism of even raising "Get your own book contract" as a defense. Is it really necessary to effectively rub the noses of WOC in the fact that their chances of getting a book contract are much lesser?

Nanette said...

I think there is sometimes the expectation that because they are the "big name feminist bloggers" that they (Amanda, Jessica, Lindsay and, to some extent, Jill) will be something other than the basic incurious, US and majority culture centric, flippy-do white girls that permeate so many aspects of US society and affect so many lives (by both attention and inattention).

This, as has been obvious for a while, is not the case.

I don't care about Jessica's book - never have. I'm not the target audience in any way, shape or form - age, race, education... okay well I am a woman, but still.

What I do care about, though, and what does tend to irritate me quite a bit, is all the coy dishonesty surrounding it, from the very beginning.

When Jessica released the first view of her book cover, nubian asked why she didn't just call it a young white woman's guide to white feminism? and was met with immediate pushback from some who declared her racist, thought she wanted black bodies on the book instead, thought she was being mean and nasty and unfair and racist and evil for suggesting that the cover might reflect the inside of the book and how dare one even think that just because Jessica is a white feminist she would write a book targeted only or mostly towards white girls/women.

Jessica did little or nothing to stem this tide, instead declaring that she was satisfied with the cover, thought it reflected her book well, hoped that people wouldn't judge the book by its cover, wouldn't engage the concerns expressed by (mainly) poc at nubian's site because of the one comment she apparently absorbed (it being made by, yes, another white woman) and then proclaimed herself just too exhausted to continue.

Those crazy, mean, agitating, racist non white folk just plum wore her out.

The book comes out, people again express concerns, this time about content and the fact that it seems to be targeted to a narrow segment of white girls/women ... and now included in the defenses are "Of COURSE it's targeted towards young white woman, Jessica is a young white feminist herself, she writes what she knows about and has included talk about non white people but it only makes sense that her main focus would be on bringing this one white girl segment into the fold, and all you people are being mean, mean I say, to her to expect her to write something other than what she did, omg write your own book if you are so concerned."

Again no engagement from Jessica and, yet again, leaving some with the impression that those crazy, agitating, wanting everything to be focused on them non-white folks are just being mean and unreasonable and just plum wearing everyone out with their baseless complaints.

Old tried and true switch and bait, and quite familiar to many of us.

I hate to think that it was in some private agreement that the bad... really, really bad... decision to not engage critics directly when they are people of color was made. I prefer to think that each one of these individuals reached this (really bad) decision separately, maybe from being taught at their parents knee to "just ignore them, they will go away" or some other such nonsense.

Still, that it does seem to be a personal or group policy among some is undeniable. Good excuses tho... "too busy", "too tired", "I'm too important" (okay that one was from firedoglake when they were going through their daily paroxysms of racism and sexism, but anyway), and so on.

(Mind you, wherever it comes from, I think Amanda sometimes chafes under the policy, as she will sometimes do a sort of sideways engagement in order to present her points (as she has on this site), but still does not engage poc with concerns directly.)

Okay, well I'm tired of writing this comment or even thinking about this entire situation (which, as little light and others have said) is not really about the book. Or not only, anyway.

Deoridhe said...

we really want to believe we're all in this together, not -just- because we want to hold onto our privilege or stay where it's comfortable or flatter ourselves,

but because it -feels good- to believe we're all in this together.


Yeah, I really think there's a chunk of that in this, and that when you get right down to it, it's "meet the new boss, same as the old boss".

When the focus is solidarity - is uniformity - it leaves no room for true individuality. If we all need to wear the same jumpsuit, the fact that mine is green and your sis blue really isn't that big a deal.

To touch on other massive clusterfuck, I think a lot of the porn/sexwork conflicts comes down to this same idea. That perspective on something used against women ISN'T THE SAME. BURN THE WITCH!!!!

There has to be a better way. There has to be a way to build solidarity that allows for internal critique and disagreement. Disagreement makes our arguments STRONGER. It carves out the shit. It gets rid of the dead weight and the self-delusion and the conceit. More perspectives makes something BETTER. Broader, wider, more capable of relating to more people.

Why do people keep scanning it as a bad thing? What's this dynamic and how can we defeat it? And is attempting to defeat it just another form of same-color-jumpsuits?

belledame222 said...

To touch on other massive clusterfuck, I think a lot of the porn/sexwork conflicts comes down to this same idea. That perspective on something used against women ISN'T THE SAME. BURN THE WITCH!!!!

Yes.

There's more I wanted to say about how the presentation of "sex positive" in (what I read of) FFF frustrates me, even as I still will take it over the particular interpretation of certain second-wave/radical approaches to sexual issues that's been driving me around the bend, revived as it's been on the blogosphere. I can't quite articulate it yet, though. something about how ...I felt like it didn't exactly help, okay, the charges of s-p being y'know, glib, narrowly focused on a particular privileged demographic (yes, I did note and appreciate her mentions of lesbian sexuality as well), and particularly...I want to say, consumer oriented.

I often feel caught between a rock and a hard place. I think that's even more true for people like Sylvia, who last I checked also identifies as "sex positive," and BA, who doesn't, but is certainly a frankly sexual woman who in no way shares the second-wave-ish atttitude toward (for example) porn, sex work, BDSM, femminess, or other bugaboos of the (mostly white) feminist 'sphere. That is to say: not non-critical, but the critiques she has come from a different standpoint, and (to me far more important) they don't result in the stigmatization and (frankly) slut-shaming that's been one my my biggest frustrations with...the people who are frustrating me.

At the same time, I can't blame BA or anyone else for at this point being basically "a plague on both your houses" if given the choice between, say, FFF and IBTP. They're -both- rather narrowly focused, and a lot of people...it's not even that they don't get -mentioned,- it's more like they/we okay, simply don't exist, because it's too uncomfortable.

belledame222 said...

...but like, for instance, there's a point in FFF where she says something along the lines of, "it's your -duty- to have [sexual] pleasure," and I read that and winced, because

1) well, in a way that really does create yet one more impossible standard to live up to; some people have very good reasons for not being sexually active, or not setting pleasure out of it, and "go girl!" platitudes aren't nearly enough to address -why-

2) some people are going to ask "at whose expense?" and, you know, while I -don't- want to get into the pr0n wars, "what is consent," yadda, because i've made my stance on that pretty clear elsewhere, I do think: it does make it sound kind of like...shopping. Which, there are issues with that that go beyond feminism per se, and I wish more people would address, -somehow.-

But you know, like I said, it's frustrating, because I -do- believe pleasure is important, not a frippery: "give us bread, but also give us roses." It's just harder to defend when the way in which it's presented -is-, well, kind of frivolous and surface-y sounding.

belledame222 said...

and btw, I don't mean to speak for BA there, and if I got you wrong, BA, please feel free to kick my ass.