Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Letter to a Puppet

(NOTE: Seconded.

I am reluctant to delete posts once they've been linked to by others--it's always frustrating to hit a dead link in your surfing--and as a general rule I'm reluctant to delete things, period, which is why so many of my idiotic opinions from days gone by are still out there, even though they're often mortifying to me. I figure (1) blogging's no fun if you formalize it too much and get so rigid, so obsessed with appearing "professional" that everything you write, you write in terror of fucking up, and (2) sometimes people learn more from the fuck-ups, or at least I do.

So what'd I learn? I learned that it is sometimes good to stifle yourself until you are 100% sure of your facts. Certain cases demand that, if you are to sleep well at night.

Finally, a note about comments on this post: I had to reject one tonight that I thought would be better addressed to, well, the person it was addressing. Let me put it plainly: If you want to snipe at Hugo, you know where his blog is, and I'll bet he's got an email address published, too. But if you must bring it here, keep it short and sweet and definitely limit the nastiness, because honestly, I probably don't want to read it. [Duh? I want to read about how great I am, and how you love me even when I make mistakes.] Honest anger in a comment is one thing--and right on with that; anger and I have always been BFF--but if I read it more as unconstructive pettiness, it ain't gonna make it through.

Besides: I don't like it when people talk ABOUT Blackamazon rather than TO her, so why would I want to help perpetuate that phenomenon against anyone else? I was in fact perpetuating that phenomenon with this very post, and look what that got me: Making corrections in the middle of the night and feeling, somewhat deservedly, like a shit. So you see, it doesn't pay.)

Oh, honey.
Has it really come to this?
No, no, don't answer; it doesn't matter.
And come to think of it,
I wouldn't have signed my name to that shit either.

But then, I wouldn't have written it in the first place,
because I read what you don't.
Now, to read you tell it--
to read you tell it is to read about a world I don't recognize,
one I've never been to. I don't get it.
You say "it's like this," and then you describe what you have not seen;
children do this.

There's one down the way in fact;
his name is Tyler.
Tyler's always telling me the craziest shit, I love that kid.
"Guess what!" he shouts, and I play along, I say, "What?"
And then he just makes shit up
about dogs who are like Transformers but also like dogs, except they can talk,
and about the planets he has visited
(pretend planets, mostly, but also Jupiter),
and the cat he is going to get
which he will take for walks EVERY DAY, because everyone knows
you need to take cats for walks regularly
(this is accompanied by a stern look, and then I have to apologize
for not taking Shane for walks).

It's great,
I love it,
but Tyler is four.

I have to tell you, the stuff you make up,
It could use some work, some finesse.
It's a lot less interesting
than Tyler's interplanetary travels.
"Hateblogging," for example: Why couldn't you have at least
made it a hateblogging dog who is like a Transformer?--I don't understand.
It would have added so much, yet taken so little.

But let's back up because
I don't even understand
the first thing you wrote. You said:


The main objective to keep in mind in all of this
is to bear in mind
[hee hee, redundancy
everyone writes lousy
when she's angry--
we have that much in common]

that, whether the criticisms of you are valid or not,
you will never please
the three
self-proclaimed spokespersons for the WOC community
because they need targets."

I don't understand. Three like three witches? Or like three strikes you're out?
Or like bad things come in threes?
Or like all of the above?
Yes, I think for you it is all of the above.


it's a privilege to wonder, "It's a Privilege to Be Here,"
what in hell you are talking about,
when one of your labeled "spokespersons" (self-proclaimed!)
just self-proclaimed that she is emphatically
not a spokesperson
for anyone but her own sweet self
Wait! I know what it could be:
Did you learn otherwise on a pretend planet?
Did you see Tyler there?
Come to think of it, I haven't seen Shane in hours.

That's it, isn't it?
You're all floating around Pretend Space,
And Tyler is walking Shane,
And the Transformer dogs are transforming,
talking and playing frisbee.
Yes, I'll bet it IS neat, but all the same,
I would like my cat back.

I would also like you to stop making me ashamed of being a white feminist, but you know what they say:
The perfect is the enemy of the good.

And that, I know, is your real point:
That these spokesperson-denialist spokespersons
are being unfair. No book is perfect.
Then why
Are you
(Some might say overly invested)
In showing them repeatedly
How much you hate them? How much you wish they would
Drop dead?
Go away?
Stop being here?
Why are you so invested in keeping them silent?
"No book is perfect" means criticism happens;
grownups know this.

The hateblogging, now:
That really pissed me off.
I felt a bit hateful on reading it, in fact,
but then I remembered that you were in space with Tyler, likely suffering hypoxia, and that seemed to explain things.
I don't know what else could,
when hate is hard to find where you are looking for it.
Not that I didn't try.
I did try; I wanted to give you the benefit of the doubt.

So I went looking and I have to say, initially, I was concerned;
for here is Sylvia, and she says,
"You know what? You're right.
Consider this post evidence of me being a hater.
Ooh, I thought, I may have made a mistake.
Ooh and ooh again, I thought, I may have to admit I was wrong.

Then I read it. You should try that sometime; I can't stress enough
how much it helps.
And in fact there was hate in that post
but it was not from Sylvia, it was to her.
A white woman said to her,
told her right to her face,
that her dreams would have to be deferred.
It was just necessary in order to get things done. The important things,
which Sylvia's dreams were not among, must come first.
Moral triage was performed,
and some people
were just going to have to sit in the waiting room
a little fucking longer than they had been,
and they'd been there for hundreds of years already, that's the really shitty part.

I thought that was sad,
and hateful,
and patronizing. That it was said in an earnest,
and no doubt civil tone--
well. It didn't make ME any less angry,
let's put it that way.

I don't know how someone
hears that,
reads that,
absorbs that into her bones
allthetime everyday onandonandon unceasing
and keeps getting up in the morning,
let alone writes and writes well, more music in one of her phrases
than in all your sentences put together.
I don't know how that happens.
I don't know how this DOESN'T happen.
(Did you think that post was hateful, when you read it?
Hateful to men?
--No, me neither. Personally, I loved it. But that,
as we know,
was different.)

I did not find hate at Sylvia's,
although I think she's a little teed off at Hugo. Well, it's funny
how someone asking for more of your less
(and best of all,
they're not the first-hundredth person to do that to you,
or even the fifth-hundredth), well--
it's just funny how repeated offenses can be so irritating,
and how states of prolonged irritation
can lead to anger.

But it's a privilege to be here, indeed it is. It's a privilege to be
out and about, looking for hate on such a lovely day.
Who's got it? Someone has it. Someone must be hating;
a white person said so.
Blackamazon, was it you?

I don't mean to accuse
but I was told you were a self-proclaimed spokesperson;
a white person said so. So you can say you are not a spokesperson, you can say

"Now why wouldn't i be happy at being elected a voice of WOC ?

doesn't everyone want that power.


If a group of YWOC want to say what i speak resonates with them fine , but I will not accept someone else trying to put me there

--you can say that, but it's just no use: Targets are needed,
and targets are not deferable. We need them urgently, so a target and a spokesperson you'll be.
(They're the same thing; we can call it "targetperson" if you prefer.)
Look! It's out of my hands. I have no say.
I lack the authority to perform moral triage here. I'm sorry;
I got overinvested. It happens. I thought you were
a person
with ideas and feelings and voice and heart
(you may keep the voice
in your new role as spokesperson)
but now I am told otherwise. What? Oh. Well.
Yes, it was a transmission
from Pretend Space. Well, no, actually, it wasn't too clear,
coming from all that way. A bit crackly, a bit muffled in parts, but don't worry:
I got the message.
I actually got the message
loud and clear,
even through all the static.

It's a privilege to receive messages from Pretend Space.
It is. It's a real privilege. Oh, stop protesting already!
Of course you'll do fine. You'll be an excellent spokesperson.
You can be too old for Target A and too young for Target B
(though never just right for either--
that would take all the fun out of your spokespersonning,
and how will our aim improve if you're too easy to shoot at?
See, I'm always thinking).
Besides, be reasonable:
Who wouldn't want extra helpings of the extra special shit like this?
It's delicious!

(which is why I could not go near it for six months:
the deliciousness was overwhelming)

If I may, a suggestion:
I think in your role as spokesperson,
you ought to step up the hate.
It should be the first order of business, in fact, because again,
I couldn't find any.
This, for example:

"Notice the passage he chose in his gathering in May WAS A DEFINITION OF MYSELF. YES YOU READ THAT RIGHT. A WHITE MALE said that my self definition was UNWARRANTED CRITICISM."

--seems a bit tepid under the circumstances. I mean, that's it?
You're just going to defend your right
to define yourself
however you want?
Is that all? It seems a little, I don't know, hate-deprived to me.
As if it could use more hate, you know?
Yes, I think that's what's missing:
The hate. Furthermore (and I am upset about this),

it made me cry.
Now, I went to your blog on purpose to be hated,
so I could whine about that to my white friends.
I wanted to be a Pretend Target in Pretend Space, where the dogs are transforming like crazy. Well!
Imagine my disappointment when I found no hate:
A whole day shot to hell.
now I guess I'll have to talk about the equitable sharing of housework in the feminist home or some shit. How cliché.
(Or maybe we'll have the porn argument again. I don't think
we've had that one recently. It's probably time.)

Anyway, Blackamazon, perhaps you shouldn't be spokesperson after all
if it's only going to disappoint people.
Huh?--No, I was talking about real people. White people.
People whose needs are never deferred,
people who must never suffer a moment's disappointment
even if their needs come
at the cost
of your being.

Well, you shouldn't have been in the way to begin with, is what I'm told,
with your life and your feelings and your thoughts and your words all taking up space just the way we feminists fight
to let white women do.
"Don't be afraid to take up space in the world!" we exhort each other, but, yikes--
I thought you knew.
I thought you knew that wasn't FOR you.

That phrase reminds me of Magniloquence. Perhaps she's hating!
Magniloquence, are you hating?
Tell the truth, now--"It's a Privilege to Be Here" certainly is.
She's just doing it under a different name. Well, can you blame her?
There's so much hate out there!
A woman must protect herself, and sockpuppets are cute besides.
I'm going to get myself one off of Etsy, I think.


Magniloquence, this stuff is awfully abstract.
It makes my head hurt in places,
and it's definitely hate-deprived.
I guess we can't have you for spokesperson either.
I don't know who we'll get on such short notice.
Maybe someone will volunteer?--Brownfemipower, are you busy?
Oh. Oh, you are. And your work is not centered on white women?
We don't star in it? But we were promised!

Where will we turn now for hate? It can't be bought
for love or money. This hate shortage
will be the death of us!
To leave us with only the government the media the corporations, etc.,
to help us feel hated. What's a white feminist to do?
I'm telling you, it's unfair.
It's a pity. It would be such a shame
to let all the extra-special shit go to waste,
especially after "It's a Privilege to Be Here" did all that stirring.
Stirring is quite hard work.

Kudos for that, "It's a Privilege to Be Here;" hooray for the stirring.
That said,
this has been an altogether disappointing
and shockingly hate-free experience. I will be frank:
I don't think you are good at this.
I would advise strongly
against quitting your day job. I can't take you seriously,
and your imagination isn't what it was at four
(what I hope it was,
because it would be horrible if the four-year-old you
were imagining
seething befanged women of color,
self-proclaimed spokespersons all,
chasing you, mauling you, burying you
in hate.)
So much imagined hatred! Where did it all come from?
We have more of it than we do the real thing; imagine that.
It's pretty like a holograph, pretty like a projection, pretty like a reflection in the mirror. Pretty from a distance, pretty over oceans, pretty if you squint.
Close up, however, it's sickening.

Oh, honey. No.
Four-year-olds should have bright dreams of whirling planets.
They shouldn't fear bogeymen under their beds (at least, not often).
should grownups.


gennimcmahon said...

Good thing I check this EVERY BLESSED DAY.

Back in the fray with a meaty one, darling, and more power to you.

Also, where, oh where, can I get a transforming space dog? I'm sure Cormac needs one desperately....

Hugo Schwyzer said...

This is magnificent, Ilyka, and your talk of moral triage has my mind racing. Poetry teaches me where prose doesn't, and I'm grateful. It's not your job to teach me, but I'm learning (remedially) nevertheless.


michelle said...

and your talk of moral triage has my mind racing. Poetry teaches me where prose doesn't

Hi Ilyka,

Hey! Excellent! You used the right approach and tone for the teaching of the Great White Center of The Universe. Maybe you should give seminars to all those women of color about how to do it!

ilyka said...

Maybe you should give seminars to all those women of color about how to do it!

I know you're kidding, but it brings up something I want to clarify anyway, so I hope you are okay with me using this as a launching pad:

I posted this in the hope that it would give a giggle or two to the women linked within it. That's THE main reason. If I learn that it failed in that, or in any way heaped more hassle on any one of them, I will pull it.

My secondary reason was to let that commenter know that I will always, always challenge her paranoid racist bullshit, no matter what she calls herself. I hope that message has been received, too, but even if it has, it still isn't a compelling enough reason to override the first one.

Any benefit any reader derives beyond that is ancillary and unintended. I am in no position to "give seminars" to anyone, but LEAST of all to Blackamazon, Sylvia, Brownfemipower, and Magniloquence. If even one of them were charging tuition I'd owe her for dozens of semesters.

Sorry--I hate to turn so heavyhanded and earnest in response to a joking comment, but I might as well get that all out there up front.

Poetry teaches me where prose doesn't, and I'm grateful.

Then definitely make Problem Chylde a regular stop--unlike me, Sylvia has actual-and-serious talent at poetry. Mine is just a post with funny line breaks. I am trying to find my favorite of hers in the Internet Wayback Machine but it seems to be down right now. Anyway, she's the real deal.

ilyka said...

I'm sure Cormac needs one desperately

Totally. And if you got Tyler and Cormac together, it would be serious Cute Overload.

Magniloquence said...

Eee! There are squeals and giggles and swoons of delight, over here. You rock, and I love you. :)

michelle said...

I know you're kidding, but it brings up something I want to clarify anyway, so I hope you are okay with me using this as a launching pad:

I posted this in the hope that it would give a giggle or two to the women linked within it. That's THE main reason.

I am SO totally okay with you doing this!

Part of what pissed me off enough to make the joking comment was Hugo's implicit "of course this is how it is" always-centering of the white guy's claimed needs and eyes and ... self. When really I didn't get the sense that that's why you wrote it. Of course I didn't know. I am really glad you posted the response you did!!

michelle said...

PS oy, you really want to inflict Ego, I mean Hugo, on Sylvia? (none of my business but still had a sort of reflex type *cringe*)

Blackamazon said...


Donna said...

Ilyka, you're the best! I'm with Michelle, you gotta teach us WOC because obviously we can talk or shout or cry or scream and we still can't get through to certain white people. There's those funny earplugs or something that they have but soon as another white person is talking suddenly they hear the same damned thing we were saying. I'll have to look up my favorite post by R.Mildred, she had a name for it, something like a strange monkey language only we white people understand.

ms.cripchick said...

thank you for writing this and bringing a smile to my lips when this whole thing has been more frusterating than ever.

Donna said...

Did you see Hugo's post about this, Ilyka. He characterizes it as a poem to a =well-meaning= commenter at his place. The immature, cowardly, sock-puppet you wrote this to is well-meaning. He hears what he wants to hear and ignores the rest.

Pain poetry privilege & moral triage

Sudy said...


What a tasty treat this Friday morn...to wake up and read such flip yet deep, self-respecting yet genuflecting, hot and cool tongue rapping.


En lucha,

Lesley Plum said...

There's those funny earplugs or something that they have but soon as another white person is talking suddenly they hear the same damned thing we were saying.

And that pattern keeps happening, no matter how many times it's pointed out to them. No self-awareness or self-reflection.

What really kills me is that across the feminist blogosphere, there is no difficulty recognizing this pattern when it comes to many men only hearing things when other men say them. When I read comments like the one Ilyka responded to, I get depressed, because I am sure that no feminist would accept those types of statement from a man. But let the discussion center on racism and WOC by WOC, and then it's like "Nothing will please you, so I'm not even going to bother to try," or "If you'd just say it nicely, then we'd be willing to talk to you," and all other kinds of crap that gets regularly called out when it comes to men.

Hugo Schwyzer said...

As I said to Donna at my place, I used "well-meaning" ironically. Sometimes I seem so sincere (in a clueless white sort of way) that folks assume I am incapable of irony, but indeed I am. Let me repeat what I said at my place:

I often get comments from “friends” who say things like “You’ll never please those people, why even try?” They may genuinely be trying to reassure me, but what they’re really doing is trying to get me to stop engaging in dialogue that might actually make some headway.

Sometimes, I need to quote my Lord, who when tempted by ol’ Peter to give up one aspect of his mission, told him “Get thee behind me, Satan!” And that’s what I say to anyone who wants me to STOP dialoguing with my critics.

Fire Fly said...

Hugo missed the part where he was criticised for paying attention to the same criticism that women of colour make when it comes out of a white woman's mouth, didn't he?

Oh yeah, there's that pesky moral triage again.

Looks like he didn't learn a goddamn thing, and his mea culpa over on his blog is just solicitation of attention.

Hugo Hugo Hugo, your navel-gazing is politically boring, especially when you step over woc in a rush to listen to a white woman, to get prompts for it.

When will you stop talking and start listening?
Maybe you need funny line breaks to make it work for you? In any case, this may as well turn into an argument about "tone" for all your confession is worth.

Fire Fly said...

And I apologise, Ilyka, that the first comment I left here was snarky. Hugo's selective hearing isn't your fault.

Lesley Plum said...

I wasn't sure who you thought the sockpuppet was, but I don't think it ultimately matters outside of a couple of sentences. The points you made stand regardless of who made the comment. It's not as if there weren't enough people pointing to TEH HATE!!!11!!! and not listening to the critiques made by WOC in the original discussions.

kactus said...

WOW. Welcome back, with a vengeance.

belledame222 said...

mis-addressed (this time) or not, it's a great piece.

Chris said...

You are so great, and I love you even when you make mistakes.

the bewilderness said...

Has it been six months? It seemed longer. I didn't check quite every day.

I swoon, you rock.

the bewilderness said...

Sorry, I forgot.
You are great, and I love you even when you make mistakes.

michelle said...

Hi Ilyka. I hope you will publish this comment. I'm uncomfortable with things being hidden, with a situation that allows people to imagine something that may or may not be accurate to what actually is happening. So:

- First of all, I am the person you are referring to when you write:

Let me put it plainly: If you want to snipe at Hugo, you know where his blog is, and I'll bet he's got an email address published, too. But if you must bring it here, keep it short and sweet and definitely limit the nastiness, because honestly, I probably don't want to read it. [Duh? I want to read about how great I am, and how you love me even when I make mistakes.] Honest anger in a comment is one thing--and right on with that; anger and I have always been BFF--but if I read it more as unconstructive pettiness, it ain't gonna make it through.

- What I wrote in the comment you reference was a sarcastic/satire paragraph by paragraph thing I called an "Honesty Translation" of Hugo's comment above, posted here in your blog. I was not responding to something on his blog, but rather to a comment on yours, that you published here.

- I recognize that this is your blog and it is entirely your decision about what to allow and not. I recognize that it was not okay for you to read what I wrote, that it hurt/bothered you to read. I am sorry for that. I lacked clarity on the context I was in, I made assumptions about you and your blog that I really should not have, and I am sorry for that.

And, I don't even know if what I wrote was good satire, it may not have been because I didn't put a whole lot of time into it (and I don't even have a copy to look at again to assess), so it's not like it was some great thing anyway.

- At the same time, It feels really ... wrong, for lack of a better word ... to me that you name what I wrote as "unconstructive pettiness" and "wanting to snipe" that should have been directed at Hugo on his blog or via email. You allowed his comment through here at your blog, that comment here is what I responded to, this is where that response went.

- I myself experienced Hugo's comment -- on this blog approved by you to be here (November 30, 2007 1:52 PM) -- as a form of "polite" violence. Not directed at me, not at all, actually. But the way it works for me is -- even though it wasn't directed at me, the way I perceive things, I still actually felt that comment as polite violence when I read what he wrote here on your blog That is not what is or isn't true -- it's just how I felt it.

- For you to allow his comment to sit there but experience/name mine as you did says a lot to me about how you feel the world and what your perception and priorities are. I see that we diverge very sharply on that level. I am not right or better in my perception, not at all.

- And in that divergence, again -- this is your blog so you are the one setting the tone and priorities. And I can learn from that and will stay away in the future.

But blurring up/obscuring the specifics of what has actually happened already feels wrong to me.

- I gravely misunderstood the situation here at your blog in sending that comment. I apologize to you for that. What I felt as telling the truth, hurt you to read. We diverge on that, and we diverge because what Hugo wrote here hurt me to read but didn't seem to bother you the way that my comment did.

- I am very aware that how I feel the world doesn't intersect fully with these struggles online about racism. It's not always the same thing.

I have seen that you have a lot of respect from a lot of people I respect a great deal. That is an important truth here too.

So, I don't speak for anyone else, and how I feel the situation is in fact specific to my perception. I experience this as political, but there are ways it's just personal to me also.

As I wrote above, I hope you'll publish this comment. But I also I recognize that my intense discomfort with things being hidden/blurred is not necessarily something you share, and that for all I know saying these things will hurt you somehow when for me it feels like healing a sort of rip in the fabric that has been nagging at me for a couple of days.

Hal said...

Welcome back, and a great entry to boot.