Archive for March, 2007

An example of male privilege: showing up at a feminist blog, a space of solidarity for those who support the idea that patriarchy oppressess women and that isn’t fair and want to see this end, not bothering to do any preliminary work to understand the theories and language that is used by the feminist movement, and demand that the blog host (or someone else within the community of feminists and feminist allies) do your work for you, spoonfeed you the theories, point you in the right direction, and otherwise educate you.

Something Rainbow Girl said yesterday really stuck with me. She asked:

“What’s with this resurgence of feminist bloggers trying to explain the basics to the uninformed ones that come their way? I really admire the spirit but personally…I just don’t have the patience or the stamina for that.”

Ya know, I’ve always taken the stance that discussion is a great way to learn, both for me and for others, and I’ve tried to use this space to further that end. I’ve invited anyone and everyone to participate, and that has meant explaining a lot of basic stuff, sometimes multiple times to numerous new people. But I’ve always kind of thought that was a good approach, because feminism isn’t just for feminists – it’s for everyone, and the more people who can learn about feminism the better.

But, I’m getting tired. I’m getting tired of doing people’s work for them. It’s frustrating. It’s irritating. And god only knows how much of an effect it actually has on people. So, I’m conflicted. I’d like to hear from you: do you think it’s worth it to continue educating on the basics of feminism through this blog? Where to draw the line between doing people’s work for them and doing my work, which is to advance feminist discourse and gender equality – which I think ultimately must involve some degree of education of non-feminists?

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wow, what a week in comments! boy oh boy! all the criticism of feminism a girl can handle!

Well, the title of this post says it all. Let’s break it down, yes?

1. Feminists hate men. As Tigtog says over at Finally, a Feminism 101 blog,

“Feminists hate misogyny, not men. Kinda like that “hate the sin, not the sinner” thing, sometimes it’s easy to separate the behaviour from the enactor and sometimes it’s not.

But it’s understandable how sometimes criticisms of misogynists come across as generalisations about all men, when read by someone who isn’t used to the jargon shorthand and feminist perspectives. Time to lurk and learn.”

Well, yeah. Pretty much. But to make a further point, sure, some feminists DO hate men, usually with good reason, like that they’ve been raped or abused or mistreated by a man, or maybe by multiple men, maybe once, maybe for their whole lives. After all, patriarchy encourages reminding women at all times where they stand, and a lot of men are willing to do carry that out, sometimes with force.

And, as Sage explained recently, that makes all men suspect until proven innocent. And yeah, maybe that seems unfair, and maybe it sucks, and maybe it shouldn’t be that way. But in response, I say it shouldn’t HAVE TO be that way. Repeated histories of abuse and domination tend to make an oppressed group suspicious, wary. Like Sage said, it’s a survival mechanism. So instead of getting all pissed off that you’re being held under suspicion of misogyny, maybe you should extend your understanding a bit and think about what may have been that woman’s reality that would cause her to place you under suspicion. And, maybe you need to check your privilege (EVERYONE needs to GO AND READ THIS POST and ALL THE LINKS, and especially this one) and stop getting your nose out of joint when it’s pointed out to you that A) you actually have privilege that you haven’t earned, and B) you’re not actually doing anything to make the situation any better. by holding onto privilege and refusing to acknowledge that you even have it in the first place, you are participating in patriarchal subordination of women. Like I said earlier, oppression is made up of both subjugation and privilege. If you don’t experience one, you’ve got the other. And, for the gazillionth time, men are not oppressed under patriarchy. So do the math. And go check out this post about male privilege, while you’re at it. And then try to actually think about it instead of knee-jerking.

UPDATE: But apparently, male privilege doesn’t exist, feminists are just stupid.

2. Feminists don’t really want equality. Well, sure. We feminists just want to rule the world. That’s what this is all about. 😉

Here’s the thing: equality doesn’t mean bringing ourselves up to oppressor status. We don’t want to rule the world, because that would mean having power over someone else. We want to eliminate oppression based on gender differentiations that are socially constructed. And, since oppression is made up of both subjugation and privilege, that means eliminating unearned privilege. We don’t want unearned privilege, such like is given to men under patriarchy. We want nobody to be privileged over anyone else.

And here’s the other thing: you can’t treat unequals equally. That only furthers oppression (read: both subjugation and unearned privilege). And that’s not actually equality. So that means, for feminists, that the emphasis on our revolutionary work is always going to be on women. Why? Because men have the full weight of privilege afforded them as men by patriarchy behind them to further them along. And this is exactly what needs to be dismantled. Simply pretending that the playing field is level and that all players have come to the field as equals, is not even a shred helpful. It’s simply not true.

3. Feminists should count their blessings, take what they can get, be grateful for the scraps they’re given from patriarchy’s table. Well I’m sorry, but NO. THIS IS NOT ACCEPTABLE. I’m not going to sit and congratulate some guy in a comment thread for not being quite so bad as the misogynists just because he thinks women deserve equal pay, or that rape is evil, or that child molestors should be strung up by their balls, or that it’s cool his girlfriend makes more money than he does, or that he doesn’t catcall women in the street, or WHATEVER. Yeah, all of that is great. But it’s not enough.

I’m not going to sit back and quit pointing out male privilege when I see it rear its ugly head, just because you seem like a “nice guy” or because your girlfriend supports whatever you’re saying or because you would never dream of treating a woman so badly. That all may be true. However, it’s not really relevant. Good for you that you’re a decent human being who thinks other human beings should be treated with respect. But you know, when you come into a discussion, on a feminist blog, which should be treated like a space of solidarity between like-minded people where perhaps marginalized people can have their say without getting trampled all over by the dominant voices that oppress them everyday in their real lives, and you bring along all your baggage and privilege to wave in everyone’s face while simultaneously insisiting that you’re not like all those asshole misogynists and bigots, don’t be surprised if someone points out to you the inconsistancies in what you’re saying.

See, the world wouldn’t necessarily be a better place if there were more guys like so-and-so Privileged “nice guy” – chances are, it wouldn’t really change all that much, since Mr. Privileged “Nice Guy” actually condones the behaviour of misogynists, and contributes to gender oppression by not checking his privilege at the door. So no thanks, but fuck you very much for thinking of me, I’ll not take those scraps. They won’t fill my empty belly. I need something more substantial than what you’re dishing up.

UPDATE: It occurred to me I should fill my readers in on the specific comments that motivated this post, and the preceding post, yeah, I’m a miserable victim. Here are the specific comments that motivated this post:

Diver said:

I think you are taking a very bias opinion of what p-stone has to say just because of his Male priviledge [sic]…. you cannot accept p-stone because he is a man though he seemingly wants to try and understand the issue and bring up his own beliefs but yet because he is a man you try and turn everything around on him, if we want equality for everyone we have to allow it to everyone on the first go… If we want womens [sic] equality we need to treat each other with equal respect and I think because of todays [sic] society unfortunately there will always be people guys and yes even girls that take advantage of unaware prey. If there were more guys like p-stone around we would be alot [sic] better off than we are now.

Again, from the professional pick-up artists run woman tricking business to help guys get laid thread.

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two of the common things I hear from people who are opposed to feminism are that feminists practice victim politics, and that we – and our friends and family, by extension, presumably due to our incessant whining – must be miserable. I got both of these today, in yet-to-be-approved comments.

so, are feminists just victims? don’t we just need to stop all our whining? Well, the short answer is NO. to all those who have ever had this thought, please be directed to this post, at a great new blog I discovered, Finally, a Feminism 101 blog. The gist is that women do suffer oppression based on their gender, everyday, in every society, and it leads to a lot of really bad things for women, like poverty, ill health, rape, illiteracy, hunger, malnourishment, maternal death, slavery, forced prostitution, forced marriage, female genital cutting, domestic violence, and other forms of exploitation. Check out my Blog Against Sexism post for more details. And hey – don’t take my word for it, go check out studies and stats at the UN website. Be sure to check out the links to UNIFEM, WomenWatch and UNICEF while you’re there for a more specific look at some of these issues. Don’t like the UN? Check out the Global Fund for Women. The bottom line is, there are a lot of women globally who are victimized in a variety of ways. Patriarchy hasn’t run out of ways to oppress women yet, and the old ways keep on keepin’ on, so as feminists it is our responsibility to raise our voices in protest.

And perhaps those who so easily toss around the “victim politics” label might jsut be doing so to deflect attention from their own inability and unwillingness to examine their role in the global hierarchy and how they might be actually contributing to the oppression of women. It’s funny that the ones who so often throw this one out have tried to have a “meaningful dialogue” with feminists about how wrong we are, and think of themselves as pro-gender equality, yet resort to the same kind of thing that the more rampant misogynist pulls out of his bag of tricks. But yeah, we feminists are just plain wrong to see patriarchy everywhere.

As for the “are you really happy in your life, because it seems like you’re so angry, and you’re never going to be happy if you keep up all this analysis and whatnot” – to this I say guess what? YOU DON’T EVEN KNOW ME. Don’t play the “I’m concerned about your happiness” card with me, cuz no you’re not, and YOU DON’T EVEN KNOW ME. And what’s more, YOU DON’T EVEN KNOW MY FRIENDS AND FAMILY, EITHER. so just give it up.

This is one step away from the “all you really need is a good fuck” argument, as well as the “you’ll never find a husband with that feminist attitude of yours” argument.

NEWSFLASH 1cock is not the cure-all for the problems facing women in this world. In fact, I’m guessing that for some women, cock is exactly the fucking problem, considering cock is so often used as a weapon against women in rape and sexual assault. Cock is not enough to make up for the poverty, the violence, the illiteracy, the poor health, the enslavement that women experience. Not nearly. Besides, only 25% of women can orgasm with penetration alone. But I’m sure you all knew THAT, being the Don Juan Casanovas that you are – no woman is ever left unsatisfied by you.

NEWSFLASH 2 not everyone wants a husband. I sure as hell don’t. no fucking thank you.

But since the subject at hand is MY personal happiness, I’d like to just say, I’m just fine, don’t worry about me. And if you actually did know me, you’d be fucking lucky.

UPDATE: It occurred to me I should fill my readers in on the specific comments that motivated this post, and the follow-up post, also, i hate men, don’t really want equality, and should be grateful for the scraps i’m given from patriarchy’s table. Here are the specific comments that motivated this post:

Malignor said:

Extremists have been known to shape the world, from Ghandi to Hitler, but I am hard pressed to think of a world-changing extremist who didn’t have a existence marked by hardship, suffering, insanity, persecution and/or death as a result of their ambition. I doubt any of them were truly happy. I’m very happy (Are you?), and I live in the same world you do. I also tend to live in harmony with the world, as-is, and the changes I make are to my own piece of the world, and to myself so I can better live in it. Self-destructive extremism is the sort of thing that would not only hurt me, but also my friends and family. I hope your friends and family are okay (are they?).

P-Stone said:

Personally I think you’re spending your lives feeling more pissed off and oppressed than you should or have to and I want nothing more to do with it.

And just today, Kelson said:

To conclude, thinking girl, you need to stop the drama queen and victim attitude. It’s downright pessimistic and ultimately not attractive. If you’re strong enough then you should work towards something positive instead of complaining about men ruining your life. I recommend you slap on some make-up, head to a club, work a free drink out of a man and get fucked!*.

All of these quotes are taken from comments made on the thread, professional pick-up artists run woman tricking business to help guys get laid. For some reason, this post has drawn a litany privilege-defending asshattery.

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Max just wrote an interesting and challenging post about identity. I responded, but my comment was becoming mammoth, so I decided to just make it into a post and link it back. So here goes.

for me, identity is a constant struggle, to find who I really am among the multiple pressures: who my friends and family think I am and want me to be, who society says I am because of my physicality, who I am as a result of social discourses and interpretive tools like language and culture, and then who I want to become. The question of who-I-am (right now, in this moment) becomes lost in the din sometimes.

To try to answer your questions:
Who are you? – I’m me. Jennifer, Jenn, Jenna (never Jenny). Thinking Girl.

What are you? – I’m a woman, feminist, philosopher, white, heterosexual, agnostic, able-bodied, middle class. I’m a student. I’m kind, generous, optimistic, laid-back, fair-minded. I’m a Cancer. I’m smart, funny, easy-going. I’m a good writer. I’m a musician. I’m an artist. I’m a socialist.

What is your primary identity? – I don’t know how to answer that question. I don’t think it’s possible or even particularly useful to pull out one strand of my identity to holdup as primary.

What ethnic, racial, nation-state do you identify with? – I’m Canadian, east coaster.

How did you learn who you are/how to categorize yourself? – I’ve been taught all my life who I am, by my parents, by the society around me, by my teachers and friends. When it doesn’t fit with how I feel inside, that causes me a good deal of stress.

How does having/maintaining an identity detract/support one being their authentic self? – What is most challenging is when people make assumptions about me that don’t match up with my authentic self. But, I’ve learned that it isn’t necessary for everyone to understand me, or to like me. I have to like me. I have to understand me. I have to be me. And that is what really matters to my personal happiness. Gotta have integrity – integrate my authentic self into my outward identity as much as possible.

When we confront people as labels or categories, how does that affect our ability to see them for who they are? – I think it makes it really difficult. Really difficult. How can we truly know anything about anyone based on socially imposed and constructed labels? In all the tidbits about “what I am” I gave above, does that really tell you much about me, who I am? I don’t know. Wouldn’t it just be better to ask people what is most important to them for us to know about them? Labels, categories, stereotypes – they don’t tell us anything about anyone, because they homogenize, make essential, characteristics and qualities and experiences that are supposed to be common to a group but never really are.

Is having a simplistic, hand-me-down identity a form of ’security,’ and a strength or an ‘escape’ from the anxiety of growing into something beyond the flowerbox you were planted in? Or both? – Interesting complex question. I think it can be a form of security for people. Don’t have to question anything if you simply accept what you’re been spoon-fed from birth about who you are. It might make things easier on you, easier to just fit in and get along, get ahead. But also, I think it can be an escape – I think about rejecting one identity, and the best way to do that (so it seems) is to try on another one that is diametrically opposed. I hope it won’t be offensive, but I think this happens a lot when people come out of the closet and declare their sexuality as non-hetero. I think a lot of people join into a pre-existing queer identity that doesn’t necessarily express who they really are. Of course, it’s entirely possible that it does express them fully.

Do you ever ask yourself who and what you are, who and what you are supposed to be and whether you are being your truest self? – Everyday. I’ve spent a good deal od my life trying to fit my square peg into a round hole, and coming out frustrated and disappointed with myself for not being able to do it. But, instead, it’s about allowing my true nature to become expressed in how I live my life, and finding the square hole to match my square peg, allowing what has always been inside of me to become perfectly expressed in the person that I am becoming everyday.

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iwd_3.gifToday marks International Women’s Day. You can read about its history here, visit the official website here, and read the UNIFEM statement here.

Today is also Blog Against Sexism Day, which started last year here. Today is the day that bloggers unite to voice our objections to the continued marginalization of women and girls worldwide.

so, why am I writing today?basd2.jpg

I am writing to speak out against violence against women and girls, in all its forms. Domestic violence, girl-child abuse, FGC, and rape are serious problems, and happen as a result of not placing enough value on the lives and bodies and experiences of women as well as reinforce inequitable gender roles. Millions of women experience gendered violence every year, because they are women. This is unacceptable. It creates a culture of fear for women. Violence against women is a threat to women’s citizenship and equal participation in society. Women must be protected against gendered violence by their governments, their friends and neighbours, their families, their societies. Men must be taught that abusing and raping women and girl children is unacceptable, criminal, immoral, and violence against women must be taken seriously by legal systems in every country in the world.

I am writing to speak out against human trafficking and sexual slavery, victims and survivors of which are largely women and girls. Millions of women and girls are sold into slavery every year, often by their own families, and forced to work in degrading and unsafe conditions, often prostitution, risking their health and chances for the future. Human trafficking has to end. It is absolutely ridiculous that it must be said, but slavery is not acceptable. It is a huge moral problem. And it needs to stop, right now.

I am writing to speak out against the infringement of women’s reproductive rights and in favour of women’s health. State control of women’s bodies continues in many countries across the globe, resulting in unwanted pregnancies, unnecessary health complications, and even unwanted sterilization. Many times this is done in the name of ecnomic growth for the country in question, or in the name of environmental protection – when what would really benefit economic growth is forgiving coercive loans from the developed countries and increasing foreign aid to developing countries, and what would most benefit environmental protection globally is for developed countries to reduce their consumption of resounrces and their greenhouse emissions. The bodies of women of colour in developing countries are being exploited to protect the lifetsyles and economies of developed countries. The bodies of all women in developed countries are used as the battle ground for political struggles for power. Women must have access to reproductive health care and be given a full range of options to control her own choices in terms of fertility, pregnancy, and bodily integrity.

I am writing to speak out against the practice of child marriage. Sanctioning pedophilia through the institution of marriage is a despicable practice that leaves girl children scarred for life and often unable to live a full life even when the marriage ends due to social limitations on widows. Taking away a girl-child’s opportunities and choice before she even know what those choices are is a deep form of gendered oppression.

I am writing to speak out against the practice of dowry, which places a monetary value on the lives of women, encouraging the objectification and ill-treatment of women both in the family and in the larger societies in which dowry is practiced. The very idea of paying someone to take your daughter off your hands denotes the disvaluing of women in deeply problematic ways.

I am writing to speak out against education fees, which limit the opportunities of many children, but especially girl children, to gain an education. In societies that disvalue girl-children, many families choose to send only their boy children to school, because that is what they can afford to do, and because girl-children are given limited opportunities to work outside the home anyway so they will not need an education.

I am writing to speak out against the feminization of poverty and economic inequality for women, a major global problem. As I wrote recently this is problem not only in less developed countries, but also in developed countries like Canada. Women are not paid equal wages for the work they do. Domestic labour, largely performed by women due to socially constructed gender roles, is unpaid and undervalued. Women are more likely to work part time in order to care for their families, again due to socially constructed gender roles, and these jobs are more likely to be underpaid and lack benefits like health care. Women are less likely to be able to collect unemployment insurance benefits than men, even though they are required to pay into the system. Women are more likely to take in the dependents of sick or deceased friends and family, which means working late into their elder years in order to provide a home and essential needs. Raising the economic opportunities and status of women is essential for gender equality. We cannot allow women to starve and live in extreme poverty

I am writing to speak out against the gendered problem of HIV/AIDS. The majority of new cases of HIV/AIDS are in women – 60% of those between the ages of 15-24 living with HIV/AIDS are women. This is largely due to, once again, socially constructed gender roles that prevent women in coercive sexual relationships from insisting on condom use as well as make male sexual pleasure the central focus of sexual intercourse. What’s more, women who die from AIDS-related complications often leave behind children, who are then often sent to live with female relatives, adding to the burden of responsibility borne by women. HIV treatment in less developed countries has often centred around pregnant women for the purpose of preventing in utero transmission to the fetus, and when the fetus is born the mother’s treatment is ceased, leaving her health at further risk. Women need protection against HIV/AIDS.

I am writing to speak out against prostitution, the majority of whose workers are women. I protest the current model of prostitution in which power relations between female prostitutes and male customers are unequal. I protest the treatment of prostitutes by states, by the media, and by the public in general. I protest the unequal distribution of opportunity in society for women that make it more likely for women to not gain access to education and skills-training, and more likely for women to live in poverty. I protest the attitude that sex workers are not human being and do not deserve respect and resources to help them either leave the profession or practice it more safely and equitably.

I am writing to speak out against homophobia and heterosexism, which is tied to sexism in intricate ways. All people should have the right to express their sexuality in any way they choose so long as it is consensual (this automatically excludes rapists and pedophiles).

I am also writing to celebrate women. I am writing to celebrate the indomitable spirit of women who live in deeply oppressive circumstances all over the world. I am writing to celebrate mothers, daughters, sisters, grandmothers, aunts, and friends. I am writing to celebrate women’s diversity, vibrancy, and everything that women have to offer this world. I am writing to celebrate the feminist community, so diverse and vibrant, so inspiring and committed to gender equality. I am writing to celebrate the women who have gone before us in the women’s movement and who have won more rights for the women of today then women have ever had, even though those rights are not spread equally across cultures and nations to all women, everywhere, and even though those rights are not complete. There is still much work to be done, but I am deeply grateful for the work that has already been achieved by women who have come before me, and who stand with me now. Thank you.

So, as I write today, in both protest and celebration, I ask you to join me in raising your voice against sexism and in support of women everywhere!

Happy International Women’s Day!

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As y’all know, this is a feminist space. Over the past several months, readership of this blog has increased significantly, for which I am humbled and grateful. I’ve met so many great people who have contributed to the discourse here, who have asked interesting and challenging questions, and who have opposed and argued with me about stuff. All of which is great; as I have said in my About page, this blog exists to promote dialogue and discussion.

I want to promote dialogue among all kinds of people, but I also want to ensure that this is a space that gives voice to those whose viewpoint is not enshrined in dominant cultural discourses of hegemonic white hetero male supremacy. I want this space to be a place where we can talk about stuff with friends and allies that will feel like a safe space for those who are marginalized. And so I have said I won’t tolerate racist, misogynist, heterosexist/homophobic, classist, ableist slurs.

I realize this limits freedom of speech.  But I don’t believe free speech is the most important value to uphold. I believe that people’s lives, experiences, and feelings should come before some asshat’s self-aggrandizing oppressive bullshit. I also realize that sometimes it is helpful to shine a light on just how far we have to go in fighting these oppressive attitudes. But, again, I don’t want anyone’s experience here to be one of hate. There is plenty of that out there in the world, and if you are a hater of the above-mentioned variety, there are plenty of places to spew your bilous vitriole among like-minded asshats, so go there and knock yourselves out.

This comes up because tonight, I chose not to approve a comment that was clearly misogynist. I do not want someone like that being permitted access to this space, and I would be terribly upset if someone were to stumble upon a comment like that and feel paralyzed by it. Just today I experienced something like that in one of the classes that I have paid almost $700 to attend and gain insight and instruction, and I no longer felt comfortable or safe in my learning environment. Words have the ability to cut deeply into someone’s soul, and I don’t want any part of that kind of hatred here.

So, in the interests of full disclosure, I thought I should let you all know. Hopefully this won’t happen too often. But, I guess I could look at it that something about this blog has been threatening to someone whose power matrix may be shifting. A sign that maybe feminism is getting its message across?

I encourage everyone to please read the Discussion page, if you haven’t already, even if you’ve been commenting here for a while.  And bear it in mind before you hit that submit button.

thank you for your attention, back to our regularly scheduled patriarchy-busting program.

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Vera and me

Vera’s got a great post up in response to a thinking-out-loud yet thought-provoking comment made by yours truly the other day, regarding the seeming divide between young and seasoned feminists. I wondered if young feminists just wanted to make every choice they made as women into a feminist one, and Vera has some interesting things to say, with which I believe I may concur. She’s a clever one, that Vera!

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