feminism_q07

Happy New Year!  I hope to introduce you to more writers, thinkers and do-ers  in 2014. Maybe I’m a bit tired of the cut of my own jib, or maybe I’ve suddenly gone shy(!). Either way, I think engaging with a variety of perspectives is always a good thing.

An independent-minded UK-based blogger/tweeter I like is Jacobinism. He has begun the year with a thought-provoking post entitled Racism; Censorship; Disunity. He puts forward the view that the ‘Left’, and ‘intersectional’ activists and writers within the Left, can be blind to oppression and violence unless it comes from white people. To illustrate his point he uses a case study from within the feminist blogosphere, where a young feminist woman was attacked and then censored by ‘intersectional’ feminism, for her views.  Jacobinism writes:

‘There is a damaging idea fast gathering influence on the Left that – like a lot of contemporary postmodern Leftist thought – urgently needs dismantling. This idea holds that racism is only possible when prejudice is married with power.

The corollary of this premise is that racism may only travel in one direction – from the powerful to the powerless – and it is therefore nonsensical to discuss, still less condemn, racist attitudes expressed by ethnic minorities. In the West, racism is the preserve of the white majority who use it – often, it is claimed, unconsciously – to sustain their advantage and to oppress those they deem to be ‘other’. In the geopolitical sphere, meanwhile, this racism is the preserve of the world’s wealthy democracies and is expressed as Orientalism, Military and Cultural Imperialism, and Neoliberalism, all of which are used to dominate and subjugate the Global South.’

Jacobin’s discussion of the feminist ‘storm’ that illustrates his points is probably best read in full. To give a flavour of the ‘case study’ here’s some extracts from his post:

‘On 20 December, the feminist writer and activist Adele Wilde-Blavatsky published an article in the Huffington Post entitled Stop Bashing White Women in the Name of Beyonce: We Need Unity Not Division. Wilde-Blavatsky’s post was a rebuke to those – on what she described as the post-colonial or intersectional feminist Left – who use identity politics and arguments from privilege to delegitimise the voices of white feminists speaking out about the abuse of women in the Global South and within minority communities in the West…

The response to this argument from the bien pensant Left ranged from the incredulous to the vitriolic.

In the comment thread below her article and in a storm which overwhelmed her twitter handle and her hashtag, Wilde-Blavatsky (who tweets as @lionfaceddakini) was derided with accusations of arrogance, ignorance, bigotry, racism and cultural supremacism. She was advised that she had not listened sufficiently closely to authentic voices of women of colour.  Others declared her to be beneath contempt and an object example of white feminism’s irrelevance. She was accused of using a fraudulent call for unity as a way of advancing an argument from white victimhood. It was demanded that she immediately re-educate herself by reading various academic texts on the subject. Her “white woman’s tears” were repeatedly mocked, as were her protestations that her own family is mixed-race. And, of course, there were the predictable demands for retraction, penitence and prostration…

To accept that one’s unalterable characteristics can play any part in the validity of an opinion is to submit to the tyranny of identity politics and endorse an affront to reason. Arguments about rights and ethics must be advanced and defended on their merits, irrespective of who is making them. There is no other way.’

I applaud Jacobin for taking on this thorny subject, and for referring to feminism in doing so. Not only do feminists find it difficult to have aspects of their dogma questioned, they find it particularly hard to stomach coming from a man. But I have a couple of points to make that disagree with his argument.

1) All feminism suggests men are ‘innately’ powerful and women not.  I agree with Jacobin  that actions should not be protected from criticism simply due to the identity of those taking them. But I am wary of Wilde-Blavatsky’s  allusions to patriarchal culture and behaviour in her criticisms of violence against women in ‘the Global South’. Isn’t the term ‘patriarchy’ a way of playing ‘identity politics’ too? Don’t men get dismissed by feminism in general for having views on gender because of their ‘unalterable characteristics’?

2) All feminism reinforces the gender binary There have always been tensions within feminism and different schools of thought within the ‘movement’. However as I have said in my ‘controversial’ piece Against Feminisms, all feminists rely on the binary of man v woman with ‘man’ being found powerful, oppressive and so not worth listening to. And so

‘ feminist theorists such as bell hooks and Julia Serano and Beverly Skeggs, even when they are referring to other divisions such as ethnicity, class and transgender identities, are still relying on the reification of the man v woman binary to support all their arguments about gender.’

3) Feminism is more ‘united’ than it seems I will write more on this another time, but my view is a lot of the ‘conflicts’ in feminism are not exactly fabricated, but they’re superficial.  Feminism does have common characteristics.  I find this ‘flowchart’ that was doing the rounds online recently, laughable. But it does indicate a basic worldview that I would suggest all feminists share to a large degree. It also illustrates clearly how not being a feminist is unacceptable and derided by feminists of all stripes (click image to enlarge):

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I don’t want a young woman writer to be censored for having the ‘wrong’ outlook. But I think young men are ‘censored’ from expressing their views on gender before they even begin. Gender studies and media output on gender are dominated by versions of Wilde-Blavatsky. I don’t privilege (‘white people’s’) racism over gender but I don’t think gender inequalities function how any feminist presents them. If that makes me persona non grata at some dinner parties who cares? I can have my own party (and the booze is always great)!

 

‘some girls are bright as the morning, and some girls are blessed with a dark turn of mind’ – Gillian Welch

Before I steal myself to face the cold and the crowds, and do my Christmas food shopping, I thought I’d pause and wish you all, my long-suffering readers and friends, a very merry Christmas.

I quite like the festive period in the UK, tat, tack, manic consumerism, cholesterol overdoses and all. I enjoy planning a meal, thinking about what presents to give, drinking alcohol as if it’s my vocation. It is a fine balance though, between genuine indulgence and – yes – joy, and forced, painful jollity. I have nearly been pushed over the edge into bah humbug mode once or twice already this year, by ridiculous  Christmas jumpers taking over London, by nearly fainting in a particularly claustrophobic shopping centre (Yes, Birmingham Bull Ring, I’m looking at you), and by the sorry sight of my bank balance, buckling under the strain.

However, I’ve rallied myself, put the tree up, wrapped gifts, played Just Like Christmas by Low to death, started drinking for real, this time. I’m as ready as I’ll ever be.

One thing I’ve learned over the years about myself, that Christmas puts into sharp relief, is that it’s ok not to be the jolliest, happiest, most fun person in the room. I have found I’m more able to enjoy life, even at its most tinselly, when I accept my limitations, including my slightly dour side, that I share with most of my dear family. As I have said in a recent post, I’m even getting more realistic about friendships and romantic relationships, and it’s making me – shock horror! – happier.

And even Christmas culture offers some beautifully bitter-sweet gems for us to enjoy. It’s not all jingle bells, Michael Macintyre and cheap sherry. Pondering very briefly (I really must face that shopping), I am reminded of brilliant, sad-but-happy films such as Miracle on 34th Street and It’s A Wonderful Life that go very well with a whisky or two late on boxing day.

As a young woman I tended to veer towards the all or nothing, Morrissey-loving miserabilist stance in relation to Christmas and possibly life in general. These days I think I’m able to embrace the good stuff, the giggles and the twinkling lights, whilst also acknowledging some poignancy, in the carols, in the faces I pass hurriedly in Asda, in my own ‘dark turn of mind’.

So Happy Christmas everyone, just be yourselves. QRG Loves You. Mine’s a G and T!

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Thanks to Amanda Kooser at c-net (and to my sister for sending me the link), for alerting me to this fantastic tumblr. ‘Des Hommes et Des Chatons’ does what it says on the tin and juxtaposes photos of hot men with pictures of cats/kittens in very similar poses. I don’t think the concept warrants much analysis, it’s just cute, funny, and clever. Unlike a recent artist’s project, ‘Men Ups’, which seemed to be saying men trying to look ‘sexy’ are laughable, this tumblr celebrates (metro) sexy men in a humourous way. I give it the paws up. What do you think?

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feminists-angry-at-blogger

Ally Fogg is not a feminist, allegedly. But maybe he is worse than that. His apparent attempts to be ‘reasonable’ and ‘balanced’ and separate from the battling factions in the gender wars are increasingly unconvincing. I can see the benefits, to Ally, and to feminism, of his fence-sitting stance. He avoids the personal cost of being a ‘male feminist’ and never pleasing the sisterhood enough (see Hugo Schwyzer). And the feminists get an – um- ‘ally’ who speaks feminism, acts feminism, supports feminism, but lets the girls rule the roost. The Guardian** (as an outpost of feminism) also benefits, as they have a man writing about gender to wave around as an example of their ‘diversity’. But a man who says exactly what any feminist woman journalist would say.

Fogg’s latest offering to the feminist goddesses is particularly awful. He starts by anticipating and undermining any criticism, and implies it will come from unthinking, crass individuals. I guess he’ll file my response as a ‘hit blog’. He writes:

‘ This is an article about angry white men and their galloping sense of aggrieved entitlement. It is at least partly inspired by feminist theory and analysis of structural racial supremacy. Before I’ve finished my third sentence, I’ve probably already contributed to a minor epidemic of hypertension among a certain section of Comment is free readers. I can anticipate the comments, the hit-blogs and the hate-mail already: by even mentioning white men, I am the real racist. I am the real sexist. Why doesn’t the Guardian take a pop at the angry brown men over here or the angry black women over there instead?’

Ostensibly, Ally is reviewing a book by someone who does own his identity as a ‘male feminist’ – Michael Kimmel. I am not a fan but what I think is troubling is how Fogg hides behind Kimmel’s brand of misandry. Fogg doesn’t say he supports everything Kimmel says but quotes him uncritically. So Kimmel’s comment that

‘the penis should carry a sticker saying: “Warning: operating this instrument can be dangerous to yours and others’ health.”‘

is given ‘airtime’, not challenged, and is a juicy bone thrown to Graun feminist editors and readers.

The article gets a little confusing as it progresses. Fogg mentions Kimmel’s criticism of ‘angry white men’ and puts the examples of ‘the men’s rights activists of cyberspace’ and ‘the high school spree shooters of parental nightmares’ next to each other in the same sentence. He then says ‘the thesis can only really be made to work by means of tortuous logic’ , but adds ‘nonetheless there is more than a jingling ring of truth to his argument’ and goes on to agree with Kimmel enthusiastically. Fogg supports Kimmel’s notion that white men are responding badly to social change and growing gender equality, due to their sense of ‘entitlement’ and an inability to move with the times.

This is a clever ploy in a way. If men’s rights activists, for example respond angrily to Fogg’s article, he can say ‘I told you so’ and cite their sense of ‘entitlement’ again. Fogg’s article also ignores the ‘angry white women’ of feminism, who  don’t like it up ‘em. He fails to mention how feminism has always celebrated ‘female’ anger. Sometimes that anger gets violent:

https://twitter.com/AxeCo2Tax/status/399489435416674304/photo/1

I don’t think I am angry with Fogg. I have got to the point of being jaded and a bit depressed by his collusion with a politics that belittles and demonises men, their problems and their opinions. Ally is a ‘white man’ too. I don’t like the implication that he is somehow ‘better’ than the men he derides, more ‘enlightened’, ‘nicer’.

It’s business at usual at the Graun. But it’s a rather nasty business. And any challenges to this type of misandry are in my view, more than needed.

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* ‘going native’ observation by my twitter pal Ben

** I’m putting this at QRG Blog rather than Graunwatch which is on a brief hiatus.

metroboy

This week in America (where else?) a 13 year old boy has been suspended from school for wearing a handbag.

The boy, Skyler Davis said: ‘It expresses myself. Everyone else can wear it, so I can wear it as well’

Well quite. It astounds me sometimes that even in the uber-metro 21st century, whilst girls can wear anything from doc martens to tutus, boys are treated as gender non-conforming and therefore suspect, if they go ‘too far’ from a so-called ‘masculine’ norm.

The bag, from designer Vera Bradley, is quite ‘tasteful’ and, going over the shoulder, practical.  It’s difficult to see how it could be seen to violate school rules.

Metro-anxiety is not limited to the States though. In the summer, footballer Gareth Bale made the headlines in the middle of transfer season, not for signing for Arsenal or Man U, but for daring to wear pink!

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But metrosexuality is not for turning. Any disapproval or attempts to ‘ban’ young men’s flamboyant self love will ultimately get washed away in the tide. Boys can be beautiful too. The gender police are fighting a losing battle.

Do You Trust Me?

Posted: November 6, 2013 in Identity, internet, Writing
Tags: ,

 

above clip from Hal Hartley’s film, Trust (1990)

Trust is a funny thing. Every morning as we are forced from sleep into consciousness, we trust that the world is not too different from how we left it the night before. We trust that we’re not going to fall downstairs before even our first cup of coffee, that there is milk in the fridge, that the electrics haven’t blown. Even in a simple morning routine we put our trust in strangers – the postman, gas companies, engineers, the people who made the kettle and the toaster, the rubbish collectors, farmers, supermarket staff, cows. Human life relies on trust.

But sometimes trust between people breaks down. It’s difficult to pinpoint the exact moment it happens, the precise cause of the splitting of the seams. But the effects are clear enough. Someone says something and you pause, sceptical about their words and the motives behind them. Your lover mumbles in their sleep and you wonder if they’re dreaming of someone else. The sunny weather that started the day looks like it could let you down any minute and turn to rain. Buying a paper in the newsagents you check your change twice, expecting the worst. That person who smiled at you on the tube must not have meant it.

Maybe your heart has been broken more than once. Maybe someone who posed as a friend turned on you, fast. Perhaps your parents didn’t protect you well enough when you were a child. You might have good reason not to trust.

But living without trust must be scary. Monsters loom behind every corner. Those people and organisations you once relied on now look like thieves and fraudsters. A hand held out to you could just as easily slap you in the face.

Some might find me naive, but despite of all the evidence mounting up to justify wariness, I still think it’s worth it, to trust. I still believe someone, somewhere, will catch me when I fall.

 

…whoever you are