Wednesday, July 16, 2014

"Well, he's young"

This "explanation" is sometimes offered to me as a reasonable justification for why some young men are oblivious to their privilege, are acting aggressively, and/or are being rude to women.

Once, when I was guest blogging at a conservative site, I gently took issue with one "fresh from undergrad" young man's, ahem, problematic behavior, and an older man associated with the site privately emailed me to request that I give the young guy a break because he's just a young guy, visibly upset by the encounter, and so forth.  (Men acting problematically often have very delicate feelings, you see, even as they mock feminists for being over-sensitive. Hence, the dance we often have to play with the word "problematic.")

Another time, I was on a project with a young guy, new to working, who was hyper-defensive about even the minutest of critiques and suggestions to his work. He strutted into the workplace both assuming he had lots to teach everyone else, especially the women, and believed that much of the work in his job description was "beneath" him. He was the Big Picture Guy, or so he thought.

Every conversation with him was a battle in which his sole objective was to "win" everyone over to his viewpoint.  He had no capacity to understand that maybe, just maybe, he didn't automatically warrant an immediate CEO position. He didn't get why people didn't just do what he said, just because it was him saying the things.

"Well, he's young," some people would say.

But, the thing is, I know many young people, men and women alike, and not all of them are assholes.  Many of them are kind, aware, and humble. Many of them believe they have things to learn from other people - about work, about privilege, about other people's life experiences.

I do not deem "Well, he's young" to be a sufficient reason to explain away a young guy's assholery. When I hear it, I hear a phrase that enables young men to their entitlement to be fonts of unexamined privilege and illusory superiority.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Atlantic Writer: Women's Prison Show Should Be More About Men

[Content note: Discussions of violence, threats]

This story is probably old news in Internet Time, but did you all hear that, according to The Atlantic's Noah Berlatsky, a show that's based on a woman's memoir of being incarcerated in a women's prison is "irresponsible" for not including more male prisoners:
"Orange Is the New Black [OITNB] has been justly praised for its representation of groups who are often either marginalized or completely invisible in most mainstream media. The show has prominent, complex roles for black women, Latinas, lesbian and bisexual women, and perhaps the first major role for a trans woman played by a trans woman, the wonderful Laverne Cox. There remains, however, one important group that the show barely, and inadequately, represents. 
That group is men. 
This may seem like a silly complaint. "
May seem?

Look. Can't we have one show, one. fucking. show. in the entire world, that actually has a well-rounded ensemble cast of diverse women, in which male characters are not centered and dominant?  I mean, hell, Orange still has about a half dozen regular male characters who evoke varying levels of sympathy, which is more than we can say about how most male-centric shows and movies treat women.

I mean, I see so much wrong with Berlatsky's piece, it's hard to know where to start: Should Piper Kerman have written her memoir about a men's prison, just for the sake of talking about men more?  Like, a woman can't even tell her own story without a man barging in and telling her it's not enough about men?

Should we discuss Berlatsky's selective interpretation of the characters' adorable widdle criminal backgrounds or, ironically, his Deep Concern that the show is, in his opinion, condescending to women?

Should we talk about him taking issue with the male prisoner who's presented as a sexual predator, when in fact in real life, some male prisoners actually are sexual predators?

Or, how about his simplistic, bogus claim that the show presents female inmates as "innocent victims" and men as "super-predators" even though multiple female characters act in a predatory manner. Alex Vause, for instance, threatens to rape another female inmate and Piper almost beats another woman to death in Season 1.  I could easily rattle off more examples that would burst Berlatsky's subtext that claims the show is just one more gender propaganda piece about how men are violent and women aren't.

In fact, one might think that, in some ways, OITNB would be an anti-feminist/MRA's dream as it actually does depict female violence, an issue these men really want the world to know about. Although, they probably take big time issue with the fact that, in order to do so, the show has to also be about women. Oh, such a conundrum in the life of the anti-feminist/MRA!

Reading Berlatsky's article, well.... you know how someone can just rattle off their opinions in like 10 minutes (misandry! reverse sexism! feminists say all men are rapists!), but it takes much, much longer to do a decent job of deconstructing those opinions? Seriously rebutting all of his points would be like 3 hours of my life I would never get back.

So what I mostly want to say is: OITNB is about women, fucking deal with it.

Thankfully, most people in the comments rightly took issue with Berlatsky's piece, and did so quite well (see, for instance). He did not defend his points well, either, when he did reply to people's comments.

But, because Noah Berlatsky has his own column at The Atlantic, he got to dig down and defend himself further, introducing his readers to the concept of Mens' Rights in a separate article, with the aid of a male "scholar of gender studies" who he interviewed who claims to be especially critical and skeptical of the way many variants of feminism focus on, in his words, "females."

How nice for them.

Consider my post a meta-observation of some men's apparent discomfort with women writing narratives that de-center men from any and all conversations, TV shows, movies, books, articles, and courses of scholarship.

And also, given the extraordinary women writers and thinkers that I'm aware of who are capable of writing very well about gender, I find it contemptible that so many male dipshits continue to have paid writing gigs in major media outlets where they get to amplify their opinions about gender just for clicks and giggles.


Saturday, June 28, 2014

Blogging Note

I'm going to be quite busy for about the next week, so I've set up the blog so that comments will go directly to the moderation queue for the time being.

I'll change the comment settings back to normal in about a week when I have more time to blog and respond to comments.  I don't expect any shitstorms to happen here, but in the off chance that it did happen, I don't have time to take out of my day to deal with it.

Thanks for understanding!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Civility, Safety, and Harassment Links

Here's some stuff I've been reading lately pertaining to one of my fave topics of Internet harassment, civility, and threats:

1) Geek Feminism has a Code of Conduct.  I think it's a good idea for, especially, larger group blogs and sites to have explicit codes like this, although content may vary.  As I've written before, I've been a guest blogger in environments without explicit guidelines on comment moderation, conduct, and harassment, and my volunteer writing in those spaces is an experience I would not want to repeat.

2) Here's an interesting article about the strategies some feminist bloggers have used to resist trolls and harassers on Internet.  Particularly, I appreciated the framing of such strategies as "collective labor" to be apt, as yes, it takes actual work to make a site safe.  It doesn't just happen.

3) Over at Cyborgology, robinjames writes about being perceived online as male, due to her name, and how that might result in her receiving less harassment online than women with more "feminine"-(my scare quotes)-seeming names.

4) The other day, National Organization for [Heterosexual] Marriage (NOM) posted a braggy video on its blog purportedly showing how kind, loving, and civil opponents of marriage equality were while attending NOM's recent march in DC.  These interviews of march attendees show, according to NOM, how the Liberal Homosexualist Media unfairly portrays equality opponents as So Mean, when look right here at how nice these people are being at their "historic" (my scare quotes) march against equality:

Here's the first person interviewed, speaking in response to a "reporter's" question on why she attended the March: "I feel like it's my duty to do it. I don't want my children to ask 'Why did you not fight for me, Mom?'"

The second person interviewed explained, "God made us that way. He made a male and a female to come together as one."

That's about as a far as I got because, yeah no.  Not only are those "reasons" for opposing marriage equality nonsensical and irrational, they are also not civil.  Same-sex marriage will not hurt your bigoted non-existent future kid, lady. And, a person's neat-o religious beliefs about "males" and "females" should have no bearing on my equal rights.

But.... nice try.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

This Little Blog

At my blog, I occasionally get the drive-by anti-feminist commenter who's read like 1 post of mine ever and thinks he's suddenly a Fannie's Room expert.

A common theme among these commenters is their assumption about their place in the world relative to mine.  Namely, that they're speaking from a place of objective authority over what I write about and that they, being men, have the power to take me down a notch.

Two days ago, Guesticon stopped by to opine, out of nowhere:
"lol well done for proving exactly why we need MRA's because of sad little twisting sexisit attitudes like yours, that want females to be in a position of dominace over men, because somehow in your twisted immature mindset, us men being your property will make us equals."(emphasis added)
In this case, Guesticon not only distorts my writing, but tries to trivialize it.

Even as they appear to do no blogging of their own, anti-feminist men sometimes show up here to do this.  They cannot stand that women are allowed to blog.  They loathe that we, while being women, say things about gender that they disagree with.  Too lazy and entitled to do true, helpful advocacy work for men, they certainly don't want women to do such work or writing for women.

Ban me from you little blog, they say. Hold your little opinions, they bark. Talk to your little friends here, they mock.

Thus, even as Guesticon fantasizes about my fictitious fantasies about feeeeeeeeemales dominating men, he himself, and men like him, attempt to assert dominance over me, this blog, and my writing.

And yes, my blog is relatively little in the grand scheme of things.  It's a 1-woman endeavor that I do in my free time and continue to do so because I get enough feedback from people that say that enjoy it and find it helpful. Becoming the next Huffington Post has never been my ultimate goal.  Impressing anti-feminists is not my endgame.

I think most people who read this blog regularly already know that.

It's still good to call out the behavior of Guesticon for what it is, just because it's a theme that pops up here sometimes.

Threats, trivaliaizing our work, showing up to distort our writing: all in the anti-feminist toolbox of ways they try to get women on Internet to shut up.

ps - I'm a lesbian. Having men as my "property" is also not high on my list of life goals.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

How Assholes Made Me Better at Debate

A Pema Chodron book I read says that those who challenge us, who trigger our strong emotions like anger and fear, have a lot to teach us. Or some shit. I doubt I'm noble or enlightened enough to truly embody the gratitude we're probably supposed to feel about that.

Yet, I have learned things during the course of having Internet Discussions, from those who have been quite hostile. Not, like rape-threat-level hostility, but more micro-aggression-level (I guess?) hostility such as regularly being assumed intellectually inferior than men in conversations and debating my basic human dignity and equality with, say, anti-LGBT people.

I've compiled some tips that I try to follow in mixed-company conversations. I'm not saying I follow these tips 100% of the time, as conversations and contexts differ widely.  And, I'm not saying others should follow them. I just thought they might be helpful for others, when confronting assholes while navigating Internet.

1) Questions

I try to limit rhetorical or satirical questions. They invite the opponent to fill in an answer made at your expense.

For instance, in a recent conversation, one anti-feminist who had spent practically an entire day WhatAboutTheMenz-ing a feminist article sarcastically asked me, "Whatever shall I do with myself now that a feminist has disagreed with me?" 

I responded, "Probably go find another feminist conversation to derail."

In general, I try to limit other people's openings to make snappy retorts.

2)  Feeding the Trolls

I know some people take a "don't feed the trolls" philosophy to Internet.  For several reasons, I am not one of those people.  

Just a couple of these reasons are that engaging with trolls and assholes has helped me understand the patterns they engage in during conversation and better predict their responses to my commentary.

For instance, after spending (seriously) years debating same-sex marriage with anti-LGBT crowds, I became well-versed in the "gender complementary" argument against equality, which many purport to be the "civil, non-bigoted" reason for opposing equality.

I learned to ask, in various ways, "You say that men and women each bring their own unique skill sets to marriage, so can you please provide a list of all the things men are incapable of providing in a relationship, and vice versa for women?"  

This question makes gender complementarists very uncomfortable.  At one anti-gay blog, I was dismissed as a "troll" for asking it. But, for the record, that list, which I've yet to see, is I think very small.  And, I think many anti-gay folks know that, no matter what they bluster about on their blogs. Which leads me to:

3) Doubt

Sometimes, a conversation that might look or feel like a loss because it's escalated beyond all repair, isn't a total loss. Sometimes, arguing rationally with someone plants seeds of doubt in the person I'm arguing with.  It's rare, in my experience, for someone to admit within a debate that their mind has been somewhat changed or they are re-thinking things, but I think it does happen.  Probably more than we know.

4) Ignorant Supremacists

I try to pay attention to when an anti-feminist man is "speaking off the cuff" about something.  If we're talking about, say, anti-gay laws in Africa, I sometimes check out Wikipedia to see if it looks like he's basically lifted his talking points, without attribution, from Wikipedia, passing them off as his own "brilliance."

I also stop, take a step back and ask myself, do his generalizing comments about feminists suggest that his knowledge of feminism is limited to what anti-feminists say feminists are and a handful of out-of-context feminist quotes?  

I sometimes call him out on it and directly challenge him to articulate his knowledge of feminists and feminist works.  I ask him what works he's read and what feminist blogs he regularly reads that inform his opinions.  I see if he can even accurately articulate what major feminist thinkers think or thought.

Oftentimes, he'll bail, not answer, or make a vague statements about "feminists in general" suggesting he doesn't have a firm, informed grasp on the nuances and differences among feminisms.

5) Feeling and Thinking

I try to limit "I feel" statements.  Do I, for instance, "feel" that something was sexist? No. I often conclude that something was sexist, using logic and arguments. I think that something is sexist, or know that it's so. 

Anti-feminists love playing on the feminists-are-hypersensitive trope.  And, even if I've laid out a rational argument as to why something is sexist, men will often dismiss it by saying something like, "your feeeeeelings have no bearing on whether that's really sexist." 

6) Swearing

In direct conversation with, especially, anti-LGBT Christians, I try not to swear. Some of these people perceive swearing as akin to a severe human rights violation. Once, for instance, I wrote, "Jesus!" in frustration on an anti-LGBT blog, and had a string of my comments deleted while the moderator publicly suggested that I was being the Most Uncivil Harasser On Internet Ever.

I've seen it happen probably hundreds of times.  A person debates atheism, religion, homosexuality, feminism, whatever with a conservative Christian.  The debater makes the "mistake" of swearing, and the Christian responds with something like, "I'm sorry, I thought this was a civilized conversation. Peace out."  

I think some people are genuinely That Offended by swearing.  Yet, I also think some people use their offense at swearing as a pretext to dismiss the other person's argument and position.  Swearing, to some people, puts you in the position of the uncivil one, even if the other person is treating your human dignity as a fun debating point.

I generally am in favor of swearing, but in some conversations I recognize that it's a distraction, so I avoid it.

Feel free to share your approaches in the comments.

Friday, June 20, 2014

What An Anti-Feminist Looks Like

“She has a problem with the fact that I said that she had a serious health incident and that I thought that would be a bigger part of her personal calculation than most people anticipate. [...] She is antagonistic toward the press, and has a very thin skin. She will abide no criticism. It’s one of the least attractive things we see in Hillary Clinton,” [Karl Rove] continued.
This quote perfectly captures how sexist men treat women in the public arena.

First, note his use of the words "least" "attractive." Sure Rove might say he was "just" referring to a non-physical trait of Clinton's, but in both dictionary and common usage, "attractive" is generally used to suggest something along the lines of sexually or romantically pleasing, or appealing to the senses. Here, Rove notes that her alleged inability to receive criticism is the "least" attractive thing about her - that is, just one of many not attractive things about Clinton.

While reasonable people should agree that a person's appearance is irrelevant to their competence in politics, the sexist man holds himself out as objective arbiter of female attractiveness, while himself usually benefitting from the reality that male politicians have less of a history of their appearances being impediments to their careers. Rove himself being a good example of that.

Second, Hillary Clinton receives more vitriol, more hatred, more misogyny, more attacks - by virtue of being a liberal public female figure - than most women (and men) do.  I reckon she has developed a pretty thick skin, actually, contrary to Rove's mansplainy declaration otherwise and, especially as of late, often uses humor to re-direct and counter the misogyny.

When rape threats are the new "normal" for some feminist bloggers, many feminist women are not, actually, the hypersensitive emotional hysterics that sexist men portray us as. Such men know little to nothing about our lives and experiences.

Oftentimes, in fact, reality is the reverse of what sexist men say it is.

Studies show that every time a man claims that a woman has "very thin skin," there are at least 150 men on the Internet taking Very Serious Offense to a woman gently telling them that something they said was "problematic" (that oft-used word we sometimes use to trivialize -isms because it makes oh-so-sensitive privileged folks feel less threatened in conversations).

I mean, it strikes me as pretty thin-skinned that so many men cannot participate in conversations about gender with women without  falsely suggesting they're being clobbered, killed, and attacked by women who are merely disagreeing with them.  

They can abide no criticism. Especially not from women.