Maybe the ‘older feminists’ don’t know how to click links,
but they sure knew how to “click” brains.

Much bloggy hand-wringing has taken place, focused mainly on calling out Jezebels Slut Machine (Tracie Egan) and Moe for being drunk and making anti-feminist statements in public, while representing one of the internet’s most popular feminist blogs. Some, but not enough, angry verbiage has been directed at Lizz Winstead for her sober-ish attempts to pin the responsibility for rape on women who fuck a lot. I watched the whole interview and can safely say that feminism was not well represented.

People have been calling Moe and Tracie unprofessional, embarrassing, shameful, narcissistic, privileged, drunk, on and on. Its true. Jezebel’s editor apologized for their shitty representation of the site.

Amanda Marcotte, on the other end, offers an apologia that sees “dark”–but essentially feminist– humor in Moe and Tracie’s dismissal of rape, safe sex and women’s oppression.

Personally, I saw nothing funny in the sloshy train wreck of an interview. But there was one thing that I think can be seen as actually feminist; one which points to why internet feminism needs less Vice-magazine- bravado-with-ovaries and more old-fashioned consciousness raising.

See, I recognized one of those drunk “girls” (women?) onstage; the one who is inappropriately working through her rape out loud to friends and strangers, the one who’s been “wasting time” for 10 years, drinking and telling herself and everyone else it was no big deal. I’ve been that girl. Sometimes, I’m still her.

Listening to Moe remember that she said “no” eleven times, and remember that her rapist said he only did it to her because she was a “slut,” recast the earlier “funny” part of the conversation–the part where Lizz asked Moe and Tracie what made a woman a slut. It turned my stomach. I wanted to give Moe a hug and tell her that it wasn’t her fault.

Instead, she got Tracie calling her less-than-smart by implication and Winstead blaming her for not reporting her future-doctor rapist.

But miraculously, Moe got something, somewhere else, and a little bit of feminist consciousness slipped in. After the interview I went back and read this post by Moe, about “grey rape.” In it, she puts on the “no big deal” pose, doesn’t call her rapist a rapist, and doesn’t call her rape a rape. Her commenters and other bloggers point out where she might be wrong.

That on-line feminist intervention seems to have helped. Onstage, Moe called it rape. She got mad. She even names her rapist out loud, but his name is lost in the cross-talk. That’s a big moment. Its a terrifying moment. I’m sorry its a moment that Moe had to share with Tracie and Lizz.

But it is, most importantly, a feminist moment.

Its the beginning of letting go of all the self-hating beliefs that Moe unfortunately expressed in the rest of the interview and is now getting attacked for. Beliefs like “I’m a slut (and thats why I got raped),” beliefs like “I hate the boys club, but I’m not really oppressed,” beliefs like “I didn’t report my rape because I had better things to do–get drunk.”

I didn’t report either. And in Moe’s posts I see myself, and I remember what I used to think. I see myself in her hope that Dr. Douchey Dude “saves” people–as if that would make it “ok” or worth it somehow. I see myself in her search for control; in the way she looks at her decisions in the search for the cause of her rape, in the way that she accepts full responsibility for her decision not to report and thus for any subsequent rapes committed by her rapist.

But I wanted to ask her–and Lizz–“what would have happened if you’d reported it?” Because the truth is, Moe knew then and knows now that what would probably have happened. She probably would have been publicly shamed for being a drunk slut (which is ironically happening to her RIGHT NOW, anyway) and possibly been forced to leave her school. She would have been called crazy or vindictive or a pathetic woman scorned by a “notorious player”. Likely, nothing would have happened to the good doctor.

Realizing that we make choices in limited circumstances–that we are oppressed as women–is difficult. It feels bad to recognize the limits to our individual capacities to control our own lives and bodies. I can see why, for a decade, Moe didn’t want to do that. I know how that feels.

But its the first step to developing a truly feminist outlook, to letting go of the dark “humor,” of the self-blame, and of the internalized misogyny we saw so starkly on display at Thinking and Drinking. Its the first step toward developing the collective strategies that can give us the power we need to stop rape, and all the other forms of violence and discrimination women face. Even if it was ugly, I’m glad it finally happened for one young woman with a powerful public platform.

Congratulations, Moe. You have a powerful weapon in your hands; use it wisely!

*Updated to add*–good work Ann of Feministing, for kicking it old school with your talent for CR-type intervention. You rock.

Advertisements

What was that about mushroom clouds, again?

Did you know that both John McCain and Barak Obama support the expanded use of nuclear power? Is there an idea more deranged? I think not.

Hope in Days of Silence

April 30, 2008

On this day in 1939, the New York’s World Fair opened with the theme “The World of Tomorrow.” The fair was attended by tens of millions, and was seen as a beacon of hope for internationalism, peace, prosperity and progress.

On this day in history, six years later, Adolf Hitler shot himself in the head in a Berlin bunker, pushing one of the most violent, nastily nationalist periods of history towards closure.

Which might seem like a depressing start to our morning in blog land, yes. But to me its not; its a reminder that history and social life can change very fast and that “the world of tomorrow “can be a very different one than the world of today, in ways that seem totally improbable and unlikely.

Today, I’m specifically holding out hope that our world of tomorrow will be one in which Black American men have no reason to fear random death-by-firing-squad at the hands of “peace” officers, and for a world in which eighth-graders have no reason to fear violent asassinations delivered by their homophobic classmates.

I find it encouraging that I am not the only one who hopes for these things. It appears that 5,000 schools had participation in this years Day of Silence aimed at drawing attention to the harassment and abuse of LGBTQQ students and in honor of Lawrence King.

And while the rally I recently attended in protest of the legal whitewash of Sean Bell’s murder (incidentally, not at all far from the site of the 1939 fair), was disappointingly small, I find it encouraging that this injustice isn’t going unnoticed–not in New York City classrooms, not in discussions at work, not in activist circles and, despite what NPR thinks, not in communities affected by police brutality.

Two reactions to the trial made me hopeful, each for different reasons:

1) Cynthia McKinney’s statement on the verdict does a great job putting Sean Bell’s murder in context, but also linked it to a call for all of us to imagine something different, and better.

2) I heard an announcement from the Queer Justice League of New York City on the radio yesterday, making connections between police harassment of queer people and police violence in communities of color. I looked up their website, and while I really know nothing about this organization, except that they have an awesome name, that also gave me hope.

————————————

Really, its mostly the name that gives me hope. Like this postcard of the 1939 Fair’s Lagoon of Nations, the fantastical super-hero ring of “Queer Justice League” reminds me of the sometimes secret, sometimes shame-faced connections between a hopeful left-wing politics and the realm of utopia, imagination, and fantasy.

Because, of course, behind all my emphasis on hope this morning lies the stark reality that the present moment gives us little to hang our hope hats on. The movements for Black Liberation, Queer Liberation, Women’s Liberations and Workers’ Liberation are at low tide, to put it mildly. The US economy is in a world of shit, and empty rhetorical cover for a right-wing neoliberal agenda is what passes for a politics of “change” around here these days.

That’s why hope requires a different, more imaginative, engagement with the fourth dimension. I’ve previously alluded to the significance of reflection on the past and past hopes. But maintaining–building–hope, much less any communities or movements rooted in it, requires imagining, often detailed imagining of not only the past and the present, but the future as well.

This is what left-wing activists, queer communities and sci-fi geeks sometimes share–imagining a wholly different kind of economy, and/or new and liberating configurations of ‘family’, and sometimes all of the above on a yet-undiscovered planet.

Doing that can make you unpopular, yes. Perhaps it is slightly insane. And uncool. But, I am compelled to argue, its nowhere near as insane and uncool as accepting a total lack of alternatives.