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.

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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.

Fair and Balanced!

Its no secret, or at least should be no surprise, that I do not trust the New York Times. But sometimes they agree with me.

In accordance with the NYT’s aggressive pro-gay-marriage agenda (picture the announcements revenue when we get same-sex nuptuals in New York State!), The Paper of Record has an interesting article arguing that homo relationships are “healthier” on average than straight ones. And by “healthier,” they mean more egalitarian.

Huh.

Thanks for pointing this out!

What’s next, people? Marrying dogs?

As the boys say, “unless you’ve been living under a rock” you know that the gay marriage ban in California was overturned last week. Here in my home state, marriage has snuck in under what CNN called a “loophole,” a hole looped by my all-time favorite, Governor Patterson, that orders state functionaries to honor MA and CA marriages here in NY, regardless of our own locally segregationist marriage policies.

Perhaps it is too soon to say, but it looks like the days of orientation-segregated marriage are numbered.

To tell you the truth, it makes me a little nervous. I don’t like marriage, and to be honest, its not entirely transparent why. Back when I was straight, I limited my engagement with this institution to the city’s back-of-the-bus vehicle for gay partnership, because, really, what kind of person buys into segregated institutions, on purpose, from a position of privilege? Plus, I didn’t–and don’t–think rights like health care, pensions, living wages, education, free movement across borders, living wages, and parental rights (etc) should be allocated on the basis of people’s love lives.

Well, that and the consumer-fest of wedding showers and the specter of adult women playing candy-penis-based games at bachelorette parties make my skin crawl. I suspect I won’t like it any better when the tradition is “transformed” into “pin the boobies on the (other) bride”, and vulva cookies instead of penis Popsicles. I love looking at naked people, but truly hate going to strip clubs. Particularly with (my) blood relatives. Gay strip clubs seems likely to only make that kind of scene more awkward.

I don’t like going to church. I hate posing for pictures, and I despise matching dresses, except in the context of vintage Motown. And, any open bar that I have to pay for seems to entirely defeat the purpose.

It appears that marriage, or at least weddings, just may not be for me.

I could just live an let live, and leave it at that. But, Mattilda has been arguing high and low that the evolution of gay marriage as the number-one demand of the movement was a strategic mistake and an example of the worst kind of right-wing, assimilationist politics. This argument strikes me as essentially correct; universal health care would have been a better demand to focus on in the early nineties. If the queer lib movement had done that, the 2008 elections might be somewhat different, and have more actual political content.

Mattilda makes a good case, but not one that tells us much about gay marriage, the issue at hand; things didn’t go her way a decade and a half ago, so here we are.

Where is that again?

A lot of people are worried that gay marriage will fatally maim “gay culture,” further stigmatizing things like hook-ups, sex work and public sex while undermining the political economy of kinky subcultures and all-night dance clubs. If that happens, it will make me sad, but not in an intensely personal sense; I’d feel the kind of dread one might experience as their favorite island paradise is transformed into a hell of matching condos, but not the kind of identity crisis inspired by losing ones physical or spiritual home.

That’s because my preferred mode of sex and romance looks, on the surface, a lot like traditional, monogamous, boring-old marriage. I can take or leave public sex, promiscuity and kink, but I really like partnership, and the intensity and interdependence of two. I like to be someone’s special someone. I like being proud of my partner, becoming part of a family, commitment, cooking dinner and spooning. I realize these good-for-me things are not necessarily tied to monogamy or pair-bonding, much less to marriage. I’m just pointing out the resemblance to popular, romantic view

Which makes it seem like I’m nitpicking on this marriage issue. As my mother constantly asks me, while I mercilessly dissect every latest piece of potentially hopeful news, “Why can’t [I] just be happy?”

Because, thats why. I think underneath my sense of ambivalence, lies a serious flaw in the “new,” supposedly gender-neutral marriage. Namely, the new institution will still be segregated. Inherently so. Expanding marriage is expanding social inequality. I hate that.

Honestly, I wouldn’t really miss house music, if it didn’t make it into the brave new world. And if we think about “gay culture” in those terms, the the ill-effects of gay marriage seem to mostly affect the boys; the political economy of public dyke culture has long been comparatively tenuous at best.

But, if we look deeper, we can see that gay marriage may, in fact, undermine core feminist principles, reinforcing ideas of domesticity and adulthood that feminists have been battling since domesticity was invented. This expansion of marriage will segregate the gay world in a way that the straight world has long been segregated, dividing us into ‘single’ and ‘married.’ It will expand the reach of a social logic into a sphere once carved out to oppose it, further legitimizing a series of social assumptions that make people’s lives worse, and whch stigmatize the majority of us that don’t meet the marriage–and parenthood– norm. For example:

“Single people would rather be married/are social failures“; Gays “bachelors” and single women have long been stigmatized as lonely, mentally disturbed, socially unsuitable and sexually dangerous. We are cat ladies and pathetic men with tiny dogs. Sex In the City may signal a decade-long extension for women on the marriage imperative, but it’s by no means an amnesty. Everybody wound up hitched, in the end, right?

It’s okay. Don’t tell me how the movie turns out. I don’t want to know. I’m just afraid that adding the choice of gay marriage to the pre fixe menu of adulthood options will only make this worse.

“Single people would rather be married to one person:” The fight for gay marriage makes it hard to talk about families based on mutually supportive romantic relationships between more than two people. When even Dan Savage can’t come out and say that he has your back, you know you are being thrown under the bus of socio-sexual normativity.

“Single people are social children”: Surely I’m not the only one who has faced demotion to the “kids table” upon finding myself single or arriving at family events partner-free? Only to have someone ask when I’ll be “settling down?” More marriage will make us even weirder at Thanksgiving, glaring enviously as our married lesbian cousins are offered more wine, while the singles smile and convince small children to stop throwing soft food.

“Reproduction and parenthood truly gives life meaning–especially for women”: Opponents of gay marriage have been making the rounds arguing idiotically that gay marriage is wrong because children deserve two parents. Personally, I think children deserve at least four parents, but that is another post.

My point here is that these right-wing asswipes assume that the purpose of marriage is to create infrastructure for childbearing and parenthood. One walk around Park Slope and I quickly begin to worry that gay marriage aficionados disagree only in the details.

I think children can be great, but I hate to reinforce the idea that having children is the highest purpose that women–or other adults–have in life. Writing books, doing fantastic plumbing, making art, teaching, being a great friend, aunt or conversationalist also strike me as worthy goals.

Gay parenting, at least in part, also depends particularly heavily on a social structure that systematically separates children in oppressed nations (domestically and internationally) from their families. My thoughts on adoption are much longer than we have time for here, and in no way amount to a blanket condemnation, but it is worth worrying about the degree to which increased heteronormativity among the gay upper-crust can create “demand” in a market for human babies. To the extent that this happens, its a great example of how the heteronormative “success” of some is dependent on the normative failure of others, particularly poor women.

“Friends are nice, but not very important”: We all have priorities. But state-and-culture sanctioned marriage vastly elevates a single relationship above all other relationships we have in life. Fidelity and honesty are the least common denominator for human decency in the context of marriage, but fucking over ones friends is much less stigmatized in society at large that cheating on a spouse. When you “break up” with a friend, few will ask “what happened!?!” or offer condolences. Its my opinion that we’d all be happier with rich social lives filled with significant relationships. Straight culture doesn’t have much time for that perspective; will the gays go the same sad way after marriage?

“Extended family is nice, but not very important”; Marriage has, at various times and places, operated as a kind of treaty between extended families and clans, but in our world reflects the formation of an autonomous, nuclear unit. Stigma against, for example, single mothers, discounts the value of supportive extended family networks and is usually based in the belief that there is one, and only one, right way to go–two parents and one or two kids.

For queer people, “family” can mean a non-biologically based version of this extended family model. As the gay version of the nuclear family becomes more socially valued and–likely–more popular, can both models co-exist?

If not, I know which side I’m on.

“Working class and poor people, and Black people are not responsible or successful”; Related to the assumptions above, its already the case that the straight ideal of marriage and the nuclear family is heavily class-biased and much more difficult to attain and maintain under economic duress; for example, in situations where where workers are forced to migrate long distances away from their families, in circumstances where large percentages of a community are in prison, or where unemployment is high. These days, all over the world, we are talking about a lot of people.

Failure to meet these family/marriage norms used to be something that queer people shared with this majority, helping, I think, to contribute to a left queer and liberal gay political spectrum; what will happen (has been happening?) to queer politics as the elite minority of gay people get hitched, fit in, and lose any vestigial sense of connection to other oppressed people?

Sorry. That was rhetorical question.

In any case, you can play this game at home. There are many more oppressive and divisive assumptions that marriage–even gay marriage–help to reinforce. Feel free to contribute–I live for participatory rants. In the mean time, I’ll wrap this over-long post up by suggesting that this kind of (il)logic has always been oppressively applied to gays in the straight world, and to some extent even within the queer sphere. But gay marriage further entrenches this normative logic in a realm where it was once seriously contested. Part of me is glad that it looks like people who want to get married will now be able to, but, as a woman who, in all likelihood will never be a mother, and a human who hopes for liberation not just for the elite, these developments also make me feel a little like dressing up in a sequined mini and heading out for fabulous karaoke rendition of Nowhere to Run.

Holla Back That Ass Up!

April 29, 2008

Handy illustration of hot feminist activism? Or just more sex-sells advertising? I can never tell…

Some of you may be aware of the much-lauded feminist self-defense project, Holla Back. The project started with Holla Back NYC, and has spread to an uncountable number of world-wide locations.

Personally, I’ve always had some concerns.

First, some of these cretinous Dudes are probably proud to have their grinning mugs and exposed penises posted on the internet.

Second, many of the comments on Holla Back trade in heavy doses of classism to put pervvy assholes in their place–including on post in which the poster called the harassers’ “nice,” “polite” boss. This is unsurprising, but strikes me as a strategy likely to reproduce, rather than eradicate, a cycle of shame, resentment, misogyny and harassment.

But my main concern is that there is nothing particularly feminist about the technology of the camera phone-plus-internet combo, or strategic about this kind of individual resistance to street harassment. In the context of a sexist, porn-sick society I fear that defending our right to take pictures of whomever we want in public and do whatever we want with them on the internet will be more than likely to bite us in the ass, than solve the problem.

The Camera phone expose is a neutral technology on a power-infused field; who’s going to be more humiliated to find their picture posted on the internet against their will (given that a main function of the internet is collection and delivery of pornographic images)–me or some asshole street harasser?

I don’t know quite yet, because I haven’t located my picture on the internet as of this morning. But that doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen. My feeling is that 80’s night should be a sacred space of cheese where I’m allowed to dance in peace without some shitbag taking pictures of myself and my companions to giggle (or worse) over with his friends, but, alas, it isn’t.

Which leads me to my final point. Regardless of what recent 20/20 “journalism” might suggest to the average viewer, straight men getting turned on by live girl-on-girl action and then hitting on said girls or taking their picture or laughing and pointing or following them home really doesn’t count as social “approval” of gay public displays of affection.

Getting Played

April 17, 2008

These WWI soldiers were sent “home” to scenic, segregated Houston.
Their unwillingness to acquiesce to Jim Crow street cars and policing erupted into the “Camp Logan Mutiny” of 1917.

Yesterday, on the A train, I was squashed next to a man who was absorbed in a book entitled “Blacks in America’s Wars.” While I was trying to read the name of the book’s author, i noticed that the man was turning pages right to left, rather than left to right, and that when he paused, his eyes darted around the page, resting on a word here an there.

There were only two possible explanations for this that I could think of: 1) He cant read, but he’s trying anyway. Or trying to look like he is reading for some reason.

or 2) He’s read this book so many times that he’s flipping through the book and reminding himself of well-loved sections or ideas contained therein.

In either case, it seemed high time for me to bother strangers, a favorite activity of mine. Ironic, I know.

Artb213: “That looks like an interesting book.”

Man on the train: He holds up cover, so I can see it, “Its about wars.”

A: “Is it any good? I’ve read a different book on the same topic and I learned a lot of things I didn’t know.”

M: “I’m a soldier, so I already knew a lot of it, but yeah, its an interesting topic. Its a played topic. This shit is getting played.”

A: “Yeah, you’re right. It can seem like its the same thing over and over again. One thing I learned in the other book that I didn’t know was that Black vets from WWII came home pissed off and started the Civil Rights movement. I hope that part happens over again.”

M: (Looks at me like I’m a little crazy) “Well, people are pissed off. I’m pissed off…I’m getting out here. Have a good day!”

A: Have a good day!

Ode to Good Teachers

April 15, 2008

More good ideas people have already thunk

There are few people I admire more in the world than teachers with the unique capacity to teach to their individual students. Today, I remembered my 10th grade English teacher, a fantastic woman who, personally, probably had little time for queer socialists, but intuited that Oscar Wilde would be good for me. She couldn’t have been more right.

The man has already had every good idea I’ve ever briefly considered, 120 years ago, and with more style. Check it out:

Socialism, Communism, or whatever one chooses to call it, by converting private property into public wealth, and substituting co-operation for competition, will restore society to its proper condition of a thoroughly healthy organism, and insure the material wellbeing of each member of the community. It will, in fact, give Life its proper basis and its proper environment. But for the full development of Life to its highest mode of perfection, something more is needed. What is needed is Individualism. If the Socialism is Authoritarian; if there are Governments armed with economic power as they are now with political power; if, in a word, we are to have Industrial Tyrannies, then the last state of man will be worse than the first. At present, in consequence of the existence of private property, a great many people are enabled to develop a certain very limited amount of individualism. They are either under no necessity to work for their living, or are enabled to choose the sphere of activity that is really congenial to them and gives them pleasure. These are the poets, the philosophers, the men of science, the men of culture – in a word, the real men, the men who have realised themselves, and in whom all Humanity gains a partial realisation. Upon the other hand, there are a great many people who, having no private property of their own, and being always on the brink of sheer starvation, are compelled to do the work of beasts of burden, to do work that is quite uncongenial to them, and to which they are forced by the peremptory, unreasonable, degrading Tyranny of want. These are the poor, and amongst them there is no grace of manner, or charm of speech, or civilisation, or culture, or refinement in pleasures, or joy of life. From their collective force Humanity gains much in material prosperity. But it is only the material result that it gains, and the man who is poor is in himself absolutely of no importance. He is merely the infinitesimal atom of a force that, so far from regarding him, crushes him: indeed, prefers him crushed, as in that case he is far more obedient.

Also:

Yes; there are suggestive things in Individualism. Socialism annihilates family life, for instance. With the abolition of private property, marriage in its present form must disappear. This is part of the programme. Individualism accepts this and makes it fine. It converts the abolition of legal restraint into a form of freedom that will help the full development of personality, and make the love of man and woman more wonderful, more beautiful, and more ennobling. Jesus knew this. He rejected the claims of family life, although they existed in His day and community in a very marked form. “Who is my mother? Who are my brothers ?” He said, when He was told that they wished to speak to Him. When one of His followers asked leave to go and bury his father, “Let the dead bury the dead,” was His terrible answer. He would allow no claim whatsoever to be made on personality.

Really, read the whole thing.

Pop Quiz!

March 24, 2008

homer_simpson.jpg
Who’s The Husband?
If I was smarter, I would have anticipated this little kink of life as part of a girl/girl couple, but I didn’t. People, people who knew me as a straight girl, people who’ve known me a long time, people whom I’ve just met, other queer people–all kinds of people–have lately asked me: “Who’s the husband/boyfriend/butch?”

The best answer I’ve come up with so far is : “Are you asking me about who does what in bed?” ‘Cause, you know, you are. Ewww.

But just in case you, yourself, have been wondering the same; here’s a clue. If you have to ask the question, it might be because the answer is that there *isn’t* a boyfriend. Or because its none of your beeswax.

Nevertheless, being on the receiving end of this particular inquiry has been food for thought. I mean, to me, I haven’t changed. I’m still pretty much the same pushy broad I was when I busted out of the womb six weeks early. But when my nearest and dearest answer that question themselves (which they generally do, if I let them), the answer is always the same; Its me.

I’m the butch.

Except I’m not. I’m still the kind of girl I always was. Cute, short and with a taste for shoes, underwear and red wine. Plus a sizable personality. I like to think of it as ‘direct.’ And brainy. Maybe ‘challenging.’ On a bad day, crass, mean and with a mouth like an angry truck driver. (I, personally, love angry truck drivers, but thats another post.)

In any case, these mildly gender-contradictory traits, in the context of an apparently straight lifeplan produce no cognitive dissonance whatsoever in the audience; they are merely cute quirks that up until recently reinforced my essential femininity. Now, suddenly, without a Dude to back me up, the same qualities apparently reveal me as essentially mannish.

It seems to me as though there is an unstated equation; you can go this far and no further with your gender non-conformity without crossing some kind of line. Heels+lipstick+ boyfriend+ major ego and incredibly logical mind= femme but if you change one variable the whole picture is in question.

Alternatively, the only real concern of these friends and comrades with regard to my gender is that (possibly, as far as they can tell,) I might not be getting (properly) fucked, and that is the single definitional requirement of femme-ness and femininity. I’m not sure, because I’m not in your head.

But I’m curious. Which is it?

geraldineferraro.jpg

This was an interesting choice of button.
Its strange that I am just now noticing your questionable taste.

Geraldine, Geraldine, Geraldine! Must you? Really?

I think fondly back to a time when, as a very young hater-of-Republicans and larval feminist, I sat around my family table with my cousins banging on things with forks and shouting: “Ronald Regan, He’s No Good! Send Him Back TO HOL-LY-WOOD!” Over and over again. Until our parents began taking us out with rocks from their makeshift bunker behind the couch.

That was all for you, sister. We also used to shout “More Meat! More Meat!,” but I’m pretty sure that was about something else.

In any case, I’d like to focus today on your total ingratitude for that unflagging support. Instead of backing me up on my strangely optimistic assertion that feminism is a movement about ending all oppression and aimed at addressing the problems of all women and people suffering from the patriarchy–even the Black ones!–you have to go and pull a Gloria Steinem.

Frankly, I feel you’re making us look bad. And I don’t even really give a shit about Obama. Its just about you.

woman-wine.jpg

Drunk and carefree with a twist of psuedo-political posturing! Sexy.

Yesterday on the Leonard Lopate Show, there was much (maybe too much) discussion of Elliot Spitzer’s apparent downfall at the hands of a high-class call girl. I wish i had something intelligent to share with you; either a well-crafted analysis of this juicy, juicy scandal or a nuanced position on the age-old debates about sex work, porn, blowjobs, on and on.

But I don’t.

Instead, I want to share with you an ad for an escort service that Lopate read aloud on-air. The copy is hilarious. Hilarious in a way that may cause you both to laugh uproariously and to vomit a little in your own mouth. Like when you eat candy corn on a roller coaster.

Behold:

Daniella is natural beauty and refinement. The elegance of an educated culured woman coupled with gaiety and fun… with the light-hearted feminism of a fine Merlot and the sweet, floral finish of a splendid Riesling you’ll agree that moments with Daniella are the ultimate in unrestrained luxury.

Now. I like feminism, Merlot and a little gaity in a gal as much as the next dude. Perhaps more. Not to mention a floral finish. But.

Lopate thought this blurb sounded “like a personal ad.” I’d like to point out that personal ads are generally written in the first person perspective, rather than from the pimps-eye-view. Personal ads also frequently include the author’s wants in addition to hir selling points and special features. I, personally, have never written an ad awkwardly organized around comparing myself to inanimate edibles.

Just saying.