Friday, June 09, 2006

Mean Feminism 101

I was talking to my best friend, Platonic life partner, and smartest person in the universe a few minutes ago, Vicky Vengeance (this communication happened online, while she was "working" at her "job" [which is what she's been doing since she "graduated" from "college" in "December"]). I was asking her what she thought I should blog about for my non-introduction first post, otherwise known as the "second post." (God, I love quotation marks. And parentheses. And fragments, and starting "sentences" with conjunctions.) With her help, I've come up with a list of topics I will have to address really soon before I forget what I wanted to say, and these topics include:

Kate Millett, my all-time favorite famous feminist, and why she rocks more than YOUR all-time favorite famous feminist (or FFF);
The general ickiness of Gay Pride;
Why I'm a racist (and you are, too);
The crazy California trinity of Nancy Pelosi, Dianne Feinstein, and Barbara Boxer, and where they're going wrong;
Sexism in environmentalism;
How much I hate boycotting as an activist (non)action;
How much I hate Day of Silence as an activist (non)action;
Lesbian chauvinism, as introduced in Ariel Levy's Female Chauvinist Pigs;
Sexism in atheism;
Various specific criticisms of current anti-porn radical feminism (criticisms which I won't yet reveal -- let's make it a mystery!);

And tons more! So, stay tuned! If anyone is reading this, let me know which topic you'd like me to rant on next.
As Vicky said, "Oh, so many ways to be offensive, so little time." And I say, welcome to mean feminism.

Now on with the show.

Vicky herself has provided me with my first rant o' meanness. Vicky lives in that bastion of feminist thought called Salt Lake City. I live in another bastion of feminist thought, Los Angeles, so we live veritable misogyny-free lives. Her friend, who I'll call Claire (because I like the name), took a big fat dump on Vicky yesterday, calling her "self-centered." According to Claire, Vicky is "self-centered" because she makes all of her relationships focus on Vicky, and not on the penis -- er, man -- she is currently dating. Furthermore, Claire claims that this stems from the fact that Vicky is an only child so she doesn't, like, know how to focus on anyone other than herself.

Woe be to Vicky.

Now let's talk a bit about Claire. Actually, scratch that: let's talk a bit about Claire, and Claire's relationships. Claire is a young 20-something who has grown up, like Vicky, in that venerable Salt Lake City. Claire majored in women's studies and calls herself a feminist, proudly. Claire is fat, and is, like most of us fatties, not 100% comfortable with that. Claire likes to date penises -- men -- who are much older because Claire believes that older men = "more mature." (Y'see, men in their thirties who date women in their twenties are, clearly, "mature.") Claire meets these suave dudes at bars. These dudes like to have sex with her but don't take her out anywhere or introduce her to their friends because, um ... well, it may have something to do with the aforementioned fat.

Winners, clearly. But these are smart dudes, Claire retorts! They are grad students! They "know who Foucault is"!

Vicky has more patience than I do. When I have friends being so ridiculously used by assholes like that, I willingly risk fucking up a friendship to say things like, "THEY ARE TOTALLY USING YOU! THESE GUYS ARE ASSHOLES!" So I don't have a whole lot of friends.

What really amazes me isn't so much that Claire has found herself in such a typical female-gettin'-shat-on-by-misogynists position. It's interesting to me that, once again, I see things in terms of the nice feminist / mean feminist dichotomy. What Would A Nice Feminist Do? A nice feminist would not yell or otherwise freakout towards this woman. A nice feminist, when being berated by a woman who is obviously so low about her own life, would not throw that shit in the other woman's face. Vicky, being told she is "self-centered" by a woman who clearly never thinks about her own self, might want to hold back on offering that kind of judgment if she's to be a nice feminist. Vicky should definitely stand up for herself, of course! But she shouldn't flip things back on Claire and tell her things like, "The only reason you're so angry at me is because you're upset that you can't have the same kind of relationships with the egomaniac jerks that YOU date." A nice feminist knows that the best kind of truths are the ones that women uncover for themselves. A nice feminist knows that lecturing a woman like that tends to go nowhere.

But I'm not a nice feminist. Neither, really, for that matter, is Vicky. When someone comes at me, flying around with their shit, I point out their shit. Because really, why does Vicky have to take that kind of abuse? Why does Vicky have to get flogged by this woman just because this woman is clearly being used by some seriously shitty assholes? And is Vicky supposed to just go, "Yeah, these guys are assholes," without adding, "but you really need to stop seeking these kinds of assholes out. Date some guys your own age, and really, who gives a fuck if some dude has heard of Foucault? Shit, if all that guy talks about is Foucault anyway, that should be a warning sign, should it not?" I think that addition there is necessary. Yeah, it's judgmental. Yeah, it's unwanted. And yeah, it'll piss off Claire. But god knows she needs to hear it. And that is what mean feminists do: we tell the shit to women that the nice feminists won't tell because they don't want to further hurt women. Admittedly, we don't want to further hurt women, either. But we count ourselves among women, and damn, nothing hurts a feminist woman more than hearing another woman in pain and being told that a nice feminist can't really can't say anything about it.


Anonymous Vicky Vengeance said...

See, what bothers me is that a lot of times when I disagree with someone and tell it like it is, I find myself getting accused of being "disrespectful." Yet, in my mind the most respectful thing you can do as a feminist is be honest with other woman about what you think without having to shield them like a wussy paternalistic male might.

Similarly, I find that when I approach a situation with confidence, having a strong sense of who I am and what I think, I am suddenly accused of being self-centered or self-righteous. When's the last time you heard a regular old man voicing his regular old opinion scolded for being too confident?

11:56 AM  
Blogger ms. jared said...

i would like a rant on sexism and atheism next, please.

xoxo, jared

11:57 AM  
Blogger ms. jared said...

one more thing, coz i just saw vicky's comment about self-centeredness - i'd like to add that i am thoroughly tired of people using the "you're an only child so you're obviously selfish and self-centered" argument.

that's such bullshit! i think all of the only children i know (which are admittedly few because people with siblings love to selfishly squeeze out little mini-mes right and left) are MORE considerate and concerned about other people than multi children are. i was by myself all the time so i didn't learn to scheme and manipulate and fight for attention all my life so i don't have a problem sharing or cooperating or compromising, you know? it seems like people with siblings are the ones who are like "i had to share and cooperate with other people all my life. now it's all about MEMEME and MINEMINEMINE!"

xoxo, jared

12:05 PM  
Anonymous Vicky Vengeance said...

Word Ms. Jared. I get so tired of only child = spoiled stupid brat incapable of normal social interaction stereotype. The truth is, I also think it forced me to be MORE considerate of other people than your average bear because I didn't have that basis of meanness at home that most people with siblings grew up with.

Plus, being an only child forced me to operate on a more adult level with my parents from very early on and I think that premature maturity has given me a much healthier perception of how a relationship is supposed to work with a give and take instead of just one or the other person having some kind of weird power.

1:03 PM  
Blogger ms. jared said...

exactly, vicky! i think your comment is so right on target.

another thing is that only children never say things like, "well, you're a middle child so you're this way" or "well, you were the baby so you you're that way". we don't think of people in terms like that. i don't anyway. i think of myself as one person, an individual, and i think of others the same way. i base my approval or disapproval on the actions they display, not the ones i pull out of my ass based on the order of birth they are in regards to their siblings.

sheesh. who knew i had so much to say and so much hostility around this issue? i blame my mother and my lack of sibling rivalry as a child. har har.

xoxo, jared

1:10 PM  
Blogger spotted elephant said...

I'll second ms. jared and request a rant on sexism in atheism, please. My other request is a post on Kate Millet. And I'd love some mashed potatoes.

Uh, never mind the last point.

10:04 AM  
Anonymous The Happy Feminist said...

Hurray for standing up for only children. Maybe we should start a movement of onlychildists.

Besides, wasn't "Clare" being "mean" in the first place by criticizing Vicy's personal life?

And finally, all the upcoming topics sound great, but I'll third the requests for "sexism in atheism."

6:43 PM  
Anonymous dragonfly said...

"Yet, in my mind the most respectful thing you can do as a feminist is be honest with other woman about what you think without having to shield them like a wussy paternalistic male might."

or, in other words, just stick your nose where it doesn't belong and be really self righteous and judgmental? Just like a right wing religious zealot? Which really accomplishes nothing.

"Giving" advice or forcing your preferences on others when they don't ask for it is just plain shitty and rude. It's not being a respectful feminist in my opinion. It's just plain being a presumptous windbag.

That's my opinion. Attack me for it and call me a troll, you big meanie!

yeah being "mean" is REALLY good for the feminist movement. Hooray for progress!

12:04 PM  
Blogger Edith said...

doThank you for the words of support, ms. jared, spotted elephant, and Happy Feminist (and mean feminists can be happy, too, indeed)! I'm currently working on both a post on sexism and atheism and Kate Millett, so hopefully those'll be up soon.

dragonfly -- first, I don't think you understood what Vicky was saying in her comment. She wasn't talking about being self-righteous or judgmental, I don't think. She was talking about how, as radical feminists, we cannot afford to let our squeamishness is telling our friends and family what we REALLY think silence us. We should not hide behind rhetoric or behind false personal or political class allegiances.

I'm not talking on this blog about butting in, unprovoked, on other people's business. But if you ask people on a public forum for input -- as in a blog -- you shouldn't act all surprised or shocked or upset if someone gives you input that challenges you, criticizes you, or simply comes to conclusions that you don't agree with. If you want only a select few to respond to your blog, then you should adjust your blog settings accordingly.

I started this blog because I've noticed a lot of fear in the various feminist blog communities where people seem not to have the courage to say what they really want to say lest they somehow offend someone. The name "mean" isn't an ideal that I'm trying to live up to, but a warning -- this is not a safe space. This is a space where I HOPE I'll never have to ban or censor anyone. I'm allowing free discourse. There are no sacred cows here. There are no things that are too controversial to discuss.

2:53 PM  
Anonymous Vicky Vengeance said...

Dragonfly, when did honesty turn into self-righteousness? In a good friendship there should be a give and take if you care about the other person where you tell them what you think and yes "give" them advice (what's with the quotation marks?), even if it's not always what they want to hear. And then, at that point, you're more than welcome to disagree, pipe up with your perspective on the issue, completely disregard what the other person has said, whatever. Sorta like how I responded to being called self-centered. But I'm still glad my friend told me what she thought as opposed to sugarcoating her opinion. I'm not forcing anyone to do their own thing. We're all works in progress, right? We all gotta go through our shit to learn what's best for us right?

2:56 PM  
Anonymous Sam said...

"Various specific criticisms of current anti-porn radical feminism (criticisms which I won't yet reveal -- let's make it a mystery!)"

Bring it on.

It brings a tear to my eye when good feminist writers who take no shit start blogs. Forthrightness is an underrated quality sadly lacking in the eggshell-walk feminism popularly predominating on the Internet.

10:14 AM  
Anonymous dragonfly said...

Vicky, at the risk of sounding patronizing-- you will learn when you get older not to give advice unless it's asked for, and not to shoot off your big trap at inappropriate moments. When you think you are being free (or whatever) and educating your sisters (or whatever)and being honest with yourself and others (or whatever), you may come off sounding like a judgmental ass. And no one will like you and you will piss off friends and alienate good people.

And they will probably all make fun of you behind your back because you come off sounding like a self righteous, pompous twit.

11:38 AM  
Anonymous dragonfly said...

quote, "See, what bothers me is that a lot of times when I disagree with someone and tell it like it is, I find myself getting accused of being "disrespectful.""

That's because, a lot of the time, it probably IS being disrespectful.

See a pattern here? Is it not working? Are you being called disrespectful quite a bit? maybe you are disrespectful. Try something different.

If someone says "step off you are being disrespectful," I hope you back off. You know? be respectful?

Leave YOUR agenda at the door.

11:45 AM  
Blogger Edith said...

Sam, like, I am really flattered, like seriously. I hope we can live up to our smashin' eggshell hopes and dreams.

dragonfly: If you really believed that a person should step back if she's told she's being disrespectful, then you would step back now, because you are the one being disrespectful, not Vicky, not me. Patronizing doesn't begin to cover it, dragonfly.

6:25 PM  
Blogger Amy's Brain Today said...

I second Sam; I want to hear the criticisms of anti-porn radical feminism! I'd love to hear something new for a change instead of the same-old same-old. Also I'm intrigued by the boycott as (non)action idea; I read this somewhere else lately and doesn't make any sense to me. I mean, Montgomery, Alabama, anybody????

And way to pull the ageism card, dragonfly. I'm quite a bit older than Edith and Vicky, I believe, and I'm still all for speaking one's mind. I've got a rant coming up on this, stay tuned!

2:14 PM  
Blogger Yawning Lion said...

Pardon me, dragonfly, but are you not engaging in the exact behavior you are criticizing? It seems to me that you have hopped right up on your soapbox and started giving unsolicited advice to both Vicky and Edith. Advice which, quite frankly, is unnecessary.

Edith - great post. This is something that comes up again and again in friendships, coworker relationships, etc. for me. How much truth do you tell? And when? And how? And why? Sadly, many friendships collapse when disagreements are honestly expressed and discussed. I have found, however, that friendships in which I feel I can't say what I am thinking don't last very long anyway. It just gets too uncomfortable to keep silencing my "big trap."

Great blog - it makes me want to be mean, too.

Yawning Lion

6:27 PM  

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