Well, dip me in honey and bake me in a cake. Salon’s Page Rockwell and Ilyka Damen’s Ilyka Damen, swell writers both, have not only read my fluff piece on BUST magazine, they’ve demonstrated their discriminating tastes by honoring it with some critical analysis in their electronically published forums. What they write more or less boils down to — and I despair of putting words in innocent young bloggers’ text fields, but really, if you can’t executively summarize a fellow bullshitter, who can you executively summarize? — “Twisty sort of has a point, but damn, her finger-waggin-crazy-talk is gonna ignite another bloody feminist blogospherical feud.”
Can it be true? Have I presented ‘feminism’ in a manner so inflammatory, so instigative, so unpalatable to the mainstream, that other feminists, upon exposure to my seditious dialectic, will be diabolically compelled to rip each others’ blogular faces off?
If you haven’t read the essay in question, the gist is this: that BUST, a young women’s indie-hip lifestyle magazine with a purported feminist slant, merely re-brands materialism as ‘feminism’; that for all its empowerful sass, it’s really just another philosophically empty fashion rag hawking ‘girly stuff’ in the traditional style. Using BUST to illustrate the vacuity of this new ‘fun feminism’, I further opine that feminist ideology, from the point of view of the radical activist spinster aunt, is in fact somewhat less about shopping for vibrators than it is about liberation from the tyranny of white male oppression.
I don’t know whether or not my post has ignited the prophesied fracas (as of this writing Technorati sez not, but of course Technorati is a tool of the patriarchy), but nevertheless, this morning a dark cloud hangs over my troubled bungalow. The origin of that cloud is this:
How come, whenever I write a “What Feminism Means To Me” essay, the other girls cringe and worry that my lonely-out-here-on-the-radical-fringe opinion will launch some sort of global auto-destructo apocalypse? How am I supposed to take that? What’s the hidden cryptic subtext?
That she shall be roundly chastised who threatens, with ideas, the peace and harmony of the other feminists, even as they graze placidly on the patriarchal green?
That I should resign my membership in the Society of Dissident Spinster Rhetoricians?
That, for the sake of ‘the movement’ (if such a thing even exists), I should realign my beliefs with the heteronormative feminine majority, so as not to scare off potential recruits who might still have a sizable investment* in the ideology of dominance and submission?
That discourse can be beneficial, but only when nobody’s feelings get hurt?
That iconoclasts who advocate unpopular challenges to the status quo should just put a sock in it?
Now, don’t misunderstand me; Page and Ilyka aren’t exactly telling me to shut up. They aren’t even taking sides. Their remarks more closely resemble objective reportage, with a little of the old “crap, can’t we all just get along?” thrown in. They describe, based, no doubt, on empirical evidence, a familiar pattern: that whenever Feminist X takes it upon herself to define feminism, Feminist Y (who happens to like lipstick, thank you very much, for its intrinsic value) immediately takes it as a personal affront and dashes off a “Who died and made you King of the Women?” retort. Page and Ilyka, they despair of this phenomenon. An ism divided against itself cannot stand, etc.
Well — surprise — I disagree. I mean, I suppose confrontation is unpleasant; all of us, feminists or no, have been trained from the cradle, as befitting submissives, in conflict-avoidance. And sure, it would be really nice if we could all just agree, once and for all, that I’m right. But we’ll never achieve anything like a consensus until we agree on the nature and extent of the enemy, and that’s gonna take some doing. To wit: patriarchy, though ubiquitous, is largely invisible. Women are understandably reluctant to concede that their deep attachment to the trappings of patriarchy (marriage, femininity, gender, fashion, porn, religion, beauty, the nuclear family, pink tool kits, et al) is not the manifestation of empowered personal autonomy, but rather a survival skill.
So is intramural squabbling ‘wasted energy’? No way. These blogular bloodbaths, tedious though they may be for seasoned professionals who have seen it all a million times, not only aid the intermediate blamer-commenter in fleshing out her views, but they soup up the general feminist presence on the World Wide Web. There’s no such thing, girls, as bad linkage.
Meanwhile, I must reiterate that I’m just the rhetoric guy. I don’t hold public office, I don’t mold Official Feminist Policy,and I don’t control who gets a membership card. My (arguably negligible) contribution to ‘the movement’ is to articulate principles central to an argument opposing Truth to popular belief. By which I mean, I sit around looking at white male privilege through radical-colored glasses. Then I pinpoint instances of chump-ass patriarchal orthodoxy masquerading to the casual observer as cosmic truth, and reveal my findings in these innocuous essays.
Naturally, if one of’em happens to fuel the fire of dissent, well, that’s just icing on the cake.
*Dude, the footwear alone can cost a fortune.