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May 22 2007

Yo, taqueau

texan_crescent.jpg
Sentimental butterfly photo of the week: Anthanassa texana, the Texan crescent. North South Austin, May 21, 2007.

I forgot, for a few days, that I have a blog. So many bugs to photograph, so many coffee shops to haunt. And let’s face it; is there really anything I can say about patriarchy that I haven’t already said at least 6,582 times? So yesterday I lunched at the Hula Hut* with my two nieces.

The Hula Hut is a tourist trap, but you can dine on a palapa-roofed pier overlooking Lake Austin and they have fried shrimp tacos. If you have the sort of nieces whose interest in fried shrimp tacos is minimal, you can show’em how to throw tortilla chips over the side and sit back and enjoy the water show: carp the size of Volkswagens lumber to the surface and scuffle for the crumbs. Then you can chant “Question Authority!” when your sister Tidy — who at some point between her first and second kid confirmed both your worst fears by going over to the dark side and becoming your mother — points reprovingly to a sign that says “DO NOT THROW FOOD OVER THE SIDE. DO NOT FEED THE WILDLIFE. LONG-HAIRED FREAKY PEOPLE NEED NOT APPLY.”

When I bumbled home, though, there was a very nice email from reader Alice.

Dear Twisty,

I just wanted to email you and say that you have been an indirect cause of me giving a talk about feminism at my university, which went amazingly. Although I have all the ideas, it’s your ballsiness (female equivalent? ovarieness?) that made me brave enough to go and do it. So woo! I have also come up with a new feminist mantra which I submit for your approval: “men are more normal than women”. I think this sneakier more insidious sexist idea has replaced “men are superior to women”. I think this is genuinely a problem, but I haven’t read any feminism that recognises it properly. If you are bored then have a read of the attached speech.

Alice

Sa-weet! Nothing burnishes the spinster bunions like hearing that one has been an indirect cause of something that didn’t involve a S.W.A.T. team. And I’m all for feminist oratory on university campuses. There’s precious little of it these days, since so many girls have turned to pole dancing as the one true form of feminist expression.

I admit that my spirits flagged a bit when at the close of Alice’s communiqué I espied the words “attached speech,” but my fears proved unfounded. Alice, it turns out, understands a thing or two about the relationship between aunts and speeches; at two-and-a-half pages, hers was the soul of breviloquence. It was also really good.

Here is my favorite part:

In general, it does not take any reevaluation to consider a person as male- but on finding that a person is female, we are often surprised.

This general way of thinking is sexist. And there are many ways it will impact negatively on women.

Firstly, being female will always be a relevant detail about a woman in a way that being male is not a relevant detail about a man, leading to lack of attention to their more relevant qualities. This effect might be seen in the way that women’s literature is sidelined, as are women composers and women poets. A woman politician or a woman CEO qualities are less likely to be recognised as a male CEO’s are: the woman is thought of as ‘the female CEO’ while the man is thought of as ‘the confident CEO’ or the ‘the most experienced CEO’ but never as ‘the male CEO’.

Secondly, the expectation of maleness means that women violate expectation, and are seen as unusual or risky- extra effort. This effect might be seen at a job interview: if the default applicant is thought of as male, then a female applicant, merely by being female, departs from the interviewer’s model applicant. If one expects to employ a normal person, one expects to employ a male, and it requires a little extra mental extension to consider employing a female. The same applies for race. People will just tend to employ equally qualified white males over black females, because it’s the path of least resistance — employing the black female is somehow bloody-minded.

Thirdly, but perhaps most importantly, equating humanity with men, as in the term ‘mankind’, leads to women’s issues being seen as special issues. Human rights violations in SA are not taken as seriously as is warranted: there is a gender apartheid, and women are essentially enslaved, but we tolerate it.

You will have deduced by now that the topic of Alice’s speech is maleness as the default human condition. She opens with some remarks on the reasonableness of the ‘womyn’ idea, which revolutionary spelling she admits has endured a torrid career as “the ridiculous proposal of a hypersensitive man hater: a bitter woman who wants to carry on grinding her axe, and so has turn to meaningless trivialities because all the major issues have been used up.” But which she argues is pretty much a necessity if we’re ever going to slough off this women-as-variant-of-normal crap.

I would venture that nowadays, outside those insular herbal tea-infested crannies frequented by us hairy humorless women’s studyists, the word “womyn’ has almost the resonance of a rude epithet. Long have I dreamed of implementing a whole new word for “woman,” by which I mean a whole new word for “human.” I propose “taqueau.” Such a word focuses not on physiological differences that rationalize oppression, but, by invoking the pinnacle of human achievement (the taco), while remaining deliciously free of any gland-based distinctions that can be of interest only to biologists, conveys the appropriate sense of Truth and Beauty.

That’s right! Imagine if “man” and “woman” didn’t exist. The declension of the pronouns, I admit, will be problematic, particularly to those of us who doggedly cling for no good reason to what Alice calls “rules laid down by sexist eighteenth century grammarians.” But if I can cope, so can you. So check it out: what if there were only one sort of human, and reproductive organs were accorded the same cultural significance as eye color, or whether your second toe is longer than your big toe?

This condition — the one where there is only one sort of human — exists now, by the way. It’s just that patriarchy has so cleverly framed the narrative, and so assiduously enforced its assimilation, that modern humans do not possess the intellective tools to perceive it.

UPDATE: Alice provides this link to her speech.
_________________________
* Persistent readers will recall the Hula Hut as the scene of a 2006 ogling incident involving a super-gross dude equipped with entitlement-squirting Ray-Bans. I snapped his picture and he is now safely archived somewhere at HollabackNYC.

217 comments

1 ping

  1. stacy

    one of my friends likes to say that there’s no such thing as men and women — there are only mothers and their children! or, after Sarah Hrdy: mothers children . . . .and others.

  2. jujitsu

    How about boys and girls? (I’m 62 years old but I like it anyway.)

  3. legallyblondeez

    My mother has been substituting “-person” or even “-human” for anything that ends in “man” or a gender-coded suffix ever since I can remember. One effect of this process is that with “woman” one’s result is “woe-person.” My mother thus concludes that the mission of ungendered language is to remove some woe from the lives of half the people in the world.

    The coding of the default human as white, male, and upper-middle class is much more insidious than any individual’s delusions of superiority.

  4. CannibalFemme

    For some reason, the phrase “Gender will not survive the revolution” is echoing especially loudly in my brain. There would be a smiley emoticon here, were I in the mood to Question the Twistauthority.

  5. RadFemHedonist

    I’ve been trying to use sex neutral pronouns for ages now, I was going to use these ones someone came up with for a novel once that I found, I’ll have to find them again. Person is also good, actually may I ask why you have homosapien and homosexual, does the homo part mean same, or man or something else, ’cause I’ve heard it translated as man, but does it mean that or could it be unsexed and is translated that way because of the “rules laid down by sexist eighteenth century grammarians”. I’m asking because of the understanding I have that homosexual means “same-sexual”, or does it actually only refer to being a male attracted to other males?

  6. Errihu

    Last year in my advanced gender studies course in grad school, we read a selection by Sociologist Irving Goffman, (which I unfortunately do not have at hand, I’ll have to go digging through the piles and piles of articles that have mounted if I want to properly reference the thing). Goffman is interesting becuase he’s not normally thought of as a feminist or even a gender theorist. But the article is wonderful in that Goffman totally reveals how absurd it is to treat women the way society does. There’s no biological determinism in the article at all, and he spends a lot of time highlighting the absurdity of it all. Now, Goffman questions WHY it is that society insists on these absolutely needless segregations and ritualized behaviours between the sexes. We know it’s patriarchy. But I’ll always love Goffman for his delightfully absurdist picture and the wonderful job it does of highlighting exactly how STUPID the sexist practices of the patriarchy are.

  7. wren

    Dearest Twisty, my deep and abiding love for you only barely avoided tarnishment today as I narrowly escaped spewing Diet Coke on my new wireless keyboard. You perhaps would have had a similar reaction to my twisted attempts to parse the word “tacqueau” silently before I realized what you meant. Hilarity ensued, etc etc. Long story short, although my keyboard (and Twisty love) remains untarnished, the same can not be said for my cat, who had been peacefully napping on the other side of the desk.

  8. the opoponax

    This reminds me so much of the work of Monique Wittig, especially her assertion that lesbians are not women, because the category “woman” exists only in relationship to the category “man”, and thus by refusing the fundamental social contract of heteronormativity (whew!) lesbians simply get around the entire question of gender. Thus, the goal of feminism is to destroy gender completely — patriarchy can only be overturned by overcoming the categories of “woman” and “man”.

    “…and it would be incorrect to say that lesbians associate, make love, live with women, for ‘woman’ has meaning only in heterosexual systems of thought and heterosexual economic systems. Lesbians are not women.”

  9. Candice Morgan

    Twisty–any way you can post the whole of Alice’s speech? With her permission, of course.

    If I’m correct, I believe she is studying in South Africa–I’m American, but I’m studying for my BA in SA and I’m very interested in any form of feminism that manages to weed its way through the industrial concrete that is the patriarchy here. Serious kudos for Alice; there isn’t even the pretense of a feminist dialogue in SA society (what with multiple wives still common). It’s also known as the rape capital of the world (at least in terms of reported rapes, which are seriously under-reported more often than not). But I digress.

    I’d also like to contact Alice in terms of any feminist iniatives I may be unaware of here as well–perhaps an email address? Again, with her permission. Thanks!

  10. Marcy

    Person is also good, actually may I ask why you have homosapien and homosexual, does the homo part mean same, or man or something else, ’cause I’ve heard it translated as man,

    Homo means both man and same. It’s man in Latin and same in Greek.

  11. Sycorax

    RadFemHedonist: The “homo” in “homo sapiens” comes from the Latin homo, meaning man, whereas the “homo-” in “homosexual” is from the Greek homos, meaning same. This has been Your Etymology Minute.

    As for non-gender-specific pronouns, my money is squarely behind “they/them/their” moving from the the third person to the first, the same way that “you” replaced “thou”. It’s made a lot of progress without too much nudging, whereas none of the dozens of attempts I’ve seen at imposing an invented set of n-g-s pronouns have moved on beyond a small group of dedicated users. And it gives the modern-day heirs of those eighteenth-century grammarians the vapors.

  12. Marcy

    There’s precious little of it these days, since so many girls have turned to pole dancing as the one true form of feminist expression.

    LOL. But it’s so empowerful!

  13. the opoponax

    I’m sorry, but pole dancing can NEVER be the one true form of feminist expression.

    That position is reserved for posing on Suicide Girls or Broken Angel or whatever the alterna-porn website of the moment is.

    Duh. Pole dancing can never be as empowerful as nude modeling. Get with the program, Twisty!

  14. Antares

    I think that language shapes our experience of reality and the way we think. Born ‘american,’ I’ve lived in latin-based-language countries for the last 9 years, but have not learned any languages because I refuse to express myself in a mysognistic language. If a language doesnt have a neutral gender, I have no interest in learning it.

  15. Theriomorph

    Go Alice. So simple, so elegant. Damned default settings.

    Go Twisty: breviloquence is my word of the day.

    Additional etymologic geekery: in Ancient Greek, homo means same, andro means man. IBTSexistGrammarianP.

  16. slownews

    My mom, of all people, has clued ME in to the highly sexist use of “you guys” as an identifier for groups of people of different genders, or in the case of her students, for groups consisting exclusively of young women who attend an all girls’ high school.

    So I am today hereby eschewing all use of “you guys” except in reference to my homosexual male friends and their partners.

  17. the opoponax

    Antares, not to be overly pedantic, but the only significant difference between English and the Romance languages on that score is that the latter have what are called noun groups, which take on masculine and feminine “genders”, even though most linguists agree that said noun groups actually have little or nothing to do with actual human gender and instead are an artifact of a much older and now more obscure language convention that enabled people to categorize objects easily by a variety of important factors (none of which was related to actual human gender).

    Though it does annoy me that the Academie Francaise gets its panties in a twist about how to refer to a female doctor, professor, etc. as the nouns (Le Docteur, Le Professeur) are masculine and thus should logically not be used to refer to a woman, even though there are now obviously female doctors and professors who need referring to. but that’s the idiocy of the Academie Francaise, not Romance languages as a whole.

  18. Kwillz

    This reminds me of a Joss Whedon speech:

    So, Joss, why do you write these strong female characters?

    Because you’re still asking me that question.

  19. Keez-R

    I don’t want to ask a stupid question that might offend my beloved Twisty, but if I’m going to use this, I want to do it correctly. That said, would taqeaus be the correct plural or taqeaux? Would that vary if used as a form of direct address, ie, Good afternoon, my fellow taqueas/x?

  20. Lucija

    If only it were possible, Twisty… But English is an extremely gender-neutral language… Most languages, to my knowledge, aren’t. Specifically, in my language, I just about can’t utter a simple sentence including myself, without revealing I’m female. And of course, when in doubt (that is when it’s unknown if the person in question is female or male, or when there are both involved), the male form is used. So, basically, the male form is used for everything, everybody, EVERYFUCKINGTHING, and the female form just for females. Of course, there’s a catch even there: in certain contexts, women actually have to use the male form when talking about themselves!

    It makes me fucking angry, but it’s in the very core of my language, and many others, and there’s nothing that can be done. Now, English is much more likely of a candidate for a feminist make-over(except, of course, that will never happen, except in the much-desired but unfortunately unlikely event of twistolution)…

    BTW, I’m a first time commentor, but long-time lurker and devotee(heh, I sound like a stalker), so I just wanna thank you for all the wit and all the… feminism.

  21. Lucija

    That should have been “commentator”. Seems I can’t think clearly after slaving away in what passes as an educational institution…

  22. Joanna

    Wittig is still radical, even if her idea didn’t catch on with the general public. As I understand it, linguists talk about the unmarked case and the marked case to make this kind of distinction. I suppose the computer analogy would be “default settings” and “special settings.”

    I believe that in France it used to be that in some cases a man was referred to by his profession or trade (le boulanger= the baker) and the feminine version of that title often meant the woman who was his wife, not the woman who did that job (la boulangere=the baker’s wife). Social roles were more overtly coded linguistically, but language didn’t determine them.

  23. melurkeylongtime

    Twisty, did you know Mexican slang for dyke is “tortillera”? i am just saying, it’s pretty close to taco.

  24. the opoponax

    Yup, there was lots of “marked”/”unmarked” talk in my Language & Gender course in college.

    Also, for Antares, I’m not sure which latinate language country you’re living in, but if you have any sort of familiarity with French (and even if you don’t), I highly recommend Wittig’s novel The Opoponax (yep, that’s where my name comes from!), which I believe is written in almost entirely gender neutral French. Even the English translation preserves the gender neutral speech, though obviously it’s easier for us. I’m not sure how translations in to languages like Hebrew wherein gender is coded into verb tenses, though — the gender neutrality of the language is one of the key features of the book, so I don’t know how you could produce a faithful translation that used gender.

    in Wittig’s next novel, Les Guerilleres, she turns it upside down and uses only female language (the French title would basically be translated “The Soldieresses”).

  25. Panic

    I suppose that would make the males, burriteaux?

  26. Lexia

    Who am I to cast aspersions on Twisty’s etymology? Tacueau it is – though a more pedantically correct gendered ending might be that in “beauzeaux” (male, plural).

    I think the word “woman” is fine, as long as we all go back to the same root and resume calling men virmen. Highly appropriate, in fact. Casey Miller and Kate Swift pointed out 30 years ago that all humans were once called mann in English, with the gendered prefixes wo- and wir- equally applied. Sometime during the Dark Ages male men appropriated the word for all humans and have clutched it tightly to themselves ever since (along with being the only template for the human body, the only humans God talks to, having the only respectable old age and a whole lotta other things.)

    Miller and Swift’s book “Woman and Words” also clears up the man (human, from the Germanic) and man (hand, from the French) confusion, and a whole lot more. It’s fascinating reading, sadly needed now more than ever.

  27. Feminist Avatar

    I think that Witting’s wider assertion that women cannot be understood outside of their oppositionary relationship with man is correct. I think she was naive to believe that this meant that lesbians got an ‘out’ from being women. As has been discussed here before, there is more to being a woman than having sex with men. Furthermore, homosexuality (incl. both gay men and lesbians) operates as the ‘other’ to heterosexuality (heteronormativity?) in exactly the same way as ‘woman’ is the ‘other’ of ‘man’.

  28. Lexia

    Errgh – serves me right for being a pedant. That’s “taqueau”.

  29. Lexia

    Correction posted. Mods willing, error follows.

  30. the opoponax

    i don’t think she believed that individual lesbians got an out by virtue of their lack of contact with dick — even though i think i inadvertantly implied that above.

    really, the idea is more that by violating the gender contract, lesbians force a sort of rupture in the system. if this happened in great enough numbers, she and her fellow French feminists believed, the entire thing would just implode in on itself.

    it should be mentioned that Wittig and her colleagues in the MLF (Movement Liberation des Femmes) were really into the idea of “political lesbianism” (though they didn’t call it that, per se), and that women should quite literally refuse en masse to have sexual realtionships with men until patriarchy was simply broken down by virtue of being meaningless. a sort of Lysistrata approach. Also keep in mind this was like 1971, when such ideas seemed totally brilliant throughout feminist circles, even though they seem quaint today.

  31. katie t

    If “man” really does represent all of humanity, as the patriarchy is dying (or killing us) for us to believe, I figure “woman” is “human plus something about female.” So why not create a new word that’s “human plus male,” and make it “toman” or something. Not only do we get to keep “human” as actually gender neutral, but it forces males into discussion in a way that “womyn” might not have. The downside being, of course, that it still rests on the principle that that humans can be neatly divided into two binary groups… So actually, I’m at a loss.

  32. B. Dagger Lee

    Miss Patsy, my brother, mother and I have a camp in the Catskills, and I just came back from a weekend there spent vacuuming mouse turds off books–including Wittig’s The Straight Mind! I paged through it, and was reminded of how much I like Wittig.

    But she’s also partially responsible for the world’s most boring lesbian movie, The Girl, which surpassed the previous record holder of the world’s most boring lesbian movie, Claire of the Moon.

    melurkeylongtime: I’m particularly fond of tortillera for dyke, and for the plural —- They’re dykes! — I’ve usually seen it accompanied by a physical gesture: put your two open palms together and twist your wrists. Tortilleras!

  33. the opoponax

    The main problem with all of this “why don’t we invent a term that does X” stuff is that, unfortunately, language usually just doesn’t take to arbitrary changes. This is why silly institutions like the Alliance Francaise are fighting such an uphill battle — you can tell French folks not to say A, B, or C because they don’t jibe with your constructed version of what you’d like your language to be. But at the end of the day, most people won’t listen because you just can’t legislate this sort of thing.

    That said, it’s much easier to change the conventions on something like “chair of the department” or “mail carrier” than it is to change pronouns and fundamental things like “man” and “woman”. it’s probably more natural to just start saying “person”, “y’all”/”they”, etc, because those are already bouncing around in the language all by themselves.

  34. Panic

    unfortunately, language usually just doesn’t take to arbitrary changes
    Not true. It happens in slang all the time. The whole point of slang is to not be understood by other groups, so something good is “bad,” “sick” etc. Of course things like that do catch on, and with media saturation, people like me, who have no business knowing any hip-hop slang (never mind quoting it on RadFem blog) start to understand, and even use it.

  35. Lene Taylor

    When I was in grad school (ca. 1993), I did a project which looked at the slang that the current crop of undergrads used. One of the MANY slang terms for women was “pink taco”. I wonder if they still say that.

    Thanks for ruining “taqueau” for me, patriarchy!

  36. stekatz

    Now, my middle aged brain is trying desparatly to recall 10th grade French. I may have to defer to the Canandian blamers and French scholors on this one, but aren’t words in French that end in “eau” masculine words? And their feminine equivalents end in “elle.” I’m thinking specifically of “beau” and “belle” (understanding that those are adjectives not nouns but they modify feminine and masculine nouns respectively).

    I could be wrong. I don’t know. Besides “tacquelle” sounds nothing like taco.

    Nice butterfly!

  37. the opoponax

    Yeah, but slang is meant not to be understood outside the group it’s coined by, and it’s only ever temporary, anyway. Which is about the best you can do when you just sorta up and decide one day that you’re going to refer to all people with a Y chromosome as yMen, or whatever. You might get lucky and convince a small subset of the population to adopt your new coinage; maybe if you’re real lucky and have genuine media clout, you could even convince a slightly larger subset. But eventually, if your model is slang, yMen is going to pass out of vogue like most other slang terms eventually do.

    even the hip hop slang that’s gained attention via media exposure is here one minute, and totally passe the next. go to a hip hop club and tell some random stranger that this song, your beer, their shirt, whatever is “The Bomb”, and see how long it takes for the sheer force of their laughter and eye rolling to propel you out of the building.

    Case in point: one of my favorite out-of-print Queer Feminist texts of the 70′s, Sappho Was a Right-On Woman. c’mon, the title alone produces giggles.

    and yet something that already exists in the language, and also happens to be gender neutral, like “they” or “mail carrier”, can avoid that very pitfall because it evolved naturally.

  38. Nia

    What’s the pronuntiation of womyn?

  39. the opoponax

    oh, and Dagger Lee, I’ve always been curious about The Girl. I’d heard it was perfectly boring/awful/unwatchable. But I’ve always been curious, nonetheless.

    That said, i have a massive posthumous crush on Wittig and am curious about just about everything remotely related to her.

  40. Panic

    the opoponax,
    even the hip hop slang that’s gained attention via media exposure is here one minute, and totally passe the next
    Slang words, of course, go out of fashion because once folk like me use ‘em, they’re no longer phat. The whole point of slang is to not be understood. I think that’s what you’re saying anyway.
    Language itself changes, over time, though those changes are more to do with phonology (IIRC) than thoughtful manipulation. Still, with the internet, certain things do happen faster than they would have 20 years ago.

    Sappho Was a Right-On Woman
    Heh, that’s awesome.

  41. TruthandDare

    re: you guys (or, here in Philly, youse guys). I had a friend once who simply changed this to “you gyns,” pronounced of course with a long i in the middle. Works like a charm, and throws people when they actually hear it.

    The gender-neutral language revolution it ain’t, but it is fun.

    And here’s to Wittig! “The Lesbian Body” was the first book with “lesbian” on the cover I ever bought, and, I must admit, I read part of it thinking “oh my god, I’ll never figure out what lesbians do!” But I did, nonetheless, and found I liked all of her other books much better. And that The Lesbian Body was translated by a straight white doctor and was probably a lot better in its mother tongue.

    “Remember that we were not always slaves. Or, failing to remember, invent.”

  42. Lene Taylor

    Oh my god, it’s still current slang and now it’s a restaurant too.

    One of the results of the slang study was that a lot of the (insulting) terms for women were not new. Same insults, 100 years later.

  43. the opoponax

    We’re on the same page wrt language change, I think.

    I’m not sure how the internet will affect language, actually. Usually written forms tend to crystalize things more; language changed MUCH faster when most people didn’t read or write.

    That said, the internet puts language more into the hands of everyday folks and also loosens the standards of written language in general.

    All I know is that attempts to create new gender-neutral pronouns (hir, and the liks) have not really worked, for whatever reason. And I don’t say that from a place of distrusting language change and wanting to crystalize sexism in language, but of wanting to understand how we really can change things without pointless silliness and pretension. And the only thing I really see working is to take things that are already floating around in there and make them work for us rather than against us.

  44. J

    Why change everything to suit men? Why not come up with a new word for man, as in the non-technical designation of males? Hell, even that has to go too. I question exactly whether all the generations of emotional energy will simply be disrupted or dissipated with that kind of move, but I think the gesture makes as much if not more sense. It also makes for a much easier change than letting men remain “men” and changing anything that refers to that.
    Of course, some people might see the change as exciting and enjoyable, in which case it would probably have the opposite effect: “why do men get to have all the fun of a new name?” This I understand too.

    Alternatively, I have always been in favor of bringing back neuter nouns and adjectives, and using the ones we have more often. It doesn’t exactly dispose of the gender binary in language in itself, but it would probably provide a more useful structure for making that kind of change than just winging it and making up new words– new words whose construction/use would probably still be informed by a gendered sensibility.

  45. J

    “language usually just doesn’t take to arbitrary changes”

    Yes and no. There has to be some expediency, some use for new words or different usages of already existing words. Fortunately, the world is a constantly changing place, and language is constantly trying to keep up with it. Rather than divulge into what is really the purview of someone’s Ph.D. dissertation though, just think of how Rick Santorum feels about arbitrary language change.

  46. OM

    Sadly, I have heard an even worse slang – tuna taco. I don’t think I can get on board with “taqueau,” unless we’re “reclaiming it.” Bah!

  47. magikmama

    Also – in addition poisoning the language – it creates really annoying moments for those breeders and teachers of wee ones among us.

    To wit: my son really, really, really wanted to buy one of those human anatomy torsos where you can pull all the organs out. But, quelle surprise, a human torso is really a male torso. Because while the little booklet claimed that it listed every single organ found in the human torso, it did not list the uterus or ovaries. Now granted, a male torso theoretically contains testes – but, since they are located on the outside of the body, slighly below the pelvis, and this model cut off right at the bottom of the pelvis, they weren’t lying if it was a dude.

    Although my son did make me very proud when he loudly went into a rage upon realizing that 1) this torso was clearly a man although not labeled as such and 2) they lied when talking about science. He followed up that rage by insisting that we return it to the store, and he loudly told the store manager that he was returning it because it was falsely advertised.

    Now if I can just keep him away from all the idiots at least until he’s well through puberty, we may have at least one slightly decent dude in the world.

  48. Antoinette Niebieszczanski

    Lene Taylor, hie yourself off to the archives and check out
    http://blog.iblamethepatriarchy.com/2006/05/17/pink-again/
    Like the rest of the blog, it’s a source of deep thoughts and hilarity.

  49. the opoponax

    which presents an entirely new dilemma —

    What of Ken?

  50. rae

    How about “yinz” instead of “you guys”

  51. TinaH

    I am a taqueauist.

  52. B. Dagger Lee

    the opoponax: We got the Girl on Netflix, but honestly, I don’t recommend it. On the other hand, you could fast forward through it, as we did. If you feel you must (wince). Much better to reread her books, and rerent Bound.

  53. Antoinette Niebieszczanski

    I wasn’t permitted Barbie dolls when I was a kid, but if memory serves, Ken was never much more than another one of Barbie’s accessories, and a lame one at that. Any kid worth her salt would rather have the Dream House or the Corvette.

    Unless you’re talking about some high-fallutin’ but obscure feminist author, in which case wow, is my face red.

  54. kanea

    I’ve always thought it was silly to spell woman like the word women as womyn. since it’s still pronouced the same and is still the same word. it’s just changing the symbol. the word is still the same just with diffrent symbols representing it.
    I do like the idea of going back to mann or man since it used to be our word for people or human and thus anytime mankind is spoken it would actuallay include all humans. but some people will ofcourse not like the idea of all beings called man as it could suggest male person’s being the default norm. there is even the older for of wif or quean which meant woman. here’s some etymology for those who were curious:
    “late O.E. wimman (pl. wimmen), lit. “woman-man,” alteration of wifman (pl. wifmen), a compound of wif “woman” (see wife) man “human being” (in O.E. used in ref. to both sexes; see man). Cf. Du. vrouwmens “wife,” lit. “woman-man.” The formation is peculiar to Eng. and Du. Replaced older O.E. wif, quean as the word for “female human being.” The pronunciation of the singular altered in M.E. by the rounding influence of -w-; the plural retains the original vowel. Meaning “wife,” now largely restricted to U.S. dial. use, is attested from c.1450. Women’s liberation is attested from 1966; women’s rights is from 1840, with an isolated example in 1632. Verb womanize originally (1593) meant “to make effeminate;” sense of “to chase women, to go wenching” is attested from 1893.”

  55. Antares

    Lucija’s post clarifies (and better states) my earlier thoughts : latin-based languages are constructed in such a way that one cannot get out of applying gender-tinted judgement, or using words that negate females.

    For example, in Castillian, if there are a group of 10 females, one would refer to them as ‘ ellas’ (plural for ‘she’), but if a single man joined that group, the group would then become ‘ellos’ (meaning, ‘they’, ‘them’, plural for ‘he’). Words for ‘shit’, ‘war’, and ‘gutter’ are female. Pregnant women are assumed to be carrying a nino (tilta over the second n), which is both a generic term for male child, and the default for child. Additionally, all the slurs that I’ve heard people throw at each other are slang for female genitalia or some category of woman (i.e., bitch, whore, etc.).

    Related to this, I’d like to take this opportunity to appreciate women writers who use ‘she’ as the default human and squirt spleen toward those who don’t. thank you.

  56. the opoponax

    no, i was referring to majikmama’s son who was smart enough to get that a de-genetaliafied male form does not a neutral “human” make.

    Ken being completely smooth “down there”, if you remember correctly.

    i actually never had a Ken doll — my barbies were all dykes. in fact, i should remember to bug my mom about that next time she asks me when i’m going to get over this “phase” i’m in: “If you’d only bought me the Ken doll I wanted…”

  57. the opoponax

    “latin-based languages are constructed in such a way that one cannot get out of applying gender-tinted judgement, or using words that negate females.”

    not to nitpick, but i have to say that after years of studying both French and Spanish, and a decent acquaintance with Italian, I don’t find this to be any more true of those languages than it is of English. certainly not enough to keep you from actually bothering to communicate with people in the local language of a place you’ve lived for almost a decade.

    if you wanted to eliminate all of that sort of thing from your speech, you would probably have to take a vow of silence. the ONLY differences i can think of between your examples and American english is that gender-neutral third person pronouns exist, and it’s considered acceptible to use them in reference to fetuses.

    Though you could always start using “ella” for all unborn babies as a personal quirk — all human embryos/fetuses are actually by default ‘female’ in outward appearance until around the 10th week of pregnancy. also, isn’t the expression “to give birth” in Spanish literally, “Dar la luz”? Luz being a feminine noun, it makes sense by extension that “the light” being “given” is thus theoretically feminine.

    also, there are plenty of negative words in spanish which are masculine, and lots of very nice words which are feminine — it just plain doesn’t break down that way, and anyone with a good grasp of Spanish vocabulary would know that. there is, in fact, no particular rhyme or reason to which nouns will be feminine and which will be masculine — it’s completely random, as far as any linguist can tell.

  58. Bitey

    Re using “she” as the default pronoun–I do it in all my academic papers. At my last job, though, I worked as an ESL teacher, and the (white male) boss tried to tell us that we should be teaching “he” as the correct neuter pronoun. All the other female teachers and I scoffed at this, but the one (entitled white conservative) male teacher agreed with the boss. During the discussion, he burst out with this gem: “They’re emasulating the language!” I demanded, “Who?” “Feminists!” was the response. He knew full well that I am one of those, and he meant it as a little joke. I the interest of workplace harmony, I rolled my eyes and let it go, but informed the boss that I wouldn’t teach any such thing.

    Later, when I told my husband about all this, he pointed out what I had missed at the time: “How can they emasculate the language if it’s not already masculine?” Then he said one of my favorite things ever: “Get your cock out of my mouth!” Indeed.

  59. pandapan

    All humans have the X chromosome. It’s just the men with that weird little Y chromosome. They’re the ones who aren’t “normal.” Some cultures recognize the fluidity of gender. Unfortunately, all they did was add more labels. As a gender-neutral person, I like the idea of using “they” for all humans. People already do it to some extent, when they don’t know if a person has dangley bits. Of course, their first order of business is to find out (as if it makes a difference!).

  60. Twisty

    Yo! In my highly vivid inner life, taqueau means H. sapiens, not “female human.” And I could give a fuck if some smug ironic asswipes from the 90′s appropriated the world’s greatest food as a derogatory term for pussy. Every word under the sun is a derrogative term for ‘pussy,’ when you think about it, since WOMEN ARE AN OPPRESSED CLASS AND OUR LANGUAGE IS THE LANGUAGE OF THE OPPRESSOR.

    Why is that all in caps? I didn’t press the caps button. Yipes.

  61. chingona

    Re: languages do or don’t make arbitrary changes

    I think this is an interesting dilemma because on the one hand, yes, language shapes the way we experience reality because it’s hard to think about or talk about that which you cannot name, but on the other hand the point of language is to communicate, to be understood, and if you just invent a new word, no one knows what you’re talking about.

    And yet, as has been mentioned already, new words are invented all the time. For them to take off, they have to meet some need that existing words don’t meet. Which gets to the dilemma. For a new gender neutral word for human beings to be accepted into the language, there would need to be a recognition by some critical mass of the population that such a word was necessary. But how do you raise that awareness using the same old gendered language that shapes and limits our experience of reality?

    Having said all that, I’m skeptical of the ability of language to change patriarchy. There are languages much more gendered than English and languages much less gendered than English, but they all speak for the patriarchy.

  62. thebewilderness

    Since personhood is what the patriarchy denies to any and all who fall outside the patriarch class, I have used the word person, since the late seventies, when talking about people. I started with postperson, moved on to salesperson, and haven’t looked back. Sometimes friends or family would make gender assumptions, other times they would come right out and ask if I was talking about a man or woman. Many people seem to find it disconcerting when you don’t supply the patriarchial class status information when telling a story. Taqueau, works for me.

  63. chingona

    Bitey, I love that story.

  64. TP

    I guess this is the proper time to confess that TP stands for Taqueau Pater.

    If men weren’t so loathsome, I would think the path of least resistance for stripping gender from the english language would be to simply refer to women as men and the hell with calling out gender for any reason at all ever again. You could still specify “He’s a female man” or “He’s a male man” if they had something wrong with their sexual organs and you needed to know what part you needed to slice up to cure them.

    But my infinite, bottomless contempt for men will not allow that as a solution, even though it would be so easy.

  65. Bitey

    Thanks, chingona! He’s coming along nicely.

    Many people seem to find it disconcerting when you don’t supply the patriarchial class status information when telling a story.

    Yeah. I’m looking forward to disconcerting people when I have kids. I’m going to give them gender-ambiguous names and dress them in yellow and green and purple. When strangers ask, as I know they will, whether it’s a boy or a girl, I’m going to reply (as Ann Landers once suggested we resond to rude, intrusive questions), “Why do you ask?”
    “I just want to know?”
    “But why?”
    [Flummoxed silence, followed by hostile glances on both sides.]
    I mean really, what business do these hypothetical strangers have, rooting around in my projected baby’s diaper, anyway? No more business than the patriarchy has rooting around in my nethers, I tell you what. Christ. If I could disguise my gender, I would.

  66. Miller

    I favor the generic “human” or “person.” Even if new words were to replace “man” and “woman” deep-seated misogyny would ensure the new word for male would be the norm. Perhaps a word that refuses to be gender-specific is best, as it fails to constantly reinforce the separation of gender.

    It’s amazing how once you realize the full scale of bigotry in casual language, it’s difficult to go back and pretend nothing’s wrong. You start seeing that message–you’re not human, but evil–everywhere. Everytime I hear “Man/mankind” and the public blindly accepts it, it still bothers me. If you try to raise the issue all apparent calmness in people disappears as the emotions manipulated by language come out and the masses unleash a righteous fury (hysterical, really) in defending that message, logic be damned.

    Speaking of the power of words to exclude and dehumanize, I thought of the book, A Clockwork Orange (esp. as the prophecies are quite relevant to modern youth culture). I searched for movie clips on YouTube and the lead up to the rape scene (it stops right before) was by far the most popular with the vast majority of comments being (w/ 3 exceptions out of hundreds): this is my favorite scene; they cut the best part out; hilarious; and I love Alex (mind you, emitocons are used to ensure one knows how much they love, love, love the rape). There’s no hint of difference b/w these males and whites who callously posed and smiled next to the lynched corpse of a black man during Jim Crow. Actually, the Alex fanboys are worse since they celebrate hatred of: loved ones; a gender, which is natural as it is necessary for human existence; and their justification is, at best, emotional distress (white supremacists can, at least, claim a fear of black violence).

  67. Becker

    So, default lies with de men?

  68. Nia

    Antares: “Words for ’shit’, ‘war’, and ‘gutter’ are female.”

    And the words for person, freedom, and truth, and wonder (as in “the seven wonders”, “a thing which is wonderful”). The words for “horror”, “disaster” and “problem” are masculine. So what? Not a lot can be interpreted from the way a gendered language assigns gender to inanimate objects.

  69. Random Lurker

    A good example of how gendered languages affect culture is the Abrahamic religions. Since semitic languages are gendered any text addressing believers use male terms if there’s a possibility that there would be a single man in the group(i.e. “Oh, those humans (one or more of which may be male) who believe” becomes “Oh men who believe”). This leads to the impression that god is a dude and only dudes have souls. From there you can draw a straight line to Justice Kennedy thinking he has to protect women from things they might regret through his dudely moral prowess.

  70. Mau de Katt

    I agree with Sycorax, way back there: I use “they/them/their” as gender neutral pronouns. I actually found literary support for it many years back, but I don’t remember the source, alas. But to the so-called purists (that I’ve read in “proper grammar” books and articles) who whine about “it doesn’t match the singular — it’s a blatant discrepancy!” I say, I’d rather have an apparent numerical discrepancy than a gender discrepancy. The former doesn’t categorically exclude half the human race; the latter does.

  71. Lucija

    @the opoponax: there is definitely a difference between English and Romance languages in regards to gender neutrality. Look at Italian Passato prossimo tense, just as an example: Io e arrivatA(f.sg.) Io e arrivatO(m.sg.) Noi siamo arrivate(f.pl.) Noi siamo arrivatI (m.pl., but also refers to a group consisting of, let’s say, 12567 women and 1 man). It’s the same with most adjectives.

    Now this is all just child play compared to Slavic languages(one of which is my own), which are way, way worse in their blatant bias. Not that this signifies how patriarchal a society really is. I think I recall reading somewhere about a completely gender-neutral language spoken by an extra-patriarchal sell-your-9-year-old-daughter-in-exchange-for-a-cow society.

    But don’t worry about the words for war, shit, mud etc. being feminine in gender. In my very, very patriarchal language they’re masculine. Trust me, the gender of nouns has nothing to do with the patriarchy(for once it’s possible to say that about something gender-related!) A lot of objects in my languge have multiple names, in different genders.

    However, swearing is a problem. In my country the favorite curse, which infants learn first thing after their first word (literally!), is: IN YOUR MOTHER’S CUNT! It’s followed closely by: I FUCK YOUR MOTHER!, with lovely variants such as: I FUCK YOUR MOTHER IN THE CUNT. Really, the possibility of variants is endless, for example, if you’re feeling humorous or surprised you can say: WELL, I’D FUCK YOUR MOMMY! If you screw something up over here, without exception you say: IN THE CUNT! or if you’re more of a classy old-school type: FUCK THE VIRGIN MARY…

    Now, all this isn’t really considered swearing. You won’t say it in front of your mom or your teachers, but even if you did they probably wouldn’t think much of it. It’s just like saying: shit! It’s really a reflex for speakers of my language. I say most of those about a million times a day even though I despise them with incredible intensity. They’re just as natural as breathing, and I don’t think any amount of guilt I feel over using them will break the habit (and the guilt is copious, trust me). Other than me, and maybe a couple of feminist activists, I can’t remember anyone ever bringing up the brutal sexism of it all. Most people actually like to “tout our horn” proudly proclaiming us the dirtiest-mouthed people in the world (though, unfortunately, knowing the patriarchy, there’s probably worse out there; there always seem to be…)

  72. medrecgal

    Actually, if you know anything more than basic genetics, you’ll come to discover that FEMALE, NOT MALE, is the “default” gender, human language constructs be damned. In humans, any fetus that possesses only one sex chromosome (rather than the usual two) will develop along female lines. Something has to be added (in this case, a relatively puny Y chromosome) in order to make a human embryo develop towards maleness. And strangely enough, there are other biological slants that suggest female is the default gender: although there are approximately 106 boys born for every 100 girls, a huge number of males are lost long before birth; conception rates are something like 130 males for 100 females, which suggests that the female, far from being the “weaker sex”, is actually more fit for survival and longevity. This trend continues even into old age; there are far more old women than old men once you pass the age of 80 or so.

    So…biology gets it right; humans should be a matriarchal species across the board if we followed the laws of biology. Too bad those overwhelming social constructs fouled it all up beyond any possible recognition by the overwhelming majority of humanity. IBTP.

  73. Lucija

    Oh, and I just remembered the language (can’t remember which, and there are almost certainly many more) in which there are no expressions at all for having sex. You just have the female- roughly: “the one giving herself away” and the male: “the taker”… Yeah, I know, there are phrases and words like that across the globe, but, as far as I can rememember these people actually had trouble translating stuff into their language because there wasn’t a single at least seemingly neutral expression in the language.

    I felt like I was about to vomit after reading that, even after listening to people saying all day long stuff like: “did she give herself to him” in my own school, my own street, my own society… Proves the patriarchy has limitless potential for grossing one out, even if one is mostly a pessimist…

  74. Becker

    Mau de Katt:

    My position for a while now has been that an individual whose gender is unknown is as likely to be male as female, and so in a Schroedinger’s Cat sort of way is both at the same time. In that sense, “they/them/their” is allowable, or should be.

    Anyway, I do it too and if they don’t like it they can sit.

  75. Lucija

    Well, for what it’s worth, I’ve learned English as a foreign language. At the very beginning of the process (say 1999) I was taught to use they/them/their in that capacity. Have used it ever since, got an A on all my ESOL(or ESFL) exams using it, never had any problems.
    Suddenly, two years ago, a new teacher (not a native speaker) tells me it’s wrong and I should opt for he/him/his. I did fight grammar with her, but as Becker says, it wouldn’t have mattered even if she’d won the argument. If they/them/their is possible, which it is, I’d use it even if it were utterly grammatically wrong. But I still say it’s perfectly normal grammar.

  76. Rhus

    “Born ‘american,’ I’ve lived in latin-based-language countries for the last 9 years, but have not learned any languages because I refuse to express myself in a mysognistic language.”

    I’m a Spaniard. Upon learning that women in English-speaking countries usually adopt their husband’s name when they get married, maybe I should have forgotten English language altogether. My goodness, I shouldn’t want any contact with such a misogynistic reality, should I? So degrading.

    Wait. Then I wouldn’t have been able to read Twisty. Hmmm.

    Seriously now, what opoponax said. Grammatical gender is a much more complicated issue. On the other hand, we are all steeped in patriarchy and every language expresses that grim reality in one way or another. Some languages have it easier to avoid gender biased interpretations, but I don’t see Finnish yet as an international way of communicating.

    Oh, and the French Academy is totally ridiculous.

  77. Catherine Martell

    Hmm. I’d rather use “he/she” or “s/he” instead of “they” in a singular expression, for the reason of pathological pedantry. On the other hand, Mau de Katt’s argument is persuasive.

    When you consider the rest of the language, substituting “they” for “he” seems a bit like papering thinly over one tiny crack in the Grand Canyon. Gender pronouns are a problem anyway, implying as they do a neat binary sex division. Many is the time when I’ve had to talk about or to a transperson I don’t know well, and have been genuinely unsure, depending on his/her/their/aarghwhatever particular situation and opinions, what pronoun would be appropriate. “He” and “she” are presumptuous and likely to be incorrect; “they” is jarring and makes an issue of the person’s sexual identity; “it” is obviously not an option. Usually I just avoid the construction, but IBTP for language being a patriarchal prison from which it is impossible to escape.

    Beyond that, so many things are problematic that it’s hard to know where to start. This is something where I’d definitely adopt LMYC’s metaphor of the carbon footprint. It’s not possible to ungender your language, or to make it fully neutral. All you can do is reduce the emissions wherever possible. I’ve learnt a lot from this blog and its commenters. Among the expressions I will be avoiding in the future except under very considered circumstances are “women and children”, “empowerment”, “you should be ashamed”, “it’s her choice”, and “did she consent?”

    Re: French genders. I’ve never ceased to be annoyed by “le vagin”. Masculine noun. I know they think they own it, but really.

  78. Rhus

    Catherine Martell:

    As an aside note to your otherwise interesting comment, in Spanish (at least in Spain) our popular name for the vulva is masculine too. But then most popular names for the penis are feminine. So much so, that many times a feminine pronoun is enough to refer to it. This probably speaks for the randomness of grammatical gender that somebody mentioned up thread.

  79. LMYC

    It’s utterly poreposterous to refuse to learn a language because there’s some sexism in it. The ONLY language I ever dropped for that reason was the constructed language Esperanto, because I REFUSE to learn “patro” for “father” and “patrino” for mother — and because unlike natural languages, that was an instance where one person made a conscious decision to RETAIN sexism instead of doing away with it. In fact, he put extra bonus sexism in where none was previously.

    I’m currently learning Welsh and ASL — to refuse to do so would mean that I consider Welsh and Deaf WOMEN not worth speaking to. In fact, the majority of the people with whom I’ve spoken both languages are women. In my head, I tend to define “Welsh” as “a language spoken by women in the principality of Wales, located to the West of England and bordered by the Irish Sea and Offa’s Dike.”

    And if you want to learn ASL (a remarkably gender-neutral language in almost every way), you’d better want to associate with women, cuz the ratio of male hearie terps to female ones is about 0.00000000642%. Even oral deafies who learn ASL later in life tend overwhelmingly to be women.

    In short, I don’t give a fuck if Japanese is a sexist language; there’s an entire country full of women speaking it, and I’d like to talk to them someday.

  80. lavonne

    I am sadly reminded of one of my EX-husband’s favorite jokes: A woman without a man is just a wo. He loved watching the flames shooting out of my eyes when he said that. He’s dead now… no comment.

  81. kathy a

    slownews — when i lived in the south, i was shocked to discover that the use of “y’all” actually serves the decent purpose of addressing a group without gender identification. [before living in the south, my california bias allowed me only to view "y'all" as reinforcing certain uncharitable regional stereotypes. now i know better.]

  82. Carebear

    I had an interesting encounter with the word `womyn` recently. A friend asked another friend over Facebook why she spelled womyn with a y and she answered the question. She was then attacked, unprovoked, by several people, some of whom she had never met, for `forcing her radical feminism on other people`. I lost several friends in the battle.

    Sorry about the strange quotation marks, I am on a French keyboard right now and I can`t find any normal quotation marks.

  83. Silence

    I enjoy using the word ‘guy’ to refer to people just because the history geek in me gets off on the reference to Guy Fawkes, the man who intended to blow up Parliament in 1605. Yes, that is where the term came from. Wonder how popular the word would be if more people knew the full history behind it?

    Anyway, I can mostly ignore the innate sexism in most (all) languages. It’s not nearly as offensive as the very deliberate sexist comments I read and hear every single day. Language may be a flawed tool, but it can be put to very good use and it’s a damn shame that it generally isn’t.

  84. j

    I don’t think Spanish, French, Italian, or any of the other Romance languages can be considered less gender-neutral than English. Sure, a grammatical gender is assigned to inanimate objects, but the gender is more or less arbitrary. The most annoying part is having to endure professors who make stupid wisecracks about grammatical genders that happen not to correspond with a patriarchal society’s perceptions about gender: “Vestido (the noun “dress” in Spanish) is masculine; isn’t that funny?!” Actually, it’s not.

    Chinese has a gender-neutral third-person personal pronoun. The word is “ta” for both males and females, as well as inanimate objects, animals, and gods. The written forms of the pronouns are different, but in speech they sound identical.

  85. J

    “Anyway, I can mostly ignore the innate sexism in most (all) language.”

    Of course you can; that’s how it works.

  86. the opoponax

    funny, in college we talked a lot about how constructions like “le vagin”, “la guerre”, etc. prove that languages that group nouns by “gender” actually are completely arbitrary. not as proof that men need to “own” the vagina or that war and femaleness are associated because both are evil.

    though i’d still be curious to know what the gender of the french “vulva” is, considering that “vagina” literally comes from “sheath for a sword”.

    i’ve heard that many/most of the romance language noun groupings may be associated with their respective genders based only on phonology and/or morphology. virtually all words that end in “-tion”, for instance, are masculine in French, regardless of semantics. it’s “l’education” rather than “la education” for completely arbitrary reasons of what “sounds” right, not because education is the pursuit of males.

  87. Layla

    I’m not sure how useful this is in terms of using gender neutral language in English but seeing as people have already started discussing sexism in other languages I thought I would add an example from another language which is partly positive.
    In Chinese there’s just one monosyllabic word for she, he and it and a suffix is added for the plural and possessive versions. It gives you freedom to speak without automatically specifying sex.
    But in the written language the same bias exists as in English. The written word for she includes the word female/woman as a kind of affix, whereas he uses the word person/male for it’s affix.
    That illustrates another bias which exists even in the spoken language. The words for woman and man in Chinese are, strictly speaking, ‘female-person’ and ‘male-person’. However, in practice, female can be used alone to mean a woman without the need to add the word person whereas when talking about a man, usually the word person is used without adding male.
    So when I started learning Chinese I was left confused as to whether the word that supposedly means person really meant a person or a man and now I am wondering the same thing about the English word man. I just have to guess that the same process happened in both languages. As long as people using the language still think in this way the language will reflect it.
    The fact that the word for man aswell as woman requires an affix and the fact that it’s just as easy, if not easier, to use the word person as it is to use a gender specific word (whereas in English many people object to using gender neutral terms on the basis that they are longer words with more syllables and therefore they require more effort to use) and especially the gender neutral personal pronouns in spoken Chinese provide a positive example for other languages and seem to be the same as what people here would like to see in their own languages but they haven’t really done anything to effect the views of the people that already use them.

  88. Errihu

    The Y chromosome, due to the missing part that would make it an X, is often prone to genetic damage and disease. If the X a man does have contains a faulty set of genes for a particular disease, there is no potential good set still present due to the missing leg on that Y. Which is why men far more than women suffer from genetic diseases from harmful recessive genes. In animal populations, anything keratogenic tends to weed out the males first, since their Y renders them weaker than females in subsequent generations.

    So genetically speaking, men are the weaker sex. They’re more prone to genetic damage and harmful keratogenesis. And if we can blame the capitalistic fervor to pollute as much as we possibly can on the Patriarchy, it becomes even more ironic. Because it’s the men who’ll face the most crippling damage from all this pollution and chemical damage. They are the vulnerable ones, with their wimpy little Y. Enough healthy Xs should persist that the women will be in a lot better shape, at least for a few more generations than the men.

  89. kanea

    I like to use the word ‘one’ for gender free pronoun as in “one should not light their hair on fire.” it works for more than just he or she since it could replace you or they ect.
    genderd nouns usually have to do with the endings of the nouns don’t they? at least in german there’s a neutral noun. gendereds for nouns are commin through out indo european languages. (excluding english for reasons I don’t know why)
    in japanese there are no gendered nouns but they don’t have articals. there are words for she and he but I was told that along time ago they just had one pronoun for she or he. but after they met westerns they decided to adopted gendered nouns. the word ‘kare’ which was just the origanl pronoun became male and they made the word kanojou for female. or at least this is what my japanese teacher told me. unfortunatly gender in japanese reflects the gender of the speaker not the things that person is speaking about. but one can speak in neutral terms. and ofcourse female speach is submissive. which sucks.
    I think english or any language will start to have a gender free bias when that society becomes gender equal. languges are bias becaue the societies they are spoken in are bias. the society has to be changed first before the people in it start to change their language.

  90. Catherine Martell

    the opoponax:

    virtually all words that end in “-tion”, for instance, are masculine in French, regardless of semantics. it’s “l’education” rather than “la education” for completely arbitrary reasons of what “sounds” right, not because education is the pursuit of males.

    Mais non, chérie: words ending in -ion are usually feminine, including la éducation (you’re correct that it’s shortened to l’éducation, but that’s just because the French don’t like two vowels together like that).

    though i’d still be curious to know what the gender of the french “vulva” is, considering that “vagina” literally comes from “sheath for a sword”.

    La vulve, feminine, I believe. Though of course you’re quite right about how the gender of words in romance languages isn’t necessarily related to gendered assumptions about the thing being described. I was being a tad facetious about the vagin.

  91. RadFemHedonist

    “RadFemHedonist: The “homo” in “homo sapiens” comes from the Latin homo, meaning man, whereas the “homo-” in “homosexual” is from the Greek homos, meaning same. This has been Your Etymology Minute.”

    I had actually figured that was what it was, I don’t know why I didn’t mention it. My linguistic education is not the best it could be, but I understand the whole Latin/Greek thing.

  92. RadFemHedonist

    “(white supremacists can, at least, claim a fear of black violence).”

    Miller, you are kidding, right? I don’t care what pathology people have in their head, white supremacists are horrible and have no excuse for their actions. Do you actually think that black people are more violent than white people? Which is definetely not true.

    May I ask why intersexed individuals are often not mentioned on this blog?

  93. Virago

    Born ‘american,’ I’ve lived in latin-based-language countries for the last 9 years, but have not learned any languages because I refuse to express myself in a mysognistic language.”

    In short, I don’t give a fuck if Japanese is a sexist language; there’s an entire country full of women speaking it, and I’d like to talk to them someday.

    Actually, the Japanese language is often oddly egalitarian (considering their society is incredibly patriarchy bound). Some examples? All adults are referred to with the same honorific “-san” (there is no gendered alternative along the lines of Ms./Mrs./Miss/Mr.) and the use of gendered pronouns (which do exist) is incredibly rare in everyday usage.

    I did meet an American man in Japan who had also been there nearly a decade and who had learned no Japanese. I mean none. I asked him how he did his shopping, paid his bills, ordered his meals in restaurants, picked up his drycleaning. He explained, “My Japanese girlfriend does all that stuff.”

  94. crys t

    Thank god lots of people are challenging Antares monolingual-mindset, English-privileged rubbish about Romance languages. And hola, Rhus! Good point about the surnames. I guess none of us should speak English if they’re going to be so barbarically backwards about that!

    I’d also like to point out that the whole issue of “woman” vs. “womyn” only relates to English, and I seriously doubt that changing the spelling is going to have any effect on woman’s status as abnormal in relation to men. After all, men are considered the default in most cultures, and in all of the cultures I’m familiar with, the words for woman and man don’t share the same root. For example, in Welsh it’s “menyw” or “merch” for woman and “dyn” for man. In Catalan it’s “dona” and “home”. In Spanish it’s “mujer” and “hombre.”

    The idea that attitudes which are widespread across many cultures can be attributed to etymology of words in one language could only make sense to a monolingual. It’s like that godawful Ms war when one of the dim bulbs sneered that the fundamental problem with women having any identity apart from Woman was that the other identity invariably came first. She knew this because you’d describe the woman as a “Black woman,” or “Jewish woman” or “Latina woman.” Yeah, you would….in English. In other languages the adjective would come second and in the languages I’ve named above, you wouldn’t even have to use a two-word description because you could describe yourself using a term that incorporated both Woman and your other identity into only one word, such as “Latina” or “judia” or “Iddewes.”

    And the fact that you can do that doesn’t make women’s status any better or any worse than it is in English-speaking societies. This is not to say that the way in which we talk about people has no effect, but I think that has more to do with things like using “balls” to signfiy strength or “pussy” or “girly” to signify weakness (which often do have analogous expressions in other languages) than the fact that “woman” is “man” with a couple of letters added (which, as far as I’m aware, only happens in English).

    As they say, monolingualism is a disease. Fortunately, the cure is simple: learn more languages.

  95. crys t

    Hey LMYC, I just noticed your post about learning Welsh! Chwarae teg i ti! And also, another good point about smaller languages: they tend to be spoken and passed on by the women who speak them substantially more than by the men.

    Multilingualism really is a women’s issue.

  96. Miller

    RadFemHedonist,

    I was trying to show that if one finds the lynching of blacks to be horrendous, one should obviously find hate crimes against women to be horrendous. For ages, white supremacists justified their terrorism on the basis of black violence, which appeals to human nature’s most primal urge: self-preservation. Justification for terrorism against females is based purely on hurt feelings, which should make it all the more laughable since we condemn those who cite the threat of violence (also the case w/ Islamophobes).

    Honestly, you hear liberals (rightly) attacking the demonization of Muslims in media (24, for ex.) and yet they staunchly defend, if not demand, the ruthless demonization of women and girls (At best, you hear liberals calling such movies as Hostel in “poor taste” and rape jokes as “sexually inappropriate”). If the threat of terrorism is no excuse for bigotry, why the hell is hurt feelings (Mind you, hurt feelings being a fact of life)?

  97. Miller

    Basically, I was trying to dispel the idea that racism is more “serious” than misogyny.

  98. Silence

    I can ignore the innate sexism in languages because I have to. Either that or give up talking, listening, reading, and even writing. Don’t think it doesn’t irritate me, J. But my overlooking sexism in language is something I do to survive without going insane, the same way some women put on lipstick and high heels just to get by with less hassle every day.

    It is horribly ironic that women are known as the gender with the good communication skills, and yet we have not even been allowed to construct the language in such a way that values us as people. And then yet again, language is our only real tool for getting the feminist agenda (if there is such a thing) out there. Until someone is able to construct a perfectly non-gendered language and get everyone in the world to learn it, we have to work with what we got.

    I’m not going to start up that ‘working with the master’s tools’ debate here again, am I?

  99. Antares

    the opoponax : I dont agree that its impossible to completely gender-neutralize ones communication, nor that the assigning of gender to nouns in latin-based languages is completely random/not inherently woman-hating (in Italian, bottle is ‘la bottiglia’ (feminine), which holds ‘il vino’ (male), ass is ‘il culo’ (male), while shit is ‘la merda, ‘or la cacca’ (female). It seems to me pretty clear that the gender-associations given to nouns are slanted in a certain male-glorifying direction.

    Rhus : your response to my opinion on this topic is condescending and sarcastic, but I’ll rise to the bait and say that your example (of the practice of taking on a man’s surname in english-speaking countries) is irrelevent to what we’re talking about, but, ultimately, is also an issue of choosing to engage in a female-negating reality or not. It IS degrading to lose ones name to a ‘bond of love’. It also degrading to use a language that reminds me of its hatred for me in its very construction. I refuse to do it – which isnt to say i havent learned how to address people politely in whatever their language is.

    As I said in my original post, I think that language shapes the way we process our experience, the way we think, and the way we express ourselves.

    Lastly, the use of ‘mankind’ to mean all us humans and ‘you guys’ to address a group of women both bug me quite a lot. Anytime I hear or read the word, ‘mankind,’ I process the comment to see if whats being said is true for all of humanity or just for males only. For example, the phrase, ‘The history of mankind is one of warfare,’ is, I’d say, correct usage.

  100. Antares

    crys t : Please do not read into my comments that im advocating mono-lingualism, or that I think English is a supersonic or whatever. I’m just sayin’ : I’m not down with languages that dont have a neutral-gender.

  101. pdxstudent (formerly J, but changing to avoid confusion with j)

    “I can ignore the innate sexism in languages because I have to. Either that or give up talking, listening, reading, and even writing. Don’t think it doesn’t irritate me, J.”

    I’m not saying that you aren’t. I think it’s interesting that you bring up the master’s tool question though. Is it that language is a patriarhcal tool, or is there a more inextractable relationship between language and patriarchy? After all, is language not the ground zero of all objectification? That isn’t meant as an apology for decidedly patriarhcal power, just curiosity about what assumptions are running in this discussion of language and patriarchal power.

    P.S. I’ll use that same screen-name for a week or two until I saturate the group with the knowledge that I’ve made the change.

  102. Lucija

    Antares, what exactly do you mean by neutral-gender? Neutral-gender nouns or neutral-gender third person pronoun?

  103. Antares

    Lucija, I wasnt clear – thank you for asking. Im not open to learning languages that are without neutral-gender nouns and a gender-neutral third-person pronoun. I consider it part of my feminism, actually.

    A post I tried to make earlier to address some of the other responses to my original post is in moderation.

  104. Tigs

    In one of my theory discussion groups, we’re reading the Pentateuch this week, and I’ve been focusing on the power of language and naming.

    For example, when God created the world he said ‘let there be light,’ but after creation he saw that it was good.
    His saying made it so, however his seeing has no determining power.

    In addition, in the story of Babel, the thing that makes it possible to threaten God’s supremacy (by building said tower) is the ability to communicate in one language. The building of a tower to heaven is also connected (in the same sentence, separated by a semi colon in the King James) to human’s desire to name themselves.
    There is an equation of the ability to become God-like and the ability to collectively self-identify.

    Although, I have to say my favorite interpretation of Babel is as a culture-myth for explaining the existential crisis of the self. Because the fact that we are unable to ever completely communicate, which leaves us utterly alone, is so existentially devastating– it must be a punishment from God.

  105. Tigs

    Also, as to why we’re not talking about the intersex issues. I’ll cop to cisgender privilege. Sorry.
    We are so tainted by patriarchal binary thinking, the importance (nay, the centrality) of interrogating the construction of gender along an us-them divide, even in a discussion of the power of identifying language, becomes warped.
    Also, it’s hard to write about experiences with which we are less familiar. So instead of challenging our (my) own discomfort, we (I) shy away so as not to offend, colonize, or appropriate.

    I think Twisty is pointing to a transformation of the use of gender beyond the language itself, and that under that transformation, intersex people will be considered to be just people. Just like everyone else. Just like men under the current definition of gender. That an individual’s gender identity may or may not be more or less in line with any expectations of what bodies should be will be utterly incidental.

    Or more radically, there will be no expectation of what gender or bodies should be. This, I find particularly challenging to think about from the medical perspective. So much of the discussion about ‘what to do’ with babies who are born with sexually ambiguous genitalia centers around ‘fixing’ the child.
    While I am totally for making sure that babies are healthy, I really do have to question who gets to decide what healthy is. A lot of times health is very much circumscribed by normality.

    I bet there it lit coming out of the Deaf community that speaks interestingly to this.

  106. crys t

    Antares: “Part of feminism” my arse–it’s part of English-speakers’ fucking imperialism and inability to understand anything that doesn’t fall into English-like patterns. If you can’t “lower” yourself to learning Romance languages then don’t live in places where those languages are spoken. It’s a breathtaking lack of basic respect for an English-speaker to go live in another culture, taking advantage of the benefits of being there, then not learning and using the language. You’re acting like a 19th-Century Brit living in India or Africa and refusing to lower yourself to communicating with The Natives. It’s not up to them to adapt themselves to you, it’s up to you to adapt yourself to them. If you can’t hack it, or don’t consider them human enough to bother trying, then go back where you came from.

    Anyway, as so many here have pointed out, your understanding of how gender works in the Romance languages is flawed, the examples you chose to “prove” languages with gendered nouns are “more sexist” were cherry-picked and examples of masculine words representing negative concepts and things abound. But even after another poster pointed out your error by supplying a whole list of words for bad shit that were masculine, you insist on pulling random Italian vocab out to support your cockeyed theory. Well, here’s one for you: “coño,” cunt in Spanish, is masculine, and “polla,” dick, is feminine. Well, I guess that must mean that Spanish-speakers, at least those in Spain, consider the cunt to be superior to the cock. I mean, according to you, they MUST.

    Not to mention the fact that English has enough built-in misogyny to also place it on your shit list, yet you seem quite happy to use it. Or does that all not matter when it’s your own language?

    Picking at Romance languages just because they “don’t have a gender neutral” is nothing more than silly bullshit. It demonstrates a fundamental lack of understanding about what language is or how it works. Also, we could pick at misogyny in ANY human language, and the Romance languages are certainly no more inherently sexist than the Germanic, even if those of us who speak Romance languages tend to be less blonde and blue-eyed.

    So what are you going to do? Refuse to speak in any language at all? Or just choose to shit on those that have points you can easily pick at and misrepresent to English monolinguals?

  107. DG

    In “Woman on the Edge of Time”, Marge Piercy uses ‘per’ as a gender neutral pronoun. I’ve always liked it as it is a nice contraction of of person, which is a word we all know and use. Although I empathize with the many creative folk out there who have made up new pronouns, I have a hard time remembering them because they seem arbitary.

    On a side note, I am a chronic user of the “they/their” gender neutrual construction. I am currenly in law school, and have been informed that “formal writing” needs to be gendered. Or I can use the lovely he/she construction. So far I have failed at the gendered pronoun construction in all of my papers. I’ve considered attaching the many articles and literary works that use “they/their” to let my professor know that she needs to reconsider her stance, but haven’t had the energy.

    On another side note, English used to have a gender neutral pronoun – “ou”. I am not sure how it was pronounced, but there it is, ready to be revived.

  108. therealUK, who is just wondering how much text it is possible to fit into this box and why J, instead of just calling himself by his new name - and then signing off at the bottom of his posts (formerly J) for a while - needs instead to "saturate the group

    Hm.

  109. pdxstudent (formerly J, but changing to avoid confusion with j)

    “I bet there it lit coming out of the Deaf community that speaks interestingly to this.”

    There is a good video documentary called “Sound and Fury.” It is about the meaning of deafness for deaf-people, particularly in light of advances in cochuler implants (allowing deaf people to experience sound). The rhetoric is very similar to what you complain about above, where deafness is considered a disability, though it is clear that deaf people, especially with sign, can be functional in society like hearing people. It can at once be alienating and empowering, and there are staunch camps for and against cochuler implants both within and outside the deaf community.

    Watching the very challenging confrontations between these camps made me think alot about what is at stake in not just women’s liberation, but the very personhood that is suppose to be a gender-free construct.

  110. ". Eeww.

    .

  111. Lucija

    Antares, I just wanted to make sure that you were completely clear on the fact that the grammatical gender of nouns (at least in Slavic, Germanic and Romance languages (I don’t know about others)) is completely random and not a product of the patriarchy. I know that’s been mentioned before, but I know from experience that it can be pretty difficult for non-native speakers to understand…

    As far as a neutral-gender third person pronoun goes, yes, that’s a whole different thing… But those of us born into languages that don’t have such pronouns can’t really do anything about it. Those are our native languages, for better or worse… It doesn’t make them unworthy of learning… Or their speakers unworthy of communication…

    And, as someone already said, all languages speak for the patriarchy… We just have to make do with what we have…

  112. pdxstudent

    Point taken.

    Formerly J

  113. Antares

    crys t : I dont understand your hostility toward me.

    You have no idea of what I’m doing with my life, why, and where, and so, you have no place telling me what my attitude is toward ‘the natives’, or that I ‘go back where [I] came from’. I suggest you point your rage toward a more appropriate target.

    As I mentioned above, I dont feel English is a superior language (although I do find it remarkably easy to communicate in it without gender-bias), im not a cheerleader for mono-linguals, nor do I agree with you that recognizing latin-based languages don’t have a neutral gender is ‘silly bullshit’.

    My longer post made earlier has since cleared moderation. Its been embedded into the comment stream a-ways above.

  114. the opoponax

    @ Catherine Martell — agh! that’s what i get for posting 10 minutes before going off to bed. masculine noun, feminine noun, whatevs, i’m fallin’ asleep, over here!

  115. therealUK

    Cheers, pdxstudent.

  116. Jezebella

    DG, I use “s/he” in my academic writing, which would be pronounced as “she” but also comes off gender-neutral. I’ve never had an objection to it from editors, professors, etc.

    And, word to whoever was talking about “y’all.” I contend it is an absolutely viable second person plural construction (“you all”) with the happy asset of gender-neutrality, and I will not give it up.

  117. the opoponax

    “It seems to me pretty clear that the gender-associations given to nouns are slanted in a certain male-glorifying direction.”

    well, unfortunately, generations of linguists, some of them the most radically feminist people you’ll come across, would beg to differ.

    and considering that you think the romance languages are inherently more sexist than other languages, i have a feeling they know more about it than you do.

  118. Rhus

    Hello, Antares:

    It was not my intention to be condescending – it would be a pity to delurk at Twisty’s just to attack somebody else. However, I did want to poke fun at you in order to bring home a point.

    I’ll be blunt now: your assumptions are wrong on several counts. These assumptions are what I’m attacking.

    “It seems to me pretty clear that the gender-associations given to nouns are slanted in a certain male-glorifying direction.”

    Well, as a native speaker of Spanish, this is utterly false, and I can assure the same for Italian, French, Portuguese. If you had taken the trouble of learning the language instead of picking a few words here and there to confirm your theory, you would probably have seen it. Again: grammatical gender, as many people have said here in different ways, is arbitrary and random. The “vestido” joke that j mentioned before is as bewildering to me as it is to her – very probably, that teacher hasn’t grasped a very basic thing about the language.

    You did sound to me condescending here:

    “I refuse to express myself in a mysognistic language.”

    You are saying this in English. You are “expressing yourself” in English. Do you mean that English is intrinsecally non-misogyinistic and my romance language is? I really wouldn’t mind accepting it were it true, but again, I think you are wrong. Both languages express a patriarchal reality in many guises. I won’t say that the concept of language changing the way you think is wrong, but it is at least highly debatable.

    But the point I wanted to make has been better said by LMYC. Because I speak some English, I can read Twisty, for instance. If you speak another language, you can communicate with other women and learn new things about feminism, since it is clearly very important to you, and new things about other human beings. There are many valid reasons, I’m sure, not to learn a language and people are obviously not obliged to do so; but I think that the reason you’ve given, besides being based on a wrong assumption, shouldn’t have overcome the joy of communicating and learning. And it honestly pains me that you managed to live for nine years in different cultures and refused to fully communicate on such flimsy grounds.

  119. the opoponax

    @ DG:

    “I’ve considered attaching the many articles and literary works that use “they/their” to let my professor know that she needs to reconsider her stance, but haven’t had the energy.”

    i believe the MLA agreed 8-9 years ago (as of the 1998 or 1999) that “they” constructions are acceptable. i know the legal profession doesn’t use MLA style, but it might be a good bargaining chip. and it would take less effort to prove this to your professor than xeroxing a ton of articles would.

  120. Antares

    Lucija : I appreciate your wise and eloquent reply. Its true that you have lifetimes of linguistic knowledge over me, so I’ll hold your opinion in the front of my mind, thank you. It just seems to me these languages are so obviously biased – right from the moment the nouns need to be given a gender.

    You said, “It doesn’t make them unworthy of learning… Or their speakers unworthy of communication…”

    Yes, yes, we are in agreement on that.

    My experience is that _language_ doesnt really matter that much – IRL, I mean. If both people want to engage in the transaction (or whatever), then it happens with gestures, smiling, trying words out, pointing, drawing pictures, etc. I’ve found it a blessing not to understand what the men on the street are howling at me, and I’m ammune to the advertising on the Metro.

  121. Antares

    ouch. make that : immune.

    Rhus : I appreciate your reply. Thank you, especiallly, for seconding the belief that the grammatical gender is arbitrary and random.

    I haven’t learned the languages because of the reasons I’ve given more than twice already, but, further, I’ll share that I’ve been living pretty much in isolation during this past decade. This time of solitude has not been about embedding myself into a culture, making friends, or learning languages. Instead, it’s been a very inward-focused phase of my life that I’m only recently feeling is finally beginning to let me go.

  122. kiki

    Im not open to learning languages that are without neutral-gender nouns and a gender-neutral third-person pronoun. I consider it part of my feminism, actually.

    Because ignorance is strength? This recalcitrance not only limits the number of people with which you can communicate, but it also limits your opportunity to acquire (and share) ideas and concepts that have no corresponding word in your vocabulary. You are more likely to remain ignorant of the extent to which language has formed your thoughts and beliefs and less able to experience a paradigm shift that allows you to see the world from a very different perspective.

  123. Antares

    Kiki : I agree with everything you said. This decision has isolated me. Yes.

    In this time, one of the things I’ve been doing is deconditioning myself from external concepts, beliefs, ideas and perspectives. I’ve been on a long journey which had much to do with not engaging with others. Furthermore, consciously not taking in a language/mental structure _that intrinsically disrepects me_ and that I didnt need (without a Japanese girlfriend equivalent) during this time of my life has been a decision that has served me well.

  124. RadFemHedonist

    “Basically, I was trying to dispel the idea that racism is more “serious” than misogyny.”

    It’s not, but it’s not less serious either.

    “Or more radically, there will be no expectation of what gender or bodies should be. This, I find particularly challenging to think about from the medical perspective. So much of the discussion about ‘what to do’ with babies who are born with sexually ambiguous genitalia centers around ‘fixing’ the child.
    While I am totally for making sure that babies are healthy, I really do have to question who gets to decide what healthy is. A lot of times health is very much circumscribed by normality.”

    I sure as sugar know that cut up genitalia are violative of body rights and have nothing to do with preservation of body health. I want to live in a world where not a single person has anything less than a 100% intact body, ‘cept for hymens, nails, teeth (which fall out once) and hair (mostly facial hair that gets in the way, waxing and shaving are stupid), or medically necessary to body health surgery. I have no expectations about what a body should be. It’s never seemed radical to me to propose that bodies have no sex, that everyone is basically androgynous and the whole notion of fixing the “intersexed” is screwed up psychopathy. I don’t have any notion of what’s radical really, I use the moniker because it generally coincides with my goals.

  125. Catherine Martell

    Tigs and RadFemHedonist: fascinating points. Intersexuality is a particular interest of mine. Had a great confab recently with a paediatrician friend who let on that it happens far more often than people think.

    I am strongly opposed to chopping up children’s bodies so that they conform to what society considers to be a “normal” sexual identity. In fact, I think it’s barbaric. (If they or anyone else decides to modify their adult body, that’s their business; I just don’t think anyone should be operated on so radically without their consent unless there’s an immediate threat of incapacity or death.)

    It’s never seemed radical to me to propose that bodies have no sex, that everyone is basically androgynous and the whole notion of fixing the “intersexed” is screwed up psychopathy. I don’t have any notion of what’s radical really, I use the moniker because it generally coincides with my goals.

    What I have learned from “liberal” websites and particularly their crypto-leftie commentariats is that “radical” feminism is to suggest that women are people, and a “radical” attitude to biological sex is to suggest that bodies aren’t generally wrong until society and culture decrees that they are. And apparently to highlight the fact that sex and gender are not necessarily causally linked is akin to telling a medieval pope that the earth is round and may orbit the sun.

    Personally I consider your views as expressed here to be normal and moderate. Let’s all embrace our inner taqueau.

  126. Miller

    RadFemHedonist,

    Actually, I’m going to say misogyny is worse than racism today in terms of acceptance, glorification, extremism, and sheer numbers of hate crimes. Let me make this clear: I am not white; I have experienced racism, which I believe grants me a credible perspective. Jim Crow extremism against blacks offers the best comparison regarding misogyny today, w/ one glaring exception: while the South enjoyed minstrel shows depicting blacks as comical fools who ejoyed slavery while we have violent extremism enhanced by the power of sex (“torture porn”) as the mainstream in porn, which defines male sexuality, and now increasingly the norm in film (Grindhouse, Saw, etc.).

    I don’t see people flocking to enjoy the sadism of movies glamorizing the slaughtering of ethnic minorities, justifying hate crimes. I don’t hear pop culture celebrating the slavery of ethnic minorities and the killings of slaves. I don’t fear being brutalized by racists as I walk down the streets (unlike my fear of dudes).

    Simply: My life as a non-white person is somewhat valued, while my life as a non-male is not merely trivialized but openly despised.

  127. BrevisMus

    I’ve come ridiculously late to this thread (that will teach me to do my work rather than check for new posts), but I’ve always liked ‘vaginal fortitude’ as an alternative to ‘ballsiness’.

    I am still waiting for someone to say to me ‘you’ve got balls’ so that I can reply with ‘no, it’s vaginal fortitude’.

    (And I like to think of ‘man’ as being a shortened form of ‘woman’ – and ‘he’ as a shortened form of ‘she’ – rather than ‘woman’ being a derivative of ‘man’).

  128. the opoponax

    change it to vulvular fortitude, or maybe uterine fortitude (ovular fortitude? clitoral fortitude would work, too) and i’m in. why do people get so hyped about the freakin’ vagina?

    repeat after me, y’all: The Vagina Is The Tube Part, Not The Whole Thing.

    see also, Ms. Ensler, It Should Be The Vulva Monologues.

  129. Catherine Martell

    I’m pinching this idea off someone, possibly Germaine Greer, but no: it should not be The Vagina Monologues, and nor should it be The Vulva Monologues. If it was really radical, it would be called The Brain Monologues, because that’s the part of women that tends to get ignored.

    Moreover, people quite often ignore my pancreas. But somehow I don’t think I’d get Jane Fonda and Erica Jong to appear in that show.

  130. j

    “well, unfortunately, generations of linguists, some of them the most radically feminist people you’ll come across, would beg to differ.”

    Actually–and I’m just throwing this out there for kicks; I’m not sure how much I buy this–there’s some research about 2.0.CO;2-Y>psychosexual predictors of grammatical gender. It smells suspiciously of pseudoscience to me, but apparently soft things and objects that contain or hold other objects are more likely to be feminine, while things that protrude are more likely to be masculine. In any case, I see no evidence that Romance languages are more sexist than Germanic languages or whatever. All language was created and evolved in a patriarchal context. For example, earlier I mentioned the gender-neutral third-person pronoun of Chinese. While it’s great that the pronoun is gender-neutral, all that happens is that people ask outright, “Is that a boy or a girl?” I think gender-neutral language will follow naturally from the elimination of the patriarchy.

  131. j

    Great, I screwed up the link. Just Google “psychosexual predictors of gender”; it’s the first result.

  132. MedeaOnCrack

    Miller you are so right. I can’t say more or better than what you’ve said. I am Metis, and some will even glorify me for that (reverse stereotyping noble savage at one with nature etc.). None will glorify me for being a woman, a radical feminist woman. I thank you for all your true comments.

  133. the opoponax

    @ Catherine Martell:

    so true! the vagina thing just totally gets me. vulva vulva vulva vulva!

  134. the opoponax

    that article is from 1979.

    the most definitive work i’ve seen on the subject is George Lakoff’s Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things, which didn’t come out till 1987. so i have a feeling it simply doesn’t represent the current scholarship on the matter.

    also, i noticed that the authors of the study are cultural anthropologists, not linguists. so i don’t think the study is pseudoscience, i just think it’s probably just a matter of people working outside their area of expertise.

  135. ew_nc

    I don’t know whether it’s the plethora of posts from the Seuss-sounding opoponax, or the idea of gender-neutral identification, but after reading all this, I’m flashing on The Sneetches. (star-belly and otherwise)

  136. the opoponax

    The Star-Bellied Sneeches would be a great name for a band.

    my name, however Seussian, is actually from a novel by the abovementioned Monique Wittig.

  137. Tigs

    RadFemHedonist –
    I was thinking, although on further interrogation of my assumptions I realize that this thinking is informed primarily by random TLC specials, that many of the surgeries done to intersex infants were done not only for aesthetics, but rather to correct some other problem with the formation of a urethra or something that was actually damaging to the ‘actual’ health of the infant (as in: this kid will die if this surgery isn’t done). And that in the process of these dire surgeries (another example might be of completely undescended testes, which I think can cause toxic problems), doctors were making choices they think are for the immediate health of the child, but are actually aesthetic.

    If this is not so, and I totally acknowledge my ignorance, I apologize.

  138. kiki

    The Star-Bellied Sneeches would be a great name for a band.

    This made me think of the Dead Kennedy’s ode to white male privilege,”Holiday in Cambodia”.

  139. Feminist Avatar

    While a discussion of gender-free language is a useful starting point, I was wondering (rather presumptously) whether we could think more about a gender-free society. What would a gender-free society look like? What would be the place of the body within that society?

    If some people give birth to babies, how do we incorporate that experience into a gender-free society? Would a gender-free society look radically different from our own? Would ‘nuclear’ families be possible? Would we have a concept of sexuality? Would we prize the world of work as we do now? Who would do what jobs and when and why?

    Would class and race exist within a gender-free society?

    You know, the easy questions.

  140. the opoponax

    Feminist Avatar, I’ve been thinking a lot about that very question lately. Well, to be honest, I’ve been thinking a lot about that very question on and off for the past 5 years. But you get the idea.

    In terms of incorporating the fact that some people have babies — well, I imagine we could just leave it at that. Not all women have them anyway, and we seem to get along fine. In fact, that’s why the definition of woman as “person who is capable of giving birth” seems so silly to me. Are infertile people who have the proper equipment still not women? What about people who pass as women, but unbeknownst to the rest of us, don’t have the “proper” equipment? My mother had a hysterectomy a few years ago — does that mean she’s not a woman anymore?

    So to me, a genderless society simply wouldn’t be fixated on who has babies and who doesn’t in terms of creating categories. It would be the equivalent of “people who can make a W with their tongue” or “people who have tonsils”. In a genderless society, I would probably be one of the people who chose to reproduce. But such a thing wouldn’t be expected of me, and that choice would be completely value neutral, like choosing to go to grad school or take up SCUBA diving.

  141. Mar Iguana

    “Actually, I’m going to say misogyny is worse than racism today in terms of acceptance, glorification, extremism, and sheer numbers of hate crimes.”

    It has always been worse. Racism could not exist without sexism. It is THE root oppression. It is why the boys have been corraling women like brood mares for millenia, in order to guarantee the “purity” of their particular boyo bunch.

    I’m white and Mexican. I’ll be 60 soon and it’s as if I was born questioning racism. It’s been a long, strange trip.

  142. chingona

    So I know that everyone is jumping on Antares, and she clearly is very comfortable with her decision, but I want to give a concrete example of how having gender neutral pronouns or nouns really is not that relevant.

    I speak Guarani, which is an indigenous language of South America. (It’s not my native language, but it was my default language for about two years, so I speak it fairly well.) It has no gender for nouns and a neutral third person pronoun that actually applies to people (unlike the English “it”).

    And yet, this is a culture where woman often don’t attend or speak in community meetings, walking by yourself marks you as a loose woman, and at meals, women sit in the kitchen, serve the men, and then eat the leftovers – sometimes actually the gnawed, discarded food off the men’s plates. A lot of good their gender neutral third person pronoun is doing them.

    As a side note, the word for vagina in Guarani is tako. That’s the first thing I thought of when I saw taqeaux. (It’s not a bad word or a slang word, just the name of that body part.)

  143. Virago

    “My life as a non-white person is somewhat valued, while my life as a non-male is not merely trivialized but openly despised.”

    I can counter this by saying that, as a POC, my life has been more than somewhat devalued. In fact, I have been openly despised for being a POC and a woman.

    Please don’t assume that you have the right to speak for all POC or all WOC.

    “Racism could not exist without sexism.”

    We don’t actually know if this is true or not. In fact, I even see racism among people who I believe to hold clearly non-sexist views. Many mainstream feminists, for example, have often been (rightfully, in my opinion) accused of racism, and many WOC refuse to call themselves feminist because racism is such a problem among mainstream feminists.

  144. Virago

    Tako is vagina in Guarani? Cool. Tako is octopus in Japanese.

    Coincidence? I think not.

  145. chingona

    Vagina. Octopus. The pinnacle of human achievement. I love languages.

  146. Moira

    I’m late late late to this here thread, and surprised that we’ve gotten this far without mentioning that in German, the human female is neuter until marriage: das Mädchen, das Fräulein, die Frau. Speaking of making the female invisible.

    And I’d like to give a shout to Samuel R. Delany, who used ‘woman’ as the default word for a human in several novels, requiring that people refer specifically to male women. And female pronouns are used pretty much exclusively. As a gamer, I give White Wolf credit for actually using ‘she’ in their books. Oh, the wailing and the gnashing of teeth from men who had to confront the fact that women existed outside of porn. But I note that Dungeons and Dragons has, in their most recent editions, adopted the same convention of using female pronouns about half the time.

    Defending The Vagina Monologues — I’m ever so familiar with the way that vernacular and jargon use the same word with different definitions, what with the way anti-science folks abuse my poor, poor ‘theory.’ But it’s not always wrong. True, ‘vagina’ refers specifically to the tube (and I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for ‘vaginal vestibule’) when we’re talking about anatomy, but many people also use ‘vagina’ to mean the whole collection of bits back to and including the cervix, particularly in an ‘I can say this on TV, right?’ sense. As a social and political statement, it’s probably more effective to use the word that would reach the most people.

    RadFemHedonist, do you include elective body modifications like piercings and tattoos in your ideal no-surgery world? How about transsexual folks? The guy in Modern Primitives who split his dick in half? While I so completely agree that genital cutting is often used as a means of oppressing women (and a very dear friend is still angry about the genital surgeries she had inflicted on her as an infant), could there be surgical modifications that don’t contribute to that oppression?

  147. Catherine Martell

    Virago:

    Please don’t assume that you have the right to speak for all POC or all WOC.

    Seconded. My feeling is that the experiences of POCs with racism vary more than the experiences of women with sexism. Which is to say that racism tends to take a similar form everywhere in the world, but affects you very differently depending on what colour you are and what the society around you is like.

    It is possible, in theory at least, for any individual POC to move between different social groups and experience very different reactions in each: unquestioning acceptance in one, the objectifying “glorification” qua noble savage that MedeaOnCrack describes in another, and fear and/or loathing in another. As a woman, though, there is no group you can move into where you are immune from loathing, except possibly a radical lesbian separatist women’s collective, and there aren’t many of those about.

    None of this is to say that racism is less or more damaging than sexism; just that it results in a range of different experiences, and that generalisation is impossible. MedeaOnCrack and Miller are speaking the truth about their own experiences, which is entirely valid. But the experiences of other people may well lead them to conclude that racism is a more serious problem than sexism, especially if they happen to belong to a particularly despised ethnic group – if you’re brown and wear a veil in Europe; if you’re darker than average in India; if you’re anything other than 100% Han Chinese in China.

    Both racism and sexism stem from a culture of dominance. Eliminating one is probably impossible unless the other is simultaneously eliminated. I know that some feminists feel that anti-racism has had more visible success than anti-sexism, on the grounds that they feel there is more public acceptance of the fact that racism is a problem. True, few white liberal dudes will permit themselves open racism, while many will permit themselves open sexism. True, this is infuriating. But move outside that milieu and the parameters change. In most of the world, racism, like sexism, is still a completely unchallenged prejudice.

    If you take a global view, you’ll find that the “acceptance, glorification, extremism and sheer number of hate crimes” motivated by race is still very much a serious problem. It’s impossible to distinguish causes in many instances: are the Chinese and Korean “comfort women” raped by Japanese soldiers victims principally of misogyny or racism; ditto the Bosnian Muslim women raped by Serbs; ditto the Tutsi women raped by Hutus?

    I don’t think we’re going to get anywhere unless we attack racism alongside misogyny, and I don’t think there’s much to be gained by chicken-and-egg discussions about the origins of these prejudices. Cultures of dominance are a problem for everyone on the wrong end of them. Purveyors of hate crimes of any flavour should watch out: I shall set my vaginal octopus on them.

  148. MedeaOnCrack

    Virago I’ve yet to meet a man of colour who didn’t think he was a man. With all that implies.

  149. Tigs

    Just as an aside, is the title of this post an Asimov reference?
    These titles are the best. Monty Python, the Beatles, scifi, it’s like all of my favorite pop culture markers turned into feminist street signs.

  150. Virago

    Excuse me?

    I’m a woman of color who thinks I am a woman. With all that that implies.

    I’m not interested in debating whether form of oppression is more worthy than another. It’s divisive and antithetical to the establishment of equality for all.

  151. Virago

    Excuse me, of course I meant to say that:

    I am not interested in debating whether one form of oppression is more worthy than another. It’s divisive and antithetical to the establishment of equality for all.

  152. MedeaOnCrack

    Well I’m not wanting to debate you either, just trying to make a point from my life observations, which is that I have never found much to choose between the white man or the coloured man who is pimping out my sister. And they didn’t much care if she was white or coloured either, only that she is a woman.

  153. Virago

    If you can’t see, Medea, that there is a difference between a person of color (“colored man”?) and a white person, I can’t help you. (Here’s a hint though: The only difference is not the color of their skin.)

  154. Frumious B

    “Racism could not exist without sexism.”

    I even see racism among people who I believe to hold clearly non-sexist views.

    Racism and sexism are institutions. Racists and sexists are individual people. That a non-sexist individual can hold racist views in no way implies that racism as an institution exists independently from sexism as an institution.

    I don’t hold any opinion about whether racism is an offshoot of sexism, or sexism is an offshoot of racism, or if they developed on parallel tracks. I am convinced that right now racism and sexism are part of the same ugly whole.

  155. Virago

    Thank you, FrumB. I was trying to say something very like that. I just couldn’t quite get my head around the “sexism trumps racism” mode of thinking enough to say it with any coherency.

    Sexism and racism (and classism and sizeism and and and) are part of an ugly whole and trying to elevate one over the other is a useless pursuit.

  156. phonelesscord

    As for being born into a particular language and not having the opportunity to do anything about it – I don’t know if that’s completely true. While one taqueau isn’t going to change grammatical convention on her own, these conventions certainly change over time, and proposing/using new words and constructions is a step in the right direction.

    Here’s an interesting article – http://www.box.net/shared/apzfhlyko6
    (you have to open the file on the webpage to read it)

    about creating gender-neutral pronouns, for those who like a side of grammar nerdiness with their feminism entree.

  157. RadFemHedonist

    “I was thinking, although on further interrogation of my assumptions I realize that this thinking is informed primarily by random TLC specials, that many of the surgeries done to intersex infants were done not only for aesthetics, but rather to correct some other problem with the formation of a urethra or something that was actually damaging to the ‘actual’ health of the infant (as in: this kid will die if this surgery isn’t done). And that in the process of these dire surgeries (another example might be of completely undescended testes, which I think can cause toxic problems), doctors were making choices they think are for the immediate health of the child, but are actually aesthetic.”

    I’m no more an expert than you are, but everything I have read on the subject makes no mention of “intersexed” bodies requiring surgery to get rid of actual health problems such as urination difficulties, but to “sex” the child. As far as I know there is still much operation done for the latter reason, but I would like to investigate further.

  158. thebewilderness

    Virago,
    Periodically this issue comes up about who we are speaking for. On this blog it was determined about a year ago, maybe more, that each of us speaks our own opinion, only for ourselves.
    What I don’t understand is why you would assume that another is assuming that they speak for anyone but themselves.
    That assuming is mess stuff.

  159. Virago

    Of course that is true when you are white that you can say, “I only speak for myself.” Unfortunately, for POC, the issue is not so clear. There are a few problems.

    For example, POC, when they are in the minority (or appear to be, as on a board like this) in a discussion, are assumed to be speaking for all the people of their race.

    Another problem is that someone saying something along the lines of, “I am a POC and I think–” is establishing themselves as an “expert” on the matter of race, as someone who speaks for POC. (It’s similar to people on the board who step in and say, “Well, I’m a lawyer, and–” Most people are going to think that, if it’s a matter of law, this person’s opinon carries more weight.)

    It’s not fair, of course, but that’s how it is.

    Again, I’m not interested in a divisive argument about racism and white privilege. I don’t think it belongs on this board, nor am I going to be able to explain the ideas about racism that have been better said (and as little listened to) by better people.

  160. Mar Iguana

    “I don’t think we’re going to get anywhere unless we attack racism alongside misogyny, and I don’t think there’s much to be gained by chicken-and-egg discussions about the origins of these prejudices.” Catherine Martell

    Corpboy loves keeping people focused on racism. Keeps folks from focusing on their target group: Women, who they are terrified are going to wake up and yank the keystone out their patriARCHy. We’re never going to get anywhere by focusing on anything other than misogyny. Do some math. Blacks (who suffered by far the most hideous racism the white boys had to offer) are, what, around 12% of the population, over half of which are female. Add in all the other non-white citizens and it still doesn’t equal in number the largest group in this country: Women, 51% of the population, without whose unpaid/underpaid labor, the boys’ economic system would collapse.

    There is much to be gained with discussions about the origins of these prejudices lest they be thought of as mere human nature. I can’t recommend strongly enough that women read Gerda Lerner’s “The Creation of Patriarchy,” as in not natural but rather a manmade system that has been in place for only a fraction of the time that people have been on the planet.

    Sexism v. racism is not a chicken or egg situation. Use the tree (an important women’s symbol, by the way) as the metaphor: the roots (underground, hidden) are misogyny from which sprout all other oppressions. You do realize what group was the first to be enslaved, right? Patriarchy is just a fancy word for thievery. One bunch of lazy-assed boys figured out the quick and dirty way to get lots of stuff was to steal it from the neighboring lazy-assed boys, kill them all, kidnap all the women and take them home to rape and do all the dirty work of human maintenance, making it easier to corral their own brood mare-women.

    This scam has worked like a charm for such a long-ass time now, with white men having won their position at the top of the hill. This is very unfortunate for white women who never cease to amaze me by believing they are privileged by getting the bestest and mostest crumbs off great white father’s table. The can’t/don’t want to face that their white boys they defend to the death have done nothing more for them than make them the group of women with the biggest target painted on their asses, the ones every non-white boy wants to fuck/rape because it destroys the white boys’ most valuable commodity. Read Eldridge Cleaver’s “Soul On Ice.” Chilling.

  161. Virago

    I disagree. And, if you are telling WOC to put aside their concerns in order to fight for yours, well, that’s a lot of hubris that more than likely stems from white privilege, the kind of white privilege that drives WOC away from feminism.

    Now, you claim that women are the most oppressed and make up half the population of the world, so we should all full stop and apply ourselves to the eradication of sexism. But what you conveniently gloss over is that the vast majority of the women on this planet are WOC. So if WOC, who make up thee majority of the world’s population have a concern about racism and the issues that they faces as women of color, then maybe you should listen to them instead of continuing to push your agenda at their expense.

    I realize that I am arguing against the same person who claims, in another thread that transgender individuals have no place in your feminist movement, so it doesn’t exactly surprise me that you also feel that us “coloured” people’s issues should have no place in the fight against sexism.

    Apparently, the defaults “white” and “straight” are A-OK, and that the only default setting we should be working to change is “male.”

  162. Virago

    At the risk of diluting my message, I beg that everyone please excuse my typos. Apparently, facing down white privilege saps my mad typing skillz.

  163. Mar Iguana

    Virago, face this down: I’m not white. And, attempting to silence me because I know doctors cannot magically turn boys into women is a cheap shot I’ll wager you dredged up hoping I won’t risk re-visiting that train wreck. Strain your typing skillz (sic) all damn day and night to paint me as a racist homophobe if you want. It will not make it so.

    I was only talking about the racial breakdown in this country above, but if you want to take it global, let’s go. You tell me what color boy views the women of his same color as human?

  164. Virago

    I don’t know how many times I have to say that I’m not interested in a divisive argument about racism on this blog. Apparently, my saying NO means nothing. Odd how that works with some people.

    But I’m not above defending myself.

    You claim, Medea, that white women are “the group of women with the biggest target painted on their asses,” and I disagree for the reasons I stated above. I don’t care if you take it global. I don’t care if you take it universal. You can beat me over the head with made up statistics. You can tell me that every woman in the world has taken a vote and has agreed that we should all work to liberate white women before we focus on the issues that women of color face, and I would still disagree with you.

    Yes, yes, I’m sure some of your best friends are women of color, but in light of your racist comments, your trying to school me or anyone aboout what the goals of feminism are supposed to be is like when those MF’s show up here to school women on what the goals of feminism are supposed to be. I don’t take it from them and I’m not going to take it from you. But don’t take that especially personally because I don’t take it from anyone who tries to put themselves in the pater-approved know-it-all position of authority over me or anyone when it comes to the issue of WOC and feminism.

    I’m slso not taking any cheap shots at you. You said hateful things about transgendered individuals five months ago and you are saying hateful things about people of color now and you should stand by your words if that’s what you believe, but you should also know that you will face being called out because of it.

    You might want me to argue with you mano-a-mano on the content of your comment, which I might do if things like “You tell me what color boy views the women of his same color as human?” made any damn sense. (of course, if it’s a matter of this question (?) harboring a typo that makes it nonsensical, you have my utmost sympathy.)

  165. therealUK

    And, if you are telling WOC to put aside their concerns in order to fight for yours … you also feel that us “coloured” people’s issues should have no place in the fight against sexism.

    NO ONE here is saying that, and that sort of (at best stupid, at worst destructively slanderous) assumption and accusation is what makes this particular topic virtually impossible to discuss.

    the vast majority of the women on this planet are WOC

    Ooh, ooh. Actually that’s me you’re referring to there, AND several other of the commenters here as well.

    Look people, saying that there is a different dynamic in the way that racism and sexism play out is not saying that one is better than the other.

    Remember South African apartheid ? I do. I was there, with the boycotts and rallies and anti-apartheid work. (And learning that anti-racist men are just like most of the rest of them: deeply misogynistic and homophobic, and that women’s role in politics is to fuck, fetch tea, and stand by your man).

    But people (at least anyone considering themselves at all a decent human being) recognised apartheid as a human rights violation because it was a violation of MALE rights. So there was an ongoing outcry.

    People don’t recognise the violation of women’s rights in anything like the same way. One woman raped every 30 seconds in South Africa. That’s about 3 or 4 more by the time you’ve read this post. Women – feminists, in SA fight this, but where’s the support from the men ? Very very thin on the ground I can tell you.

    Plently of other examples worldwide.

    What I don’t quite get though, is this (particularly American ?) reaction that when someone says that globally women suffer differently, and that most men (any colour) are just fighting over their position on the patriarchal shit-heap, that “liberals” recognise male oppression as a bad thing, that socially the male quest for more of the shit-heap pie is an acceptable one, that women fundamentally are the ones who suffer, over and over, and the whole sick system would be undermined by recognising women’s rights as human rights, and it is not undermined as long as men of whatever colour or social status are not called out as the violaters, how, I mean how the f u c k does that get translated into the whole white privilge/ silencing woc schtick – when it is women of colour (just mostly not American ones) themselves that are saying this !

    (And no, for those who need it spelling out time after time and still won’t listen, this does not mean that racism is not bad, or should be ignored, or that people’s personal experiences with racism are not important, or that racism should not be tackled. It’s saying that sexism and racism may intersect, but are not parallel, there is not the same dynamic: it’s only women that are directly targetted by both, whereas men are only targetted by one. That’s why it’s not the same – how can it be ?)

  166. Virago

    Will someone who’s been on this blog longer than I have please inform me whether or not I am bandying words with a meta-Mandos? I only have a set number of hours in the day for this kind of thing and I’d like to conserve my energy for more worthy pursuits if that is the case.

  167. Inverarity

    Will someone who’s been on this blog longer than I have please inform me whether or not I am bandying words with a meta-Mandos?

    Dunno, but I think you’re confusing MarIguana with Medea.

  168. therealUK

    OK, there’s more.

    I think what we have here is woc (I’m ignoring the whiteys at the moment) falling into two camps: there’s the ones that ask, why aren’t men (of colour) globally working on behalf of women ? Why do men continue to violate and ignore women’s human rights while crapping all over them in order to secure more status for themselves, why are these men (of colour) more interested in stupid macho pissing contests and stupid male politics than the lives and rights of women (of colour) ?

    I know that I personally do not, and will not support these men.

    Then there are women who object to those questions, object to the lack of support given to those men(of colour) who violate and violently silence women (of colour), and object by telling the women (of colour) in the first camp how racist they are.

    It seems that the second camp is much more likely where American woc take up residence, and I’m guessing that this has to be to do with the particular experience of being in the materially richest country on the planet, while living with the festering sore that is race tensions in the USA, an immersion in identity politics and – oh how ironic – the failure to listen to any women (of colour) outside your immediate American experience.

  169. Virago

    First, I want to apologize for addressing Medea when it was Mar Iguana’s comments to which I was responding.

    Second, in regards to this:

    “NO ONE here is saying that, and that sort of (at best stupid, at worst destructively slanderous) assumption and accusation is what makes this particular topic virtually impossible to discuss.”-therealUK

    This:

    “And, if you are telling WOC to put aside their concerns in order to fight for yours … you also feel that us “coloured” people’s issues should have no place in the fight against sexism.”

    Was my response to this:

    “Corpboy loves keeping people focused on racism…We’re never going to get anywhere by focusing on anything other than misogyny.”-Mar Iguana

    If you don’t see why I find this–or Mar Iguana’s constant black vs. white examples–offensive, then actually this:

    “And no, for those who need it spelling out time after time and still won’t listen, this does not mean that racism is not bad, or should be ignored, or that people’s personal experiences with racism are not important, or that racism should not be tackled.”

    may need to be spelled out just one more time.

    It’s very rare to hear the voices of WOC online, as most of them are too damn poor to afford the luxury of computers and internet time. Since the voices of WOC are so little represented in forums like these, I greatly disagree that they would wholeheartedly embrace your version of feminism. And I wouldn’t blame them for a second if they didn’t embrace a form of feminism that claimed that “white women [...are...]the group of women with the biggest target painted on their asses, the ones every non-white boy wants to fuck/rape because it destroys the white boys’ most valuable commodity (Mar Iguana).”

    I don’t think that standing in defense of feminists in rich countries (who have a greater voice because of privilege) like the US and the UK is the end-all, be-all of liberation.

    I’m sure all of this has a point, but as I’ve said again and again, it’s a divisive argument. Despite my desire to not engage in such an argument, I’m still going to defend myself. Even–and especially–against those who would deride my mad typing skillz.

  170. therealUK

    Virago, I just want to say (briefly because I’m packing in for the night), that my attack is absolutely not against you personally, but against a particualr stance I see over and over.

    Both MarIguana and Medea are womwn of colour too you know, their experiences count as well. As do other women – colour or not – who can get to a computer and say look – hre’s what’s going on in the rest of the (not US, not wealthy elite) world.

  171. Virago

    Dear Lard, does no one read Audre Lorde anymore? Why, O why, when one begins to crack open some toolboxes does one only find Master’s brand tools? Though they come with a lifetime guarantee, my sisters, they are a poor value; I have heard credible rumors that such tools are spectacularly ineffective for all worthy tasks.

  172. Virago

    therealUK, I don’t assume your attack is personal.

    I have heard Mar Iguana say that she is “white and Mexican.” Then say, “I’m not white.” Not sayin’ that anyone’s playin’ both sides of the fence, but, well, you know.

    I’m not assuming that I am the only WOC on this board, but the sad fact is that if we all keep our mouths shut about it, then we all pass for white. That’s a powerful act, passing for white, and perhaps some of those of us who do so begin to think that our pseudo-white privilege qualifies us to speak confidently on behalf of all people of color. Whites, who enjoy the privilege of naming and defining and speaking for all other people in this big world, do this all the damn time, and I call bullshit on those white and pseudo-white people who do it.

    My stance, from the very beginning, has been that no one has the right to speak for me, not as a woman, not as a person of color. No one has the right to tell me what I should stand up for in order to be a worthwhile feminist. No one–WOC or not, feminist or not–has the right to make racist statements and expect that they’re not going to get called out for it.

  173. Virago

    Damn it, damn them all to hell, the vagarious close italics tag.

    My momma didn’t raise no fools, but damn if she couldn’t have tried harder to teach me some html–and the ins and outs of the qwerty keyboard.

    No, no. It’s wrong of me to blame my momma. IBTP.

  174. Virago

    Let me just bring on over a little bit of Twisty from the De Anza thread. Sayeth Twisty:

    “Class and race intersect all over the place. Privilege does not accrue in a strict vertical hierarchy. It is a vast oversimplification to declaim that because sexism came first, its importance, as the ur-oppression, must be more dire. Racism, sexism — they’re all on the same continuum; primacy is, at this stage of the game, irrelevant. Surely, if this blog advocates anything, it advocates the revolution that would topple the social order predicated on dominance and submission wherein all these isms flourish.

    I have found that, in mixed company, the person with the most valuable insight into the nature of a given instance of oppression generally turns out to be a member of the oppressed group.

    Using the word ‘minority’ to describe people of color is inaccurate. People of western European descent, i.e. honkys, are a minority on this planet.”

  175. justicewalks

    I never knew why most of my fellow American sisters of color were more concerned about racism than sexism, to the extent that they were willing to dismiss feminism altogether as antithetical to their fight for the rights of men of color. I had taken notice that other women of color are more likely to reject my friendship upon learning of my feminism than white women, but I attributed it to their greater likelihood of being ultra religious. Thank you, therealUK, for providing me another perspective on my shunned pariah-hood in America.

  176. Virago

    I’m not so sure that there is any one clear reason why American WOC give turn their backs on feminism. If you look at Nubian’s recent departure from the blogging world, and her stated refusal to call herself a feminist, it was because of the racism and abuse she faced from white, mainstream feminism. Alice Walker has her own reasons for her departure from feminism. Many WOC feel marginalized by feminism. The focus of American feminism is on the concerns of white women.

    There are problems with racism in the modern American feminist movement, and I see WOC who identify as feminists being shot down time and time again when they try to address those issues.

    Of course there needs to be discussion of this matter, but beginning that discussion with “sexism trumps racism” is probably not where that dialogue is going to begin.

  177. CannibalFemme

    I keep on shopping around the idea (which was a revelatory one for me) that it’s futile to separate oppressions, or count or calculate them as separate from one another, because the only way to really lay a groundwork for abolishing any one of them *must* take the others into consideration.

    I have not met with much success in flogging that particular notion, but I’m still damned fond of it. Which is probably way too touchy-feely for a misanthrope like me, alas.

    TherealUK: thank you for sharing that picture and perspective. Virago: thank you for speaking up as you do.

  178. Twisty

    “Let me just bring on over a little bit of Twisty from the De Anza thread. Sayeth Twisty:”

    Whoa! Did I post to the wrong thread? Is the same discussion going on in both places? Somebody help me out! I can’t keep track! You guys know I have chemo-brain!

  179. delphyne

    I agree Virago. The more I hear what feminists of colour have to say about their experiences, the more I realise what a narrow view some white feminists (particuarly myself as that is what I have most experience of) have been taking.

    BTW I don’t think that Alice Walker has departed from feminism. She says she is still a feminist but calls herself a “womanist” to describe a particularly African (African-American) experience of feminism and female power.

    There’s an interview here where she talks about it -

    ttp://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/womanshour/2005_41_sat_01.shtml

  180. Virago

    Twisty, I think your words as being applicable to many discussions, on many fronts. Chem-brained though you may be, you’re still thinking circles around the opposition. For that, I’m sending you a bouguet of early blooming New Mexican tacos on homemade tortillas. (I’m better at tamales, though, so you just say the word.)

    Thank you for the correction and that link, delphyn. I’m off to do some reading.

  181. thebewilderness

    Virago:
    I’m not assuming that I am the only WOC on this board, but the sad fact is that if we all keep our mouths shut about it, then we all pass for white. That’s a powerful act, passing for white, and perhaps some of those of us who do so begin to think that our pseudo-white privilege qualifies us to speak confidently on behalf of all people of color. Whites, who enjoy the privilege of naming and defining and speaking for all other people in this big world, do this all the damn time, and I call bullshit on those white and pseudo-white people who do it.

    My stance, from the very beginning, has been that no one has the right to speak for me, not as a woman, not as a person of color. No one has the right to tell me what I should stand up for in order to be a worthwhile feminist. No one–WOC or not, feminist or not–has the right to make racist statements and expect that they’re not going to get called out for it.

    They were speaking for themselves, from the very beginning.
    Because you are fairly new to commenting here, I mentioned that upthread. You refused to listen.
    You started out accusing people of speaking from white privilege, and now you claim they are passing for white. Criminy. Are you so dependent on the visual class codes of the patriarchy that you cannot hear an opinion that you disagree with, without making these galloping assumptions?

  182. Virago

    Please see my reply to your upthread post. I most certainly did not start out accusing people of speaking out from white privilege. I said that there is a difference between whites and POC when it comes to what appears to you to be simply speaking for oneself. But I already made my point about that.

    Of course I listen to differing opinions all the time, but when those differing opinions veer into racism, I call bullshit on them. Calling bullshit on racist opinions is not “making galloping assumptions,” it is calling bullshit on racist opinions.

    It seems a bit of a specious tactic to accuse me of being dependent on the–how do you say?–”visual class codes of the patriarchy” when if I hadn’t opened my mouth and identified myself as a person of color, you might have, this being the internet and all, assumed that I was a white person. (White is the default; white=normal after all.) In fact, I have said from the very beginning of this discussion that I wished to avoid such divisive arguments in which one had to choose between racism and sexism. I don’t see how my desire to avoid such a discussion marks me as “dependent on the visual class codes of the patriarchy.”

  183. Virago

    And too, the bewilderness, I would appreciate it if you didn’t try to shame me into silence by calling me a newbie. I am certainly not new to blaming, though my presence on this blog is new to you. And I would furthermore very much appreciate it if didn’t try to shame me into silence with a wagged-fingered “You didn’t listen.” I read what you wrote and I responded. If you have anything to add, I will hear you out and respond again. If my response is not to your liking, perhaps you’d like to reexamine why you are so little able to listen to differing opinions without reaching for the “I already told you what to think so why do you insist on continuing to have your own opinion?” stick.

  184. thebewilderness

    I read your upthread post.
    “Of course that is true when you are white that you can say, “I only speak for myself.” Unfortunately, for POC, the issue is not so clear. There are a few problems.”

    I’m not trying to shame you at all. I am attempting to point out as gently as I can that you are behaving like an asshat.
    Now that I realize that you are not an honest person, I have nothing more to say to you.

  185. Virago

    Asshat? You disappoint me; I expected you to resort to something more along the lines of “uppity.” Ah, well, I’ve been called worse by better people than you, which is how I know that when someone reaches that point of name-calling, they’ve got nothing–and nothing useful or interesting to add to the discussion.

    Thank you for your input into this discussion on race and sexism, thebewilderness. I’m sure you’re off to read some blackamazon now.

  186. therealUK

    no one has the right to speak for me, not as a woman, not as a person of color.

    This is true, everyone can only speak for themselves, their experiences, what they have seen, what they have been told. But this applies across the board, not all white people globally are the same or have the same experience, not all poc globally are the same have the same experience. No one knows everything, and globally, poc are just as ignorant and closed minded as p not oc.

    People, women in a particular situation or culture will have some things in common. But also women of different colour, different culture, different nationality, different class – who are concerned with human rights injustices – may have very much in common as well.

    I will relate more to people who hold the same basic principles I do ie. wanting to dismantle the heirarchical shit-heap, and not necessarily relate at all on same colour, same class, same whatever external lable has been given by others.

    And I don’t like to see people being called racist, just because their experiences are different or because of disagreement, or because of pointing out that some people take a different stance/set of values: these things are not “silencing” or “speaking for” either.

    There are problems with racism in the modern American feminist movement

    Speaking as an outsider, what I notice is that there are obviously problems in American* society, a long-standing racist rot that is there largely as a legacy of invasion and slavery, but the divisions that already exist in wider society are often not addressed for what they really are but end up being blamed on “feminism** (because it’s racist and only for white women(???!!))”.

    the only way to really lay a groundwork for abolishing any one of them *must* take the others into consideration.

    Yes.

    *there is racism everywhere of course, it’s part of the patriarchal package, but just because it plays out one way in USA does not mean it plays out like that everywhere.

    **sometimes it’s aimed at “mainstream” feminism, which I have other problems with as well, but most strange to me is the blame put on radfem as the ultimate in racistmiddleclasswhitefeminism, when really it is anything but.

  187. RadFemHedonist

    Actually, I try not to make presumptions about the race of commentors because it seems redundant. I haven’t presumed anyone is white, I haven’t presumed anyone is any race at all.

    I actually almost imagined virago as a character from a book because there is a publisher by that name, so I get this picture from a book they sell. I have no idea what race anyone is unless they say.

  188. Virago

    therealUK, you gave me a lot to think about with your outsider view of American WOC in American feminism. If I understand you correctly, your opinion is that, in America, WOC feminists are either asking “Where are the men (of color) to defend us and speak up for us?” or they’re saying that the WOC who are asking this are racist. Am I correct that this is your view?

    I disagree with this. One reason is that it suggests that the concerns of American WOC feminsts are entirely intra-racial, WOC vs. WOC, or WOC vs. MOC. That is definitely not true in my experience. When discussing problems AWOC often cite the race and class biases exhibited by white feminists. That is not to say that AWOC do not have disagreements with other WOC and MOC. Of course they do, but it is extremely rare that this takes precedence over the larger issues that WOC face in regards to interracial prejudices.

    Another place I wish to disagree with your analysis is the presumption that AWOC’s dedication to feminism is reliant on the participation or lack of participation of men. That dog, as they say, don’t hunt. I’ve never heard an AWOC ask (except in very specific instances, which, see below) , “Where are da Menz?” I have found that AWOC express concerns about the participation of men in feminism about as often as white feminists express the same need.

    In fact, I have never heard the argument framed the way you frame it except in very specific instances. The Million Man March is one such instance, which did get a lot of press, I think, and which may have colored (no pun intended) the opinions of the rest of the world in regards to AWOC feminists. But that is a very limited view and problematic in part because it assumes that WOC=black or African-American, rather than seeing how America includes women who represent every race or ethnic or cultural variaton on the planet, with very few exceptions.

    Howevermuch we seem to be doing a lot of infighting on this side of the pond, in, as you say, the richest country in the world, I wouldn’t say that its to futile ends. If nothing else, it illustrates the very insidiousness of the patriarchy that women face at all levels of society and in all societies.

  189. Virago

    RadFemHedonist, there are very strong and problematic implications to the statement “I don’t see color”/”I don’t assume that anyone is a particular color.”

    It’s a bit like when men come into feminist spaces and say, “I don’t see what the problem is.”/”I’m not sexist.”

  190. Virago

    Just to be extra-extra careful: I was responding to your (therealUK’s) upthread posting, not the most recent one, which I haven’t yet had time to reflect upon.

  191. RadFemHedonist

    I’m not saying there isn’t an absolutely enormous problem, but I’m trying my hardest not to contribute to it. There are major problems with racism (racism itself being a terrible thing that must end now), and the “gender trumps race” “sex trumps race” stuff is not helping at all, but I honestly don’t make presumptions about the race of commenters, I cannot remember a long history of thinking “well they’re white.” Which is bad phrasing, but my point is it’s not something I do. I want to fight racism, every time people make comments like that at my school I call them out on it and I’m trying to get into charity work and start a blog which deals with these issues (as well as feminism and anti-homophobia and a lot of other kinds of discrimination as well) but I don’t make presumtions about the race of commenters, it’s irrelevant to the discussion, honestly sex is too.

  192. therealUK

    virago, your outsider view of American WOC in American feminism.

    Bear in mind that my view is not only as an outsider it is also as someone who sees only a tiny tiny fraction of what may be going on for feminists in America – but it can come across as overwhelming because it is in the rather heated and intense environment that can develop in blogland. I’m not offering any definitive analysis, it is honestly just one more opinion/immediate impression.

    your opinion is that, in America, WOC feminists are either asking “Where are the men (of color) to defend us and speak up for us?” or they’re saying that the WOC who are asking this are racist. Am I correct that this is your view?

    …it suggests that the concerns of American WOC feminsts are entirely intra-racial, WOC vs. WOC, or WOC vs. MOC.

    No, I didn’t mean it like that. I was making a more general comment on the idea that oppressions that affect men always take precedence (worldwide not just USA), and noting that women who support or condone misogynistic, bigotted men across the world in their (men’s) quest for higher status will often – in American blogland – call as “racist” women (woc or white) who point out their difficulties with that and do not support men in this way.

    It was also partly a more personal reaction to the dismissals that MarIguana and Pony got given, and my own wafer-thin tolerance of anything that looks like identity politics.

    the presumption that AWOC’s dedication to feminism is reliant on the participation or lack of participation of men.

    No, no, again, I’m not quite getting my point across properly. I think perhaps because I’m talking about two or three different things at once – not just American woc. It’s not about needing the participation of men in order to be a feminist, it’s about women globally working FOR men and not for themselves (I find that problematical). So it was more a sort of rhetorical question: why aren’t the men working FOR women ?

    (Answer: because they are only interested in their own personal status in the system rather than a genuine concern for the rights of all humans, including those that are labled as different from them (eg female)).

    it assumes that WOC = black or African-American, rather than seeing how America includes women who represent every race or ethnic or cultural variaton on the planet, with very few exceptions.

    I realise that WOC has been constructed to mean all not-white, and I think problems can arise, if it does give the impression that a very disparate group of people are one entity only on the basis of not-whiteness. And the construction of whiteness has the same problem, women who are classified as white/not-woc are not a blob either.

    Howevermuch we seem to be doing a lot of infighting on this side of the pond … I wouldn’t say that its to futile ends.

    We have infighting everywhere, hopefully it is not futile. As I said, it can seem very destructive when it goes on in the overheated way it does on the blogs. Plus the sense of “those Americans again!” because despite being only 5% of the world population you still make about 95% of the noise (!!)

  193. Twisty

    RadFemHedonist: “[...]the race of commenters, it’s irrelevant to the discussion, honestly sex is too.”

    I disagree. When the topic of discussion is oppression or discrimination — which it almost always is on this blog — it can be instructive to know which side of the oppression fence a comment is coming from.

    Only when oppression ceases to exist will one’s phenotype cease to be of political relevance.

  194. Virago

    RadFemHedonist: I don’t mean “you” personally in the following post, but a general “you,” because certainly what I’m about to mention is not just “your” issue.

    To claim that you are “not seeing” color is contributing to the problem.

    In fact, at the most personal level, that attitude is going to keep you from a kind of self-interrogation about the prejudices that you yourself harbor, despite your claims to the contrary. (And, yes, after completing the process of self-colonization, even POC harbor racism in their thinking.) If you have already labeled color/race as something you don’t see, well, if–nay, when racism arises in your thinking or behavior, you’re not going to see it, and you’re not going to recognize it as being a problem because you think that race doesn’t matter to you.

    Another thing that happens when people claim to not see color is that white remains the default. Seriously, now, when you stop to think about it, do you think you’re chatting with, for example, 90% Native American or Chicanas here? No, you’re not. You’re talking to a majority of white women But how do you know this? Well, one way you know is because the problems of racism/classism/sexism/all-isms have conspired to keep, say, Native American women and Chicanas from having a significant voice in our society, in our media, online, everydamnwhere. When you “don’t see color,” you’re less likely to see this fact as being a problem.

    There is more to it, of course, but those are just a few things to consider.

  195. MedeaOnCrack

    The term “women of colour” is an Americanism. It’s not used in Canada. *If* is is beginning to be, it’s only that, and comes from the overwhelming American take-over of our media, businesses, corps, oil fields, water, hydro, forests… Where was I?

    “This” is the problem with some American women of colour’s perspective which I perceive. They are American, and assume the world is American, generally, but especially, that Canada is American.

  196. MedeaOnCrack

    I would say “have conspired to keep,l say, all women from having a significant voice” etc.

    Virago stop speaking for any woman of colour but yourself. I get the feeling you’ve appointed yourself to come here and educate us. I’m not listening to you any longer. You’re like a billboard.

  197. Mar Iguana

    Virago, you’ve accused me of:

    Making up statistics

    Being a racist, saying I’m interested in liberating white women first, that I’ve said hateful things about WOC?! Bullshit. Your reading skills are faulty.

    Being homophobic – Refusing to call boys “her” does not a homophobe make.

    Being the meta-Mandos

    Constant, simple-minded “black or white” thinking.

    I can’t even figure out what you’re talking about with this gem: “You might want me to argue with you mano-a-mano on the content of your comment, which I might do if things like “You tell me what color boy views the women of his same color as human?” made any damn sense. (of course, if it’s a matter of this question (?) harboring a typo that makes it nonsensical, you have my utmost sympathy.)”

    “Not sayin’ that anyone’s playin’ both sides of the fence, but, well, you know.” Oh, sure you are. And, how dare you? You don’t know me or what my life experience as a half-breed has been so, I respectfully suggest you STFU about it. “Pseudo-white?!” Christ on a stick.

    An example of how you’re getting things bassackwards: thebewilderness did not call you a name. She named your behavior. See the diff?

    “Now that I realize that you are not an honest person, I have nothing more to say to you.” thebewilderness

    That makes two of us.

  198. Spit The Dummy

    Virago said “Another thing that happens when people claim to not see color is that white remains the default. Seriously, now, when you stop to think about it, do you think you’re chatting with, for example, 90% Native American or Chicanas here? No, you’re not. You’re talking to a majority of white women But how do you know this? Well, one way you know is because the problems of racism/classism/sexism/all-isms have conspired to keep, say, Native American women and Chicanas from having a significant voice in our society, in our media, online, everydamnwhere. When you “don’t see color,” you’re less likely to see this fact as being a problem.”

    Virago, do you think you’re talking to 100% Americans here? Even after your discussion with theRealUK? You talk about “our” and “us” as if we all belong to US society but that ain’t the case. I hate to break it to you but the internet is international. Certainly Twisty’s blog is.

    I feel about racism the way I feel about any other non-feminism topic: I’m happy to discuss almost anything but I come to THIS blog for the blaming of the patriarchy. I assume everybody else does, too, and I don’t assume that they’re gonna care to the same extent about subjects other than patriarchy blaming to the same extent that I do. Even if they do, even if they are world-shatteringly important subjects like racism, I still believe that THIS is a blog for patriarchy blaming and to hi-jack it for my own personal agenda would not be cool. So I don’t.

    As I said, I’m happy to discuss racism but I get antsy when the topic skews to the point where I’m expected to defend the importance of feminism against it. Frankly, I come to IBTP because I expect to meet like-minded minds who believe that there in NOTHING more important than feminism.

  199. MedeaOnCrack

    Spit what’s the matter with you that you don’t want to just park the topics here and change the blog to what Virago demands we talk about, using her frame of reference, and say thank you every time she calls us names? Imagine any of us going to certain blogs and pulling that shit how far we’d get. And rightly so.

  200. Virago

    Sounds like I hit close to home with you both, MarIguana and Medea. Virago-directed ad hominem attacks are par for the course when this happens. As now, they fall on deaf ears. (I’m sure you’re reading this now, MarIguana, as it’s been made clear that your views are not welcome on the latest, transgender-centric thread. What will you do with all your free time?)

    I was extra careful in using American WOC in my comment to therealUK, and she seemed to have no problem with that designation. Of course, there is a bias in America to thinking that feminism is an American phenomenon (reference Mar Iguana’s original post to see that in action).

    By engaging in a useful, intelligent discussion about feminism, therealUK is doing her part to tackle that particular bias, for which I thank her.

  201. Virago

    “As I said, I’m happy to discuss racism but I get antsy when the topic skews to the point where I’m expected to defend the importance of feminism against it. Frankly, I come to IBTP because I expect to meet like-minded minds who believe that there in NOTHING more important than feminism.” Spit the Dummy

    To which Twisty, in her great and all-knowing wisdom posted:

    “Class and race intersect all over the place. Privilege does not accrue in a strict vertical hierarchy. It is a vast oversimplification to declaim that because sexism came first, its importance, as the ur-oppression, must be more dire. Racism, sexism — they’re all on the same continuum; primacy is, at this stage of the game, irrelevant. Surely, if this blog advocates anything, it advocates the revolution that would topple the social order predicated on dominance and submission wherein all these isms flourish.”

  202. Twisty

    Must this bickering continue? It’s harshing my mellow.

  203. MedeaOnCrack

    Nope. I’m out.

  204. LouisaMayAlcott

    Only tangential to taqueaux in so far as it pertains to food:

    Kitchen happiness is here as I wash, prepare, and freeze fresh green peppers, and sweet cherries. No need for blanching.

    After that a huge bunch of collard greens which I’ll blanch before freezing.

    I don’t have to BTP as long as I can keep myself immersed in foodiness.

  205. Virago

    I agree that nothing should interfere with the mellow. Henceforth absolutely no bickering shall I engage in.

    I should–and do–know what kind of reception issues of race/discrimination/oppression/all-the-isms receive all over the interweb, and, well, all over this planet really. It’s a sad state of affairs, but completely understandable, when this not a topic that people can discuss sans rancor.

  206. Twisty

    Thanks, kids.

    Just so you know, isms are fair game here at the blog, but once a post accrues 100 or more comments, the discourse seems to whip itself up into a frenzy I just can’t keep up with. We will revisit these issues, no fear.

  207. MedeaOnCrack

    This is so blatantly hypocritical No one that I have read has called Virago names. Ad hominem? This is what Virago has done. Why come here and be so divisive if you want to discuss something with anyone here? After these weasely remarks you now try divide and conquer. The only divide you create is that one more will not talk to you, or be in a thread you are in.

  208. MedeaOnCrack

    Pseudo-white? Why does this racist remark not upset you Twisty. I am not pseudo anything. But I am enraged that this remark can be directed to me. When I was growing up I was HALF BREED HALF BREED CUNT. Now I’m pseudo-white, called that by another woman (ostensibly) on a feminist blog? Called names, pseudo white, on a blog that purports to be anti-racist. Do you have any idea what pseudo white means? WHAT IT MEANS TO BE A HALF BREED!

  209. Spit The Dummy

    Virago said: Sounds like I hit close to home with you both, MarIguana and Medea. Virago-directed ad hominem attacks are par for the course when this happens. As now, they fall on deaf ears. (I’m sure you’re reading this now, MarIguana, as it’s been made clear that your views are not welcome on the latest, transgender-centric thread. What will you do with all your free time?)

    Virago, your claims of having been the victim of ad-hominem attacks by MarIguana and MedeoOnCrack would be more effective if you didn’t immediately follow them with an attack on MarIguana! An attack on MarIguana’s opinions on a different subject even. Why is another thread on a totally different subject at all relevant to this one, except for the fact that you disgreed with MarIguana’s opinion on that thread, too?

    I was extra careful in using American WOC in my comment to therealUK, and she seemed to have no problem with that designation.

    If you mean by “no problem” she remained polite, then I agree with you. However, she did have to keep re-stating her arguments because you failed to understand them. Just as, I notice, you failed to understand quite a lot of other comments on this thread. You’ll forgive me but you seem to be so involved in what you want to say that you aren’t really LISTENING to what other people are saying. The fact that other women of colour are disagreeing with you should be a flag for you to consider the possibility that somebody here may have a point of view worth listening to. Otherwise, why are you here? You make many interesting points but it would be a shame if your zeal made you deaf to all other points of view, especially on a list such as this one.

  210. Virago

    therealUK writes:

    I will relate more to people who hold the same basic principles I do

    I agree. Unfortunately, the way that works in practice has meant that, even though we adopt the shared mantle of feminism, it absolutely doesn’t necessarily mean that we hold the same basic principles in regards to race or class.

    Discrimination on the basis of race is so invasive that, yes, even POC resort to it. It’s a real problem in American feminism (I should just admit right now that I am guilty of knowing little outside of American, black/African-American, and Chicana issues in regards to feminism), a real problem that drives women away from feminism.

    And why should women adopt the principles of a movement that doesn’t take into account their concerns as women of color? I have, but I get very leery of continuing to do so when I see how WOC’s issues are marginalized.

    the divisions that already exist in wider society are often not addressed for what they really are but end up being blamed on “feminism** (because it’s racist and only for white women(???!!))”.

    In America, yes, feminism is often believed to be racist and only for white women. That isn’t a view from outside the feminist movement, either. It comes from within the movement as well.

    White women have a smidge more privilege (yes, because of the efforts of feminists) and that allows them to have the greater ability (versus WOC) to fight the patriarchy–but it also means that the racism white women almost invariable harbor becomes part of the movement.

    I think addressing these issues means that a lot of people would have to back down from a lot of privilege and convincing people to give up privilege is, to put it mildly, very difficult. In my own experience, it is extremely difficult for me to do so, so I understand this.

    *there is racism everywhere of course, it’s part of the patriarchal package, but just because it plays out one way in USA does not mean it plays out like that everywhere.

    I definitely am interested in hearing about your experience in the UK (and, well, wherever you have experience with feminism), therealUK. As you Spit the Dummy (is this an Australian term?) rightfully points out, there is a world outide the continental US, outside America, and those voices are missing from my experience (and, I would guess, from the experience of most American feminists). In other words, I know fuck-all about feminism in the UK.

  211. Spit The Dummy

    Virago:

    In response to your second (or is is your third?) quotation of Twisty’s comment, what I’m trying to say is that on this blog the idea is that feminism is most important because on this blog it is set up that way. We can discuss other things and believe other things to be equally or more important but for the purposes of this blog nothing is more important than feminism. I don’t come here to argue about which “ism” is most important to fight for first because on this blog I don’t want to have to defend feminism AT ALL. Even against racism. Or world hunger. Or genocide. Against ANYTHING.

  212. Virago

    I’m more than happy to shut down this discussion when I see what it’s become–and be happy to take this discussion to email if you’d like, therealUK. I really am interested in hearing about your experiences.

  213. LouisaMayAlcott

    MedeaOnCrack,

    I parse this whole thing exactly as you do.

    I wish you the blessings of Kitchen Happiness, and Joy in the existence of this Beautiful Earth. Success and Satisfaction in the pusuit of your best physical health.

    Good night.

  214. Spit The Dummy

    Virago:

    “spit the dummy”: Baulk at, get angry about, or simply, obstinately refuse to do, something. A dummy is what some Americans call a pacifier, and when a baby spits the dummy it just can’t be pacified.

    I’ve been accused of doing this about feminist issues my entire life, so the nickname seemed appropriate for this site!

  215. half breed

    “Discrimination on the basis of race is so invasive that, yes, even POC resort to it.” Is this your apology?

    You attack Mar Iguana and me (when as far as I know I was in no discussion let alone argument with you until you used that term pseudo white and all that you wrapped around it. You RACIST!

    YOU are the POC who has resorted to “discrimination on the basis of race.”

  216. half breed

    I think you have let her make this comment Twisty, these post long slurs taunts and baiting, only because it was made against my race. Half breed.

    Half breed belongs no where. Half breed is reviled and raped by white and coloured alike. Half breed is what you better live in fear of Virago, if we ever meet in flesh I’ll rip yours. I have no intellect. Do not no how to argue you. So I will strike out physically. I will cut you if I ever meet you because I’ve got nothing to lose. I’m half breed.

  217. Twisty

    OK, that’s IT!

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