May 29 2007

Define this

One of the juicy morsels I et yesterday while not reading the blog comments: a multi-cultivar tomato salad with fried goat cheese and about 36 different herbs, made by my sibling Tidy, who, to the undiluted satisfaction of the Faster family palates, has been watching that smarmy Napa dude on The Food Channel.

i have a question for you. But first, a slight digression.

I have entered a phase in my short and unimpressive career as the moderator of an internet discussion group. This phase is characterized by my viewing the enterprise with curled lip and narrowed eye. This morning, for example, after a weekend spent traipsing merrily about the hill country and cramming down the Twisty craw several juicy morsels that didn’t suck, I returned to my desk to perceive that about 76,932 new comments had sprouted on the blog. A sense of foreboding began to engulf my recently de-harshed mellow. Yet how could this be, I asked myself. The sun is shining, the birds are singing, the buttcracky plumbers who were supposed to dig up my yard this morning have put it off for another couple of days, and I found a live gecko in my desk drawer. Life is a bowl of Cool Whip. Why should I feel foreboded upon?

That’s when I realized that being a blogular moderator is bumming me out.

My distaste has nothing to do, obviously, with the usually brilliant commentary. It has nothing to do with drive-by teen boy-holes who misspell a few sexist epithets before biffing back home to Fark; those little dudes are like Ford F-150s with It’s A Baby Not A Choice bumper stickers; you just flip’em off and move on. It doesn’t even have to do with the antifeminists who got here Googling “Asian Pee Porn.” [1]

No, my burgeoning moderatorial angst has to do with this: I never know when (it’s not an “if”, it’s definitely a “when”) I’m going to come across something like “Twisty has not ‘moderated’ your incredibly racist/disablist/fatist/looksist remark; clearly she is in complete agreement with and wholeheartedly supports your bigoted position and is therefore herself a stinking bigot who, fatuously and from a position of priveledge [sic] insults me and my oppressed group’s legitimate but egregiously marginalized pain.”

That’s bad, but this is worse: I never know, when perusing the comments section, whether I’m going to encounter something vile like the following recent bit of rhetoric, the big kiss-off from one long-time commenter to another during an unendurably tedious squabble:

[I am] what you better live in fear of, X, 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. [2]

Let me tell you a little bit about myself. I am one lazy mug. I like to take pictures of bugs, eat tacos, lounge around with a marg, and strike the occasional (and, until recently, unheeded) rhetorical blow on behalf of the revolution [3]. Also, I am middle-aged and have cancer and as a result have been forced to admit that life is short. Thus I now abide happily by a policy that entails excising from my personal sphere anything that impedes my enjoyment of these deeply fulfilling pursuits.

Reading shit like what I’ve alluded to above, this sorely impedes my enjoyment of my deeply fulfilling pursuits.

Something’s gotta give.

I know a lot of you have come to rely on this blog as a feminist-friendly haven. It has not escaped my notice that many of you have even expressed that the support you find in the discussions has helped you sort things out, or broadened your horizons, or given you a new appreciation for gifted transgender redheaded bonobos with Tourette’s, or what have you. Yet it may surprise you to learn that the phenomenon of the commentariat is a totally unexpected development; when I first started this blog a couple of years ago, it never entered my mind that in a million years anybody would ever actually read it, much less use it. But here we all are.

I am delighted that an IBTP ‘culture’ of sorts has been a generally happy consequence of the blogular manifestation of my loudmouth opinions. Yet I find, having mulled it over in the wake of recent discussions, that I am not cut out to moderate a forum that has grown to the point at which each post accumulates a couple of hundred comments and spans countless internecine disputes. I just can’t read’em all, much less remain sufficiently up-to-the-minute with the finer points of each individual sub-debate that I can intervene with intelligence.

And horribly, the more FAQs I write, the less people read’em.

Lest I go mad, I toyed with the idea of shutting down the blog altogether, or at least turning off the comments. Ultimately, however, this seemed unnecessarily baby-with-the-bathwaterish, since I enjoy writing the essays, and since generally the level of discourse is superior, illuminating, and hilarious, and since some readers seem actually to get something out of it all. In fact, it’s really only a few authors who spoil it for me, and even these only offend intermittently. They are blamers who often have provocative perspectives to add, but who, to the detriment of my enjoyment of my deeply fulfilling pursuits, occasionally get so hot under the collar that they can’t put a sock in the ad feminam attacks and idiot bickering.

In dealing with this in the past I have allowed myself to go through an absurdly exhausting, time-consuming process, wherein I go back and read the thread, and go back and re-read the thread, and weigh the effect of the bickering against the value of the commenter’s overall contributions, and wonder which comments I can delete without making all subsequent responses seem like drunken non-sequiturs, and worry about trying to be fair without hurting anyone’s feelings, and feel anxious and guilty for not intervening quickly enough to suit the wronged party, blah blah blah.

Well, no more.

The comments section will remain open, and the much-ignored and tragically unenforceable Comments Guidelines will remain in effect, and blamers will, as always, be encouraged to let fly with the first brilliant thing that comes into their heads, and I will continue to look in on the proceedings from time to time. I’m afraid, however, that the level of service you can expect will be exactly what you pay for. This means it’s inevitable that I will not catch every little slight, every instance of bigotry, every perfectly innocent comment that for some reason or other got hung up in the totally automated moderation queue.

It also means that when individual blamers get huffy or become tedious, I may or may not delete their comments. I may or may not delete whole conversations. I may or may not delete comments just because they don’t have paragraph breaks. I may or may not delete comments wherein privilege is spelled priveledge. I might not delete any offensive comments at all. Hell, I might make an offensive comment. I might not feel like messing with the blog for a few days, thus prolonging the length of time someone’s trenchant remarks are stuck in spamulational purgatory. I may resent implications. I might bandy words. I may be inconsistent. I might miss the point. I may be in a bad mood, the way certain blamers always seem to be. I might use the word “motherfucker” even though it may be considered insulting to mothers and fuckers. I may never read the comments again. Who can tell what the heck I’ll do? Life is uncertain!

In short, for my own happiness, I am taking back my blog. The following has been added to the Twistifesto:

Your comments appear on my blog at my pleasure. I have not solicited your views. You do not have a ‘right’ to be heard on this or any other blog. Neither do I owe you the slightest respect or courtesy. I may delete any of your comments I choose, for whatever reason I choose. This includes any responses to those comments, if only for the sake of clearing out the stink. I do not care how you think I should maintain this blog. I do not care if you ‘de-link’ me. I do not care if this bums you out.

But I digress. Here’s the topic of today’s post: I found this remark mouldering in the moderation queue:

“Gender is a social construct, sex is real. Removing a woman’s womb doesn’t make her not a woman, any more than removing a man’s penis and testes makes him not a man.”

This struck me as hilarious. Sex is real? That’s a hot one.

So I put it to the Blamer Brain Trust. Define “woman.”

1. Although sometimes antifeminist trolls are funny. Recently I was accused, by someone posing as a feminist, of fabricating reader emails “in the attempt to get you all foaming at the mouth and attacking an enemy that’s not there.” The author of this comic interlude did not suggest what motive I might have for engaging in elaborate mind-control tactics designed to thwart non-existent enemies.

2. I have left this comment up because the next time somebody, in the heat of some future argument, demands to know “Why did you ban XYZ, who always spake the truth?” I can point to the time when she actually threatened to kill another blamer.

3. I also enjoy movies, sunsets, and long walks on the beach. My turnoffs include phonies, mean people, and those who argue against the dialectic of recursive transition networks from a Marxian perspective, or one which supports a Lacanian model of the neocapitalist paradigm of context used not to deconstruct society, but rather to install in the post-sexual narrative the meaninglessness of the consensus of a collective, but parallel, unconscious.


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  1. Yatima

    I have no comment here. I just like saying “A sense of foreboding began to engulf my recently de-harshed mellow.”

  2. schatze

    Your sister fried goat cheese? God love her. Nice looking plates, too.

    Thought I’d keep it light, I’ve also had a bad week.

  3. Pinko Punko

    Twisty’s Mellow was toasted in a S’moresish fiery roasty hell of blog overload.

    I like to check out when I feel like it is too much, and go to the old movies at the revival house. I recently saw the Hepburn Little Women and I think it was OK/pretty good for what it was, but I have to say I still have a problem with the imaginary Twisty film critic that sits on my shoulder examining the wasteland that exists in filmed entertainment. I couldn’t get past constantly thinking about how TF had better check the jaundiced eye at the door watching this because it would put her off her tacos. I think TF would have enjoyed Stage Door a little bit more.

  4. mAndrea

    Hubba, I’m psychic. Wondered when you were going to get some moderaters or sumthin. I nominate Medea (sp?)

    Also, I love you. And contrite apologies if I’ve ever caused you grief.

  5. Twisty

    I like Stage Door all right, but I don’t get what the Hepburn character is supposed to be.

  6. vera

    Before I dive into this thread, I would like to raise a glass in honor of siblings who watch the Food Channel. I have one of those, too, and I’m all in favor of ’em.

  7. tigtog

    Good for you, Twisty. I’ve only just had the first shot of caffeine for the morning, so have nothing more insightful or sparkling to add, but good choice I reckon.

  8. Orange

    Would defining “woman” by necessity limit what a woman is said to be? I will not venture a definition. However, I am a kick-ass speller, and I scrupulously abide by capitalization norms.

    That tomato salad looks magnificent. It would be especially beautiful with an iridescent coleopteran perched atop one glistening slice of tomato, no?

  9. Patti

    OMG, those are my turnoffs, too!! What are the odds??

    I’m in my 50s, and a single mom, and life is short even without cancer. One of the things I like about getting older is having less tolerance for crap. I wish I had your eloquence.

  10. Pinko Punko

    Well, that was the second half of the double feature. The Hepburn character was in between, she was both naive but also more sophisticated than the others (slumming amongst women outside of daddy figures? Could this be revolutionary?). I think maybe the script didn’t know how they would really want to deal with a character’s blind spot. They decided to fill in the story with a bunch of wise-cracks instead of examining the nature of the Hepburn character’s abilities, leaving that to [Spoiler].

    I think Philadelphia Story did a better job of simultaneously showing an independent and intelligent character that also had a certain lack of self-regard.

    But, for the Blamers- Stage Door features nary a romantic subplot or even plot. This was quite rare for the time.

  11. MzNicky

    Twisty: I was hoping you were doing something enjoyable over the long weekend, which would preclude, I think, reading each and every comment on these recent elephantine threads. I mean, holy molé. Listen, you do whatever you gotta do. Kick every sorehead with an axe to grind outa this joint, and that includes me, if you wanna. Close off the comments if you hafta. (Although I’d miss ’em. Most of ’em. Well, okay, some of ’em.) But just please, I beg of you, don’t stop with the posting of your posts. That, and I’m serious here, I really don’t think I could bear.

    (By the way, your wonderful “Preview” function seems to be MIA. Do we blame the usual suspects?)

  12. kanea

    running a blog sure seems like a pain, twisty, but I think your doing a good job. no one (or at least no one who’s ever had to moderate anything) expects you to be always on the computer deleting trolls and telling off the teenaged boys. I’ve seen way way more choatic internet discussions, especially in message boards. so thanks twisty for not closing down the blog!

    as to the question about what is a woman: at first I thought ‘the opressed gender’ but no….that can’t be right. because in order to be a woman one must always be opressed and in a post-patriarchy there would still be women but they wouldn’t be opressed. so how about ‘I believe I’m a woman so I am a woman.’ kind of like ‘I think therefore I am’. actually I’ve never really understood gender deffinition. at least in the social sense. I get the whole people who have other people grow in them are women, and the people who don’t are men. however even that’s not always true since some people get born with both sets of reproductive organs and some people get born with one’s they don’t want. ’cause i don’t really get how having a womb means, ‘you’re emotional’ or ‘you must wear painful shoes’ or ‘you must paint your face’ or ‘you must love pink’ or ‘you’re prey for non woman persons and also slave labor’.

    I’m sure some of the older, and wiser blamers will hit the nail on the head. but I had to try.

  13. pheeno

    Definition of a woman

    The one who does all the fucking work and gets nothing in return.

    In a nuthsell.

  14. Twisty

    My problem with Philadelphia Story (I assume you mean the 1940 version; the musical remake with a 50-ish Bing Crosby scoring hot young Grace Kelly is unwatchable except for a couple of Louis Armstrong numbers) is its taming-of-the-shrew theme. That Jane Austen-y spoiled rich kid bildungsroman-ness which has as its central conflict the poor social skills of the protagonist and as its denouement the restoration of natural order by the marriage of the protagonist to a suitable man of her own class — it just drives me bats. Also, the Hepburn character endures countless smackdowns at the hands of each succeeding male character, most notably when her super-WASP rich philandering pater says something unbelievably misogynist like “wives never seem to understand that a husband’s philandering has nothing to do with them,” and then blames Hepburn for causing him to cheat on her mother.

    I want the heroine in just one fucking movie to just say to all the dudes, “fuck all yall” and go off to Fiji or someplace to pursue her dream of becoming a world-champion sandcastle architect.

  15. yankee,transferred

    I have always thought it must be exhausting just reading every comment over here. I could not imagine trying to manage what goes on, especially when you take a day off. Good for you for doing whatever you feel like with your blog. You don’t, as they say here in the sunny south, “owe nobody nuthin” whatsoever!

  16. Nymphalidae

    I love your bug pictures. Bugs make me happy.

  17. Kyso K

    Woman: The group of homo sapiens that has, on average, two X chromosones and exactly zero Y ones.

    It’s the only definition I can think of that is guaranteed to be patriarchy-free.

  18. curiousgyrl

    I am sorry for misbehaving back there in various ways. I brushed up on my guidelines, and intend to work on form and tone. Sorry to those i may have pissed off and sorry for the volume of piss.

    As for the definition, Merriam-Webster has a wild one:

    1 a : an adult female person b : a woman belonging to a particular category (as by birth, residence, membership, or occupation) — usually used in combination
    3 : distinctively feminine nature : WOMANLINESS
    4 : a woman who is a servant or personal attendant
    5 a chiefly dialect : WIFE b : MISTRESS c : GIRLFRIEND 2
    – woman adjective

    I actually have no idea what that means, but find the category element significant as well as the alternatives, “wife” “mistress” and “girlfriend.”

    Girlfriend! please .

    I think the definition of a woman is someone who is not a man. Obviously feminists have tried to reclaim this hatful expression, but I submit that reclamation, much as with other epithets used against oppressed members of society, is a losing strategy.

  19. Pinko Punko

    I agree completely, but I felt there was an undercurrent of winkage at the fact that (for me at least) nobody could deny a certain amount of excellence about Kate’s character, which seemed to stand in opposition to a theme of “uppity-woman comeuppance.” And while it is true that C.K. Dexter Haven is probably the archetypical “nice guy,” the movie seemed to be better put together than Stage Door, but maybe that is because it more smoothly integrated patriarchal tropes.

    I hope you do not find it offensive or off-putting/weird that I can’t watch movies without a fictional version of your blog persona interrogating the film alongside my viewing. It just struck me that it might seem weird, but it is true. I think I watch a lot of old movies and the patriarchal themes are much more super obvious. However I do think there are revolutionary nuggets, and I think they are more real in those films than in mainstream films now, where there exists the marketing device of “girl power.”

  20. The Hedonistic Pleasureseeker

    My take on the whole squabble, cut-past from that OTHER thread:

    We define “sex” by the presence or absence of a penis at birth. We do a visual, same as we do with race. It all strikes me as another dick obsession: Humanity gets to shit on anyone who wasn’t born with the Magic Dick of Oppression, you can’t give up your Magic Dick, and the Dickless can do nothing about their status but wallow in their oppression, consoling themselves that at least the oppressed are – I dunno – morally superior nicer or something. Why? Because it’s all about the Dick!

    Suffice it to say I come to IBTP to get away from that crap, so the anti-trans arguments based on sex-essentialism (?) drive me up the freakin WALL.

    Although, after I thought about it a little more I realized I should have added something to my little rant:

    “We define “sex” by the presence or absence of a penis at birth, except when said penis is shorter than ____ in which case we cut it off and call the child a girl.”

    Why? Because God/dess forbid that a Mighty Dick of Oppression be not so mighty.

  21. inspiredbycoffee

    Someone put it to me the other day that Buffy was the strongest (in a kick-ass feminist sort of a way) / generally all round best female TV show character ever.

    Does anyone have an opinion on this? Is it worth having an opinion on?

  22. Weeza

    I would not attempt to define ‘woman’, as being flat chested and skinny I am not a ‘real’ woman, apparently, so I don’t feel qualified. IBTP. Your lunch looks fantastic.

  23. Cara

    This question made me curious and I wondered what the algorithm would say. I got all hot and bothered over the top Google results (yes … women are defined by marriage, childbearing and housekeeping). Instead of projectile vomiting all over my cube mates, I took a screenshot and blogged about it here, in case you want to see the results for yourself.

    (also, sorry, the point of this comment isn’t to whore my blog, but I had so much to say it wasn’t really appropriate for a comment.)

    By the way – I like your approach on the comments and moderation. That stuff would drive me batshit.

  24. vera

    “Philadeliphia Story” *groan*
    How about “Woman of the Year” ? The uppity woman really gets put in her place in that one. She’s a bad wife! She’s a bad mother! Kids hate her! She’s finally redeemed by getting remarried, after really listening to those wedding vows. (It’s been a while, but I think that’s the way the story goes.)

    There’s one reason to watch it, though: the scene where Hepburn makes breakfast.

  25. scout

    Woman = female; the default sex of the human race.

    Male domination of world culture has resulted in this fact being turned around 180 degrees, in brainwashing everyone to believe the exact opposite is true. And an ‘educated’ person can only say, ‘How Orwellian,’ referring to – oh yeah – yet another famous male philosopher.

    Well, males can be brilliant, too. But that there are relatively few famous females compared to males in any sphere of human culture you care to name merely demonstrates that ignoring and forgetting are the gentlest of ways the Patriarchy holds women down, and holds us back.

    So, you could say one definition of woman might be ‘A member of that half of the human race which is currently being subjugated by a vicious and destructive patriarchal world culture.’

    Or, you could say ‘Woman. The last, best hope of a planet in extremis.’

  26. curiousgyrl


    I also forgot to agree that IBTP is necessary for survival. Where else can I find information on Travis-county area comustibles and critters all in one place.

    Thanks and sorry for the headache.

  27. Twisty

    A fictional version of my blog persona! That’s an infinitely recursive fiction.

    I like that Hepburn was herself a sort of subversive, at least in mainstream Hollywood terms; she was Spencer Tracy’s mistress for years yet remained this sort of unassailable virgin aristocrat (she never married him even after it became possible), and she succeeded despite having had all the advantages. But even those roles in which she portrays what empowerful girls nowadays like to call “strong women,” she always ends up caving in to some overarching patriarchal agenda, and it universally makes me boil.

    Hepburn was almost singlehandedly responsible for the production of Philadelphia Story, but she wanted to call the film something like “Handsome Dude Answers My Maiden Prayers.” Yikes.

    How do I know this? TCM! I can’t stop!

  28. ew_nc

    “I want the heroine in just one fucking movie to just say to all the dudes, “fuck all yall” and go off to Fiji or someplace to pursue her dream of becoming a world-champion sandcastle architect.”

    For something coming close to that, there is a somewhat obscure movie from the 80’s called “Shirley Valentine” that has a satisfying ending. I highly recommend it.

    Is there anything more divine than a homegrown, picked-when-ripe tomato?

  29. Pinko Punko

    Oh Vera!

    Woman of the Year is on next week! I was hoping it wouldn’t be that way. I really think there is something of the “let’s have Hepburn play the elitist, uppity woman gets her comeuppance” roles, precisely because in real life she was exceptionally “head strong” and intelligent. I just find the tropes that saddle her with to be less convincing than a lot of her personality just under the surface. As a viewer I guess I find her appealing despite the hoops they make her hop through to regain conditional male esteem.

    I had not realized that Hepburn had been so squished into that particular type. I think I will still go.

    (not ignoring the purpose of this thread, but I think that it isn’t quite desired that I go spouting off a definition of “woman”)

  30. Drakyn

    Woman=anyone who defines themselves as such.

  31. Twisty

    Buffy, although is a patriarchy-friendly fairy tale with snappy mod dialogue, is certainly more palatable than Woman of the Year, but the whole girl power subculture that worships it is sort of unsophisticated. I fucking hate that whole “kick-ass” school of pseudo-feminist thought.

  32. Pinko Punko

    Ok, well maybe I’ll skip WotY, how about State of the Union?

    It is Hepburn all month.

  33. Twisty

    “Woman=anyone who defines themselves as such.”

    But what’s the ‘such’ in ‘as such’?

  34. Twisty

    Well Pinko, if you’re waiting for Hepburn to show up in a feminist film, you’re gonna have a pretty long wait. Go see her in anything, she’s fun to watch.

  35. vera

    I always say, “How can I grasp the extent of the blaming if I don’t investigate the popular culture?” and watch the old Hepburn movies anyway. Repeatedly, in some cases. So I do recommend going to see “Woman of the Year.” And there’s the great breakfast scene, which I could watch over and over.

  36. CannibalFemme

    I’d get a kick out of it if we were each responsible for our own definition of woman, rather than searching for a global definition. That way, whenever someone around me behaved like a responsible and intelligent human, I could say “Well, that’s right womanly of you.”

    Maybe I’ll start that anyway.

  37. vera

    Could we just use a “see” reference for “woman”? Like this:

    Woman [see “sex class”]

  38. Antelope

    I am so glad that you no longer care what other people think of what yet other people say!

    It has been really painful to watch you get bent out of shape about that and (shudder) apologize – though maybe it was also a much-needed disillusionment to learn that even the greatest of fictional blog personae can get self-conscious at times.

    Anyway, Brava for re-balancing your priorities. We’ll all just moderate ourselves round here. Or not.

  39. Drakyn

    Sorry, by “as such” I meant as a woman. Whatever that person’s definition is, if she defines herself as a woman then I believe she is a woman.

    Have you ever seen Firefly? Or the series’s movie, Serenity?
    One of the strongest characters on it is Zoe. The genius mechanic is Kayleigh.
    I don’t think the show is feminist per say, but everyone is very human and not so much 2D stereotypes.

    And where else are you going to have a character “fix” the bible? ^.^

    Miyazaki movies tend to have the male and female characters as equals and rarely has any overt romance (but his characters tend to be children or tweens).

    Tamora Pierce books tend to have awesome characters, and she includes GLB people.

  40. Antelope

    As for woman, I like the good ol’ XX definition, too, when it comes to that specific word. If we’re trying to be academically precise about including some other folks in whatever, we could always say “female identified” or “persons with vulvas” or some such thing in those cases.

    Okay, “persons with vulvas” is pretty icky, and bad latin to boot, but anyway I don’t think that woman is the right place to put anybody that didn’t get born into the club.

    How about if female is the more inclusive term, and woman the more exclusive one? There’s so many languages where even chairs and books are male or female that it’s already a pretty inclusive term.

  41. Twisty

    “It has been really painful to watch you get bent out of shape about that and (shudder) apologize”

    Yeah, well, for a while I really thought apologizing for failure to moderate would help. But it didn’t help anything. Everyone still got their nose out of joint, and trying to be polite in the midst of a fracas just made me nervous, because in the end I was just letting myself get policed by my own blog.

    Well, fuck that. I’m back. Sorry for any inconvenience my sorriness may have caused.

  42. B. Dagger Lee

    Oh, man, you’re getting blog-whipped? Show that blog who wears the pants in the family.

  43. thekiti

    I want the heroine in just one fucking movie to just say to all the dudes, “fuck all yall” and go off to Fiji or someplace to pursue her dream of becoming a world-champion sandcastle architect.

    Twisty, believe it or not, Valley of the Dolls, of all nutty things, actually has an ending like that. OK, it’s actually Barbara Parkins twirling happily through the snow by herself after turning down a marriage proposal, but close enough. (All together now: “BOOBIES! BOOBIES! BOOBIES!”)

  44. B. Dagger Lee

    I’m partial to The African Queen myself. But it’s been a long time since I’ve seen it.

  45. sylvie

    I was hoping someone would offer the old XX versus XY definition. It’s at the cellular level, so must be innocuous. I teach medical ehtics sometimes and the students are big fans of this one (they also define “being human” or “being a person” in terms of DNA). Hard to discriminate against celsl, I think the idea goes.

    Except 1, there are a lot of cases where it is not so clear, there are XXY’s and XYY’s and androgen insensitive XY’s and more. Plus 2, there’s science news out that it is not even those chromosomes which are responsible for primary and secondary sex characteristics, it’s a much more specific and constrained set of genes involving hormaone release and response sensitivity.

    we don’t want to bum you out, Twisty. I can’t think of any good jokes to lighten your mood at the moment, but I’ll do a little tap dance routine for your entertainment after I hit ‘Blame’.

  46. Pinko Punko

    Thanks, vera, I think I will try to get out both days.

    I can’t explain it with the old films. The pacing is so slow that I have time to simultaneously watch the film while also entertaining various reverie/flights of fancy/musings on life yet still be surrounded by this artificial nostalgia that is an “other” to the concerns of the day. Shorter me: it is escapism for me, but also stimulating in a gentler, less loud/bloody/deeply cynical way.

    With certain films that I know backwards and forwards (from repeated viewings), I actually have the time to watch performances for nuance. I go see Notorious every single time.

  47. Layla

    When I first cast my eyes on that photograph I thought I was looking at a sombrero.

  48. The Hedonistic Pleasureseeker

    Hey, movie buffs! I’m having a retro (1940s/50s/60s) pajama party in July. Everyone will be wearing their glam jammies OR mine (you know, the ones we think are too fancy and never wear?). We’re all bringing a retro-styled dish of some sort. I might do a layered Jello mold, but I DID buy the Gallery of Regrettable Food so who knows? Retro cocktails will be served. Didja know the original martini glass was only 3 ounces?

    Then, I will introduce these unsuspecting women to Blaming 101 by encouraging modern critiques of a few movies. The question is, which movies? Gidget? Anything Hepburn? How about Mae West?

  49. LouisaMayAlcott

    Thanks for this, Twisty. I was worried about you.

    I knew that this was going to happen and just sidelined myself knowing that you would be thinking those thoughts and would eventually put up a brilliant post such as the one you just have.

    Oh, and for the record:

    Woman = George Bush

    I’ve seen the light!

  50. Miranda

    Well Pinko, if you’re waiting for Hepburn to show up in a feminist film, you’re gonna have a pretty long wait.

    I think at least Desk Set and African Queen approach feminist or at least equalist. Both stories end with the characters together, but on a reasonably equal footing, especially given the time of the movie.

  51. Antelope


    I did think about some of the variations on xx & xy actually, and decided that it was rare off enough I could get away with not mentioning it, but here’s my guess if I did get into it.

    If I remember right XYY people tend to present outwardly as masculine and also to have really high rates of violent behavior – I think it’s pretty clear they’re not women. I can’t remember much about XXY, but using the KISS definition, it seems to me that since they have two x’s yes, they are women.

    This is high school stuff I’m citing, though. I’m not familiar at all with some of the latest thinking that you mention. Please spill a little more or link to something on that. I still like to learn new things now & then even if it’s not built right into my career path to do so.

  52. mustelid

    Twisty, I’m sorry you’ve gotten so much flak over the moderation bullshit. As for the definition of a woman, I second Drakyn’s post.

  53. PhoenixRising

    Desk Set rocks. To infinity. Woman of the Year is just sadder than anything. Accomplished uppity bitch gets put in her place by the Man with the Real Love For Her? Bpthhhhft.

    Twisty, I’m not going to re-read the 900 page bio of Kate Hepburn that was published this spring, although it’s quite interesting. If you want to find out that everything you know about her is wrong, and that she was both more and less than she appeared, email me and I’ll ship it Austin-ward.

  54. MzNicky

    When I was younger, so much younger than today, I thought “Bringing Up Baby” with Hepburn and Cary Grant was hilarious. Then I saw it again about ten years ago, and it just seemed disappointingly silly (although the line “What’s this morbid preoccupation with George [the dog]?” still cracked me up.) Anyway, has anyone seen that one lately? Maybe the every-other-decade appreciation hypothesis will kick in upon yet another viewing.

  55. I Hate the name my mother gave me, and I'm thinking up a new one


    I like you. Your’re funny.

  56. Silence

    This is your space, Twisty. If you ever need to kick us termites out for your peace of mind, go right ahead, although I dare say you’ll miss a few of the buggers. I sure would. Now as to your challenge —

    “Woman.” A word that should be synonymous with “person” and the world’s going to hell because it isn’t.

    Feminist films, or films at least with strong female characters not defined by the men in their lives: Shirley Valentine, Educating Rita, Spirited Away, Kiki’s Delivery Service, Pan’s Labyrinth (I know you’re sick of men mentioning this one, right?), Volver, Bend It Like Beckham, and Chocolat. None of them are perfect, but most of them are pretty damn good.

    And I have to confess I despise goat cheese. To me, ut tastes like you just put your tongue on a goat. Ah, well. But relatives who take tips from the Food Network — priceless!

  57. Otown

    Woman = the primary sex of the human race. As males start out in a roughly female form but then go down a weird winding road of unruly, deformed chromosomes and hormones which induce manical behavior and an obsession with dominance.

  58. delagar

    I am with MzNicky. Do whatever you have to do as long as you don’t stop blogging. I need this blog.

  59. Layla

    When people say we all start out as females, is that based on fact or is what they’re saying that we start out looking roughly like females because we don’t have much of a penis? If that is what they’re saying I object. Surely there is more to being female than not being male. My reproductive system is complicated and has magical powers, I don’t equate it with lack of or the negative to the male’s positive. If in fact that’s not what people are saying then fair enough.

  60. Cathy

    I love the definitions provided by pheeno (the one who does all the work) and The Hedonistic Pleasureseeker (if it’s too small, cut it off and call the child a girl)!

    Twisty, I don’t blame you for laying down the law. It took me forever to get through the Mandosian train wreck; I can’t imagine how you do it. I had thought that maybe you could cure Mandos and his ilk of pedantry by allowing an exceptionally long and obnoxious comment to get hung up in moderation, and “Lost in CyberSpace!” since Mandos reminded me of Dr. Smith from that TV show.

    Have some tacos and cactus margs (those pictured on the “But she was drinking” post looked very good) and forget about the comments for a while. Advanced Blamers like LYMC do a good job of handling the trolls.

  61. Shabnam

    Just to clarify: The presence of a Y chromosome usually means that the human entity or taqeau does not develop ovarian tissues a vulva, vagina, breasts, but rather testicular tissue and a penis. This is unless the person is androgen insensitive, ie. does not react to any androgenic hormones such as testosterone. In which case the person develops like a typical XX-female, but has testicular tissue instead and no uterus. XXY people usually look like ‘men’. (Don’t ask me to define what they are!)

    Some people are mosaics, they have the genetic information of two or more people all mixed up at random, e.g. there was a case when a mother gave birth to several children but genetic tests revealed that she was not their biological mother! Later it was found out that the DNA in her ovaries was different from the DNA in her hair, blood etc. Some people can therefore have a mixture of XY and XX chromosome containing cells. These people sometimes have both ovarian and testicular tissue. Once example of this was the Italian sculptor Italian sculptor Fiore de Henriquez, whom I mentioned in another thread about the NEwsweek article. It is fascinating to read about her:
    She was brought up as a woman. She was content with her intersex body.

    Anyway, so what is a woman? I’ll go along with ‘people whom the patriarchy would like to put in the sex class’. Can there be a patriarchy-free definition? I liked Otown’s suggestion.

  62. Frigga's Own

    “I may or may not delete comments wherein privilege is spelled priveledge.”

    I hope you can spare some mercy for my tendancy to spell it as privillege, since it is a mistake I can’t seem to stop from happening. Usually I can catch it when I review what I’ve written, but sometimes there’s a problem between my eyes and the computer screen.

  63. Twisty

    Frigga’s Own, I can’t see beyond my nose, and therefore I sympathize, but I have to ask: are you anti-spell-checker?

  64. lawbitch

    Twisty, I love you! Do whatever you need to take care of yourself. That’s your job. Share as much of your brilliance with us as you can. I enjoy your wit and wisdom. I’m glad that you’re going to continue to blog.

    I’m going to think some more before I tackle the latest assignment.


  65. Sylvanite

    Of course, let’s not forget biological males (androgen sensitive) who identify as female, to the extent of removing their man-parts. Being asked to define “woman” seems to show just how asinine the whole attempt to force real people into pigeonholes really is.

    I have to say, the new web-surfing control tool at work is just killing me. I just hate not being able to check in here several times a day! Argh!

    On the plus side, it has led me to miss several commentary train wrecks.

    I hope that the blog doesn’t get you down to the extent you have to quit. Why can’t people just behave themselves?

  66. diana prince

    Hey, Blamers! Inspired by inspiredbycoffee’s Buffy statement/question, I’d like some further opinions on this. I agree with Silence that many of the un-codependent female leads in film are not perfect but would put it to you that we could add Wonder Woman and The Bride (from Kill Bill) to the list. Thoughts? Given that my PhD rests on just this issue, I’d love some fellow feminist thoughts on it. Not to hijack the thread or anything.
    Also, Twisty, you are so cool. I was a bit afraid you were going to take away the magnificent bug and bird pictures forever, which would be very sad.

  67. Pinko Punko

    MzNicky, my friend gave me that DVD (Bringing Up Baby) but I haven’t watched it yet. It is on at the revival house in two weeks, so I think I will wait. I’ll let you know how it plays.

    THP- for your party, since you are having retro cocktails, I’d recommend a Thin Man film to get people in the vibe, also Gilda because it is just so (pause, not ellipsis) odd and there will definitely be stuff to talk about.

  68. norbizness

    I think that, in the world of lawspeak, a post linking to a article about transpersons is what’s called an “attractive nuisance,” like an abandoned carnival grounds or a rusty refrigerator in a dumpster whose door is slightly ajar.

  69. Sam

    Hey Hedonistic Pleasureseeker, my vote for best feminist film of the 50s goes to 1954’s Salt of the Earth.

    Manarchists I’m aquainted with like to blab about the movie’s pro-labor and pro-union theme as the central point of the film but they’re wrong. The movie begins with the Mexican-American men already unionized, so the truly subversive plot just uses unionization as a starting point for exploring what happens when women stop accepting their place under the feet of the men under the feet of corporations.

    Esperanza: “Yes, I talk of dignity. The Anglo bosses look down on you, and you hate them for it. ‘Stay in your place, you dirty Mexican’ — that’s what they tell you. But why must you say to me, “Stay in your place”? Do you feel better having someone lower than you? Whose neck shall I stand on, to make me feel superior? And what will I get out of it? I don’t want anything lower than I am. I’m low enough already. I want to rise. And push everything up with me as I go. And if you can’t understand this you’re a fool — because you can’t win this strike without me! You can’t win anything without me!”

  70. Ms Kate

    I hope comment 1 doesn’t mean that you ain’t gonna troll your own blog from time to time.

    We live fer that, ya know?

  71. curiousgyrl

    i know this is dumb, but are people spell checking in word first? I need spell-help. I am SO bad at spelling. And typing.

  72. Pinko Punko

    THP, go with The Thin Man to get people into the cocktail mood, then hit them with Gilda, which is a deeply odd movie, but will have an abundance of themes to talk about.

  73. Shabnam

    I really enjoyed watching Kill Bill Vol. I, despite the violence, and the background patriarchy (the presence of the old git ‘Bill’ who is in charge of the female assassins and whom the Uma Thurman character bizarrely ‘loves’ – this part was the hardest to believe, her taking on a tavern full of men and slaughtering them all was more plausible). It was very refreshing to see a film where during the film you have complete faith in the female protagonist’s capabilities, and that she will ‘win’. She might suffer but she will be the victor; the patriarchy will not be able to punish her. I never needed to feel protective towards her, e.g. “oh no, I hope she won’t be raped”. (Actually she does get raped, whilst in a coma, but she wakes up and kills her rapist). Also Uma Thurma’s outfit was not at all sexbotty(?) – the least sexbotulist(?) female hero I have ever seen.

  74. elizabeth

    Love your blog. Do whatever you want with the comments. Just don’t stop writing!

    Define “woman”. Okay, easy! A woman is a human who is capable of giving birth! No, that won’t cover it. Who has female organs! No, wait… Born with… no, no, wait. Chooses to… oh, no, really, that won’t do, either.

    I knew a truck driver once, named Pat. Wore jeans and t-shirts and boots and baseball caps. Was big and broad and strong as anybody. Didn’t have breasts, far as anyone could tell. (Don’t know about inside the pants; don’t reckon anybody was brave enough to inquire about that.) Didn’t have kids, didn’t have a partner. Hair cut close to the head. No makeup, no jewelry. She’d stop by the strip clubs sometimes, give the girls a few dollars and watch them dance. She always looked happy. If someone called her “Mister”, she’d answer, because she didn’t give a damn. But if you asked whether she was Mr. or Ms., she’d say, “Miss”. Get that – not even Ms., but Miss! She was Miss Pat, because she said she was, and who’d know better than her?

    I’d say there’s no objective definition of “woman” that will cover all possible bodily circumstances in which a person who believes herself to be a woman could find herself. I think a woman is a human being who declares herself to be a woman. Within a social context at least, no other workable definition exists. Any definition based on physical characteristics can never be comprehensive.

  75. Heather

    Woman is a social construction, a myth.

  76. CafeSiren

    Twisty’s question sent me to my bookshelf, where I found T. Laquer’s “Making Sex.” I didn’t have a good answer on my own, but maybe a few statements the author makes in the introductory chapter will be good fodder for this question:

    “The dominant, though by no means universal, view since the eighteenth century has been that there are two stable, incommensurable, opposite sexes and that the political, economic, and cultural lives of men and women, their gender roles, are somehow based on these ‘facts.’ ” [p. 6]

    Okay, that gets us as far as the “sex vs. gender” debate. Advanced blamers may yawn here (although I think his use of the word “stable” is interesting, and raises its own set of questions), but then back to the point:

    “I want to show on the basis of historical evidence that almost everything one wants to say about sex — however sex is understood — already has in it a claim about gender. Sex, in both the one-sex and the two-sex worlds [yes, he clarifies this] is situational; it is explicable only within the context of battles over gender and power.”

    What I think he’s saying here (though it’s been years since I’ve read the whole book) is that sex only matters if what the interrrogator of sex is in reality concerned about is gender. To wit: why care if that hermaphroditic child a “girl” or “boy”? Because we’re trying to figure out how to socialize said child. Perhaps not a bad idea, as a survival mechanism in a sex-binary world, but that sex binary is really a gender binary.

  77. CafeSiren

    Addendum: quote #2 was from p. 11. I’m a freak for proper citation of one’s sources.

  78. Margarita

    ew_nc – yeah, Shirley Valentine is a good movie. She kicks out her lazy ass husband and moves to Greece. Unfortunately there’s some action with a sleazy Greek dude, but the point of the film is that she falls in love, not with a dude, but with Greece and moves there to get her happiness by herself and make sand castles. And she is not a young, sexay girl either, but a real looking middle aged woman with an 80s perm and a scouse accent.

    I suppose traditionally a woman is defined biologically as has been said above. But i also think that if you define yourself as a woman, you are one. All you have to do is think it. Some people don’t know how to define themselves though, which is why it’s fucked up that we even have to make the choice. Why should we define ourselves? It’s only because we live in such a reproduction-happy culture that is obsessed with everyone’s genitals that we are forced to! I define myself as a person/human before i define myself as a female. Though it’s off topic, i loved Twisty’s Taqueau post (have i spelled that right?) I have started thinking to myself of everyone i meet as a “Taqueau” rather than “man” or “woman” and it makes me smile. I know the name was a joke, but people don’t joke about themselves enough and the idea is a fabulous one. Gendering people is a terrible thing, i think.

    Anyway i am neither a particularly old nor particularly wise blamer, so please feel free to shut me up if i’m talking shit. Reading Twisty has changed my life for the better and the blaming here inspires me to be more fearless so i hope it carries on for a good while yet. Thanks, Twisty!

  79. Hawise

    If you want classic Hepburn then go with The Lion in Winter. It is our family Christmas film.

    Hopefully we will behave but if we don’t then do as you will. Your blog, your whims, we are only here due to your will and we can go just as fast.

  80. The Hedonistic Pleasureseeker

    I type too fast. What’s a spell check?

  81. curiousgyrl

    Good work CafeSiren

  82. Pinko Punko

    Oh, I think Kate didn’t get officially hooked to Spencer T on account of his Catholicism. I wish we had TCM. AMC really sucks gigantic alien butt. It isn’t even worth checking to see what is on, or at least hasn’t been in the past. They have a different definition of classic now, and of course there are 500 commercials.

    I think TF and blamers would like the revival house I get to go to- they even have an organ, they freshly pop the popcorn, and it is cheap popcorn. 7 bucks for two movies.

  83. ceejay1968

    Oh, Twisty, I was close to a panic attack while reading that, thinking you were going to quit. They’ve already been cutting back my depression meds due to side effects and then yesterday Cindy Sheehan resigned from public life (I had been at Camp Casey in 2005, came home to New Orleans post-Katrina, then helped Food Not Bombs and other Camp Casey folks get supplies out around the Gulf Coast)…

    Anyway, I say again that you’re a lifeline to sanity. And, that blog you did last week on public education…I kept saying out loud, “Thank god she said it, thank god she said it, yes, yes.” (well, I seem to say that a lot when reading your stuff)

    Thanks for still being here!

  84. brklyngrl

    What about community moderation? Is it horribly difficult and/or expensive? Even though I don’t comment much, I would be lost without IBTP. Just the same, I sympathize with your desire to enjoy life. Despite Markos’ questionable understanding of patriarchy, the community moderation system over at DKos works well, and I think HuffPost just got something community moderation-ey this weekend. We could hide or flag comments that didn’t meet community guidelines, and you could review at your leisure, or not.

    Woman = not a man.

  85. norbizness

    Have you ever considered going to Vulcan Video to get misogynist films from around the world? The 1 am Sunday slot TCM allots for world cinema is wholly insufficient.

  86. Trout

    Twisty, I think you do an excellent job of moderating, but I can also see why moderating this place is a major pain in the ass. Some other blogs which get this big appoint people who the blog’s primary owner trusts, and who have excellent netiquette, as secondary moderators. Have you considered this approach? (Don’t worry, I’m not applying for the job.) You might not get a “perfect” decision each time, but you’ll do far less work. Just a thought, and worth everything you paid for it.

  87. Kristina

    Here is my cheap two cents: the fact that we try to “define” what makes us women, or that the definition is imposed upon us by men, is one of the biggest factors of the patriarchy. Woman can be defined negatively- not man. She is Other; she is not me. She can be defined by her physical characteristics: breasts, wide hips, and a vagina. This leads to Naomi Wolf’s Iron Maiden, where every woman must have these size breasts, and those size hips, and designer vulvae. She can be defined by her genetics, the difficulties of which have been eloquently defined above.

    In a perfect world, there would be no definition of woman. There would be no definition of man. There would just be human or person. But we don’t live in a perfect world, so I second the [see “sex class”] definition.

    I too have placed a great deal of the burden of my sanity, unasked, on your shoulders. I have been wondering for a while: would you consider a forum? You could have multiple moderators; you could set passwords; we could all chip in via Paypal.

  88. Mar Iguana

    Webster’s says “an adult female person.” Works for me. Or, maybe “the more humane human.”

    Interesting, the word itself is from Old English: “wifman”* from “wif” woman, wife + “man” human being, man. Well hell. The human being’s wife. I see. It’s just relentless, isn’t it?

    Silence, “Chocolat” may be my all time, most favorite movie ever.

    I’m glad you decided not to throw the baby out with the bathwater, Twisty. I know I’ve done my share of aggravating others around here, but I’ve been trying to be good. Tiny, baby steps.

    *Sorry, I don’t know how to do italics. For starters.

  89. stekatz

    Gee, the things I miss when I go out of town. I really wanted to read the commentariats’ views on the woman raped by the baseball team since that happened in my neck of the woods and I was quite upset by the whole nasty lack of justice. While the essay was spot on, the comments were overwhelming.

    I don’t read comments once they move into triple digits and rarely do I read them beyond 50. I’d admire your ability to do so.

    I’ve seen the comments section completely ruin more than one good blog. I’ve given up on various blogs and bulletin boards over the years because the commenters and contributors just ruin it by their squabbling and attention mongering (it may be clear by my response here that I’ve not read any of those on this topic).

    A few ideas though: a one (or two) comment per customer policy? A word limit? Comments only open up until comment number 99? Go back to the days of registration? Only enable comments when you actually feel like keeping up?

    Do whatever you feel you need to do. Even if that means posting nothing but bug and food pictures. I’ll still stop by when I’m near a computer to have a look see. Your blog is one of the few that I bother with anymore.

  90. thebewilderness

    Hi Mar,
    When I can’t remember how to do it right, I go here and check.


    I am sorry we have become a burden. We sometimes forget this is your space, not ours. I love these intertoobz, because it made it possible for us to hang out at your place.

  91. ComradeComrade

    That salad looks darn tasty! Would someone in your family adopt me? When I had cancer, I was in pretty good shape. When I had chemo to get rid of it was another story. I went online daily to check out the food Network recipes. (I couldn’t eat nothin from the mouth sores.) And was obsessed with the menu at Riddle’s. I found this site 2 days ago and immediately recommended it to many friends, 2 of whom wrote back saying they were hooked. Please, please, please do what you need to to take care of yourself. I can always read Katha Pollit, although she never writes “fuck all y’all.”

  92. curiousgyrl

    woman=not man

    woman=that which is not a person.

    Mars Iguana: i beat you to the Webster’s bit but I like the old English addition.

  93. thebewilderness

    I think that woman is a word that we use to describe an idea about reality.

  94. Valkyrie

    My Dear Twisty – Do what you must but please don’t stop striking those rhetorical blows on behalf of the revolution. No one speaks the truth like you do and the world needs to hear it now more than ever. Your posts are your legacy, the comments merely a sandbox that you provide for us to play in. Thank you so much for both.

  95. virgotex

    I also enjoy movies, sunsets, and long walks on the beach. My turnoffs include phonies, mean people, and those who argue against the dialectic of recursive transition networks from a Marxian perspective, or one which supports a Lacanian model of the neocapitalist paradigm of context used not to deconstruct society, but rather to install in the post-sexual narrative the meaninglessness of the consensus of a collective, but parallel, unconscious.

    But what about pina coladas and gettin’ caught in the rain?

    As I (and others) posted at CRN recently: Your blog, your writing. Do exactly what you want.

  96. Edith

    For what it’s worth, I apologize for being an ass. I may call myself a “mean feminist” but that doesn’t mean I relish being a jerk. I get heated, sure. And I get long-winded and obnoxious. And I realize you’re probably not talking about me, but even if you are a little bit, I’m sorry. I realize this is your blog, and this blog is here to talk about radical feminism, not for me to engage others in my trivial ideas about public education et al. This is why I don’t usually comment much. I do love reading the comments, however, and I hope you don’t take them off. Maybe we just all need this reminder to STFU once in a while.

    There better not be any threads about Lacan. Really, no one wants to hear my rants on that.

  97. Emotenote

    First, an attempt to define Woman. “The label set on the birth-giving gender of this planet. This label symbolizes the paradigm that the female gender is secondary to the male gender and can only have full function when associated with a male of the species. It is an inadequate and inaccurate descriptor.”

    Twisty, glad you’re not throwing in the towel just yet. Not only do I revel in finding mostly intelligent and thoughtful posts and comments but my daughters have also reaped the benefits from your world class commentary and many of the responses. From literary reference to bug examination to ‘Public Cans of Austin” (which has inspired me to my own series to view when things get tough and the tough need a laugh) we’ve been inspired. The girls need to know what they face and that they can face it with strength and humor. I am constantly amazed at the clarity of your translation of difficult thought processes to eloquent elocution.

    Perhaps the best thing in my personal little rant here that has come from your blog is the fact that my husband now reads it and is beginning the journey into a much greater understanding about the situation on the planet where half the population is being acted upon as a lower sex class. This has changed several of his attitudes and actions. He finds it hard to read which is understandable; like someone pointing out that you’ve been pulling the legs off bugs for years and it’s causing great pain and anguish.

    An hey, talk about vocab builders;

    “My turnoffs include phonies, mean people, and those who argue against the dialectic of recursive transition networks from a Marxian perspective, or one which supports a Lacanian model of the neocapitalist paradigm of context used not to deconstruct society, but rather to install in the post-sexual narrative the meaninglessness of the consensus of a collective, but parallel, unconscious.”

    Yeah, me too.

  98. Jodie

    There are no women. There are no men. There are only humans (well, OK, humans and animals and fish and bugs, but OUR group can just go by “human” — gah, the patriarchy! — or maybe “hupeople”). If everyone would just understand that, life would be so much better.

  99. Bubbas' Nightmare


    Someone put it to me the other day that Buffy was the strongest (in a kick-ass feminist sort of a way) / generally all round best female TV show character ever.

    Does anyone have an opinion on this? Is it worth having an opinion on?

    Zoe from Firefly. Mrs. Peel from The Avengers (catsuit not withstanding).

  100. Loosely Twisted

    woman = the better half of the human species.

    kinda biased myself. but wtf.

  101. magickitty

    I am SO glad I didn’t involve myself (much) in that thread. Now I can’t be blamed for singlehandedly bringing down IBTP.

    (Although I would LOVE to be blamed for singlehandedly bring down the P.)

    And yeah, your blog, your rules. I am grateful every day that you’re here, but if you feel you need to be elsewhere to take care of yourself, then please, take care of yourself. We’ll keep.

    Twisty, I hope you will allow (deliberate) non-American spellings. I will defend my right to use “neighbour” with my last typing finger.

  102. Virago

    Two words: True Grit. Yeah, it’s John Wayne, but the main female character whips his ass into shape. Loved it as a child, love it now.

    “Woman”? What does it mean to everyone else? No fucking clue. Don’t know. Don’t care.

    Woman, to me, has always meant the person willing to shoulder responsibility and do the work that no one else can or will do. That means, of course, that some people with vaginaswombbreatsova and two XX chromosomes are not women–and some people with penisestestiblessperm and an X and a Y are women.

    As for comment moderation, I don’t care if comments are moderated. I’m an adult, I can handle myself, you know? (However, I do think that on the last thread, the well-placed warning about what would be allowed kept a few of the most blatant haters at bay.) As for death threats? Meh. If I had a dime for every time someone threatened my life online, I could afford to subscribe to cable TV. Then I could watch Iron Chef on The Food Network.

    I love Iron Chef Cat Cora.

  103. Joanna

    Twisty, for what it’s worth,I think you do a great job of finding the balance between creating a space where folks can hash out really difficult ideas and making clear statements about the limits you want to set on obnoxious behavior, whether its in the FAQs or your own posts and comments. The fact is, you won’t be able to please everyone and some folks will always want to dictate what should or shouldn’t be said here.And some folks are just assholes who will talk mean about people in order to build themselves up, and I pay them no mind. If folks get too mean or spiteful, and it bothers you, I’d give them the Mandos heave-ho (I’ve had to do that at my tiny unknown blog for at least one person who was harassing a friend). But I’ve also noticed that even in the heat of some of the long difficult comment threads, most folks make an attempt to listen and learn as well as exchange ideas. I certainly always learn a lot, even if I don’t comment that often, so I hope it’s worth it to you to let the comments continue.

    I think I’ve ended up approaching the idea of defining “woman” the same way I wrestled with the higher power idea when I was going to Al-anon: there’s a lot of pressure to come up with an answer, but in the end, I became comfortable with the fact that I didn’t have to decide or believe or have an answer. I don’t know works just fine for me. The more I learn about physiology, the less I believe in the biological sex binary (read the Scientific American article this month); the more stories I hear from gender non-conforming folks, the less I want to invest in gender binaries. But I also recognize that these are functional categories that can be and are deployed strategically for various purposes. I want to be able to claim to be a woman in order to denounce oppression when I deal with discrimination at work, and I want to be able to question the definitions of woman in order to understand its role in oppression. I don’t see these things as incompatible.

  104. the opoponax

    This isn’t a full on definition of “woman”, but it’s about as close as I’ve been able to come in my short blaming career.

    Woman: a fictional character.

  105. the opoponax

    Also, Twisty, I have to say that since I’ve discovered this blog, I’ve been sort of surprised at the general lack of trolling. You should be proud. Most blogs I’m acquainted with have at least one regular troll, even if “it” is ignored or vilified or regularly shouted down. What you have is a motley crew (crue?) of blamers, all of whom have different ideas about what makes patriarchy tick, and who are (usually) willing to debate civilly on the matter. There are people here I really disagree with. But I’d never accuse any of them of posting in bad faith.

    Which basically means you win the internets.

  106. the opoponax

    @ Magickitty — maybe there is a We Are The Patriarchy blog somewhere, and we can go troll on it, causing Teh Patriarchs to close down comments, and then officially feel that we had (almost)single handedly Brought Down The Patriarchy.

  107. pisaquari

    I see I don’t need to go into the sort of psuedo philospophic ramblings of defining “woman” by implying The Definition (Capital T kinda stuff)is nonexistant, courtesy of 100 + comments.

    I will add that should their ever exist some sort of cultural elaboration of sex it should only employ the minds of a genderless generation.
    I say this for the same reasons I think feminist porn is a giant bucket of air. When a patriarchy exists the views of sex and gender are far too entrenched/drenched in the Male Order precedent that research and conclusions be poison free. Gender roles have infiltrated us in ways I don’t even think an be fully measured and if sexual differences (anatomical, hormonal,etc) are to align with behaviors correctly we are going to have to stop imposing and start “letting happen” (aka: raise humans, not boys and girls).

    And Twisty, you do as you please, naturally. Your words, besides having top-notch editorial quality, have no mercy with the tripe that has mucked up the feminist movement as of late and surely you see you are not alone in your findings. That you are a master of sound bytes (that bite harder) is evidence to years of a serene-looking glass (how alone you must have been!) and what one might call a sort of gift.
    I come here because I enjoy intelligent discourse, it’s an escape from what now seems surreal (the “real world”) and because your diet seems as rich as your words (or, pretty photos).
    In so much, I too feel this blog a necessity but in the same breath I hope (like any great interaction) there are days you too feel so overwhelmed that you throw up a photo of lunch and personal essay because part of you has grown to need us as well.

  108. RadFemHedonist

    “My reproductive system is complicated and has magical powers”

    No it doesn’t, it’s entirely scientifically explainable. I have no intention of defining the word woman. I am sorry you feel stressed out by the blog. I won’t take offence if my comment takes forever to get through or something, and I apologize if my comments are the cause of stress.

  109. KMTberry

    I rather doubt that anyone reads down this far, BUT:

    Twisty, I am so innocent and febrile that I NEVER assumed that you read all the comments. Why would you want to do that, unless you were feeling unable to sleep, or something? When you have showed up to take part in a thread, I always thought it was like a royal visitation. Kind of extra-special.

    You should not have to moderate comments. That would be a fulltime job! I think we can all accept “Twisty does not moderate comments, unless she feels like it”.

    I will try to keep my capitalization sins to a minimum, too.

    (I also think a community-moderation thing would work. Don’t know how it works, but maybe you could pick some blamers who you think are kindred spirits, and let them take care of it. I don’t think ANY blamer would feel anything but HONORED!)

  110. Claire

    I always thought it would be great to discover I had XX plus cat DNA and could leap from building to building.

  111. Lauredhel

    Last time people were working on menstruation-centric etic definitions of “woman” here, I pitched in with this:

    “bleeds, or is pathologised for not bleeding.
    And for the pathologisation, you know who I blame.”

  112. Oiorpata

    Delighted to see you taking back the blog Twisty. Cutting through the crap to bring a breath of fresh air where it is most needed. Setting us yet another good example.

    If only more women dared follow their own internal guidance systems, the patriarchy would grind to an abrupt halt.

  113. anna

    As far as defining “woman” goes, I’m with the “not-man” crowd. It’s not the most girl-power-rific definition, but then again, this is reality in a patriarchy.

    It’s much easier for me to define, or rather caption, the accompanying photo: “Herb Spider Devouring Tomato Mountain”.

    I come here to read your commentary. I don’t always agree with you, but at least I feel as though your comments are considered. Your bugs and food posts are a nice break from the intensity of heated debate.

    Would the world end without IBTP? No. But it is nice that it’s here, for as long as you still want to do it. You shouldn’t have the carry the burden of anyone’s readerly dependancy issues.

  114. Antoinette Niebieszczanski

    As other esteemed blamers have stated, I come here to get away from that crap. I quit reading after it started getting ugly. It was as if I’d wandered into some kind of weird, hostile parallel universe.

    Hey, your blog, your discretion. Whatever you take a dislike to is justifiably bannable. Feel not obligated to agonize over it.

    Footnote #3 made my brain bleed after the sunsets and long walks on the beach.

  115. Sara

    Not that you should care one whit, I approve heartily of this post, including but not limited to the part with the salad.

    I have no idea what a woman is except that I’m pretty sure I am one. So I guess it’s like that line from that judge about pornography being hard to define but you know it when you see it.

    Sure is a painful parallel to be faced with before my first cup of coffee.

    Blame on.

  116. The Hedonistic Pleasureseeker

    Pinko Punko: Thin Man, Gilda, got it! Thanks!

  117. Betsy

    Twisty, I was going to say “more power to ya” before I caught myself.

    More pleasure to you!

  118. V.

    Twisty, I never made the assumption that all unbanned comments had the Twisty Seal of Approval, nor that you had any responsibilities to this blog other than your original posts/pictures.

    You’ve got a life to enjoy, and I am glad you make the time to give us food for deep thought while you are enjoying it.

    And speaking of pictures–I cann’t get behind goat cheese of any sort. But I do like the china pattern–one of my favorites!

  119. TinaH

    Not to be completely obvious, but I’m seeing 2 definitions of woman: one in the patriarchy and one not. I’m all about the one in the Not Patriarchy: a person.

    Also, Twisty, I am joining the chorus of “Oh Twisty Goddess, don’t leave us!” and also the chorus of “Oh dear, I hope I didn’t cause you too much stress and I’ll try to do better in the future.”

  120. V.

    Oh, drat and double drat! When will I remember to spell-check after my final edits for content? When?

  121. Antoinette Niebieszczanski

    Hey, V, I’m with you. I can’t even abide the smell of goat cheese.

  122. MzNicky

    Can’t define “woman” without resorting to words that contain “man” (woMAN, huMAN) or “male” (feMALE) or “son” (perSON)or the prefix “not” or “non” applied to “man” or “male.” Therefore I conclude we are indefinable.

    Also: goat cheese rocks.

  123. Orange

    Goat-cheese haters! I refused to try goat cheese until I was 39. Bake it and serve it with a seasoned tomato sauce and goodness gracious, is it tasty. Y’all should give it a(nother) try if it scares you. More recently, a restaurant served me green beans with a schmear of goat cheese mixed in–yum.

    I still can’t think of a definition for woman that isn’t too reductionist, exclusionary, or bound to maleness/not-maleness. “I know it when I see it” doesn’t even fly–there are some androgynous folks whose gender/sexual identity I can’t parse without asking them (and I’m not about to walk up to a stranger and inquire). Tina’s woman = person is good, but man = person too, so it’s not an exclusive definition. How does one differentiate between the woman-person and man-person? That takes us back to the original question.

  124. Frumious B

    Interesting how many of the definitions of woman exclude transwomen. They don’t bleed, they have only 1 X chromosome, some of them have a penis. Just observing.


    Spell check: download the latest Firefox. It has one built in. What, you say? You are using IE? The horror.

  125. Kairos Rae

    I’m with Jodie on this woman question. I took a Women’s Studies class last year where we discussed the image of the “natural woman,” a.k.a. woman not defined by man’s standards but by our own. What did we come up with? A million different answers. A woman does not fit into one stereotype. She is whatever she says she is. She is referred to by the female pronoun because of the anatomical/biological reasons…chromosomes and all that which has been commented about (I’m not a science person), but the pronoun “she” does (oops, I mean *should) not carry with it any connotations/stereotypes/characteristics/whatever.

    Unfortunately, in our culture, woman is defined by man…but I don’t believe the question Twisty is asking here is how men define women, but how we, as women, define ourselves…which is the same question we asked in my class.

    I’ve thought about this a lot, and I think the best approach I’ve come up with is the more liberal feminist approach of androgyny. This takes me to Jodie’s comment.

    There are no women. There are no men. There are only humans (well, OK, humans and animals and fish and bugs, but OUR group can just go by “human” — gah, the patriarchy! — or maybe “hupeople”). If everyone would just understand that, life would be so much better.

    We are all people, and gender is a social disease…a cultural construction, if you will. A woman is a man is a woman is a person…until our culture tells us we have to be weak or strong, “girly” or “manly.” Those adjectives should not exist. They mean nothing to me.

  126. pdxstudent

    I thought it was interesting that you pointed out that “person” can’t be spelled without “son.” I hadn’t thought of that before. I went and checked it out though, and those two words have very different and divergent histories. I suspected and was correct that “person” is latin-derived and “son” is germanic-derived. Perhaps in some highly questionable, reconstructed proto-Indo-European language they had a closer affinity.

  127. Mar Iguana

    Thank you, bewilderness. Now I can comment just like a real woman. The Blue Fairy will be so proud.

    curiousgyrl, it’s Mar Iguana, not Mars Iguana. You’re getting there. Note for future: There are many here who may feel free to call me Mar. You would not be one of them.

    Credit to whoever said it on, I think, the Thyreocorid post, it is no coincidence that post modernism should come along just about the time women are beginning to define themselves separately from the boys. “Uh oh, they’re starting to figure it out. We better hurry up and make the word ‘woman’ meaningless.” I’m disturbed by definitions above such as:

    “Woman=anyone who defines themselves as such” Drakyn

    “I think a woman is a human being who declares herself to be a woman.” elisabeth

    “Woman is a social construction, a myth.” Heather

    “But i also think that if you define yourself as a woman, you are one. All you have to do is think it.” Margarita

    And, in particular:

    “Woman”? What does it mean to everyone else? No fucking clue. Don’t know. Don’t care.” Virago

    And: “That means, of course, that some people with vaginaswombbreatsova and two XX chromosomes are not women–and some people with penisestestiblessperm and an X and a Y are women.”

    My, Virago, what big teeth you have.

  128. pdxstudent

    I wonder if because “woman” is constructed in patriarchy it makes sense to say that woman does not exist at all. That is to say, to the extent that “woman” is meaningful in our (perhaps all) culture, it represents a kind of specter of male fantasy–i.e. the quintessentially dominated object. In this sense, when we say woman, we are evoking or pointing at a densely layered construction of impossible social expectations and demands that, when considered “objectively,” simply vanishes.

    This is using “woman” in the same sense that Twisty uses “men” in her “Men Hate You” tag. Does that mean that only men exist? Only to the extent that this is how patriarchy sees things, which is to say how most people everywhere see things. Outside of the patriarchy, who knows what’s possible– but probably not gender/sex binaries.

  129. Mar Iguana

    Well, crap. I’m back in moderation and, obviously, I need to work on this HTML tag thingy.

  130. V.

    I’ve tried goat cheese fresh. I’ve tried goat cheese cooked. I’ve tried goat cheese mixed with herbs. I’ve tried goat cheese mixed with other foods. I’ve tried goat cheese from small goat farms. I’ve tried goat cheese from the supermarket.

    I think it’s fair to say that I’ve given goat cheese my best shot.

    I can’t do it.

    I. Do. Not. Like. Goat. Cheese.

    No offense intended to goat cheese lovers or goats, which I will eat, roasted or stewed with strong spices.

  131. V.

    I did not mean to say imply that I would eat goat cheese lovers. I do not like them roasted or stewed, but they are fine to talk to when fresh, or well-seasoned.

  132. rootlesscosmo

    Back to Stage Door–I think the message, if any, is that the show biz camaraderie “humanizes” the spoiled rich Hepburn character (just as the story line in Philadelphia Story “humanizes”–or “thaws” as the Cary Grant character sees it–her.) In fact, now I think about it, most of Hepburn’s scripts set her up as “cold,” “unfeminine,” “snobby,” and then cut her down to size–in which movie is it that Spencer Tracy is giving her a back rub and then smacks her, really hard, on the ass? Unwatchably ugly… her character in Bringing up Baby doesn’t get cut down but only because she’s a ditz from the beginning; even in Desk Set her fear of the computer, and Spencer’s scary computer expert, is tamed by making him and his machine into nice bosses who are grateful for her special, irreplaceable abilities. (Computers put people out of work? Perish the thought! And notice Joan Blondell’s thinly disguised alternative scenario in which she and Hepburn retire to a country cottage and “raise cats.”)

    None of this is to fault Hepburn, who didn’t write the scripts or design the movie business or the patriarchy. But her characters, by and large, are pretty dubious models.

  133. Tricia

    Hey, does anybody want to add to this, that whole thing about Wittig saying that lesbians aren’t women because they haven’t signed the heterosexual contract?

    Someone put it to me the other day that Buffy was the strongest (in a kick-ass feminist sort of a way) / generally all round best female TV show character ever.

    Does anyone have an opinion on this? Is it worth having an opinion on?

    I can’t believe nobody has mentioned Starbuck yet.

  134. rootlesscosmo

    Sorry–the Ellipsis Gnomes put something in my coffee. Won’t happen again.

  135. kreepyk

    Buffy, although is a patriarchy-friendly fairy tale with snappy mod dialogue, is certainly more palatable than Woman of the Year, but the whole girl power subculture that worships it is sort of unsophisticated. I fucking hate that whole “kick-ass” school of pseudo-feminist thought.

    Twisty, one of the things that draws a lot of women to Buffy is that though Buffy is an icon of a strong woman and the focal point of the show, there’s more going on there. For one thing, it was an ensemble piece and many of the other characters are either strong women (Willow is portrayed as hyper-intelligent, Joyce a capable single-mom, Tara a highly moral and thoughtful person who overcame an incredibly misogynist upbringing) or men who like and admire strong women. That alone made it stand out from other shows, bigtime.

    The other thing about the show is that it explicitly dealt with issues of morality, prejudice and exploitation. Often the themes were explicitly about confronting misogyny. Buffy may be of the “kick ass school” in that her powers pretty much revolve around kicking ass, but what makes her a leader is her strong sense of ethics, her loyalty to her friends and her good judgement.

  136. vera

    Blamers my age (I’m in my 50s) will recall that back in the day, people hesitated to utter the word “woman.” Referring to someone as a “woman” was akin to calling her a prostitute; the correct, polite term was “lady,” and the term used 99.9 percent of the time was “girl.” So for many years, I insisted on using the term “woman,” and insisted that others use it, too.

    I think we were right to do that–to reclaim the term “woman”–because we need a word to describe who we’re fighting for. But apart from that, “woman” is the word used to refer to one of the two genders: the one that gets shat upon. It’s used to differentiate, so people know whether to give jewelry or power tools as Christmas presents; and it’s used as a warning, as in “woman brain surgeon” (look out! she may be less competent!).

    The only reason we need the term at all is to describe who we’re fighting for, as noted above. In choosing it over “girl” and “lady,” as well as “chick,” “broad,” etc., we were trying to reject the terms the patriarchy uses to describe us. Perhaps that’s a futile endeavor; as long as we require a word that differentiates us, then we are buying into the mythology of gender.

    But we’ve got to have a word, and any word we coin will inherit the same stink.

    So for me, “woman” it is, stink and all. It’s just another one of those contradictions I must embrace due to the unavoidable fact that I live in a patriarchy.

  137. delphyne

    I was humphing and getting paranoid about my posts not appearing Twisty. I apologise for that. I hope you keep blogging – better no comments than no blog.

    As that’s my mouldy comment you are referring to up there I’ll take a go: at the moment “woman” apparently means being a member of a group that is easy to get into but much harder to get out of. Thus if George Bush tells us he is a woman, we (that’s us women) must accept him, however women who decide that they are no longer women have a much harder time. I mean I’ve wanted to step out of being a woman often – mainly when I was under attack from men because of my sex, but somehow I don’t think my protestations of really being male would have stopped the cat-calls/groping/the punch/ the rape etc. And of course the problem with the definition of woman being anybody who says they are one is the question remains one what? What is this woman they are claiming to be?

    As for sex being real, I’m finding it hard to understand how anybody could think it isn’t. This refusal to acknowledge sexual reproduction almost reminds me of the Victorians. Except this time it’s reproduction rather than sexual intercourse that no-one wants to think or talk about, that and the fact it takes a female and a male to do which also seems to remain unaddressed. Even mentioning it seems to make people a little disgusted and I certainly feel as if I’ve committed some kind of faux pas for doing so.

    So I’ll stick with the definition of woman as being an adult human female (and the fact that intersex people exist doesn’t negate the fact that male and female people also exist). Maybe in a post-patriarchal society sex will not be remarked upon but I think that’s unlikely given that reproduction will still be required to perpetuate said society. What won’t happen is any particular set of values being attached to female or male.

    As for the idea that some people have proposed that sex is a social construct, well every material or physical thing seen through the eyes of a human is a social construct, so why single out sex in particular?

  138. vera

    As for goat cheese, the first time I tasted it a flood of memories washed over me: the goats on the farm I took care of as a graduate student in need of money, the shed that the goats lived in, the floor of the shed, cleaning the floor of the shed (an elipsis would be good here). Like someone else wrote, tasting goat cheese was like licking a goat. (Sorry! I mean that literally, so you can get your connotations off my sentence.)

    For some reason, goat cheese no longer makes me feel that way. These days, I like it. Who woulda thought?

  139. Repenting

    The IBTP brain trust has truly grown over the years. I wouldn’t have expected you to police the comments considering how many there are, so just keep on making those excellent posts for everyone to discuss! Life > blogs. If you were wasting all your time moderating instead of posting, then we would all miss out on your incredible photography skills. I personally think the photos keep the blog nicely light-hearted in between the deep discussions on important but disturbing issues.

  140. mg_65

    Delurking to say: Twisty, I love you, I love your blog, do whatever makes you happy, and I have no idea what a woman is.

  141. Dr. Beads

    I support your taking back your own blog, not that you need or want my support. This may be part of the developmental cycle of many blogs.

    I, for one, look forward to any offensive comments you may be inspired to make. Your writing is wonderful and thought-provoking.

  142. norbizness

    Tricia: What’s Dirk Benedict got to do with it? (ducking)

    I like a few of the 70s icons: Maude Findlay and Emily Hartley. If I remember the story correctly, both Suzanne Pleshette and Bob Newhart threatened to quit if the network suits tried to saddle the Hartleys with a kid.

  143. chingona

    I’m not up to defining woman, but the discussion has reminded me of an exercise we did in Peace Corps as part of something called Participatory Analysis for Community Action. It’s a series of exercises and tools for thinking collectively about community problems and deciding on a course of action. There were several exercises that dealt with gender roles, one of which went like this: I’m glad that I’m a woman because … If I were a man I would … (I think this would be grammatically correct use of the ellipses. If not, my apologies.) It also could be set up in the reverse. The idea was to get people thinking about different roles, how that shapes their lives and needs and work.

    When we did it amongst ourselves in training, we broke out in a bitter fight because a few women were arguing that the patriarchy is all encompassing and pervasive that anyone who had anything positive to say about being a woman was deluding herself. You see that in some of the definitions here – the one who is shat on, etc.

    When we did the exercise with Paraguayan women, it basically came out like this: I’m glad I’m a woman because I get to take care of the house and the children. If I were a man, I would rest more. That would make the woman the one who shoulders all the work and responsibility, as one definition here suggests.

    Not sure what this contributes, but there it is.

  144. the opoponax

    This is a little upthread, but I think we need to be careful not to just find any words where the letters “son” or “man” appear in sequence and deem them Words Of Patriarchy.

    Person and Son have nothing to do with each other. Also keep in mind that originally, back in the day, the word “man” didn’t imply male. Thus, Human has little or nothing to do with Male Individual. It’s kind of like that silly “I’m gonna call it Herstory” b.s. The “His” in History has nothing to do with the male posessive pronoun, y’all.

  145. the opoponax

    @ Tricia — I definitely think that the category “Woman” has a lot to do with heteronormativity and a kind of “sexual social contract”. In addition to Wittig, who makes some very good points, check out Carol Pateman’s The Sexual Contract. That work is probably what paved the way for me to really get what Wittig is talking about. That “woman” is a relationship a certain (relatively arbitrary) group of people is forced into, rather than being an immutable Type Of Person. Woman is more analogous to “employee” than, say, “octopus”.

    See also certain strains of de Beauvoir: “One is made, not born, a woman”.

  146. octopod

    Female: What the sex-undifferentiated embryos of many animals develop into, absent the influence of masculinizing hormones in fetu.

    Woman: One of the most weighty-with-implications social categories into which you can put yourself.

    Human: Actually not oppressive to women etymologically. As pointed out in the “taqueau” thread, according to old English roots the distinction was between “wif-man” and “wir-man” (yes, that’s “wir” like “vir” — proto-Indo-European isn’t that far away), with “man” meaning human only. The sex-specific meaning of “man” didn’t show up until around the Norman Invasion, IIRC, and “wirman” didn’t disappear until after Chaucer. I use “man” sex-neutrally as much as possible and try to encourage other people to do so, but it’s a quixotic battle. What can I say — I like lost historical and activist causes.

  147. Antoinette Niebieszczanski

    Fudge made with goat’s milk is wonderful. I enjoyed curried goat while visiting Jamaica. I don’t know what my issue with goat cheese is.

    For the record, I’ve never eaten a goat-cheese lover or licked a goat. One nibbled my sweater at a petting zoo once, but I don’t remember this being as traumatic as the infamous swan or peacock incidents.

    I too sing the praises of siblings with culinary talent.

    And I defy anyone who breathes not to fall in love with Rita Hayworth in Gilda.

  148. Moira

    Concerning Starbuck: One problem with watching Battlestar Galactica on DVD, while a glorious fucking experience, is that we see her character arc in a collapsed time-frame. Between the miniseries and the end of 2.5, we see her go from the cigar-chewing, hard-drinking, superior-officer-slugging ace pilot I found so irresistably goddamn sexy to the Kara Thrace who quit her job driving Vipers to look after the man she spent forever obsessing over. I kept yelling “get a damn hair cut!” at the TV.

    Sigh. Good women characters are so hard to come by. I’ll put in my nomination for Violet from The Incredibles. Over the course of the movie, she gets a big dose of self-confidence and doesn’t end up with a boyfriend. Yay!

  149. octopod

    Oh, pdx — isn’t “person” from “persona”, like the mask? I don’t think you can attach that to “son” in any way, since “son” is from the PIE root su- meaning “give birth”, or so saith EtymOnline.com (that one I didn’t know at all on my own, haha). And I don’t want to fight you over PIE but I’d hardly call it “highly dubious”!

    Also, Twisty, it’s sad about the trans-hating. Or maybe I’m just not afraid enough of penises to think that someone who has one, and claims to be a woman, is just doing it to be a jerk and mess with women.

  150. The Hedonistic Pleasureseeker

    Delphyne, I don’t know if this will help, or if it will only muddle the waters further:

    I fall much further toward the “nature” part of the nature/nurture debate than do most (all?) radfems. Since I’m probably not a radfem I don’t care. I think our unique cocktails of hormones and neurotransmitters kicking around our bodies, whether we’re 8 weeks in utero or 18 years old, define us more than anything else does. That blast of testosterone at 8 weeks is absolutely defining for that XY or XXY or XYY or XYZ embryo. That dearth of serotonin that occurs in some people when their sex hormones fluctuate absolutely define those people. Here’s the thing, though: Defining HOW? Everyone’s cocktail is personalized, resulting in a variety of physical and emotional presentations, not just the two presentations that are (supposedly) necessary for reproduction.

    I think we’re more complex than just existing on a continuum between male and female. For instance, I have boatloads of androgens coursing through my body, more than the average female. It’s effects have defined who I am. But society defined me as “female” since I – surpise! – lacked the all important Penis of Doom. That’s pretty much all that doctors go by: A visual. What if a blood test were defining instead? Again, I would not be impressed if someone were to classify me as male based on my hormones, because although I have a lot of so-called “boy” hormones I still have a uterus, not to mention these monster boobs that also define me whether I like it or not.

    I wonder what we did to reproduce before the X lost 1/4 of it’s information, resulting some flukey Y mutation? Or were we just pond scum back then?

    Am I babbling? Somebody stop me.

  151. The Hedonistic Pleasureseeker

    Now that I’ve hit “blame” (it’s in moderation) I realize my example sucks. I think the supposed continuum between male and female is far too simple, and we shouldn’t use it because it presumes a binary exists. On a continuum there is no room for “something else entirely.”

  152. Bonnie


    I love your prose. You are a brilliant wordsmith.

    I love your photos.

    – Bonnie

  153. magickitty

    My husband makes a version of that salad on mesclun greens with an orange vinaigrette – we call it “cheeseball salad.” Mostly because we’re making fun of the chi chi restaurant cookbook it comes from.

    Hedonist – don’t forget Lady from Shanghai, wherein director Orson Welles made his wife/lead actress Rita Hayworth dye her hair platinum blonde to screw with her “hot redhead” public image. There’s a whole conference behind that movie.

  154. the opoponax

    I am immensely enjoying the irony that I have to take leave of this fascinating discussion in order to go have a pedicure. Either way, I will return. Prefereably with most of the stress of a 7-night film shoot massaged out of my calves. Also smelling of creme brulee foot lotion.

  155. the opoponax

    Oh, and I was sorely tempted to pick the “Kiehl’s Pedicure for Men”, just to fuck ’em all. Until I realized that it cost the same as the Creme Brulee, and didn’t include anything nearly as yum. I will probably forego polish, anyway.

  156. Ron Sullivan

    Is defining “woman” something like defining “when life begins”? I’m thinking maybe so.

    If I were Queen of the Commentariat, I’d be all about banning a few words (e.g. “hater,” without showing wherein*, and any form of “empower” used unsarcastically and hmm, there must be more). But when I was Queen of the Editrices at at least one enviro mag, I somehow couldn’t persuade the rest of the crew to get through at least one issue without a single appearance of the words “plight” and “pristine.” So you see how empowerful a person I am.

    Vera, I second you on the use of the word “woman” in the days of yore. But then I’d also get shit for referring to my mother as “she,” and there was a clear implication that the pronoun “she” was inherently contemptuous, never mind the tone. IBTP.

    I will cut you if I ever meet you…
    Damn. See, I miss all the fun. Life, deadlines, plants that need watering, shrink appointments, a pile of Free Dirt appearing up the street — you never know what’s going to get in the way next. I Blame The Calendar, or one-dimensional time, or something.

    But MMmmmm, goat cheese.

    *Allusion to one of those SE USA fables about a good ol boy who likes fried chicken and has a good set of lungs on him and so decides to become a preacher. He works up a sermon and tries it out on the nearest congregation, but the elders tell him afterward that he won’t get a preachin job because he’s not quite up to snuff.

    “Why?” he asks. “Don’t I argufy?”

    “Yes, you argufy.”

    “Don’t I sputify?”

    “Yes, you do sputify.”

    Wellwhat then?”

    Eldest of the elders leans forward and tells him, “Son, yes you argufy, yes you sputify, but you do not show wherein.”

  157. Nell

    The category “woman” has been deconstructed by the PoMos perhaps to the point of solipsism. I wonder if this is not another instance of the baby/bathwater problem. Have feminists lost a ground of activism by caving to the “universalizing” and “essentializing” accusations?
    Women in the “second wave” of the women’s liberation movement made great changes that affect many of us every day. Access to birth control and abortion, for example, are rights that were not available to me in my youth. I appreciate everyday those foremothers who did that front-line work which, btw, was based on a collective idea of “woman”.
    Yes, the movement needed to be more inclusive. And, yes, theorizing needed to be more nuanced. But the movement is still needed and will, hopefully, continue to morph. Activism is necessary. And how do we come together to “act” for change if we don’t have a collective sense of ourselves as a class?
    The intellectual debate about the existence of “woman” is interesting and seductive. But “women” are still paid less, are still victims of specific forms of violence, and are still doing the biggest chunk of unpaid work. Women’s rights to control of their own bodies are still challenged.
    So, although the idea of “woman” may be socially constructed (I mean, what isn’t?), “things are real in their effects” (said by some sociological pundit whose name I can’t remember). Women, in patriarchy, (along with people who are not white, or are disabled, or are trans, or poor, or marginalized in other ways) bear the brunt of an unequal society for no other reason than that power is consolidated in the hands of rich, white men. The solution to this problem is to take power back. We need a place to stand. We need a collective idea of “women” to do that, don’t we? By the time we finish navel-gazing about whether or not we are “women”, the patriarchy, which doesn’t suffer from existential angst (it just claims, as a smokescreen, that it doesn’t exist, but acts as if it does), will have consolidated more power.

  158. Tigs

    MzNicky, pdxstudent, I don’t know if you’re interested in this, but thinking about ‘person,’ Hobbes has a really interesting bit on the notion of person that is tied right into his whole conception of the political.

    “A PERSON is he whose words or actions are considered, either as his own, or as representing the words or actions of another man, or of any other thing to whom they are attributed, whether truly or by fiction” (Leviathan, Ch. 16). Hobbes focuses on the importance of the Latin etymological aspect of representation, or public appearance as the dominant subtext of personhood. He contrasts this with the Greek word for person, which comes out of the word for a face or a mask. Under this conception, the person is a metaphor rather than a metonymy.

    Maybe woman as metaphor is a way to think about this.
    The ‘he’s’ aside (and while I think Hobbes’ view of humanity is devastatingly depressing), I think that when defining ‘woman’ we need to talk about the dualistic nature of the intrinsic being and the public appearance. Were I feeling at all clever, I would place the definition of woman in the public and political appearance aspect.
    But then, what is the relationship between the essential self and the external representation?

    Oh Twisty, you are the best. I am just so amazed all the time. I don’t want you to feel burdened. I am just thankful for what is here so far.
    P.S. Footnote #3 is every bit of writing I have ever tried to write.

  159. CLD

    Woman = human.

  160. Edith

    I was reading along kind of hoping that someone would explain for me how postmodernism can be non-sexist, or even feminist, and not in a stupid way. Because I really, really want to believe. I consider myself a radfem, but even I get kind of uncomfortable with the whole essentialism of the strain of feminism that says “women are those that menstruate and give birth.” Also, the strain of trans politics that goes, “being a woman is looking like a woman with all the feminine trappings.”

    I think the best definitions here are the ones that acknowledge that “man” and “woman” are only categories that exist because of the patriarchal need for them. That’s kind of almost postmodern, except that it ends with, “but because we live in a patriarchy, these differences are necessary.” So after the revolution, men and women won’t exist. But right now, they do. And we can’t all be pretending that they don’t. Am I getting this right?

  161. delphyne

    “For instance, I have boatloads of androgens coursing through my body, more than the average female. It’s effects have defined who I am. But society defined me as “female” since I – surpise! – lacked the all important Penis of Doom. That’s pretty much all that doctors go by: A visual. What if a blood test were defining instead? Again, I would not be impressed if someone were to classify me as male based on my hormones, because although I have a lot of so-called “boy” hormones I still have a uterus, not to mention these monster boobs that also define me whether I like it or not.”

    Is that the problem here, that it is actually so easy to tell someone’s sex by just looking at them and their genitals (and no I’m not forgetting the tiny percentage of people where that isn’t possible but why the overwhelming focus on the exceptions)? Would blamers prefer something more complicated and “scientific” like a blood test? After all they were right weren’t they, those doctors, and not just the doctors I guess but probably your parents too. You are female. Same as the midwife who pronounced me female and my mum who looked at me and knew I was a girl.

    I mean just suppose you were born with a Penis of Doom (and the testes which are really what’s important), would the doctors still need to check whether you had a uterus? I don’t know the answer to this but if sex exists on this continuum like everybody keeps claiming, then I guess quite a few people must be born with fully developed penis, testes and wombs. Does anybody have any information on this?

  162. Otter

    Thank you, Nell. Excellent post.

    I think the theoretical denial or erasure of woman as a category of people is absurd. Especially among those who seem to have some working understanding of Patriarchy, and thereby understand that women as a category of people are routinely shat upon. Not randomly, but BECAUSE of being women. I appreciate (and agree with) the comment made above (read it, but now can’t find it) that said something like “just because there are exceptions (trans) to gender categories doesn’t mean those categories don’t also exist”.

    I don’t buy the argument that a woman is anyone who claims to be one. I can’t simply claim to be a welder and BE one without the experience and skills. I can’t simply claim to be African-American (if I’m Caucasian) and expect anyone to take that seriously and not be offended by it. I can’t simply claim that I’m really a tall person trapped in a short person’s body and expect anyone else to buy that as real. Woman is a complicated thing to define (as we can see) that is a tangled knot of biology and social construction and lived experience and treatment by others.

    That I believe this does not make me “trans-hating”. I do not hate transpeople. And I support their struggle for civil rights and freedom from violence and real oppression. But I do hate the PoMo, deconstructionist thinking that seeks pretend that gender (in all its complexities) does not exist. IMHO, it is not gender that should be eradicated but rather the system of differential application of privilege and access to power/resources (a.k.a Patriarchy) that must go. Without Patriarchy (which depends on and reinforces rigid gender categories), it would not have to matter if someone was intersex or hermaphroditic or female or male – e.g. the categories would simply be descriptive (like red, blue, magenta, violet).

    In other words. I Blame the Patriarchy.

    btw- thanks, Twisty, for your work. I totally support whatever you choose to do with your blog, although I certainly hope that you will continue posting (with comments or not).

  163. Layla

    To the people who say men and women won’t exist after revolution, will male and female still exist?

  164. blondie

    Oh, you.

    First, you give us this great rant about your commentariat. Then, you ask us to define “woman.”


  165. octopod

    Layla — male and female, yes. Unless, of course, the Singularity arrives with the Revolution, and we’re all uploaded by the time we can take a breath to think about it.

    Of course, the other possibilities will also be acknowledged. It’s just not a strict dichotomy; as everything else in nature, there’s a continuum that we’ve tried to model minimally with categories, to disastrous effect. See also “biological species concept, problems with”.

  166. slythwolf

    “Woman”, like (for example) “queer”, is a label one applies to oneself. I figure it means whatever the individual woman thinks it means; I think of it as meaning an adult human being who believes herself to be a woman (or analogous word in her native language).

    And I totally vote for Julia Sugarbaker over Buffy. Julia was hardcore.

  167. LouisaMayAlcott


    Twisty seems to be a bit tongue-in-cheek about this one. I don’t think she cares how cats and dogs manage to get onto the planet. Maybe the puppies and kittens will be found under cabbage leaves!

  168. S-kat

    When I was in Jr. High our English teacher joked to us that “women” is a contraction for “woe-to-man.” At least he made it clear he was joking. Nonetheless it stuck in the mind of this future blamer. I can’t think of a better joke to indicate that men are clearly the default sex.

    “Blamers my age (I’m in my 50s) will recall that back in the day, people hesitated to utter the word “woman.” Referring to someone as a “woman” was akin to calling her a prostitute; the correct, polite term was “lady,” and the term used 99.9 percent of the time was “girl.” So for many years, I insisted on using the term “woman,” and insisted that others use it, too.” –Vera

    Wow! I’m learning new things everyday here! I always thought “lady” was a weaker term than “woman.” In fact, it was a teacher (male!) a bit older than yourself telling me and my female classmates that we might prefer the term woman to lady who highlighted the connotations of the two for me as a teenager.

    As I always say when people want to pretend I have delicate sensibilities or some crap like that, “I’m no lady.”

  169. S-kat


    I’ve often wondered how you keep up with the chatter here. It’s good to know you don’t.


  170. Zora

    As much as I like the idea that you’re a woman if you define yourself as such, I’m afraid the truth of the matter is that you’re a woman if others define you as such.

  171. Otter

    “And I totally vote for Julia Sugarbaker over Buffy. Julia was hardcore. ”

    While I like them both… Julia Sugarbaker rules!

  172. TinaH

    Goat Cheese may well be one of the things that could be used to conclusively prove the existence of a divine Something or Another. At least from my feeble perspective.

  173. Sam

    “As much as I like the idea that you’re a woman if you define yourself as such, I’m afraid the truth of the matter is that you’re a woman if others define you as such.”

    I like that. It meshes with my knowledge of gay men getting feminized to the point some isolated communities without women, like prisons and migrant farm compounds, treat “bottomed gay men” socially the same as women.

  174. pdxstudent


    I think you’re question is more along the lines of: will there still be penises and vaginas? The answer is probably yes, along with varigated other organs and appendages that are included in the human package – except batteries. What’s more significant in the post-patriarchal world, whatever that may be like, is we are pretty certain that the meaning these organs carry, and how we use them, will be dramatically different, and hopefully for the better.

  175. Mar Iguana

    Not that I would have any reason to need to know this you understand, but, I was told that piss tests show whether you’re a woman or a boyo. Oh, and make sure it’s not from a pregnant person.

  176. j

    Twisty, we don’t expect you to be perfect or even close, but please please please do not shut down the blog. I don’t know any radical feminists in real life.

  177. The Hedonistic Pleasureseeker

    Delphyne, to answer your question (I’m paraphrasing because I can’t find it) “Are there people with both testes and ovaries?” The answer is yes! I link to one such case in the XX thread!

  178. delphyne

    I should have been clearer: when I say people I meant more than a literal handful, so rare that they get written up in medical journals. Tall and short for example do exist on a continuum, with people fitting in all the way along it. Sex on the other hand really does divide itself fairly clearer into a binary with a very small number of exceptions. Once again, just becasue there are exceptions to the category doesn’t mean that the category itself doesn’t exist. There aren’t degrees of sex.

  179. LouisaMayAlcott


    Yes. And as LMYC once pointed out, we’re talking about statistical distributions most of the time when we’re referring to categories or classifications.

    For instance, we can say that a human is a mammal with one head. That’s a fair statement to make statistically. Nevertheless, there have been instances where people have been born with two heads, and have lived long, astonishing, accomplished lives.

  180. TinaH

    Woman = person is good, but man = person too, so it’s not an exclusive definition. How does one differentiate between the woman-person and man-person?

    Wait a minute. How come we have to differentiate between one and the other? What’s the reason for that?

  181. LouisaMayAlcott

    Because men hate us? As Twisty reminds us from time to time.

    If we didn’t know who the men were, how would we know they hated us?

  182. rafalah

    P.S. I was drunk when I sent you an email wailing and bathering about my personal life…

    I just respect you and wanted an opinion. I am sorry that my drunk, selfish, immature ranting about not being “happy” might have contributed to your stress level.

    I will promise to email MYSELF while on Merlot…and not pester someone/somewhere I come to relax and be educated.

  183. TinaH

    LMA- Thanks. For a brief shining moment, there, I forgot.


    Damn men.

  184. KC

    I think the best answer to “Define ‘woman'” is “no.”

    Blame on.

  185. Dawn Coyote

    The internet has long been a place where angry people come to work out their shit (or not), but I don’t believe I’ve ever seen the modertaional powers respond with the sense of responsibility toward those people and the community in which they reside that I see on feminists sites. It’s inspiring, even while it’s self-defeating.

  186. Dawn Coyote

    THAT was weird. I don’t know how I came upon this post, but I assumed it was new today (July 28th), even though I read it then, too.

    Commenting half asleep, as my spelling will attest.

  187. Deb

    I mosey on in more than five years after this is written to say that the blamer defining ‘woman’ as a person society wants to slot in the sex class is brilliant and has my enthusiastic agreement. Definitions centring around reproductive organs, chromosomes and the like invariably exclude some sex class members (who of course suffer patriarchal oppression as sex class members regardless of taxonomy).

  1. Feminist Law Professors » Blog Archive » Second Carnival of Radical Feminists

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