What would blogulation be if readers didn’t persistently and selflessly give of their intellective powers to correct the blogger on all points large and small?
I doubt we’ll ever know, for a post without a nitpicky comment is like a day without patriarchy: nonexistent. Think your typo will go unremarked? Tink agin! Feel like misquoting Shakespeare for thyself a pleasure? It foretells a tempest and a blustering day! Expect to get away with a puerile malapropism from junior high French? A helpful reader will be on your case before you can conjugate “péter.”
These minutiae are insignificant, and one learns to chucklingly accept that there exists a species of blog reader who values pedantry (!) over actual discourse, and who finds irresistible the competitive zing of being the first to expose to an awed web-based audience what she perceives as the blogger’s technical failings.
No biggie, as my pal Jovita says. Few, if any, of us have escaped a lifelong indoctrination compelling us to demonstrate our individual superiority whenever the opportunity presents itself, even if the demonstration only rises to the level of besting some anonymous Internet smartypants on the definition of an obscure Latin verb. Patriarchy-blaming blogs, when they are authored by all-knowing spinster aunts, appear to be ideally suited to these demonstrations, although it should be noted that glory-basking of this nature is, as the science of patriarchy-blaming explains, a by-product of the culture of domination.
Of course the spinster aunt will admit to enjoying a bit of grammar-sparring from time to time.
But there’s another order of blametarian admonition, the kind toward which the blogger actually cocks an attentive ear. I allude to the “j’accuse!” comment.
Into this category fall remarks expressing the idea that the spinster aunt is not, perhaps, so all-knowing as she jokingly pretends. These comments suggest that the blogger is perhaps a racist, an ableist, a damned carnivore, a transphobe, an anti-redheadite, or some other species of bigot. Unless these accusations are very silly (“You hate babies/ mothers/ prostituted women/ men/ women who wear skirts,” etc.) one gives them a moment of one’s time, if one isn’t a total ass.
You know. You ascend a Tibetan peak, fire up a fattie, and contemplate the merits of the case against you, your purported deviation to the Dark Side, and whether, despite your best intentions, you might have colluded with the oppressor. You do this because, according to your own Twistifesto, in a patriarchy one’s intent has little bearing on how one’s fast and loose metaphrasery may be experienced by a member of an oppressed class; the onus is on the privileged to cut it the fuck out, not on the aggrieved to toughen the fuck up. A Twistifesto, if it is to mean anything at all, pretty much oughta reflect the governing principle of its own author.
It is in light of the above that I bring you today’s post. Today’s post goes like this:
I recently made a remark that caused a little stink. The remark was “Don’t imprison [kids] in some bleak concentration camp of a school.” It was part of an abridged list of the patriarchy-replicating shit that people commonly, often as a matter of tradition, perpetrate against young persons.
When I wrote “don’t imprison kids in some bleak concentration camp of a school,” the notion that anybody could, in a million years, find fault with the sentiment wasn’t even on the Twisty radar. Who in their right mind could argue that you should imprison kids in some bleak concentration camp of a school? It seemed obvious to me that any sane person would gladly paint signs, hand out pamphlets, sing simple, irritating anthems, and more or less rally with gusto behind any scheme that would liberate our beloved tots from state-sponsored mind control and intellectual death.
Well, maybe they would and maybe they wouldn’t, but I’ll never know, since the gist of my remark became vastly overshadowed by my controversial word choice.
By now you will have surmised the truth: I had offended teachers, schools, Jews, Jewish teachers, and the mothers of Jewish teachers when I used “concentration camp” as a metaphor for “school.” The remark was perceived as both anti-Semitic and a denouncement of “dedicated teachers” — a dreaded “double whammy.” One commenter even suggested that taking a dim view of the school system is tantamount to misogyny, since “most teachers are (overwhelmingly) women.”
As an aside, let me come right out and agree with the hypothesis that most teachers who are women are indeed overwhelmingly so.
That joke made, the task now before me is to sort out whether I am a misogynist teacher-hating anti-Semite.
I do this for my personal edification. Normally I undertake such pursuits in the privacy of my own lime green recliner, but what the heck; this time the reader is invited along on this crazy roller-coaster ride of auntly self-doubt and self-discovery. She (the reader) will necessarily come to her own conclusions; I am not insensitive to the possibility that these will not precisely mirror my own. Such a contingency will sorely harsh my mellow, since I desire nothing more desperately than to be agreed with unconditionally by everybody in the world, Internet entities I don’t know and never will included, but, you know. Life’s a journey or something.
Let’s get started!
Do I hate women as a class?
I’m going to go out on a limb and acquit myself of the misogyny charge right off the bat. If, after even a brief perusal of my body of blogular work on this subject — the World Wide Web is home to well over a thousand of my essays explaining, exposing, and denouncing misogyny — there remains any doubt in the reader’s mind as to my advocacy for women’s humanity, it can only be concluded that we fundamentally disagree on the constituent philosophical elements of the concept itself.
Do I hate teachers as a class?
Jesus in a jetpack. If it weren’t part of the “double whammy,” I’d probably file this doozy in the “very silly” category and skip merrily off to happy hour. I never even mentioned teachers in my remark about imprisoning kids in schools, and indeed wasn’t thinking about them at all when I wrote it. Why should I be against teachers? They’re like any other group; one subset contains the selfless dedicated heroes and another the depressed sinister alcoholic sadists; the largest subsets comprise those falling within the “actively benign” to “mediocre but essentially harmless” range. Any antipathy toward the group as a whole would be unwarranted, although certain individuals might possess qualities that would preclude, say, whether I’d volunteer to spend the winter with’em.
But not so fast, there, Twisty! Could it be that for some members of the pedagogalogical profession there exists an equivalence of sorts between “teacher” and “school”? Such that when I take issue with the persistent existence of “school” I am simultaneously denigrating “teacher”? And that because a teacher might be offended, it therefore is contrary to the Twistifesto to object to “school”?
To this I say “pah.” I’m against school, not the women who work in them. I make a similar argument whenever I find myself in the unenviable position of having to explain patriarchy to an advocate of “sex work.” The assumption is that, because I curl the Twisty lip at male-driven businesses like pornography, strip clubs, and prostitution, I similarly disparage the women such businesses exploit. When only a chump would blame women for having to struggle within a dysfunctional system that gives them a crap deal and ultimately benefits the status quo. “Sex work” advocates are unanimously offended when I say, “Porn? It’s gotta go!” This is too bad, for them and for me; unfortunately I am not a teenage punk who enjoys offending people for the hell of it.
It is much the same with schools and teachers. Far from equivalent entities, the two are distinct to the point of having opposing interests. Teaching — at least from the “actively benign” echelon on up — is about enlightenment. Schools are about education, i.e. appeasing the state through indoctrination with a male-generated, patriarchal canon. A teacher who so strongly identifies with her profession that she cannot or will not grasp the underlying patriarchal structure of the institution to which she has devoted herself may well be offended when I say “School? It’s gotta go!”; this is completely understandable and, of course, regrettable. Still. School? It’s gotta go.
I don’t call her a bad teacher. I don’t suggest that she isn’t making a difference in kids’ lives. I’m not even saying she isn’t managing to squeeze a little actual enlightenment in through the chinks. I aver only that, because the interests of the megatheocorporatocracy — which megatheocorporatocracy is the American school system’s governing body — are not served by an enlightened citizenry, there will be no enlightened citizenry.
OK, what about this, then: could it be, because of the universal underpaid, undervalued status of the job, teachers are an oppressed class to whose oppression I contribute when I disparage the school system?
After some consideration, I conclude that, whereas individual teachers may otherwise belong to oppressed classes, teachers as a class are not oppressed. Members of their group are not singled out as objects of blind hatred, bigotry, harassment, slavery, discrimination, disenfranchisement, or violence based solely on their group membership.
It is true that while society casts the same benevolent smile upon the teacher as it casts upon other feminized professions (nuns, nurses, mothers) it doesn’t put its money where its mouth is; like nuns, nurses, and mothers, teachers are supposed to selflessly sacrifice themselves for the greater good while everyone else sits around like a lump, passively reaping the benefits. This is but one of the umptazillion reasons I advocate dismantling the school system.
Am I an anti-Semite?
Of course that’s not really the question; I’m being purposely sensationalismistic. Neither is the question, as I first thought, whether “concentration camp” is strictly a proprietary Jewish concept; through painstaking study I have determined that, like the word “genocide,” the phrase “concentration camp,” despite its automatic association with unfathomably horrific Nazi death camps, is not specific to any one historical event or series of events.
No, the real question is, do I contribute, inadvertently or vertently, to the oppression of an oppressed class when I compare schools to concentration camps (note that offending someone is not commensurate with oppression)? And, by implying an equivalence between the respective experiences of imprisonment in a death camp and compulsory patriarchal indoctrination lessons, do I even accurately convey my point?
The answer to the second question is no. That’s right, folks, it’s a full reversal! I’ve determined that the metaphor is invalid. We know that 6 million Jews died horribly in German concentration camps, and that millions of others have died horribly in other concentration camps, but there is no way to quantify the deleterious effects obtained by forcing an entire population to spend 15 years absorbing the messages of a culture of domination. Furthermore, due largely to the influence of the Holocaust on our cultural narrative, “concentration camp” almost always connotes “death camp” in modern usage. Unless a second-rate poet is making the comparison, schools cannot, either poetically or objectively, be considered a moral equivalent to death camps because the two entities are fundamentally heterogeneous. Though a sort of spiritual and intellectual death certainly ensues as the bright, vigorous youths undergo their transformation into patriarchybots, it cannot be argued that physical extermination of the inmates is the objective of schools.
But what about the oppression issue? Does my comparison dilute the meaning of “concentration camp,” thereby making me a collaborator?
Yes! Yes it does. The most popular association of the phrase (though not, obviously, the only instance of death camps themselves) is with the Holocaust. Because the fact of the Holocaust is invaluable evidence in the case against patriarchy, it behooves the author to preserve it at full strength. Lard knows the spinster aunt loves her hyperbole, but using it in a manner inconsistent with the overthrow of patriarchy contradicts the Twistifesto. So I’m guilty! J’ai coupé le fromage!