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Oct 22 2009

No post today, just this long-ass essay

Faithful readers know that, when it comes to feminists who struggle with their own internalized misogyny, the spinster aunt is forbearance itself. But I just have to say I am goddam astonished by some of the comments on the Meghan McCain post. And I’ve survived not only the Great Hummer Wars of Aught-Six, but also Fucktardgate, Concentration-Camp-As-A-Metaphor-For-Public-School-Gate, Foie Grasgate, and of course dear old Cuntalinagate, to name but a few, so when a blog comment astonishes me, that’s saying something.

If you’re one of the drive-by blamers who skips the comments section — perhaps because you justifiably fear encountering sentences that begin with lowercase letters — you have not been privy to the interesting result of a study I didn’t even know I was conducting. That is: something about McCain’s photo [click here for the backstory] induced some otherwise reasonable women — women who self-select as advanced patriarchy-blamers — to take their latent sexism out for a tiptoe through the tulips.

What gives?

Having analyzed the raw data, the Spinstitute for the Study of Feminine Odor’s preliminary findings are these: an acute sensitivity of the viewer to messages encoded in pornography has led to a sort of confusion, or unresolved conflict, between patriarchal mores concerning the implicit nature of women, and the antifeminist implications of femininity performed at or near pornographic levels.

In other words, a small subset of blamers — at times deploying rhetoric which is indistinguishable from that of Dude Nation — has apparently determined that McCain’s potential to benefit from her position on a pornulational continuum justifies sex-based castigation. That this castigation is ostensibly offered as a critique of patriarchy speaks to the confusion to which I previously alluded.

These findings were surprising, as I had more or less expected some more or less universal analysis from a radical feminist viewpoint, an analysis covering the social and political factors that form the armature of a matrix of femininity in which all women’s behavior — including wardrobe, grooming, and facial expression — is rigidly monitored and restricted.

Such are the vagaries of blaming.

Excerpts of some of these comments follow. Nearly all of these comments also contain mitigating “I also blame the patriarchy!” remarks, making for a bizarre juxtaposition of sublimated patriarchy-blaming and subconscious, knee-jerk misogyny. Click the handy links for full context.

– “[H]er breasts look really uncomfortably smashed together and up. it looks to me like she has big breasts for her frame and she was sitting around the apartment and thought they looked good in her new Wonderbra and decided to show off on Twitter a little bit.” [here]

– “Here’s the thing- of course the object of blame is the legions of twitter people, but we can’t just give McCain a “pass” on intent because she is female. This is a “sexy” picture. That she, of her own volition, posted. Tank top or no tank top, the facial expression and tilt of the head says it all. And there is NO POINT to the picture, no context whatsoever, no article that it illustrates- it is just a picture of Megan McCain. I can only think that she put the picture up because she happened to take it, happened to think it made her look pretty, and put it up because she wanted POSITIVE feedback from her friends, essentially, praise about how pretty she is.” [here]

– “Looks to me like the requisite lips out, head tilted downward but eyes up’ boob showin’ crap teenage girls post on myspace all day long. A joke, perhaps? Or just business as usual. How old is she anyway?” [here]

– “[H]ow is it not okay to comment on her breasts? all I was saying was this looks very uncomfortable. lighten up.” [here]

– “Liking the idea of McCain doing some chores around the joint. Whichever joint you like.” [here]

– “Megan [sic] has been making the rounds trying to start a career as important-to-listen-to commentator and editorialist on every show and outlet that would have her. This isn’t all about losing the shit at the sight of tatas. It is also about the counter-point of her spilling out of her top with her attempt to make a career as having more to offer than nepotism and requisite partriarchy-pleasing cute blondeness.” [here]

Well. These authors seem to be placing a pretty high premium on McCain’s intent. And they seem pretty comfortable in asserting an infallible familiarity with McCain’s innermost nature, for they have somehow divined this intent precisely. Maybe they have access to 8th-dimension vortex-portals through which they may mind-meld with Internet personalities. They assert, peering through their vortex-portals into the mind of Meghan McCain, not just that her intent was to titillate, but — and here is the critical jump — that this odious species of intent (slutism!) releases them from their oath of feminist solidarity.

You know how when a rapist is prosecuted, and the slutty intent of the victim is so acutely divined by the defense (‘she didn’t fight back hard enough; she must have wanted it,’ etc) it may be used as a psychbomb to dehumanize her to the jury? It’s like that.

Or take women who post self-portraits on the Internet. Say we get our hands on one of those vortex-portals, so we know without a doubt that their intent is to titillate. Does it logically follow that they then desire a torrent of sex-based hate speech? Meanwhile, do even the feminists buy the whole women-are-masochists myth and just sit idly by while misogynists rip the titillators to shreds?

Anyway, intent, schmintent. I would urge the reader to recall how little intent has to do with anything. Particularly with the experience of the end user. The result is all that matters. Your boyfriend — if you haven’t taken my advice and dumped him yet — possibly loves you, but when he farts in bed and flaps the covers, who gives a flip about his intent? Do you not gag and think him a Philistine?

Which, before all you fart-flappers get lathered up, is my little metaphor for the metaphorical odor that metaphorically drifts, unbidden, from the condition of male privilege into the metaphorical nostrils of the oppressed.

The authors of the quoted remarks will no doubt complain that I have misinterpreted them, and protest that they really do blame the patriarchy. No doubt I have, and no doubt they do. I mock them not. Far from it. Their responses are understandable. As an Internet feminist who has long advocated that women cast a jaundiced eye upon sexual manipulation as a means to empowerfulness, I concur that it sucks torpedo-turds that antifeminist capitulators walk in our midst.

But.

I submit that there is a line between (a) a critical analysis of the performance of femininity and (b) personal attacks that intone the doctrine of Dude Nation. The whiff of “she asked for it” wafting from the subtext in these comments is fucking gnarly, and cannot be interpreted as anything other than the sacred writ of rape culture. It is impossible to read that stuff and not come to the conclusion that patriarchal standards have significantly contributed to this antipathy toward McCain (and her perceived manipulative bodaciosity) at the expense of discourse on the larger issue.

Which larger issue is this: women are the sex class, no exceptions.

“She asked for it” is not a legitimate argument for a sex-based beatdown, not in real life and most definitely not on Savage Death Island.

Savage Death Island, for those who are new, is my whimsical name for an imaginary post-revolutionary society in which women enjoy the same personal bodily sovereignty and human status as anybody else. Because you know what? The way things stand now, a female worm has more autonomy than a female human.

167 comments

2 pings

  1. PandanCat

    But what does she expect, dressing like that and posting pictures where that kind of man could see them? Doesn’t she know how visual men are? Didn’t she think about how this would affect her family’s image?

    (That was sarcastic, by the way.)

  2. fafnir

    Thanks, Jill.

  3. rootlesscosmo

    Anyway, intent, schmintent. I would urge the reader to recall how little intent has to do with anything. Particularly with the experience of the end user. The result is all that matters.

    An analogy from slightly further afield: a local high school (here in the enlightened SF Bay Area) called its sports teams “Indians” and carried this through to the usual caricature mascots, chants, images etc. A Native American organization contacted the school administration and voiced their objection; eventually an agreement was reached whereby representatives of the objectors would address a school assembly to exlpain their view, and the students would then vote on whether or not to retain the offending name. In the discussion at the assembly, most of the students who spoke insisted that as no offense had been intended, no legitimate complaint could be made; the vote, unsurprisingly, was roughly 80% in favor of keeping the racist symbols.

    As Twisty says, claiming you meant no harm has nothing to do with whether or not your acts or words have harmed someone. Even in law, intent may make a difference in what penalty is imposed on the offender, but innocent intent doesn’t erase the fact of harm or the harmed person’s (or class’) standing to complain of it.

  4. yttik

    Women are often women’s own worst enemy. We take all that patriarchal training and internalize it until we’re cocked and loaded and ready to fire. This is one of the patriarchy’s most effective tools. Hanging with women almost requires a bit of masochism, unbelievable patience, and persistent, stubborn empathy.

    Breasts, curves, whatever, in general will inspire male comments of “nice rack” and other assorted sexual comments, whereas the women will point out that you are too fat, too slutty, too ambitious, too stupid, etc. Given this environment it is no wonder that women often prefer to side with their oppressors. Mission accomplished.

    It’s separate, divide, and control. Without solidarity there is no revolution. Trying to support women simply because they are women is unbelievably difficult. There are women with politics we don’t like, women who use the wrong cleaning products, women who don’t recycle.
    There are accusations of you being a vaginal supporter. There are internalized messages that tell you women are the enemy and must be knocked down a peg or they threaten your survival.

    If women ever learn how to stand together it’s all over for the patriarchy.

  5. tk_zk

    This reminds me of the dust-up a few years ago, when Jessica Valenti of Feministing.com had lunch with Bill Clinton as part of a group event. The resulting photo–Valenti is in the gray short-sleeved shirt (http://uncharted.org/frownland/pix/243422784_94e813fa78_b.jpg) inspired Ann Althouse to write this blog posting (http://althouse.blogspot.com/2006/09/lets-take-closer-look-at-those-breasts.html) and there was a long back-and-forth in both blogs about this.

    It amazed me that an outfit that would be entirely appropriate on a first-grade teacher could be elevated to this level of pornulation. Who needs men to keep up in line, with feminist allies like these?

  6. Laura F

    Holy shit. This is probably the best piece of blaming/analysis I have ever read on this blog, and the standard was already impossibly high. I hope readers appreciate the importance of this statement in particular: “an acute sensitivity of the viewer to messages encoded in pornography has led to a sort of confusion, or unresolved conflict, between patriarchal mores concerning the implicit nature of women, and the antifeminist implications of femininity performed at or near pornographic levels.” I’d like to imagine Eve Sedgwick (RIP) is looking on from somewhere and smiling.

  7. liberality

    Which just goes to show us how deeply we are affected by our culture, in this case the misogynistic culture. I am guilty myself.

  8. AngryYoungFemme

    Jill,

    Thanks so much for addressing this. When I saw those first few comments, I actually thought, “Oh, no, please don’t tell me this bastion of radical feminism has been invaded by the pop/fun/sex”pos”-feminists that drove me out of commenting at Feministing.” The advanced blamer analysis platform you provide is sometimes the only thing that keeps me sane. I’m not the only one who sees both the forest and the trees! Thank fuck for that.

    As always, IBTP.

  9. Feminist Avatar

    The irony in one of the comments posted above has caused me to spill my beer laughing.

  10. Emily

    Feminist Avatar, would you consider sharing your amusement?

  11. PilgrimSoul

    This,

    I submit that there is a line between (a) a critical analysis of the performance of femininity and (b) personal attacks that intone the doctrine of Dude Nation.

    if I could get other young feminists to believe it, would be the single most useful thing I could convince them of, I think. Usually, what I get from them is an argument that comes at this backwards: they claim that no critical analysis of the performance of femininity is possible because it will always intone the doctrine of Dude Nation. The result is the same: by reductio ad absurdem, all women performing femininity are exercising choice. It’s just that in these sex-pos feminist’s views, the fact that they are choosing excludes it from critique. (The old choose-you-choice problem.)

    Part of this I think is because sexuality is, in this culture, at this time, constructed as intrinsically personal and (even in feminist discourse) inviolable. But treating women as though they cannot entertain an analysis of their sexual behaviour without bursting into tears over hurt feelings (and feeling shame) strikes me as bunk. To me the line resides somewhat paradoxically in the intent of the conversation – are we trying to get Meghan McCain to feel badly that she did this, or are we trying to say that she has sadly fallen prey to the everpresent patriarchal illusion that women can win by being either sexual or asexual?

    All of which to say: I’m glad you called these comments out, Jill, because I think it is a really valuable and necessary part of this conversation to talk about where these lines are. I hear a lot of stuff and nonsense on the feminist blogosphere about how “radical feminism” just amoutns to shaming women. It’s nice to have the smartest woman in the class on my side.

  12. Feminist Avatar

    Okay, I agree the last comment was really just as bitchy as if I had actually just addressed the commentator.

    In a discussion to an article which points out women inadvertantly behaving in misogynist ways, yttik then points out how much hardwork all women are. Talk about internalised misogyny. (Unless yttik is a man, in which strong language may be called for.)

  13. The Nerd

    After a google search of your site, I am unable to find any references to “Fucktardgate” outside of this post. When you get the spare time, would you make a list of “-gates” for our reference?

  14. thebeardedlady

    Thank you so much for this thoughtful analysis of what was, for me, a thoroughly depressing discussion.

  15. Judi

    “all women’s behavior — including wardrobe, grooming, and facial expression — is rigidly monitored and restricted.”

    re facial expression: Women smile too much. On the too-rare occasions when you see a woman allowed to speak as a pundit on what passes for a news program, she will be grinning and giggling, or, even if generally serious, will flash a nervous-looking smile at odd moments. Like a timid puppy signally submission to the alpha dogs.

    It’s notably rare to see a man smile in a similar context (no beauty pageant training – and we women have all been thoroughly trained, even if we thought we didn’t sign up). It pisses me off to see it, and it pisses me off that it pisses me off. I feel like such a grouch, complaining about seeing women smile, and then I resent being made to feel like a grouch. Here I am, passing judgment on smart, brave women for smiling. Crap. Even feminism is an agent of patriarchy.

    Patriarchy is a hall of mirrors. Where the hell is the Exit door?

  16. Stentorianna

    Jill writes in the post: “That is: something about McCain’s photo [click here for the backstory] induced some otherwise reasonable women — women who self-select as advanced patriarchy-blamers — to take their latent sexism out for a tiptoe through the tulips.

    How do you know these folks are women? Or women that truly and unambiguously (and always) identify as radical feminists? It’s been my impression that post cuntalinagate most of your regular commenters are male. Just an impression – I realize you may know differently.

  17. Zencomix

    Since the Patriarchy loves it some breast, it is giving each of Meghan’s breasts its own 15 minutes of fame. That’s a full 30 minutes of fame!

    Double-plus bonus minutes for “asking for it”.
    Extra credit rollover minutes for “apologizing”.

    Double Secret Probation minutes if she goes on cable so Larry King can talk about. The Patriarchy loves it some Larry King.

  18. Kelly

    …before all you fart-flappers get lathered up…

    *Wipes coffee off of screen* great post.

  19. StPaulite

    “These findings were surprising, as I had more or less expected some more or less universal analysis from a radical feminist viewpoint, an analysis covering the social and political factors that form the armature of a matrix of femininity in which all women’s behavior — including wardrobe, grooming, and facial expression — is rigidly monitored and restricted.”

    There is something at work here about the semi-private and official realms of discourse. You don’t have to dig very hard into any internet forum, of any political affiliation (or non-affiliation) to find very animated discussion of Meghan McCain and her body. The more “proper” the image, the more necessary it is for this discussion to take place in the semi-private sphere (internet chatter, comment boxes, behind pseudonyms and usernames, etc)

    But M McCain had the temerity to make public an image of herself which violated the standards of propriety — which showed slightly more explicitly the object that those monitoring her were talking about constantly, explicitly, already. And so this necessitated that constant discussion take place “in the light of day” with Real bloggers (such as Allahpundit) and even Real Journalists (Tapper) settling the issue among themselves as Public Men, as if it were the first time any man anywhere had been forced by her brazenness to consider (and enjoy considering) the very idea of Meghan McCain’s controversial body.

  20. Throw Pillow

    A lot of worms have both male and female sexual organs. The “Reproduction” section of the Wikipedia page on earthworms is pretty damned interesting. And who knew they could live up to eight years? I loved worms when I was young, and I seem to have been on to something. None of the media I consume now (with a few exceptions, including I Blame the Patriarchy) is as spiritually fulfilling as the contemplation of worms.

    Looking up this faintly-remembered biology class tidbit led me to the phrase “Muscular hydrostat.” What a wonderful pair of dactyls!

  21. Kathying

    Twisty, yours was the first feminist blog I ever followed, and I am grateful every day for that fact. This is the best post I’ve read addressing the way internalised misogyny hits women in the media doubly hard — sometimes it seems like a nonfeminist woman existing in the media can receive just as much sex-based criticism from the liberal blogosphere as a feminist woman existing in the media can from the good old patriarchy-supporters. Watching self-styled liberal, feminist, patriarchy-resisting bloggers rip into women who receive plenty of sex-shaming already (take Palin as the recent, loudest example) is depressing, and this post explains why it sucks for everyone. Thanks for this!

  22. yttik

    It is hard work to be a woman dealing with other women! Women have been trained since day one to be nasty towards other women. It is not misogynistic to state this truth. Oppressed groups are often their own worst enemy. They do half the work for their oppressors.

    After a while you’re not sure if you’d rather just be patted on the head by the patriarchy or stand in the line of fire while your own blast you with internalized bile.

  23. wiggles

    The only reason I didn’t post a comment in the other thread was I couldn’t think of anything to say that wasn’t stupid. It would have been in defense of McCain – her pose, her boobs, her possible intent – but it still would have been about the propriety of her femininity performance, like that matters, so I skipped it.
    We could do the old “what if it was a dude” exercise. Say if John Sidney McCain IV or Jimmy McCain (I had to look those up) posed similarly for a photo, I doubt there would be any discussion about it.
    In related news, I’ve recently seen people on the Internet calling Angelina Jolie a “whore” because they saw a picture of her daughter Zahara and didn’t like how her hair was styled.

  24. Felicity

    You know the biggest argument for ‘retiring’ from feminism? Women hate women so ‘patriarchy schmatriarchy’.

    I think of misogyny like a definite personality disorder, prevalent in 95% of all men. In this case half the world, the ‘dominant’ half has the disorder. It causes an obsessed hatred of women, paranoia about women and their relative status, schizophrenic attitudes towards said women and numerous obvious delusions. Half of the world is sane, but is like any group where the aggressive half dominate – we have to put our logic and understanding to one side to accomodate them and a different perception of the world. Everything education leads us to believe we have to put aside to make room for a disordered mass of people. Many women from confusion try to take on the characteristics of the personality disorder themselves, but ultimately they don’t have it – men are aware they don’t and find it funny.

    Women are confused. But dudes understand their disorder perfectly ,and are aware of the world which feeds it and the work they need to do to get the ‘supply’. IMO women adapt as much as they can to their disordered environment, the difference is they can’t see it for what it is and envision a way to be to make things logical and sane – their sanity teaches them their must be a solution, the problem is her. The problem is in a world of misogyny there is no sane conclusion for women. In the bigger picture women wouldn’t be in this desperate struggle and certainly aren’t to blame.

  25. octopod

    “The way things stand now, a female worm has more autonomy than a female human.”
    ->
    “Most polychaetes whose reproduction has been studied lack permanent gonads…Most mature clitellates (the group that includes earthworms and leeches) are full hermaphrodites, although in a few leech species younger adults function as males and become female at maturity.”

    Well that’s why then; they aren’t permanently female.

    Tongue-in-cheek pedantry aside, thank you for remarking on the ubiquitous pong of madonna-whore-ism in that last thread. Blaming the organ-grinder is laudable, but blaming the monkey is just not fair. And we’re all the monkey some of the time. Didn’t I see a post here on the general theme of “a human’s occasionally gotta do what a lady’s gotta do”, way back in the day?

  26. Valerie M

    Yttik is quite right in what she is saying. Women do prop up patriarchy by policing and silencing other women.

    Yttik did not say this state of things is women’s fault.

  27. Foilwoman

    Part of the problem may be what Ms. McCain seems to symbolize for many — but that’s all of our problem. Even to feminists, or wannabe feminists, the apparent sight of a woman trading on her femininity/feminine wiles/youthful beauty/whatever really does seem to act as a red flag, even when she gets punished by the patriarchy for doing exactly what she might reasonably have thought was expected and desired.

  28. Jezebella

    Yttik and Valerie, what is the point of complaining about how hard it is to hang out with women? Compared to hanging out with, what, *men*? Women who don’t like being friends with other women are really missing a huge aspect of feminism. I would recommend breaking up with your annoying, high maintenance patriarchy-propper-uppers and finding some new friends.

  29. Orange

    I was feeling rather dim with my sluggish grasp of Jill’s points in this post and (more so) the preceding one. Many thanks to several commenters in the last thread for distilling various points so clearly that my dimness receded–particularly Catherine Martell, Cimorene, Honora, tinfoil hattie, CassieC, vinoveritas, otoc, Natalia, and delphyne. My boobs and I are grateful for their perspectives.

  30. humanbein

    How gentle yet firm your purring flow of words.

    On Savage Death Island I would hope that photographs of people would simply be 2 dimensional representations of people at a certain moment in time, and not sexual provocations. Even intentions wouldn’t change this, because the blessed inhabitants would be unable to grasp any intentions to seduce or titillate. Such intentions would be incomprehensible because they exist only in human-to-human interactions, and not human-to-object interactions.

    I don’t blame any commentator for seeing things this way. How many things do I see all wrong, that nobody now alive understands as wrong, because we are all sleeping and eating and existing in a patriarchal stew of assumptions we are too blind? Ta da!

  31. MarinaS

    yttik, I can see how displaying empathy in one’s relationships with women can seem like harder work than dealing with the constant power imbalance in relationships with men.

    First, we are steeped in a culture that tells us that women are high maintenance, irrational, febrile beings, and that empathy is an essential (and double edged) feature of femininity. It is also something that men don’t want to do. By implication it is hard, irrational, and undersirable.

    Second, we are trained implicitly in the arts of man pleasing. The emotional and intellectual contortions that we must perform in order to be admitted into male dominated society and be considered anything other than psychotic deviants do not set of flag s of “work” any more than not soiling one’s underwear in public is “work”. It is just what is.

    So what you are really describing is not a case of women being genuinely harder to deal with, but one where the simple human acommodations one find oneself needing to make in order to function socially are marketed as hard, valueless work.

    There’s also a bit of feminism at work here, in that while women displaying misogyy are upsetting and hurtful, one tends to take so much for granted the unthinking hatefulness of men that the same levels of “fire” as you call it simply don’t register.

    Or, to say it all a bit more simply, women are not really harder to deal with than other humans, but when you forget to think of them as human, discrepancies arise.

  32. Jude

    “If women ever learn how to stand together it’s all over for the patriarchy.” Yttik said it and it’s true. Gratitude to Twisty, too, for the erudition on the topic.

    I hadn’t read or posted to any blogs for awhile, but this is such a great topic, it called me back.

    I’ve been consulting this week to a non-profit “recovery” organization where a great woman (smart, humane and, okay, I assume by cultural norms that she would be attractive sexually to straight men, bi people and lesbians, although she’s partnered with a dude). She puts men first, all the time, every time. She puts herself last. She’s nearly worn out, frazzled, had seizures last month and ponied up to take the meds and keep on going like the energizer bunny.

    The point of the story? I’m saddened to see the way she does not stand up for herself — my principal consulting recommendation yesterday was that she ask others in the organization to shoulder the load while she goes for long overdue R&R with her favorite aunt. She had an excuse (coming from the Christianized paradigm of masochistic female service, not that any other paradigms on this planet as run by men are any better for women) — and busied around finding a job for an unemployed man whose liver is nearly shot from practically drinking himself to death.

    It’s not her fault. Externalized and internalized misogyny is profoundly present everywhere. I cry for my daughter, and for all of us living in a global society in which the talents of womankind keep being co-opted by patriarchal brainwashing.

    1. Maybe women first have to stop standing for men.

    2. Maybe each woman stands for herself after that.

    3. Then maybe women will have enough energy to start standing for one another and patriarchy will fall of its own hatefulness.

    Not that it’s as easy as 1, 2, 3. Or is it?

  33. yttik

    “what is the point of complaining about how hard it is to hang out with women?”

    The point is not to complain, it’s to explain why women still remain unable to unite and create the changes they wish to see. Until women learn how to stand together, the patriarchy runs the show.

  34. Feminist Avatar

    I think part of the point is that Twisty/Jill is a woman- is she hardwork to be around? Are the many commentators on this site all hard to be around [granted I am]? Is a black woman in Africa tilling her field hardwork to be around? Is the 5 yr old girl playing ball in the street hardwork to be around? Are bell hooks, Betty Friedan, Kate Millet, Shulamith Firestone hardwork? Are you hardwork to be around? We are all women.

    When all women, with their myriad of different experiences, outlooks, values and behaviours, are collated into one group and then dismissed as our own worst enemy, you are ignoring that variety of experience and by doing so are removing our humanity. The heart of misogyny is the refusal to recognise women as unique individuals, with their own needs, desires, outlooks and choices. The lumping together of women under an umbrella definition as if we are all the same says that our individual experiences are invalid.

    How often do you hear men grouped together in such a way- even on radical feminist blogs we frequently hear ‘not my Norman’. This is because men are recognised as human and to lump them together is seen as unfair or unrealistic.

    Now, I am guessing that when you said ‘women…’ what you actually meant was ‘other women, not me’ or ‘women I encounter daily’ or ‘women who don’t read savage death island blogs’, but when you just say ‘women’, you mean me, you mean Twisty/Jill, you mean yourself. I am a woman and I may be hardwork, but I also want to overthrow the patriarchy.

  35. Felicity

    What’s worrying with women tools policing women is that they sometimes take it a step further – we’re socialised to kick those down as our only outlet. To avoid being the victim. But as victim- cum- bullies we don’t choose victims in a system of dominance, we’re assigned them, a choice of those kicked lowest down by the bully.

    I think it takes a lot for people generally to pick on the dominant attitude and group. Women who hate to be natural victims (all of us radfems have less of a problem with this) can’t beat the men, so join ‘em. Even if it makes no sense whatsoever, and they’re equally oppressed every step of the way. Women are very much human in this sense. Except we’re worse, because being mean to anything other than men is our imagined escape.

  36. thebeardedlady

    These two statements are very different, I think:

    “It is hard work to be a woman dealing with other women!”

    “Until women learn how to stand together, the patriarchy runs the show.”

    Big resounding yes to the latter statement. But the first statement did sound to me like stuff I hear all the time about how women can’t get on with each other, that we are naturally ‘bitchy’ and horrible all the time, that we are competitive and don’t have real friendships like men do. A story I read recently set in a girls-only school (written by a woman) included the line, ‘Undiluted girls breed bitches.’

    It’s clear that yttik is not making all those statements, and I’m not trying to suggest that she is, but I’m not sure how to disentangle what she is saying from all that other stuff. I’m a beginning level blamer and yttik is one of the blamers whose comments I have loved and learned from.

    Also, a slightly tangential point is that I often see women using this motif of women being unable to cooperate as a way of shutting down discussion, the idea being that if we argue a point we are ‘fighting amongst ourselves’ and therefore playing into the hands of the P. But no one tells men they have to agree or the time or their whole ideology is invalidated.

  37. Squiggy

    Oh Twisty/Jill. Please consider writing a book, making a film or art installation. This blog shines a brilliant, healing light into the murky stench of the P. You enlighten and embolden all of us. Thank you profoundly.

  38. yttik

    “I think part of the point is that Twisty/Jill is a woman- is she hardwork to be around?”

    One would hope so. The alternative is to never challenge anybody’s ingrained belief systems.

    It’s a shame women can’t even own their own language. When I said hard work I meant it’s hard work maintaining empathy for women who insist on expressing so much hatred towards their own. Why in the world would I have meant high maintenance in a kept woman sort of way??

    Oh, because by default the dominant culture gets to define my meaning. Well, never mind then. I’ll just go discuss all my ulterior motives with my boobs now.

  39. delphyne

    The way to stand together with other women is not to think about whether you like them or not or approve of them and thus whether they are worthy of your support, but to look at the behaviour that is ranged against them.

    All women face sexism. You don’t have to like women to think that women shouldn’t be on the receiving end of misogyny. You just have to think misogyny is wrong.

  40. MarinaS

    yttik, we collectively respected your intelligence by not condescending to you and assuming you meant what we wished you had meant. You expressed yourself much less lucidly than you seem to think, and we took you at face value.

    Or we could be a bunch of patriarchy-whipped hysterics with reading comprehension issues. You decide.

  41. nolo

    Thank you.

  42. Larkspur

    yttik, I like you a lot, always have.

    Beyond that, I just don’t have the energy today. No. Wait. I kind of do. I love and respect you all, for every word you write, for every drop of blood, sweat, and tears you give by just keeping on. I love Meghan. I love Carrie Prejean. In some weird inexplicable way, I even love Ann Coulter. My door will always be open to you, to them. But analyzing the implications: I just can’t do it, not today, maybe never. I am just wanting to retreat to my lair, with my various OPDs (Other People’s Dogs*), where we can fart together in peace.

    * I don’t have a dog of my own. I dog-sit. Some of those critters I have dog-sat since they were wee pups. None of them is named Nigel. But I would love a Nigel-pup just the same.

  43. Kelly

    When I said hard work I meant it’s hard work maintaining empathy for women who insist on expressing so much hatred towards their own.

    Twisty does exactly this day in and day out. It’s what this blog is about. All of the hateful things we do to and say about each other are but symptoms and we come here to better understand the disease, not to attack others who are also suffering. How can you not have empathy?

  44. Kelly

    I love and respect you all, for every word you write, for every drop of blood, sweat, and tears you give by just keeping on. I love Meghan. I love Carrie Prejean. In some weird inexplicable way, I even love Ann Coulter. My door will always be open to you, to them.

    Now that sounds like the beginning of a revolution. I really needed to read something positive today. Thanks.

  45. dillene

    I always try to speak up against the meme that “women treat each other worse than men treat them”. Ah, no. Men are worse, hands down. I was never afraid that any of the mean, catty sorority girls I knew in college would try to rape or murder me. Or even hit me.

    I can get over a nasty comment about my shoes pretty quickly. Rape would take a little longer.

  46. Craroline

    It’s a free country and McCain can post whatever she wants. Twitter is not necessarily “a place for friends,” and I have a feeling that McCain’s true friends couldn’t care less about that photo. As for her non-friend subscribers, why does she give two shats what they think about her?

    When I’m alone in my apartment, casual dress for me = naked, so I guess it’s good I don’t send out casual twitpics of me at home!

  47. feral

    I am thankful for this post.

  48. Miriam

    I don’t understand this argument about yttik’s comment. Just because something is sometimes difficult doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing, or that she isn’t going to do it, or even that it’s always hard.

    Other than that, I wanted to thank PilgrimSoul for the beautifully clear outline of problems above.

  49. agasaya

    It might be more productive to realize none of this is about McCain. It isn’t even about ‘tough’ because life is never simple for living things. McCain is a privileged and sheltered young woman who is becoming further acquainted with the fact that her X chromosomes will follow her through life, negating a good deal of what that privilege should have bought for her in life satisfaction. It will limit what she can achieve on her own merits unless she gives into the approved modes of behavior. Her latitude will remain greater than is permitted for most of us, as this knowledge is acquired because of her father’s status.

    Yttik makes a good point because humanity is hard. The reason it is hard to deal with other women is because of the dichotomies among us. Anecdote Alert:

    I find that speaking with ‘peers’ inside of the rad fem experience means dealing with a lot of damaged individuals. Most of us didn’t get here by sudden enlightenment, but through harsh experience. My peers outside of rad fem circles will seem innocent by comparison and often disbelieving of the knowledge I’ve won at high cost. This society promises equality is attainable through hard work so we can later be told we simply didn’t merit it. Many will buy into that.

    Someone mentioned the divide and conquer mentality of the patriarchy is used against us. It is used for men to control other men via wealth and power, while limiting the numbers of others who can enter that stratosphere. The gender difference at play here is that women are the possessions of all classes within the patriarchy – even oppressed men can own one .

    Other than modifying and using law to the greatest possible extent to rebuff the worst of patriarchal abuses, what else can be done other outliving male irrationality and training new mindsets to take over in another few centuries?

  50. Martha Maus

    Twisty/Jill is right that patriarchy blaming and mysogyny sometimes fight for neural space in the same brain.

    My reasoning and hope is that the frontal cortext of our brain is the bit that does the blaming. It is the bigger bit of the brain and the best bit for thinking.

    I’m also hoping that it’s just odd ( in every way) individual neurons that are the seats of mysogyny: the less we use them the more likely that the paths to them will fade away.

  51. alikatze

    Wow. Thank you for this spectacular piece. I am just so grooving on this blog. Just wow.

  52. polly styrene

    Hmm I do think it’s potentially legitimate to criticise McCain ( I don’t know enough about her to say for sure, hence the ‘potentially’). But for stuff she’s done, not for having breasts. Yes some women are pains in the arse, but it’s not connected to their femaleness. I have no time for women who do the dudes dirty work for them, but I don’t think displaying your breasts falls into this category really.

  53. Twobees

    I really need the discussion and ideas here on the island.

    Thank-you Jill for pointing out that many of us have internalised patriarchical ideology and can be unaware of it. And that we can make ourselves aware of it and carry on growing. If I have to be perfect (or have the solution) before I am able to Blame, the I won’t ever get the chance.

    That is the one of Patriarchy’s best deceptions; the idea that until you know the answers keep your mouth shut.

  54. HistoricUpstart

    I just want to echo the words of feral and say that I am thankful for this post and for the whole discussion surrounding Meghangate. It has been most excellent. The comments of yttik especially make me long for a more supportive rad-fem circle of friends in my life. I wish there was MN chapter of IBTP readers who regularly met for coffee or something. Blerg. Why is it so damn hard to make new friends?!?

  55. Volvatrack 7

    Wait, is the Great Hummer Wars the same as the Blowjob Shitstorm of 2005/6?

    I really enjoyed that one.

  56. thebeardedlady

    There’s a comment of mine stuck in moderation on this thread. If it ever appears, please feel free to ignore and disregard it, as it is dumb, and I have now worked it out for myself via a more careful and thoughtful reading of what you have all said. Also by having some actual sleep, at last.

    I love you all, all who hang out here. Sometimes this is the only place I can be where I don’t feel utterly reviled and despised.

  57. Valerie M

    Here is a list of things that neither Yttik or I said: Women are harder work to hang out with than men; all women are hard work to hang out with, including radical feminists; we don’t like women, our particular female friends are of the ‘annoying, high maintenance patriarchy-propper-uppers’ type; it’s harder work to deal with women than patriarchy in general, etc.

    Yttik was not ‘complaining about women’. She was identifying one of the challenges of toppling patriarchy.

  58. Amananta

    This is a hard thing to do and has mainly earned me enemies, I’m afraid, but I could suggest trying this: give women the benefit of the doubt, and distrust men. Is she smiling “too much”? Well she was probably taught to do that. Is she dressing “too sexy”? Maybe it’s the only way she’s ever been able to get anyone to take any notice of her at all. Is she not leaving some asshole you think she should just have the gumption to up and leave already? She might have 20 good reasons why doing that is very hard for her, up to and including having been spiritually and psychologically beaten down until she really feels she deserves whatever he does.
    And the flip side is NOT giving men the benefit of the doubt for all the things they are so used to getting. Someone tells you he (or his brother, or his best friend) unfairly didn’t get custody of his children and instead “that bitch” got them even though she’s a “terrible” mother? Don’t automatically believe and sympathize with him. Some guy tells you some woman at his office went off on him and accused him of harassment for no good reason? Don’t automatically believe him. Some guy you knows tells you a sexist joke? Don’t automatically assume of course he isn’t sexist.
    Sometimes it may be safer for you to just disagree in side your own head, because men can and do become violently angry when you challenge their sacred cows like this. But it gives a clearer (if not happier) picture of the world.

  59. K

    “the women will point out that you are too fat, too slutty, too ambitious, too stupid, etc.”

    “Women have been trained since day one to be nasty towards other women.”

    I guess I’ve been lucky. I can’t think of any women I am personally acquainted with who would tell another woman, supposedly her friend, that she is fat/slutty/ambitious (that’s a bad thing?)/stupid. As for the training, I won’t argue that it’s there, but none of the women I know show significant evidence of that training.

    I’ve heard opinions like this before but I’ve really never understood them. Maybe it’s context-dependent, like thinking that *everyone* gets plastic surgery, which would be a natural thing to think for someone who lives in Los Angeles. So I’m told.

  60. delphyne

    I’ve been called a slut and a whore by men a hell of a lot more than I ever have by women. I was told just yesterday by some gobby little pipsqueak bloke that I had a bad attitude because I didn’t have a light for the cigarette that he was waving in my face as I walked down the street.

    I think we hope for solidarity with women, which is why maybe we notice it more when we don’t get it. But the oppressors (men) make sure we are fighting amongst ourselves. Horizontal hostility is a real phenomenon, however the place we should probably start looking for it is within ourselves, not within other women.

  61. Valerie M

    And actually it is pretty condescending to Yttik to suggest that she needs it explained to her that misogyny is wrong or why women internalise it. Most commenters in this thread are regulars and should know perfectly well that Yttik is anti-misogyny and understands these issues perfectly well.

    This is pretty hypocritical. Apparently it’s not okay to criticise the policing of women by women, but it’s alright to pile on a woman who has merely pointed out this unhelpful behaviour and subject her to endless censure from her ability to express herself to her intelligence; to put word after word in her mouth and then condemn her for them.

    Either women are above criticism or they are not; make up your minds please.

  62. Jill

    “[T]he frontal cortext of our brain is the bit that does the blaming[.]“

    It’s the obstreperal lobe that does the blaming!

  63. SarahG

    “McCain is a privileged and sheltered young woman who is becoming further acquainted with the fact that her X chromosomes will follow her through life, negating a good deal of what that privilege should have bought for her in life satisfaction. It will limit what she can achieve on her own merits unless she gives into the approved modes of behavior. Her latitude will remain greater than is permitted for most of us, as this knowledge is acquired because of her father’s status.”

    Do you know McCain personally? I don’t, so I wouldn’t like to say how sheltered she is, or even how “privileged.” Certainly she has money; though I don’t know if she was brought up to believe it would ensure “life satisfaction,” whatever that is. I wouldn’t even speak to her “latitude…because of her father’s status,” since it’s possible that she has rather less latitude than more. I think it’s likely that McCain, in her position, has struggles and issues most of us don’t, as well as many that most of us do. Let’s not resort to the “sheltered, privileged little white girl” stereotype.

  64. Liz

    On a related note, I recently blamed the patriarchy for all the pseudo-news stories about how girls’ Halloween costumes are “too sexy” and ended up in a debate with one of my male “feminist” friends. He agreed that young girls dress “too sexy” and I countered that to say that someone or something is “sexy” is to say that they are more deserving of sex (whether they want it or not). He denied that meaning and yet when challenged to offer an alternative definition of “sexy” was silent.

  65. PilgrimSoul

    I too am completely at a loss to understand what’s wrong with yttik’s comments. There’s pretty obvious grounds for distinguishing between an observation (like the one yttik made) that the patriarchy has trained us to believe sisterhood is impossible, and one (that her detractors seem to be hearing but I don’t think she said) that says we can’t be sisters ’cause we’re all such horrible difficult bitches. IMHO, of course, but then I am a lady and must always qualify my strongly held opinions.

  66. humanbein

    …to say that someone or something is “sexy” is to say that they are more deserving of sex (whether they want it or not). He denied that meaning and yet when challenged to offer an alternative definition of “sexy” was silent.

    A man at a loss for words to explain his own privileged assumptions! Fancy that.

    Sexy, to a man, is any slight signal of sexual availability. It might seem, from the perspective of someone eliciting such a response and not getting the response they wish for, that those who are rewarded with this response are deserving of it, whether they want it or not.

    Men exist in a parallel universe where they learn to ferret out any possible sign of sexual titillation anywhere they look. Surely we have all seen men’s heads swivel crazily at the appearance, some distance away, of a female form. Are they simply interested in anyone? Once the gender is determined, the gaze either lingers a second, feeding the male brain with another addicting squirt of whatever foul juice they constantly give themselves as a reward mechanism for their unchallenged misogyny, or else the gaze is refocussed back to something more neutral or more arousing.

    The assumption that women are simply objects tottering around in a man’s field of vision in order to prop up his addiction to titillation is a universal male brain disorder. This is what this fellow couldn’t possibly have told you, because the closer a man gets to this realization, the more threatened his addiction is.

    Back to McCain and her intentions: Just like the woman who dresses to please men, the costumes are sexy because we all voluntarily agree to the rules of the game. Look at those women dressing or posing to arouse men. Most worthy of our scorn is the men who encourage such delusion, not the women who enact what they’ve been taught is right. Submission to cultural norms isn’t as inherently evil as the dominance that creates it.

  67. CassieC

    humanbein,

    “Submission to cultural norms isn’t as inherently evil as the dominance that creates it.”

    Now that is worthy of getting tattooed on my ass. Or maybe on my forehead, more people are likely to read it there. Fine, both.

  68. Jill

    Yttik: “It is hard work to be a woman dealing with other women!”

    It’s hard to be anybody dealing with anybody. This is why I recommend becoming an eccentric recluse.

    Women have been trained since day one to be nasty towards other women.

    That’s right, and who implements this training? Women, that’s who.

    “It is not misogynistic to state this truth.”

    I sure as hell hope not, since it’s a truth — if truth can be said to exist — I’ve been stating for years. Remember, ladies: “patriarchy” isn’t some sinister cabal of dudes plotting behind the scenes with their evil henchwomen to ruin your life. It’s a system, not a committee; a global social order running on automatic pilot. In order for this result to obtain, the cooperation of all parties is required. Since it is impossible to exist outside the matrix, it can hardly be regarded as a character flaw to exist, even successfully, within it.

  69. Antoinette Niebieszczanski

    While I cannot honestly say I love Anne Coulter, my obstreperal lobe begins to throb when I hear/read a group of liberal doodz cracking on her appearance.

  70. CassieC

    Antoinette N.,

    ain’t that the everlovin’ truth. That’s when I stopped hanging with the boys at Atrios and Dailykos, years ago now.

    I kept piping up with “Ja, she sucks, but what’s with the misogyny? The fact she’s a woman is her most positive feature! Aren’t we all pro-woman progressives?” to no avail.

    Then I found the feminist blogosphere, and then Twisty, and it all made sense: men hate me, you and Ann Coulter, because of our ladybits. I’m not going back to the dude blogosphere, not until every single last one of them apologizes. And even then.

  71. phio gistic

    humanbein: “Men exist in a parallel universe where they learn to ferret out any possible sign of sexual titillation anywhere they look.”

    Oh, have you read The Death of Bunny Munro by Nick Cave? I just finished it – it’s a revolting/revealing look inside the head of exactly how this functions for men.

  72. ivyleaves

    I can’t speak for most, but I would hope we can discuss ideas without assigning the responsibility or credit for them to one poster. Yttik is a regular poster here, but I have not made up some readily accessible mental resumé of all of her ideas and attributes so that I might be held responsible for an insult to her based upon her history here, nor would I give her a pass on something for the same reason. It’s almost reminiscent of the movie critic controversy. Let’s stick to a critique of the ideas expressed.

    That said, I have been listening carefully and still don’t think I get it – this is an area of big confusion for me, and I hope to learn more as this pic is pretty much the same as the ones my nieces put on facebook and they trouble me greatly. I don’t know how to approach them on the topic, so I don’t. I just keep up my consciousness-raising narrative about the stuff that they bring up themselves. Clearly neither they nor I are ready for any more than that, and I’m beginning to see that my instincts were right.

  73. CassieC

    ivyleaves,

    your nieces are indeed probably not acting in their self-interest – not that they are to blame for that, it’s the world they live in.

    In terms of what you can do:

    1. maybe get them copies of “Full frontal feminism” by Jessica Valenti. It’s supposed to be a good intro for the younger crowd – I haven’t read it myself. It has some parts on the girls-gone-wild horror show. Once they’re done with that, they can graduate to Savage Death Island-ism.

    2. try to ask them about their behavior, rather than judge them: are they doing it because they want to, or because it’s expected of them? Who would expect this of them – someone who has their best interests at heart, or not? Is this what is expected of future supreme court justices or presidents, or does it indicate that whoever is expecting them to do it doesn’t see them that way? That’s the type of discussion I had with my nephews on advertising, and since they’re smart little squirts, they caught on real fast.

  74. Gerald Ford

    Intent is the difference between manslaughter and murder – it is a valid thing to talk about.

  75. humanbein

    phio gistic – I haven’t read the Nick Cave book, but I did see an excerpt from it. Right now I’m reading a fascinating book about the Hindus. It’s written by Wendy Doniger, and so far it’s almost like watching the Patriarchy coalesce over the centuries.

  76. tinfoil hattie

    Hanging with women almost requires a bit of masochism, unbelievable patience, and persistent, stubborn empathy.

    Whereas hanging with men is just dandy.

    I guess I don’t understand the “masochism” part. Isn’t it mutual suffering rather than self-punishment? Are not all women part and parcel of the patriarchy? We can’t separate ourselves from it – we are it. The more I learn about patriarchy, the more empathy I have for other women. Because I don’t know each woman’s story – I just know the patriarchy-created story that is alleged to apply to all women.

    (If Jill ever bans dashes, I am a goner.)

  77. Tupe

    @ yttk, Valerie, Jezebella and everyone else:

    You want to know what’s really hard for *this* radical feminist, female-assigned, genderqueer blamer to be around? Feminists who throw around the word “women” in endless repetition to the exclusion of all other genders oppressed by patriarchy.

    When all the women in the world are finally able to hang out together and be buddies, or whatever the hell your vision of Universal Sisterhood looks like, this one will still be left out in the cold. Thanks.

  78. gravy

    First-time commenter here, after having read this blog for four years. What prompts me to finally speak up is the thought that perhaps one thing making it “hard” to ally/hang out with/befriend other women is the psychological damage they/we are dealing with, thanks to the good ol’ patriarchy. This possibility been on my mind for years. Perhaps this comment is incendiary; I agree it applies to any group that isn’t the most privileged, from those who aren’t “the coolest sixth-graders” all the way on up through race, national, religious, and gender/preference segregation. Everyone’s had rough times, but I posit it’s easier for white males to become self-actualized, and maybe it’s somewhat “easier” (even for the damaged) to socialize with individuals who are more self-actualized than those beaten down by exclusion from the clique. Ideally everyone would be free to express him- or herself while enjoying acceptance from society, rather than having to second-guess him- or herself and understand two or more cultures (both the in-crowd and whatever other group the outsider is a party of). Amananta’s comments in this thread have come the closest to expressing this idea, but I want to explicitly pose it as a question to some of the most advanced blaming minds on the internet.

  79. Valerie M

    We are talking about the products of female socialisation right now, Tupe. In a post-patriarchy, if that is what you mean by ‘whatever the hell your vision of Universal Sisterhood looks like’, no one will be left out.

    @tinfoil hattie

    Sure, but empathy is a lot easier to drum up for a woman who has just been abused merely for existing while female in a photo than it is for say, my mother-in-law when she tells me I shouldn’t get my hair cut short without consulting her son first. One is actively trying to restrict me on the basis of my gender, one is not.

  80. yttik

    Time people, time! There simply isn’t enough time in a day to plot with your breasts regarding world domination, to oppress women, to promote misogyny, to apparently hang out with all the “dandy” men out there, and now to oppress and drive away “all other genders oppressed by patriarchy.”

    Ironically the media just declared solidarity and stated that they would accept no attacks on their “sister” organization. Guess what happened? The powers that be capitulated and relinquished control. Sisterhood sure is powerful. It would be amazing if the actual sisters ever got together and tapped into it.

  81. octopod

    Tupe: fuckin’ word.

  82. little_sis

    My nigel refuses to take your site seriously because of wise cracks like the advice to dump boyfriends you know…what about my nigel?!?! he says what if it was the other way around, i say it IS the other way around all the time, he doesn’t agree.

  83. PilgrimSoul

    Tube: I guess my response to your comment would be, from my own radical feminist perspective: I would regard as “women” everyone who is oppressed by the patriarchy. Perhaps that’s capitulating to its definition, and fair enough on that point, but even were I using it in the way you posit – i.e. to exclude or Other genders that are neither “male” nor “female,” – I’m throwing a whole lot into that soup. I don’t think that anyone here is advocating sisterhood in the pink-ribboned, crazysexycancer, let’s all get a mirror and stare at our hoohas and then braid each other’s hair and do ladythings together. We’re advocating it as a political mobilization against patriarchal oppression, and in that sense, it is inclusive of anyone who suffers from that.

    Which obviously includes genderqueers. In fact I’d say that in the context of what I personally draw from radical feminism, if anything, genderqueers are something of my utopian ideal! I would salute them being the change they wanted to see! I am not apparently good enough at doing that myself.

    (Twisty, I realize this is a total threadjack of the topic.)

  84. Hedgepig

    You know what might be good for morale? If we gave each other the benefit of the doubt. Just as yttik’s remark about women being hard work probably doesn’t indicate she possesses a deep-seated hatred of female kind, the comments on the McCain thread about her empowerfulized, patriarchy compliant pose and boob treatment were probably not indications of the commenters’ unexamined misogyny. Rather, they were probably assuming it was obvious they were blaming the patriarchy for McCain’s belief that such self-presentation would get her anything but grief. Instead, they were held up by other blamers as disgraceful, slut-shaming, pseudo feminists responsible for the failure-to-launch of the revolution.
    We’re rapidly moving towards Blame the Blamers Fest ’09 and it’s just going to make us implode.

  85. Virginia S. Wood, Psy.D.

    1. Maybe women first have to stop standing for men.
    2. Maybe each woman stands for herself after that.
    3. Then maybe women will have enough energy to start standing for one another and patriarchy will fall of its own hatefulness.

    Word! The revolution begins at home and in the office.

  86. agasaya

    Thank you Hedgepig,

    Also the realization that the lesson is rarely learned on just the first hundred times we see it. McCain has even written earlier articles on it herself:

    http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2009-09-27/un-photo-disaster/

    http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2009-03-14/the-politics-of-size/

    It might also be a good idea to define certain things. For instance, might privilege be the difference between being helpless in the face of patriarchy (all of us) versus being hopeless in the face of patriarchy (those without the privilege of sustenance, shelter and bodily safety)?

    Anyone can go from the first to the second in an instant but some have farther to fall than others. Since there is no crown in heaven for those who suffer ‘more’ rather than less, no sin attaches to either state. Unfortunately, whether bestowed or earned, it is only retained by permission of the P.

  87. Laughingrat

    Thank you, Hedgepig.

  88. Jill

    “Intent is the difference between manslaughter and murder “

    Tell that to the dead chick.

  89. Jill

    “My nigel refuses to take your site seriously because of wise cracks like the advice to dump boyfriends you know…what about my nigel?!?! he says what if it was the other way around, i say it IS the other way around all the time, he doesn’t agree.”

    Dump him!

  90. Larkspur

    Take care of yourself.
    Do no harm unto others.
    Help out when you can.

    (This is paraphrased from Elie Wiesel, probably from his book “Night”, describing how survivors of the camps got through it with their souls battered and scarred, but mostly intact. And it has always seemed to me to be a pretty damn good way to try to live one’s life.)

  91. Aunty Christ

    “It’s hard to be anybody dealing with anybody. This is why I recommend becoming an eccentric recluse.”

    This is the truest truth ever. I’m trying!

  92. otoc

    ivyleaves, I’m not sure if there’s one right answer as to how to get more women and girls, especially ones who have not been seriously “burned” by the P to get that they live in a different world than men and boys do or that people see them and their actions through a kaleidoscope of misogyny and all that other crap, especially when it’s not something they come to be curious about for themselves (sorry for the runs, Jill). BUT I do know one thing — I would not want anyone to tell your nieces or anyone else’s that “Stupid whores who do stupid things get what they deserve” or any variation thereof. Especially since I think that would just turn them AWAY from feminism, even the parts they might find exhilarating.

    I was deemed a slut in high school because some boys said it was so and so it was, and I spent many years completely, utterly, totally wrecked and suicidal because of it. As anyone even loosely acquainted with the LGBTQI community knows, shame kills. And, as in the recent case, it kills young women who get their naked pics passed around at school, too. It also destroys the futures of untold numbers of young women who believe they are worthless because they have been deemed human garbage for spreading their legs, or looking or acting like maybe they want to, if only perceived as such by someone, somewhere, for a moment. How do you think the P keeps the stream of strippers and webcam girls so steady? Saying “She should know better than to trust boys,” is of absolutely NO constructive use.

    I also think it’s useful to remember that my so-called generation or thereabouts grew up hearing nothing about Hillary Clinton or Janet Reno or any other women in government except what ‘orrible, overbearing cunts they were, the only time we saw a feminist on teevee was when she was being mocked or was a footnote in the over-and-done-with-already history of feminism, and we think pimp is a verb.

    I think Amananta said it the best: let’s give women more benefit of the doubt and stop giving so much of it to men.

  93. socialworkerblamer

    Nice comments.

    This old fart-flapper understands from experience what drinking the dude-laced kool-aid is about, and how we all suffer to some degree from patriarchy-induced Stockholm Syndrome.

    We grow up enmeshed in a process that indoctrinates and brainwashes, then minimizes the damage and finally normalizes and reframes the experience as a positive one. What little girl doesn’t want to be Sleeping Beauty, get rescued by a prince, blah blah blah. Never mind that she has few choices and no power in the scenario.

    What we are taught and buy into is our own learned oppression and learned helplessness. This becomes the default thinking/behavior until we disconnect from it and connect to ourselves and to others in deeper truth.

    The difficult part is that it permeates the entire society, so we breathe it back in every day, especially if and when we allow ourselves to forget or fall back asleep.

  94. Carolyn

    Thanks Larkspur–it sounds so simple, but I really needed to read that right now. I’ve been beating myself up lately for not doing enough for other people, but that’s the third priority on Elie Weisel’s list–and it’s ‘do what you can’, not ‘do everything that needs to be done’.

  95. Cathy

    delphyne said:
    “I think we hope for solidarity with women, which is why maybe we notice it more when we don’t get it. But the oppressors (men) make sure we are fighting amongst ourselves.”

    Exactly! I used to argue about feminism with my mother, thinking surely she would understand, being a woman. But she didn’t, so I was frustrated. I don’t bother with my father. We have higher expectations of women.

    I’m really appreciating most of the comments on this post; so many people are seeing that women need to stand together – just as men have so often ganged up on us, in order to keep us from competing with them. Having each others’ backs must be phase one of the revolution. Or maybe phase three, according to Jude’s 3 steps.

    Men want us to be in “catfights” for their entertainment. This needs to stop. On this blog, lots of people were defending Sarah Palin from sexist attacks without saying we need to vote for her.

    Amananta, your ideas of giving women the benefit of the doubt are excellent. I can only guess that if that approach mainly won you enemies, they must have all been male. No biggie, since they already hated you anyway.

  96. Comrade PhysioProf

    As for her non-friend subscribers, why does she give two shats what they think about her?

    Because she is a celebrity and a political operative. Her Internet presence is carefully crafted with the purpose of furthering her goals as a celebrity and political operative, not to communicate with her friends.

  97. otoc

    Because she is a celebrity and a political operative. Her Internet presence is carefully crafted with the purpose of furthering her goals as a celebrity and political operative, not to communicate with her friends.

    So the cleavage pic was a ruse designed to expose hypocritical, misogynistic fart-flappers on both the right and the left? Wow. That’s pretty impressive. I guess I wasn’t giving Meghan McCain enough credit. Good for her. I loves me some misogynist-exposing!

  98. Comrade PhysioProf

    Who said she was good at carefully crafting her Internet presence?

  99. snow black

    Well, Jill really took me to school on this one. My “acute sensitivity … to messages encoded in pornography” did indeed result in a visceral disgust when I saw the photo, and I extended that disgust to Meghan McCain. It seems more compassion is needed all the way around.

    Thank you for the lesson.

  100. Valerie M

    @ gravy

    Nice to hear from you after all this time!

    I think you make a really good point: men often seem more laid-back and fun at first; it comes with the ease of being considered the default human being. They never feel like they are pushing their luck by being in the public realm and I imagine that is quite relaxing.

    I feel, however, that no matter how much work women CAN be to hang out with, men are a lot harder. Not every individual woman and not every individual man, of course. But as a class men are much more difficult to deal with. For the vast majority of them, regardless of how down-to-earth they may seem at first their misogyny will eventually bubble to the surface. Often just after you have started to relax around them. It’s like a cold bucket of slaps to the face.

    Plus they have that whole actual power over you thing, unlike misogynist women.

  101. otoc

    I’m sure you’re right, Commander PP — she has teh ladybrainz, afterall, so invariably she must have thought that all she had to do to increase her status as a female political blogger was to show some tit.

  102. Jill

    “We’re rapidly moving towards Blame the Blamers Fest ‘09 and it’s just going to make us implode.”

    Nah, everyone’ll forget all about it in a day or two. I know I will.

  103. tinfoil hattie

    I still prefer hanging with non-dudes to hanging with dudes.

    See how I have to define my preferred hangout partners as exceptions to the default male?

    IBTP

  104. yttik

    Forget? Who can forget the culture’s successful manipulation of our perceptions so that it becomes Carrie Perjean who is totally responsible for the state of gay rights in America, so that it is Nancy Pelosi who is destroying the country, so that it is Sarah Palin who is dancing naked with chickens in church, so that it is Olympia Snowe who is destroying health care in America, so that it is Whoopi Goldberg who is to blame for the rape culture, so that it is Casey Anthony who is America’s most dangerous criminal? Who can forget that it is women who are perceived as being responsible for all the ills of society? Until one day you wake up and realize you can’t even name a single right wing man advocating against gay rights because the media has rendered them all invisible and succeeded in what should have been a comedic attempt to direct all the rage on Miss California. A woman who, by the way, gets to enjoy being sawed in half and hung in effigy for Halloween.

    We have the power to refuse to play the game. Every time we are tempted to blame a woman we can blame the patriarchy instead. How will we control, influence, and shame women into doing and acting the way we want if we don’t blame them? We won’t. We’ll exercise no attempt to control them at all and that’s when things will start to get really fun.

  105. Slade

    I have enjoyed this thread immensely. I am sending the link to many because it truly hits the target of Women Uniting.

    yttik-I copied your first post because it touched me so. It hurts me more when a women rejects/ridicules me than when a man does. Somewhere in my mind, I always felt that women/best friends were to have my back. I certainly don’t think a man would defend me.

    A man can’t empathize with a woman.

    Since I grew up in a female household, I didn’t get the memo about competing with other women. It really hurt the first time I experienced it.

    Jill-’Eccentric Recluse.’ Yes! Here I have been calling myself a Hermit, or Hermitess. Of late everyone has become a pain to deal with, except for the animals, of course.

    Oh, and what if I’m the fart-flapper? If he objects, dump him, right? Or does it mean I’ve become ‘manly?’ Believe me when I say, you do not want those farts rotting under the sheets. You brought it up. Not me. Just asking.

    As always. IBTP

  106. Anna Belle

    Great stuff, as usual, and this really needed to be said. Of course this wasn’t the only presentation of misogyny in this thread. Some poor, deluded commentator actually suggested I wasn’t thinking because I didn’t vote for two more penises last year. As if objective evaluation is in any way useful with this kind of disparity (84%-16% gender divide in Congress; no female Prez or VP ever ; 24% female-representation average in state politics: some states as low as 11%). I bet she would have never told a black, male voter that they weren’t thinking if he cast a vote for a black candidate.

  107. Anna Belle

    Sorry for the sloppy language in my last comment. I meant to say “THOSE weren’t the only presentations of misogyny in THAT thread.” The rest stands, if it ever comes out of moderation.

  108. Jodie

    Sometimes women who are not feminists will sometimes have the light come on if you don’t argue with them — if you argue then they cling more tightly to what they believe, because arguing is all about the winning.

    Maye it doesn’t work for everyone. Some few of us are born to this, some of us grasp it easily or readily, but many need a slow process; a number of moments in which the light is revealed before it finally comes on and stays on.

    Living what you believe and encouraging other women to follow what they want (instead of what everyone else wants) is the course I’ve followed.

    As far as woman-hating goes, when someone trots out something like that I simply state, “Oh, gossip is so damaging,” or something similar. You can shut that stuff right down right there.

  109. madeleine

    @yttik: word. My friends are all women, either radfem or from abroad or heavily traumatized in childhood. But my experience with ‘normal’ women is that all I have to do is my very best, and just wait, and they will kick me out of the group or otherwise hurt me.
    Whenever I tried to be part of a womens’ team (charity group, working group, choir) I got kicked out for not ‘fitting in the team’. And when I tried to enlarge feminist womens’ horizons by organizing network travel to other countries, everything that went wrong, including flat tires and the weather, was my personal fault.
    Is there an expression in the US resembling the ‘crabs’ trap’? Meaning that as soon as one gets ready to escape, the others pull her down again?

    Not only do we expect more from women than from men, the flip side is that other women also expect more from us than from a man as soon as we do ANYTHING. I see where they’re coming from of course, but it does hurt. And it keeps hurting. One positive thing about men: whenever we’ve done the ‘mine is bigger than yours’ dance and I won, they accept that and will work with me.

  110. madeleine

    PS about fear: I would like to recommend to everywoman who still has the time left to do accomplish this: Get as much education as you can. Same for martial arts training. Contemplate your dressing habits and the reasons for them. Adapt. Survice. And then, after spending some decades on this purgatory planet, watch The Menz shit themselves with fear when they try to integrate the data that you not only use words with more syllables better then they but you can also kick the shit out of them.
    You will then also be in a position to occasionally help those who due to circomstances could not accomplish this.
    Bless you all.

  111. Meat Sounds

    I’m one of those drive-by blamers, so I’m not sure whether it’s mentioned in the comments (I did a quick check, couldn’t find anything), but this post on Tumblr so closely matches Jill’s description of what’s going on (and wrong) in the discussion that it’s uncanny:
    http://agrammar.tumblr.com/post/215062654/meghan-mccains-tank-top

  112. Judi

    Eccentric Recluses Unite!

    Slade’s comment — “A man can’t empathize with a woman” — has got me thinking. My initial reaction was No, that can’t be true. But then I tried to remember any incidence in my life of a man actually empathizing with me, or to imagine what that would even look like, and I came up blank. This, even though the men I’ve been closely involved with have been very decent humans with generally good intentions. When they behaved in a way that looked like empathy, they were actually just trying to ‘help’ me because my distress was inconvenient to them, or because they were angling for a sexual reward or for reinforcement of their masculine self-image. With other women, it’s not uncommon to feel empathy even from a stranger in casual conversation. (But maybe she’s just trying to reinforce her feminine self-image?)

    Or is it that men feel empathy, but don’t know what to do with the feeling? Or that women don’t recognize or accept empathy from men? Or that empathy is a relationship that cannot exist between the powerful and the powerless?

    What a bummer that patriarchal training has so distorted our interactions. Someday, on Savage Death Island, we will know how to relate to each other as human-to-human. But I think I’d still enjoy being an Eccentric Recluse.

  113. Comrade PhysioProf

    I’m sure you’re right, Commander PP — she has teh ladybrainz, afterall, so invariably she must have thought that all she had to do to increase her status as a female political blogger was to show some tit.

    I have never speculated about her specific intent in posting that particular photograph. As others have pointed out, it is far from clear whether she herself thought that in posting that picture she was “show[ing] some tit”. Furthermore, her own mental state when posting that particular picture is irrelevant to either the feminist or political analysis of what happened.

  114. agasaya

    Empathy is like using anecdotal evidence to prove a point. “I’ve felt that, therefore it is true.” (excuse the mangling of a good quote)
    Empathy isn’t possible without shared experience, although sympathy is nice to have.

    All we need is respect for all genders and an admission of equality. A man doesn’t need his genitals to be cut off in order to respect women as equal human beings. All women shouldn’t have to experience physical abuse in order to demand it end. Women telling women to ‘just get out of there’ are a perfect example of the way in which empathy holds back progress. The bad shit has to become all pervasive before it is stopped. For many, there is no place to go!

  115. SadieT

    How could anyone expect to people like Laura Ingraham not to use an insignificant subject like Megan McCain cleavage and the marketable availability of boobs for boobs to ogle in order to distract us from issues that really matter like felafels in the shower.

  116. octogalore

    Love this post, Jill.

    I have an idea as to a further twist on it.

    You make the excellent point that there is no “she asked for it” when it comes to antifeminist discussion of a pose born out of patriarchal conditioning.

    But here’s a thought: what if McCain’s pose cannot be looked at isolated from the patriarchy, but what if at the same time there’s nothing actually *wrong* with it? What if the main problems isn’t that women enjoy showing off their bodies, but that women alone are encouraged to do so? Would the non-patriarchal world be one in which nobody took such twitter pics in their 20s, a decade in which spontaneous behavior is fairly typical? Or would it be a world in which both women and men both feel free to do this to the same extent, such that both men and women, with both patriarchy-compliant and non-compliant bodies (keeping in mind that McCain is about 20-30 pounds north of Hollywood-compliant) enjoyed being theatrical in a way that doesn’t relegate one group to the sex class?

    Clearly, we’re not living in either of these worlds. But my point is: we all seem sure that McCain is either a slut (per some of the comments from the earlier post) or a deluded naif, hapless victim of the Patriarchy? What if the truth is neither one?

  117. ivyleaves

    “Women telling women to ‘just get out of there’ are a perfect example of the way in which empathy holds back progress.”

    Isn’t telling anyone to ‘just get out of there’ an example of no empathy whatsoever? In that situation the empathetic thing to say would be more along the lines of ‘I can imagine how hard it is to see how to get out of that situation, how do you think I might help? what do you need?’

  118. niki

    I’m sorry to ask this question, because it’s way off the topic but is the title of this post meant to be sung to the tune of ‘No Milk Today’ by Herman’s Hermits?

    Did everyone already get this, like, ages ago or am I delving a little too far into title interpretation?

  119. agasaya

    Ivyleaves,

    That would meet the definition of sympathy. Empathy is the ability to identify with the feelings of others and is why men can’t be empathetic. Hard to ‘imagine’ such feelings unless you’ve actually had the same or similar experience. But again, that isn’t required when one can simply see the need for action to remedy an intolerable situation or condition. Feelings are optional; action is imperative.

  120. yttik

    Sympathy tends to rob people of power. It often involves pity and a one up-man-ship dynamic. It causes people to believe they have all the answers and can rescue someone who is just too stupid to see how to fix the situation. Empathy is the ability to relate to what someone is feeling and to understand why they are making the choices they are. Empathy in domestic violence situations can sometimes lead you to realize that staying in a bad situation is the least crappy choice the victim can make.

  121. yttik

    “I tried to remember any incidence in my life of a man actually empathizing with me, or to imagine what that would even look like, and I came up blank.”

    Me too! Can’t seem to recall a single incident, can’t even imagine what that would look like. There have certainly been decent male human beings who have attempted to problem solve my situations, but no one with the ability to vicariously put themselves in my situation emotionally. Maybe that’s why we sometimes hear women complain about how men are always trying to “fix it” rather then simply just listening.

  122. Laura

    What I don’t understand (or sort of understand, but boggle at the continued usage) is why intent matters at ALL in such situations. So WHAT if Ms. McCain wanted to show off her deliberately-pornulated body? Does that put the people who attacked her in the right? Of course not! In the same way that, even if a woman DID in some hypothetical land say “Come here and rape me.” that doesn’t make the rapist not responsible for THEIR OWN ACTIONS.

    Let’s say that McCain deliberately and full-knowingly took and posted that picture in a way that she fully intended to be sexually attractive and stimulating to others.

    That still leaves those who verbally attacked her in the wrong, and her in the right. The people who attacked her have full agency and control over their own written reactions and responses, and they were the ones who behaved objectionably.

    BUUTTT Menz Can’t Control Themselves Oh We Need Womens and other Others to Police Themselves cuz Menz are so Weak and only two steps away from their Primitive, True Selves that they celebrate by not bothering to curb their own behavior, cuz that would be anti-man now wouldn’t it, to ask men to follow the same standards of conduct they hold other groups to. IBTP.

  123. utahgirl

    Not sure how I feel about all of the “hanging out with men is like… whereas hanging out with ladies is like….” I don’t think any generalizations can really be made about who is more laid-back and fun to hang out with out of the (patriarchy-constructed) genders, and this implication bothers me. The idea, propagated by chick flicks and Dude Publications, that men are less “catty”, let go of disputes more easily, strikes me as the same sort of nonsense as “men are biologically ‘more visual’, and therefore….”
    Having said this, I go to an all women college because drastically reducing the amount of men in my life for 4 years seemed like it could be a helpful step in finding an empathetic friend or two who could support and enhance, if not entirely understand, my views on life, the patriarchy, etc. And if I said anything about people I’ve met here, it would be that the women, initially and as I got to know them, were much easier to get along with, and the men, despite their previously established position above me on the patriarchal hierarchy, continue throughout the relationship to attempt to reestablish their superiority–which attempts do not allow for a fun and laid-back companionionship.

  124. otoc

    I agree Laura. Meghan did nothing wrong. If a young, openly gay, Republican (personally identifying as socially liberal and fiscally conservative, whatever the hell that means) male political blogger tweeted a sexy picture of himself and there was a homophobic uproar, the people who would NEED to point out the fact that he’s Republican or even gay men who would say that he “brought it on himself” for acting so faggy and he’s only helping the oppressors by not acting properly, etc. would be in the wrong, even if they prefaced all their BS with “That stuff wot happened is wrong but…”

    Yes, women are the sex class and our actions don’t exist in a vacuum, but what’s radical about shunning “whores”? It’s so radical it’s curved all the way back to right-wing! I think most women will at some point want to signal their sexual attractiveness or availability, because that is part of life for a great majority of us. I think the problem starts when we are punished for that where men are not.

  125. Charlotte Gordon

    That McCain is being punished for being visibly female is such a great point. I have just found your site and am a new fan. Bravo, spinster aunt!

  126. charlotte gordon

    This is also great: “what’s radical about shunning “whores”?” I hope you keep writing about these issues.

  127. Laughingrat

    Laura and otoc: Nobody here attacked Ms. McCain for showing off her body. Whether or not showing off her body was her intent was discussed briefly, or rather, some commenters attempted to discuss it. None of them attacked her for it; discussing a behavior is not the same as attacking someone for that behavior. None of them called her a “whore.” And none of the regular or semi-regulars on this blog have done either thing, at least not in recent memory.

    If you want to defend Ms. McCain on that front, you should probably seek out political blogs–Right or Left–where such attacks are actually happening. Because of the d00dly nature of most political discourse on the web, there probably are such attacks happening somewhere as we speak. Your points are certainly valid, but they are not a response to anything that has happened in these threads.

  128. Eliza

    You have said what I was thinking. Couldn’t have said it better. Thank you for your usual high level of thought and general excellence.

  129. octogalore

    Love this post, Jill.

    I have an idea as to a further twist on it.

    You make the excellent point that there is no “she asked for it” when it comes to antifeminist discussion of a pose born out of patriarchal conditioning.

    But here’s a thought: what if McCain’s pose cannot be looked at isolated from the patriarchy, but what if at the same time there’s nothing actually *wrong* with it? What if the main problems isn’t that women enjoy showing off their bodies, but that women alone are encouraged to do so? Would the non-patriarchal world be one in which nobody took such twitter pics in their 20s, a decade in which spontaneous behavior is fairly typical? Or would it be a world in which both women and men both feel free to do this to the same extent, such that both men and women, with both patriarchy-compliant and non-compliant bodies (keeping in mind that McCain is about 20-30 pounds north of Hollywood-compliant) enjoyed being theatrical in a way that doesn’t relegate one group to the sex class?

    Clearly, we’re not living in either of these worlds. But my point is: we all seem sure that McCain is either a slut (per some of the comments from the earlier post) or a deluded naif, hapless victim of the Patriarchy? What if the truth is neither one?

  130. Shopstewardess

    Urahgirl said

    “Not sure how I feel about all of the “hanging out with men is like… whereas hanging out with ladies is like….” I don’t think any generalizations can really be made about who is more laid-back and fun to hang out with out of the (patriarchy-constructed) genders, and this implication bothers me. The idea, propagated by chick flicks and Dude Publications, that men are less “catty”, let go of disputes more easily, strikes me as the same sort of nonsense as “men are biologically ‘more visual’, and therefore….””

    The reason men “let go” of disputes more easily is because they’ve won. They do it not because of a different personality style based on gender differences, but because of their social, political and economic status based on gender differences. And they are so secure about coming out on top that they don’t even bother to gloat.

    Bitter, me? Yes, and I know what I blame.

  131. Twobees

    Judi “Or is it that men feel empathy, but don’t know what to do with the feeling? Or that women don’t recognize or accept empathy from men? Or that empathy is a relationship that cannot exist between the powerful and the powerless?”

    This makes sense to me, as it means that the patriarchy requires males to be flawed – the is, actually less than human (if one believes that empathy and the ability to act from empathy are part of being human).
    It also provides the possibility that men may be rehabilitated, i.e. develop empathy and thus move towards full human status.

    Of course, I believe that empathy is the ability to place one’s self in someone else’s place and understand what it is like. A tall order for most men, but not impossible. Sympathy is the “I know how you feel, that’s just like when x happened to me” — an impossible ability for men when talking about the patriarchy’s oppression of women.

  132. thebeardedlady

    Empathy requires a little imagination, sometimes a lot of imagination. Often, we do not require someone to have had an experience exactly comparable to ours. We require only that they listen carefully and imagine how it must feel to be us, based on what we are saying. If, for example, someone says, ‘I feel sad’, that’s something everyone can empathise with, whatever the specific reason for sadness. The trouble comes when people expect us to justify our sadness, arguing that a rape ‘joke’ shouldn’t make us sad, for example, or that we shouldn’t be sad about the treatment of a woman in the media. Such a reaction dismisses both our experiences and our feelings. But everyone can avoid being that person, just by listening to and believing each other. I often find with men that it’s not so much that they lack empathy, but they lack belief in the reality of women’s lives and experiences. They can empathise with each other, no problem.

  133. Jill

    octogalore: “But my point is: we all seem sure that McCain is either a slut (per some of the comments from the earlier post) or a deluded naif, hapless victim of the Patriarchy? What if the truth is neither one?”

    Octogalore, you and I have a peculiar way of disagreeing and being sympatico at the same time. In this case, you have just made me realize a point I should have made in my post. I agree that, as you postulate, the “truth” is neither one, except the truth to which we are alluding — i.e. an imaginary reality where there is no sex class — cannot exist outside the patriarchal matrix. In other words, because of the dominant social order, the photograph cannot be politically neutral in the way you describe.

  134. Tupe

    Blaming the patriarchy and calling people out on transphobic/cis-privileged language are NOT mutually exclusive. I can be a good blamer and hold other feminists accountable for their various privileges at the same time. In fact, I would say that’s the only way to be a good blamer.

    @ Pilgrim:

    Including people who do not identify as women in your personal definition of “woman” does not cut it. You are not being a good ally by fitting me and other folks into a box that a binary loving, transphobic society makes us fight real hard to get out of in the first place. Also, the trans spectrum is not utopia and I don’t need to be congratulated on how “radical” my gender is.

  135. humanbein

    Anyone can empathize with anyone else they choose to. But most men are so heavily invested in masculinity that even imagining the experience of a woman is out of the question. The best most men can do is imagine themselves in drag, with all of their closely-guarded privileges intact, and then congratulate themselves on trying to understand those mysterious, unknowable women.

    Truly empathizing with a woman would be so gay. Can’t do THAT!

  136. FW

    In prehistory, woman was goddess, her sexuality, belly that held life, breasts that nourished it, was worshipped. If you were a dude and you thought god should be your dick instead – how would you go about doing that? It would be easy to convince the other dick-havers that they are the image of god, But how do you convince the women? How do you convince the women that their images are not the images of goddess? Really, how do you think they did that? How did they manage to convince us that images of woman were not images of goddess but instead were images of tools? Did they make their own images of woman, and then degrade those images? By using them for entertainment instead of worship often enough so that any image of goddess was immediately seen as a degredation in and of itself?

    “Look carefully,” they said, and they say, “is she an image of goddess or an image of a tool?” === prehistoric concern trolling at its finest. And we spend our time looking, and studying. We no longer question first if we are looking at the image of goddess or the male-made image of degradation, we assume they are all potentially an image of degradation and tools. We tear down our own goddess images now, because men may degrade them. “Look over there, she has bared her breasts! Find out WHY!” shouts the dick as god crowd -patriarchy, And we look! While they loot the temples. I won’t look, I don’t care why. It’s a trick.

  137. yttik

    The problem is Tupe, as a woman I can’t exist anywhere without being blamed for everything. In the patriarchy I am the designated receptacle for all that is wrong in the world. In the brief moments I can pretend to be in the feminist world, I have all this feminist privilege and political correctness I must be held accountable to.

    What I dream of is a world where those who actually hold the power are also responsible for the accountability. Having all the responsibility and yet none of the power really starts to stink after a while.

  138. Valerie M

    Tupe, it is not transphobic to not be talking about you right now.

    Also, you do realise that men are privileged over women right? And that most radical feminists don’t perform their gender to any real extent, and so get a double whammy of grief for it, or called insane?

    Of course, women who do perform their gender are given grief for that too. Hmm. Why again are you blaming us? Are you also out saying the same things to manly-men on their blogs?

  139. Jill

    “Believe me when I say, you do not want those farts rotting under the sheets.”

    But what are the farts doing under the sheets in the first place? The polite thing to do is to excuse yourself and fart somewhere else!

  140. Jill

    “In prehistory, woman was goddess, her sexuality, belly that held life, breasts that nourished it, was worshipped.”

    Worship sounds kinda good at first, but it turns out it’s just a symptom of misogyny. The lunatic-fringe agenda of Savage Death Island states that liberation from an existence measured in terms of men is the goal, rather than a worship-my-reproductive-functions-type setup.

  141. Jill

    “Tupe, it is not transphobic to not be talking about you right now.”

    Uh-oh.

    Generally, when a member of a marginalized group senses that she is being marginalized, an actual marginalization really has taken place, whether or not the marginalizing party is aware of it or intended it or cops to it. Just sayin.

  142. Valerie M

    Absolutely, Jill. I am all for believing women about their experiences. And I certainly agree that transpeople are a marginalised group. That is not cool.

    However, giving up the male privilege that one has been treated with all one’s life is not easy. Many transwomen have said they didn’t know they had male privilege until after they transitioned.

    Transpeople have every right to be treated with respect in life, just as born-women do. But showing up on a feminist blog to tell us we are doing feminism wrong and derailing the current conversation so we can focus on what Tupe wants to talk about just smacks a little to much of what men do on feminist blogs every single day.

    I’m sure Tupe sees that marginalisation every day, which sucks, but she certainly wasn’t being told she couldn’t participate in this conversation. Unless she’s saying we aren’t allowed to use the word ‘woman’ anymore.

    If we aren’t, male interest will have been extremely well served.

  143. Janet

    This reminds me a lot of the stuff directed at Jenny McCarthy by those who are offended that she isn’t wholly supportive of vaccination and that she says her son was damaged by vaccines. Otherwise ordinary blamer-types suddenly resort to screaming that she has once held roles prescribed by patriarchy, is sexy, is sleazy, has no medical degree, was once a party to some shonky movies and the like and coming out with language remarkably similar to what you’ve seen around this twitterstorm. Whether or not we agree with McCarthy, using the master’s tools to slur her doesn’t really advance your isshew. Dislike her politics? Say that. Dislike her self promotion? Say that. Don’t call someone a skanky ho and expect me to take you seriously as a blamer.

    Mix up your fungi however and I’ll just snicker a little and move on. ;-)

  144. rjeenah

    Tupe was not responding to the topic, which was horizontal hostility among women. Apparently, ze does not like feminists to use the word woman, and thinks somebody is talking about universal sisterhood. I don’t see this anywhere in the post or comments. Although ze obviously has a need to share hir story, it is derailing the thread and more than a little ironic that ze uses this thread to blame the feminists.

  145. Tigs

    Instead of saying what Tupe was or was not saying, or what ze says we can or cannot say, it might be more useful to ask.

    @Tupe
    You said:
    “Feminists who throw around the word “women” in endless repetition to the exclusion of all other genders oppressed by patriarchy.”
    Are you saying that it’s fundamentally exclusive to talk about “women’s” solidarity? What meaning/language do you see as more in line with an emancipatory mission?

  146. Tupe

    @ Valerie: I said I was a female-assigned genderqueer. I do not currently nor have I ever had male privilege.

    @ yttk: If you are a cis woman you have societal and institutional power over trans women and trans people in general, which means you are not, actually, to blame for everything. If you’re not making an active effort towards transfeminism and the blaming of transmisogyny, you’re probably going to slip up now and again and get called out.

    If you are not a cis woman, perhaps you should include trans men and non-binaried people when talking about internalized sexism among female and female-assigned people.

    @ Tigs and Jill: Thanks.

    For clarification:

    I am generally put off by feminist conversations that ONLY use the word “woman” to refer to people oppressed by patriarchy. I am also put off by feminist conversations in which people talk about how “women” cannot be [good/best/decent/real] friends with “men,” and “men” can’t empathize with “women,” etc. because it smacks of cis-privileged, cis-centric, binaried thinking.

    All I was asking for was more inclusive language. Using “female and/or female-assigned” instead of “women” is a really excellent way to do that. Perhaps I should have said that from the beginning. Nothing quite like being marginalized by other feminists to make a person get snarky and defensive.

  147. Squiggy

    Wide-open to where I’m wrong, but I always thought the word women was inclusive of transgender women. Realizing that that could be like men saying that the word man and men meant women too- but I never felt included.

  148. madeleine

    Please help me out, American English is not my first language. What does ‘female-assigned genderqueer’ mean and what are cis women?

  149. Valerie M

    @ Squiggy

    It’s not exactly the same thing though. Yes we have been fed this line that ‘man’ in place of ‘human’ embraces woman (which is ridiculous – if anything it’s quite obviously the other way around), and women have been excluded even though by definition men and women are equally human beings. Human beings are a biological fact and men and women are equivalent in this sense, whether or not men acknowledge it.

    Conversely, transwomen will not necessarily have the equivalent life experiences and/or perceptions of those experiences that are common to most born women. Some of their experiences will be the same of course, but being socialised as a woman from birth is simply not the same thing as, well, not being socialised as a woman from birth. None of this means transwomen are ‘lesser’ human beings.

    If a white man went through chemical/surgical/gene therapy to look like a black man, would he be suddenly marginalised? Indeed probably so. Would it mean he would suddenly know exactly what someone goes through being raised as a Black person? No, of course not, people usually have no trouble seeing this. No one would think it cool for him to go on anti-racist blogs and tell people they can’t use the word ‘Black’ anymore.

    It is ridiculous to say that women can’t discuss their experiences as women simply because a transwoman’s perception of things will sometimes be on the same page as a born woman’s and sometimes not.

    As far as I know transwomen are welcome to comment here, and the same commenting guidelines apply. If you have something to contribute (that’s contribute, NOT derail), go ahead. I’m sure there are things about being trans that could be said in this thread, that relate in some way to what we are discussing and that we would all benefit from by reading. But that is not what Tupe did.

    All I was asking for was more inclusive language. Using “female and/or female-assigned” instead of “women” is a really excellent way to do that.

    Oh I saw that coming. Well I am not going to stop using the word woman, sorry! And like I mentioned before, when you provide us with links to your comments on men’s blogs telling them they can’t use the word men anymore, I will regard your suggestion with a little less suspicion. Although I wouldn’t want to distract you from your noble battle against (mostly) gender-rejecting radical feminists’ mind-boggling power and influence in order to direct your energy towards those poor widdle helpless cis-gendered men.

  150. yttik

    Tupe, I think we’re all constrained in binary thinking. When I use the term “woman”, the patriarchy jumps to the conclusion that it must mean exclusion and dominance, much like the term “man” does. As if I were simply advocating exchanging one dominant gender for another. When I said women are hard to deal with, binary thinking implies that I meant that by default that men are wonderful. I want a utopia were there is no dominance at all, where praising one thing does not mean you are criticizing another. Somewhere where it’s not all about competition, so the world is not viewed as a hierarchy of privilege, and we don’t have an either/or attitude.

  151. Jezebella

    You know, Tupe, if I use the word “female,” I’m excluding people who are transgendered but female-identified. If I use “female-identified”, I’m excluding people with biologically female bodies who do not identify as “female.” Female is a biological sex category, and no less fluid and contentious and binary than “woman”. Since we are mostly talking about gender, and not biological sex, in this context, I, too, am going to use the word “woman” until and unless the patriarchy is overthrown and gender binaries disappear, at which point I will use “tacqueau”. Put more simply, “female” is not less problematic than “woman”. Besides, it’s an adjective, not a noun. I am a noun.

  152. swanage

    Valerie M: “And like I mentioned before, when you provide us with links to your comments on men’s blogs telling them they can’t use the word men anymore, I will regard your suggestion with a little less suspicion.”

    We’re now expected to provide a CV of our behaviour else where before we can post here and be taken seriously? What happened to the benefit of the doubt suggested earlier in this thread?

  153. Cathy

    Humanbein said what I wanted to say. Men are capable of empathizing, but most would rather empathize with a stinking pile of shit than with a woman.

  154. Valerie M

    Sorry Squiggy – I should have made it clear that only my first paragraph was directed to you and the ones following were just general moaning!

    @ swanage

    Is that what I said?

  155. Tupe

    @ Valerie:

    Maybe instead of giving little concessions to the realness of trans women while reminding everyone about their inherent “male privilege” you should focus on your own cis privilege and your respectively inherent transphobia as an outsider to that oppressed group.

    Like Jill said: as a cis person you are not the arbiter of when you’re being transphobic.

  156. Jezebella

    Tupe, isn’t there a difference between “transphobic” and “forgetting to include trans-folks in the discussion”? I think I see a difference.

  157. maevele

    Jezebella, you’re right, actually, not being inclusive is not exactly transphobic, it’s just cis-centric.

    And yes, hopefully, when you say ‘women’ you are including trans women, but you do not include people who were assigned female at birth, but do not ID as women or men i.e. some genderqueer people, who are just as oppressed by the P as ‘women.’

  158. Hollywood Marie

    Good morning, Blamers! I haven’t been here in a while (aside from the occasional glance), but I just popped in to see what was going on around these parts and noticed I got a shout out in this post (first paragraph). Thanks for still thinking of me! I still think of you, too.

  159. A Quibble

    The reason female worms have it better off than female humans may be because there, um, are no female worms. All worms are hermaphrodites. Perhaps therein lies a solution…?

  160. Hedgepig

    Hi Hollywood Marie! All is much as you left it at IBTP. Welcome home!

  161. Tupe

    Jezebella – there was a lot more wrong with Valerie’s comments than her active, repeated insistence on not including people who don’t identify as “women” under “people oppressed by patriarchy.” Not doing that off the bat is one thing; flat out refusing not to is another. As for accusing trans women of having inherent, un-erasable male privilege while not holding herself accountable for what would, by her own logic, be inherent, un-erasable cis privilege is so messed up I can barely comment on it. Radfem my left combat boot.

  162. Valerie M

    Oh Tupe what a pile of crap.

  163. jd

    People are not very clear thinkers. When it comes time to blame a patriarchy collaborator, it seems many people will follow the easier course of hating an attractive young woman who apparently doesn’t do enough chores.

  164. Comrade PhysioProf

    The reason female worms have it better off than female humans may be because there, um, are no female worms. All worms are hermaphrodites.

    Actually, there are many types of worms that are not hermaphroditic and have separate male and female sexes.

  165. octogalore

    Jill — thanks, and I agree that this dichotomy exists, part of the reason I can’t stay away!

    I agree that a world in which there’s no sex class and both men and women are equally free to abstain from or choose freely to display their sexuality is at this point (and maybe always will be) entirely imaginary.

    But to me that doesn’t mean we can know that the photo is an artifact of McC’s being part of the sex class. (Although if I had to bet I’d come down on the side of “probably.”)

    Because in the imaginary world above, the default is as likely to be *both* men nor women enjoying displaying sexuality as *neither* enjoying it. The key difference would be egalitarian view of sexuality distributed across men and women, not removed from both. Looking at animal behavior, it appears that showcasing oneself for those one finds attractive is natural behavior. If we knew for sure the default would be the no sexy twitpics, then sure, we could say that McC’s pose is necessarily an artifact of the patriarchy.

    The reason I’d say “probably” is that the photograph corresponds generally to a patriarchy-acceptable one and if it looks like a duck, etc. But the nuance is that such a photo could still exist in the post-patriarchy and be part of a free marketplace of such photos existing irrespective of gender. And therefore there’s a chance, if slight, that the motivation behind it isn’t to comply with sex class norms, but simply to have fun — a motivation that I think is a fairly patriarchy-free one.

  166. blue milk

    I adore this perfect post.

  167. alex

    “their oath of feminist solidarity”
    wat?
    I don’t understand this one: Of course the reaction to this photo was totally odious and implicitly and explicitly sexist, but since when is criticizing the misogynist reaction of the patriarchy mutually exclusive with criticizing McCain herself?

    And since when does criticizing the behaviour of a virulent anti-feminist fascist patriarchy-supporter, who happens to be a woman, break any “oath of feminist solidarity”?
    Do all feminists need to agree on everything?
    Are the actions of fascist-misogynists inherently beyond feminist critique when they happen to sport vaginas?
    Are any comments made not entirely in her favor here immediately classified as rape-apologia?

    What is at issue isn’t that her photo was unassailable from every perspective, it’s that a condemnation was issued from, and blown insanely out of proportion by, a patriarchal misogynist media, and that it was leveled on solely misogynist premises to misogynist ends.

    Taking it as given that the women-hater media machine is completely out of line, can’t we still criticize McCain up the wazooo for her anti-feminist beliefs, as well as openly consider possible anti-feminist and patriarchy-internalizing implications of her amplifying her cleavage, making a cutesy hetero-normative sexy face and posting it on the interbutts, even if that implication would be so banal as not to warrant discussion had the whole thing not been exploded by the media?

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