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Feb 28 2013

Hi, Mom!

Kathrine Switzer running the Boston Marathon in 1967

Hey, what about that 3-hour documentary on PBS the other night? I’m talking about “Makers: Women Who Make America,” a short history of the women’s movement in the US. Despite the title, during the station break a voiceover described the doc’s subject as “women who ‘helped’ shape America.” Women are helpers, yo, just in case this film causes you to forget that for a moment.

Here, Voiceover, let me “help” you kiss my entire ass.

However clunky the commercial breaks were, the film itself is a success, and I recommend it. Amanda Marcotte gives it a tidy going-over in Slate, so I don’t have to. As she points out, the filmmakers do a pretty good job during the first 2 hours chronicling the feminist movement of the 60s and 70s. There are interviews with the likes of Brownmiller, Steinem and of course the redoubtable Oprah, grainy footage of disobedience, biographies of influential feminists of the day, etc. The wrenching defeat of the ERA by reactionary antifeminist villain Phyllis Schlafly and her gang of unisex-bathroom-o-phobic right-wing ladies is particularly gripping. I agree with Amanda, however, that the film’s last hour gives short shrift to contemporary feminism, instead obsessing on the hoary old bezoar “having it all,” and completely ignoring what she calls “the explosion of online feminism.”

As part of that explosion, I naturally would have preferred a more critical analysis of the “choice feminism” phenomenon; that is, feminism as a lifestyle tool for personal gratification (I choose to get a boob job for me, therefore getting a boob job is feminist, etc), but putting that topic over is a pretty tough sell. And I can explain why in two words. Zooey Deschanel. From The Week:

Zooey Deschanel isn’t ashamed to be “adorkable,’’ said Logan Hill in Glamour. The quirky star of TV’s New Girl has become a controversial figure for many feminists, who’ve attacked everything from her bangs and childish dress sense—she favors polka dot dresses and tiaras—to her habit of tweeting about puppies, kittens, and cupcakes. This cutesy behavior, they argue, infantilizes women. “I’m just being myself,” says Deschanel, 33. “There is not an ounce of me that believes any of that crap they say. We can’t be feminine and be feminists and be successful? I want to be a f—ing feminist and wear a f—ing Peter Pan collar. So what?”

Deschanel apparently believes that “choosing” to align her public persona precisely according to misogynist male fantasy is a “choice” and a feminist act. But I digress.

“Makers,” in sum, is an energizing romp down memory lane what got me thinking about maybe getting back into the Internet feminism game. Two things specifically triggered my blogging response.

One was the heartbreaking scene wherein a woman who, while isolated by her abusive husband in the 70′s, secreted away copies of Ms. magazine and devoured them on the sly when the abuser wasn’t looking. Ms. was her lifeline, the only way she could know she wasn’t alone. Dang. My antiquated 2nd-wavism notwithstanding, throwing my voice back into the explosion might not help anyone feel a little less alone, but then again, it might. I used to get emails all the time from women who say IBTP helped them. And I suppose there’s always room for a little more feminist awareness, as I will reveal via personal anecdote in a moment.

But first, I can’t go another second without blaming out a really hide-chapping thing.

Hottt! Pinkkk!

Marcotte’s aforementioned piece on “Makers” is ghettoized on the Slate site in a section called “XXfactor: What Women Really Think.” The “XX” is in hot pink, of course, to distinguish this content as NSFD (not safe for dudes), as well as to remind readers that “XX” is only one X away from XXX, which as modern dudes and the funfeminists who love them know, succinctly describes the hot-pink essence of women. But come on. “What women really think”? Really? So all the other shit women write — the stuff that isn’t under the XX heading — is — what? What men think? Is “What women really think” really still considered so weird and niche-y that it cannot be quietly assimilated with the regular content?

Pretty much. Regular content is what dudes think. Dudethink is what drives all media that are not specifically feminist.

The vagina sections maintained by mainstream publications are insulting. It’s insulting that human rights issues pertaining to women’s oppression are not considered human rights issues at all, but instead are devalued as women’s issues. Millions of people can and do ignore women’s issues and live their entire lives not giving them a second thought. I suspect this because (and this is the second thing that motivates me to start blogging again) –

Anecdote Begins Here

Elephant ear– my 78-year-old mother called me during the “Makers” broadcast and said, “Are you watching this? I had no idea any of this was going on.”

There was a rustling in the air as a herd of pigs flew by. My mother, a lifelong patriarchy-denier who has lived her whole life not giving women’s issues a second thought, was actually watching a film about the women’s movement. And, incredibly, she was eating it up with a spoon. It was, she said, a real eye-opener for her.

“I had no idea this was going on,” she kept saying. “I’ve had my head in the sand!”

By “this” she meant that she’d had no inkling about the extent of sexism, no awareness of the 2nd-wavers’ extraordinary feats of activism. My mother lived the insular life of a businessman’s wife. She raised me and Tidy, cooked, schlepped, laundered, chauffered, and kept the homefires burning. My father would enthrone himself at the head of the dinner table and expect to be waited on. “Is there any more bread?” he’d say, and my mother would spring out of her chair. This apparently felt completely reasonable to her.

“Pop, why don’t you get your own bread already?” I’d begun to snipe feministically in my teens. I was pretty self-involved back then, but even I could tell that my father’s sense of dudely entitlement was demeaning to my mother. I sorely wanted them both to realize this — for chrissake, wasn’t it obvious? — and to knock it the fuck off. However, my revolutionary attitude was routinely ignored by my mother and consistently mocked by my father. Neither my mother, whose entire identity was invested in feminine subservience and the patriarchal vision of the nuclear family, nor my father, who was the oblivious beneficiary of her servility, were interested in feminist revolt. And so it stayed that way for the next 40 years. Until two days ago, when my mother watched that film.

It was with mixed emotions that I listened to her wax incredulous about the women’s marches and the Miss America sheep and the pervasiveness of sexual harassment, and to hear her laugh about Pat Schroeder claiming to have made more meals at home than Phyllis Schlafly ever did, and to watch her wrap her mind around the completely new-to-her concept that a woman’s uterus is the property of the state. On one hand, I was absolutely thrilled that she was finally coming around to the idea that maybe patriarchy does exist. On the other hand, I was kind of pissed that, for my entire life, whenever I’d tried to mention any of this, she’d dismissed my crazy leftist gibberish with the “here we go again” eye-roll.

“Maybe I should start reading your blog,” she joked the other night.

Just in case she does, I guess there oughtta be something for her to read. So here ya go, Mom. Enjoy!

On a final note, the PBS airing of “Makers” was sponsored by a subsidiary of Unilever, a global cosmetics conglomerate. Plus ça change. Le sigh.

53 comments

1 ping

  1. JRoth

    Miss America sheep? Is there some anecdote that I should know, or is this just calling beauty pageant contestants dumb animals?

    Anyway, always happy to see the Patriarchy blamed, and welcome to yer mom. Never too late to get blaming.

  2. pandechion

    I’m trying not to cry at my desk.

  3. Twisty

    A bunch of feminist protesters famously crowned a live sheep at a Miss America pageant in the late 60′s. I like think the commentary was more “this is a meat market” than “constestants are dumb.” But it was a long time ago.

  4. Victoria Rattlehead

    Ah, “adorkability” — or, as I like to call it, compliance with misogynist youth fetishism. Head-tilting, pastel-wearing, “whimsical,” confidence-free (or at least, confidence-very-well-hidden), glitter-dipped pink-lipped bullshit. Tee hee, I said a naughty word! *covers mouth*

    I sincerely hope that Zooey Deschanel is ACTUALLY part of the .01% of people who truly enjoy acting like 7-year old Daddy’s girls in car commercials. (That’s not to say I believe that even .01% of grown people enjoy it — I’m just forcing myself to believe it, because if I stop to consider that they’re doing it as part of a sub-conscious [or regular conscious] effort to gain patriarchal approval, I will lose my mind.)

  5. Kali

    Yay! Twisty is back! Twisty is back!

    I saw the entire three hours. I wasn’t expecting much (given past experience of shows focusing on women) but it was pretty good. The current generation of patriarchy-deniers and post-feminists should watch it. One thing I didn’t like (besides the lack of critical analysis of choice feminism) was how Andrea Dworkin and Catherine Mackinnon were completely ignored. They could have mentioned, at the very least, Mackinnon when they were discussing sexual harassment.

  6. cootie

    IBTP back to its regular blaming schedule is some of the best news I’ve received in 2013. If that’s why pandechion is holding back tears, I’ll join in for a solid sob of joy.

    And, “hoary old bezoar” is really satisfying to say out loud.

  7. Twisty

    “One thing I didn’t like (besides the lack of critical analysis of choice feminism) was how Andrea Dworkin and Catherine Mackinnon were completely ignored. They could have mentioned, at the very least, Mackinnon when they were discussing sexual harassment.”

    Yes! Totally. Sadly, Dworkin is the most misunderstood of the radfems. I guess she was too hot for the doc.

  8. Antoinette Niebieszczanski

    For all that your family was upper-upper middle class and mine was aspiring working class, your parents’ attitudes toward your feminist rumblings were much the same as mine, with the ignoring and the mocking. (“You got rocks in your head, Antoinette,” my father would growl at me when I would pipe up.) Plus ca change, indeed.

  9. TotallyDorkin

    This is excellent news.

  10. minervaK

    You had me at “hoary old bezoar.”

  11. Mooska

    OK, this is probably tedious bollocks, but here’s why IBTP is unique and irreplaceable among feminist blogs, for me.

    There’s a bit in one of the Narnia books (Voyage of the Dawn Treader) where Eustace, the boyish protagonist in a journey of redemption which is necessary because he’s been completely ruined as a person by having unconventional, possibly progressive parents (dear old CS Lewis, eh? But bear with me, my point is in sight) wakes up to find he’s taken the form of a dragon. He is momentarily reassured to find the dragon-skin comes off when he picks at it, but then realises there’s more underneath. Finally, Jesus-allegory Aslan turns up and tells him to stop pissing about, sticks a claw about three feet into him and pulls off aaalll the dragon-skin, leaving a shivering, raw, reborn Eustace. (This whole being-a-metaphor-for-Christianity thing is much clearer as an adult, isn’t it?)

    That’s how I feel about IBTP. We’re so steeped in the patriarchy, I bought into all the bullshit so much, that my feminism pre-IBTP was just picking away at the upper layers of it. Twisty’s clarity, her originality, and her utter, shocking, frightening, , revolutionary, hilarious *contempt* for all the sacred cows of Dude Nation just blew me away. The stuff about not wanting dudes to comment took me a while to get past, but holy shit, I get it now. Now, it’s nice to have dudes on board, but I don’t fucking care if they like it or not. And I don’t even want to give them cookies for doing the basics. I could go on and on about this, but I don’t want to get banned.

    Shorter: Thanks Twisty!

  12. KMTBERRY

    I wish there were a way to “LIKE!” Mooska’s pithy and trenchant comment directly above! Well said!

    My own MAKERS anecdote: my husband listens to me rant about the P etc all the time, and has been known to make the comment, “You are much grumpier when you’ve been reading the Feminist Blogs.” Many is the time I have tried to express what this all looks like (“Life in Amerikkka”) through the Feminazi Lens.

    He sees the MAKERS the other night, gets completely transfixed, and keeps running in to the kitchen (where I am making dinner) to say “I CAN’T BELIEVE THIS SHIT!! DID YOU KNOW WOMEN WERE OPPRESSED IN X Y AND Z WAYS?!?!?!”

    So, on the ONE hand, yeah, I am glad that he is beginning to see what the Feminists have been going on about….all this time….YEAH….IT WAS INCREDIBLY UNFAIR AND STILL IS!!!

    But you had to see in on the TV?

  13. JK

    For what it’s worth, this blog makes me feel like I’m not alone.

  14. Comradde PhysioProffe

    Pat Schroeder was the speaker at my college graduation. I was so fucken baked, I can’t exactly remember what she said, but she dickepunched Raygun, and everyone cheered.

    Hi, Twisty’s Mom!

  15. BK

    So overjoyed, made my crappy day a lot less crappy!

  16. ptittle

    I didn’t see it, but yay. And yet, and yet, that something on tv about this is so rare as to be so remarkable….

    There should be one a week MINIMUM…a biopic about [fill in your own list of 50 women], something about Sanger and that issue, something about what’s-her-name (see?!) and the personhood thing, etc etc etc etc etc etc etc etc (blew me away that post on Feminist Philosophers that the person who discovered what the sun was made of was a WOMAN. did any of us know that?)

  17. quixote

    “But you had to see it on the TV?”

    Honestly. It’s hard to know whether to laugh or cry.

    Twisty doing more writing however, whether as a crone or an aunt, that’s a pure Wheeeeeee!

  18. feminist lurker

    YOUR BACK!

    [does a dorky little dance around apartment]

    WOOT WOOT

  19. Hermionemone

    Just when hope seems lost, up it springs again (Persephone returns from the Underworld!)

  20. polarcontrol

    Twisty is back! This is the best news.

    One of the many great things about IBTP is the ban on male-identified perspectives. It’s just so refreshing.

  21. Gertrude Strine

    The makers of ‘Makers’ are fine citizens, making the flick available for downloading at such good quality bitrate, thanks for the link Twisty.
    I just finished watching the first part with lunch.

    I like think the commentary was more “this is a meat market” than “contestants are dumb.” But it was a long time ago.

    It was a long time ago indeed, and sadly no clear meat market allusion shows up in the reference to it in ‘Makers’~ at around 33 minutes, part 1.
    The point made appears to be rather about the intellectual capacities, or possibly the herding behaviour, of the contestants. Robin Morgan, she of the ‘Sisterhood’ anthologies, and one of the Miss America demo organisers, explains that the sheep (barely a yearling lamb in fact) was crowned

    because Miss America and the contestants were sheep. I disagreed with this. First of all it was unfair to the sheep

    Consciousness raising works in both directions I suppose, because the suggestion of a smirk from Morgan made it hard for me to interpret that as an observation of the treatment of the individual animal on the day, rather than as an observation that sheep are better people than beauty pageant contestants.

    I’d be interested to know how others interpreted it.
    Me, I bear a deep prejudice towards sheep, who are mostly contrarian, hairy and quite smart. This makes them a nightmare to render any kind of veterinary help to without depriving them of their dignity for the duration. I always end up feeling as though I’ve mugged them, even if I’ve saved them pain and disease.

  22. Mildred

    Twisty, you absolutely keep me sane. If I lived in a world where your brand of feminism didn’t exist… my life would be very dim, scary and alone.

  23. Kelly

    Ah Twisty I love you. Best news in oinks to hear some proper blaming. I love Dreadful Acres. It is curing me of my bucolic fantasies. And now the return of IBTP! Such riches.

  24. Adoreandu

    Yay for your mom’s sudden interest in your blog driving you to post! I’ve been sorely missing your rants, it’s great to think you might be blogging a little more often on the off chance your mom could read.

    Oh, and that she’s opened her eyes to feminism. That’s great too.

  25. Shelby

    She’s home!

  26. Twisty

    “Yay for your mom’s sudden interest in your blog driving you to post!”

    Well, I wouldn’t go so far as to call it an “interest,” whether sudden or otherwise. At the moment she has other political fish to fry. Apparently (last I heard) she’s taking the sequester personally and has gone into a deep, Fox News-generated funk.

  27. speedbudget

    It’s like some kind of homecoming or something up in here.

    Hi, Twisty’s mom!

  28. cabochon

    I am so happy this site is officially back. I wish you had the equivalent of the bat-sign to flash so ALL the regular commenters would know immediately. Yes; every feminist site that helps us see through the veil helps!

  29. josquin

    Twisty: It’s so good to be able to read your essays again.
    Thank you for the comment about Adam Lanza’s mother. It was very cruel not to include her name in the list of victims. The mom-shaming-and-blaming in that omission is disgusting.
    But, on a happier mom-note:
    Hi, Twisty’s mom! You have a really cool daughter.

  30. Ann

    Well, I think we’ve answered that whole “nature vs. nurture” argument right here. It’s like gays must raise gay kids (not) and your mom raised you.

  31. Hippolyta

    It’s difficult to keep a blog consistent, timely, and insightful. That you did so for so long and are willing to do so again is truly joyful. Thank you.

  32. Adoreandu

    “Apparently (last I heard) she’s taking the sequester personally and has gone into a deep, Fox News-generated funk.”

    Oh no! They’ll undo all your mom’s progress!

  33. Bushfire

    While we’re on the subject of Twisty’s importance to the feminist movement of today, may I share an anecdote? The other day I was really upset by a mansplainer, and I cheered myself up by reading my little book of favourite Twisty quotes. Which is available in .pdf format, if anyone else wants it for their bedside table. It worked! I am still hoping to see Twisty’s writing published in a book. I would buy a copy for all my friends.

  34. Laurie

    So damn glad to see you back in the saddle, Twisty — or out of it, I guess. As another reluctant rustician, I love the countrified bellyaching too, but this place feels like home.

    Hi, Twisty’s mom! Your kid’s keeping a lot of us sane — and laughing.

    And Bushfire, I’d love to get the pdf. Is there a link?

  35. stacey

    I would looooove to print out the entirety of this blog, Twisterella, but I fear the massive hit on your service provider if everyone chose to do the same. Warn him that you’re expecting a run on your servers for all of March, and he can donate the cost of extra traffic to the service of womankind.

    Hello Twistymom! You have very fine daughters; young Jill has been of particular comfort to me. You must be very proud.

    Twisty, I’ll be reading whatever you write, be it feminist or farm, forever.

  36. stacey

    Oh, I forgot to mention that elephant ears to Texas is like beaver tails to Canada.

  37. piratequeen

    Marcotte being relegated to the NSFD area of Slate unfortunately provides laser targeting for MRAs.

  38. Hattie

    Excellent blaming! And I hope your mother gets caught up. That denial was a survival strategy that a lot of women used once upon a time.

  39. incognotter

    So happy to see you back to Blaming. I feared you had hung it up for good.

  40. Bushfire

    Laurie: there’s no link. Just email me at veggie _ master at hotmail.

  41. Twisty

    Hey Bushfire, I wouldn’t mind one of those PDFs myself.

  42. aetherbee

    Blametastic news! Me three for the pdf.

  43. Bushfire

    I sent it to your gmail address and it doesn’t seem to have bounced. Usually I get a message “Twisty will not be checking her email from now until hell freezes over” so I was happy to see it sent! I didn’t bother doing really good design on this one, but I’d be happy to do another with better design if you like!

  44. Tehomet

    Dreadful Acres is fab, but: Huzzah!

  45. ChariD

    SO happy you’re back, Twisty!

  46. [no anonymous posts, please]

    [Note: This comment was originally submitted by someone posting under the name "anonymous." I ask commenters to select a unique blaming handle -- a "blandle" if you will -- and use it consistently while on this blog. Thanks -- Twisty]

    Hattie–”That denial was a survival strategy that a lot of women used once upon a time.”

    Sad to say the survival strategy is still very much in use only it’s now turned, as Twisty and Rebecca Whisnant (ask me for her superb description of the evolution of feminism as a critique of “masculine systems” into “Choice feminism) point out, into personal anecdotes about “my rape” and other experiences of aggressive sexism told in girlish voices, with the head tilted to one side, trailing off into apologetic giggles, and without blaming the agent of the harm or discussing sexist violence’s payoff to men.

    The above discription comes from hearing a C-span radio replay of a session at George Washington U. with well-intended Ashley Judd discussing violence against women with women students. By default, it was a feel-good-for sharing experience for all that left sexist behavior by men still seeming inevitable. One woman did, however, invoke the names of Andrea Dworkin and Catharine MacKinnon. The session is linked at: http://www.c-span.org/Events/Actress-Ashley-Judd-Speaks-on-Reproductive-Rights/10737438490/

    The Professor in charge suggested looking into the Polaris Project in Washington DC, a hip young organization that doubtless provides useful services to victims of “forced trafficking” but gets big-time validation and $$$ because it never mentions the bad word “prostitution,” thus refraining from threatening a beloved institution. Andrea Dworkin once remarked that when she spoke on pornography, all she could see in the eyes of the men in the audience was the burning question “But what do I get to keep?”

  47. Noshoes

    Dreadful Acres I love, but we needs us some IBTP. Welcome back!

  48. Melissa

    Yay! So happy you are back.

  49. pregnant pause

    I have been reading and rereading ibtp for the last year, I love your writing, your voice, your wicked verbal gymnastics. Many people copy your style but no one comes close to the real thing. Book deal, please. Thanks for coming back.

  50. slipperyslope

    Thanks for blaming again Twisty. I missed you!!! Your insight are a necessity, especially these days. I know it’s off-topic, but how are you doing with all of this oil fracking business in Texas? The duds (dudes) that run my state of Maryland are threatening to allow that crap here and poison everyone’s water to make an almighty dudely buck.

  51. verislava

    Yaaaay, Twisty is back. Please please stay, you do make me feel less alone.

  52. Keri

    Oh praise the sweet baby jeebus you are back! I’m getting all caught up on my readings. You have been sorely missed while politicians around the US and A have been trying to drag us in to the Handmaid’s tale a little more each day.

    By the way, regarding congress and their hold on uterusus (or unteri as it were), I’m getting a hysterectomy next month and I want to send mine in to them with a bow on it since they think it’s theirs anyway. Asshats.

  53. Anne

    HOORAY!!!

  1. Crone tries on old blaming hat » Dreadful Acres

    [...] if you’re a disenfranchised Blamer, you might be interested to know that I’ve got a new post up at IBTP. It’s sort of, but not really, about “Makers,” that documentary on the [...]

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