Tagged: feminism

Daniel Farrell is here to approve your feminism: Episode 2: The Phantom Misandry

So, after all the kerfuffle over yesterday’s post, Daniel Farrell came back to his keyboard to try to retcon his fail a little bit more.  At this point, I have to ask if this whole thing is a marvellous piece of performance art from the Auckland Uni Law Revue performers.  It would make sense for Auckland students to make their sockpuppet a Waikato dude.

I mean, it’s really hard to believe that right here in our own backyard is a dude who takes a faceful of criticism for whinging about “modern feminism” and thinks he’ll calm the storm by saying “I am not against feminism as it should be”.  He thinks it’s going to help, somehow, to say anyone who criticised him is “childish” and “irrational” and then, after making a post in which he specifically attacked a woman for having sex he didn’t approve of, whinge about personal attacks.  

Even his “apology” is troll-perfect:

I would also like to apologise to those who were offended by my comments as they were portrayed.

Daniel Farrell, basically, is a walking illustration of male privilege.  He’s never learned not to shoot his mouth off on a topic he clearly knows nothing about – because his opinions are valid and people have to hear them!  He firmly believes that people must spend more than 10 seconds on his page before commenting on his posts, because HE deserves their attention.  Of course he gets to cast aspersions on other people’s sex lives, especially women who do bad things – but don’t you dare fucking call him a bad name, that’s getting personal!  And childish!

And why shouldn’t he express his opinions about feminism, what about his freedom of speech?

This is not a person who’s ever had the weight of society telling him he’s a lesser creature who shouldn’t cause a fuss.  That’s why he can’t comprehend feminism, or feminist criticism, as anything other than an attack on his very penis.

All I can say is take it away, good folks of Twitter.

Don’t worry, ladies: Daniel Farrell is here to approve your feminism

It all started while I was at work, and had to limit myself to eye-rolling:  Daniel Farrell, one of the Directors of the Waikato Students Union, decided to let us all know that he disagrees with “modern feminism”.

It might pay to clarify at this early stage that Daniel’s definition of “modern feminism” is, um, unique.

But you can’t beat this for logical thinking:

1.  A music video is released which a lot of people find rape-y and gross. (full disclosure:  I have chosen not to watch said video.)

2.  Law students from Auckland University create a gender-flipped version of said video to highlight its misogyny and rapeyness.

3.  Flipped version is taken down from YouTube, original is left up.

4.  People complain about this.

ERGO:  feminists are hypocrites because they complain about objectifying women but are totally okay with objectifying men.

You cannot fucking argue with the man’s logic.  You cannot.  Because it doesn’t exist.

I don’t believe in siccing people’s employers or future employers on to them because of things they’ve posted online.  But you’ve got to ask if Waikato University is going to be happy with this dude’s critical thinking abilities being blamed ascribed to their teaching.

~

… and that’s all I originally wanted to say, when I’d first seen Daniel’s blog post, because, well.  The rest of it was just laughable, wasn’t it?  I mean, we’re talking about someone presuming to pass judgement on feminism who literally sums up the founding ideas of feminism as “initially a movement to stop the “hey, wench, cook me some eggs” of the day. That’s noble enough.” NOBLE ENOUGH.  I’m fucking dying here.  I cannot breathe.

But then, by the time I sat down to write this response, Daniel had – thanks to a heaping of smackdown from Twitter – posted a clarification.  See, he’d written the post in a rush, he’d expressed himself poorly, he just wanted to make it clear that:

There are a lot of people who call themselves feminists who are doing the right thing. They are good people who are simply trying to ensure gender equality. I hope that this is the majority of “feminists”, and I am not referring to them in any way and to any members of that group that thought I was referring to them, I apologise, as that was not my intention. I am referring to one specific type of “feminist” – the militant feminist who goes around saying all males are misogynists simply because they have a penis rather than a vagina. The feminist who goes around saying people who don’t agree with them 100% support things like rape. They are harming the good work that people under the feminist movement do. So when reading this, don’t read it with the pretense that I’m trying to say women are evil or anything silly like that.

Oh, yay!  Despite earlier statements, Daniel doesn’t hate good feminists, he just hates bad feminists, the kind who “say all males are misogynists simply because they have a penis”.  Sadly, he was unable to link to evidence of the existence of any such feminists, and that makes me sad, because I enjoy seeing mythical creatures.  But he’s totally down with feminists “who are doing the right thing”, and shit, ladies, if Daniel Farrell thinks we’re doing the right thing we must be on to something.

The specific little bit about “the feminist who goes around saying people who don’t agree with them 100% support things like rape”?  I suspect that’s connected to this tweet, where no, Daniel, nobody said “disagreeing with me means you support rape”.  But someone did ask why it was more important for you to completely misrepresent anti-rape-culture activism than to actually confront rape culture.

To give Daniel full credit, though, anyone who questions his mighty opinion is silly.  Or irrational.  Or childish.  Anyway, where are his cookies?  He totally didn’t-actually-delete the section where he has a go at sex-shaming feminists who have sex with people (who just coincidentally are not him) in parks.  What a sensitive fucking hero.

~

Other reactions: Dovil and Gin Tears and Creme Brulee

Final pedantic notes:  Daniel has no idea how sex and gender work; and making a throwaway Once Were Warriors reference (LOL BUT IT’S HISTORICAL BECAUSE HE SAID WENCHES, LOL) basically proves any point anyone ever wants to make about his lack of basic empathy.

ETA:  Of course, since drafting THIS post and scheduling it, things got better.  Stay tuned!  Find episode 2 here!

[Repost] Why the Left still needs feminism

I am now a fully-fledged author over at The Standard, largely thanks to my own talents ego.  I’ll be reposting my TS posts here at a slight delay, but don’t worry, you’ll still be getting a lot of the ranty stuff I don’t feel like challenging some of the lovely commenters over there with …

I originally wrote about this way back in February 2011, and though the political landscape has changed since then, the point still needs to be made:  the Left, specifically Labour, cannot focus on a narrow pure economic set of arguments and expect to get majority support.

It’s the 21st century, people.  The “identities” which have been traditionally used to demean, oppress, and sometimes enslave or kill people are real, because those people – women, people of colour, people with disabilities, the whole wide world of QUILTBAG – have been given no choice but to say “Yep, that’s what I am, now you have to deal with me.”

Old white dudes like John Ansell complain about how we should live in a “colour-blind” society, but that’s because for once, for the smallest period of time, and in a time when old white dudesstill pretty much rule the roost, people whose colour and origins have been used to keep them down aren’t staying down any more.

They – and many other historically shat-on groups – are demanding that we acknowledge the reality:  some people have faced systematic, institutional oppression which has at the very least disadvantaged them and stopped them achieving their potential the way they could’ve if they’d been born … well, as old white dudes.

This has economic factors to it, sure – strangely enough, capitalist societies are really, really good at using economic pressure against people – but it’s not a pure old-school Labour ideal of The Workers vs. The Owners.

For Labour to survive, it has to embrace fairness.  It’s certainly claiming to, at the moment, but it’s a narrow, nasty kind of fairness, a very John Ansell definition of fairness:  fairness defined by old white dudes who don’t realise – who choose not to see – that comparatively they have it pretty damn good in life.

It’s the kind of fairness that gets twisted very easily into ignoring all that uncomfortable historic systematic oppression.  Just like this:  Why should a person who can paint his roof on a specific day get a handout from the government, just because our entire economy is based on people working flat-tack 40 hours a week if you’re lucky, just because employers aren’t willing to put up with the unpredictability and extra effort needed to hire someone with a chronic illness?

If you agree with this for no other reason, please consider this:  as soon as you start using the principle of “fairness” to mean fairness for one group of people and not another, you’re being a dick and opening yourself up to attack from the Right – a group who have been far more successful at this game throughout history.

The Left needs to include feminism – and all the other movements for people’s basic human rights – because it should be about “fairness”.  It should be about the many and varied ways in which capitalism controls us and screws us, not just our meal breaks.

Labour, specifically, needs a vision.  A vision of all people being treated with dignity, all people’s situations being considered in compassionate and non-judgey ways, all people being supported and looked after by our society as a whole.  A vision of a society whose members understand that we are all pulling together and we are all more successful when we help each other, even if sometimes this means that on the surface one person is “getting more” than another.  To each according to their need, innit?

Remember, visions are like Excalibur.  If you use them right, they pretty much make you the king.

Originally posted at The Standard

What did you expect, wearing trackpants like that?

LudditeJourno has fought the good fight once more against the forces of misogyny:

Two women fought off separate attacks from an unidentified man in central Whanganui.  Police suspect the attacks were related, as both involved women being targeted from behind, while they were out running.

“It’s clear we have a predator trying to target female joggers,” said Detective Inspector Plod.  “We’d like to praise the strength and ingenuity of the two women who successfully stopped potential sexual attacks.”

If only it were so.  Our police force’s actual advice is:

“Police are warning the public, females in particular, to take particular care when walking or jogging in the broader CBD area, and encourage they do not head out alone for such activities.

“This approach should continue until positive results are achieved in locating the offender or offenders for these attacks.”

Because, you know, there’s only one or two sexual predators targeting women in the whole of Whanganui.  And once the police catch them, sexual assault will be a thing of the past!  Hurrah!

Shit like this is why, despite a lot of the issues around its ignoring of intersectionality and the different ways sexuality-policing affects different classes of women,* I’ll be going to Wellington SlutWalk 2.0.  It’s not just about the wider societal bullshit.  It’s about the fact that in 2012 we still have a police culture which tells women to stay in the kitchen if they know what’s good for them.

~

*But, I’m going to say again right from the outset, I have zero time for the critiques which are basically “lol how can u reclaim the word slut when u r dressed like sluts, slut”, which (unsurprisingly?) is the main type of criticism noted on the Wikipedia page for SlutWalk – which has one para on the issues raised by some women of colour but conflates it with the usual simplistic “but you can never reclaim bad words!!!!!” critique.

Fighting the patriarchy in lipstick – addendum

One thing I wanted to clarify from my two previous posts, but which is kind of a whole other ramble in of itself, and which I felt sure would come up in comments sooner or later.

When I say we need to stop hating on individual women for their choices, which are made in a shitty context of patriarchy and are part of our survival …

Well, I don’t mean we need to lay off on criticising the Bettina Arndts of this world.  Or the Paula Bennetts.  Or the Naomi Fucking Wolfs.

There are the choices a person makes within a wider issue – beauty standards, abortion, marriage – which are largely passive.  Yes, you can argue that the bulk of hetero couples in NZ choosing marriage over civil union makes a difference because it reinforces marriage, or when it’s still routine for a woman to change her name after marriage, all the individual women’s choices added together mean it continues to be perceived as the normal thing to do.

Then there’s saying, as an authoritative voice, in mainstream media, that women shouldn’t feel okay saying no to sex when they don’t want it.  There’s turning your personal rags-to-Cabinet story into a weapon against other solo mothers.  There’s using previously-established feminist cred to say Julian Assange is a nice guy, really.

These things aren’t part of the same choice framework we’re all saddled with.  A pedantic person could say “well, isn’t choosing to gain financial security through high-profile misogyny part of surviving in patriarchy” and yes, absolutely, but … come on.  There’s a conscious choice being made to propagate kyriarchal bullshit in a way specifically designed to reach thousands/millions of people.  It’s not mascara and miniskirts.

So take that strawman out to dinner and go fuck yourself with him.

Fighting the patriarchy in lipstick vol. 2

Part 1 of this post was published yesterday.  Check it out, ’cause it’ll probably make this post make more sense.

3.  A life lived in stress is a life half-lived

Let’s assume, for this section, that one completely rejects the notion of “reclaiming” or “subverting” patriarchal norms, that all sexiness is collaboration and all nail polish is Giving Aid And Comfort To The Enemy.

It is pretty fucking difficult spending all one’s time enraged at the strictures and oppressiveness of kyriarchy.  It is pretty fucking stressful, at least for me and I have no doubt for others as well, to be constantly analysing my every thought and preference and decision against the context of social narratives.

Do I like these shoes just because patriarchy says I have to look pretty for men?  Do I enjoy Game of Thrones just because I’m presented with no other options in terms of racist, sexist medieval fantasy tropes?  (I’m going to come back to this shortly …)   And let’s not even start on my sexual preferences.

I like a lot of things that are problematic.  I dress in a way which is very patriarchy-approved, albeit in a fat body so I can’t really win there (I’m either wrong for daring to look conventionally-sexy while fat, or I’m wrong if I stop trying to l0ok conventionally sexy despite being fat).  I enjoy medieval fantasy, the Saw films, corsetry, etc etc.  I know these things are problematic, and I know that a lot of the reason I like these things is due to being raised in a white, Western, patriarchal society.

(There’s a hell of a lot of other contributing factors, but let’s not let the complexity of human existence get in the way of judging people now.)

But, and here’s where y’all can start selectively clipping quotes to back up your stereotypes of a “choice feminist”, I still like those things.

I still like those things despite being aware they’re problematic, despite knowing that a lot of my choice is not fully of my own free will.  Because none of us are making choices of our own free will.

Put it this way:  if you’re a radical feminist who hates society’s treatment of women as a sex class and never wears high heels?  In a world where patriarchy completely desexualised women and demanded they be entirely unnoticeable, $5 says you’d be breaking out the mascara and fishnets.

Mascara is not, in of itself, patriarchal.  Our ingrained responses to it are.

Here’s my main point:  I choose to not fight against every single patriarchy-approved preference in my head.  I choose to prioritise other things to spend my mental energy on.

I understand how my conforming choices can benefit me, can make my life easier, can allow me to pass under the radar in some aspects of my life.

I acknowledge that it’s utterly shitty that our society demands such choices of us and rewards us for going along.

But my mental energy is my own to spend.  My stress is my own to decrease or increase.  And if I choose a type of activism which isn’t about standing as a personal refutation of patriarchy, if I choose to balance up the number of areas where I will challenge my programming and decide that I can’t live a full and happy life worrying about every last little thing I do … that’s how I will survive.  That’s how I will make the best fight I can of this, and achieve a hell of a lot more than if I worry myself into a death-spiral of self-criticism.

And you can fuck right off judging me for that.  You can fuck right off dictating that I put stress and pressure on myself to conform to Real Feminist Approved non-conformity.  It’s simultaneously tragic and fucking hilarious.

4.  Guess what, conforming doesn’t make life easier

Because, and this might be a slightly off-the-wall idea, we live in a patriarchy.  So as women, we’re already the lesser, the other, the object.  (Extend to kyriarchy and other oppressed identities as necessary.)

So even if we pucker up and make up and dress up, we’ll still be at the bottom.  Even if we’re given a modicum of influence/status (see every painfully poorly written article of the past year entitled something like Why I’m A Smart Enough Girl To Reject Silly Feminism And Love Men), there’s still no getting around the fact that we only hold influence/status by the grace of The Man.  And that can be taken away with the merest flick of a Leaked Nude Photos magic wand.

Conforming does grease the rails.  And for those of us who can conform (remember, the majority of women are never going to be equally considered sexy or attractive or permitted a little autonomy as the most privileged, white/cis/hetero class) things get a lot less stressful.  Bully for us.  It’s still patriarchy, it still dumps on all of us (though, yes, less so on some than others.)

The point

Sure, choices aren’t feminist just because a woman chooses them.  The act of choosing isn’t inherently feminist and isn’t distinct and exclusive of kyriarchal programming.

But.  Hate the game, not the player.  Kyriarchy/patriarchy puts us in these positions and gives us these non-choices and labels all our actions in line with its own priorities.  And it’s pretty much just massively uncool to take a superior attitude and judge individual women who for all you know are navigating life as best they can in the face of massive pressures to conform.

Even when – no, especially when these “choices” aren’t just about lipstick and heels, when we’re talking about sex-selective abortion or surname-changing or participating in sex work, how fucking cruel do you have to be to tell a person, “you have to suck it up and take whatever violence or deprivation is going to be thrown at you, it’s your job to represent our entire struggle against [insert problem here] because choosing anything else is UnFeminist”?

Fight sexism.  Fight discrimination.  Fight the norms and standards and assumptions.  Don’t fight the people who you’re presuming to defend, and try not to act too fucking smug about how much better you are than the rest of us.

Related reading: amandaw at FWD/Forward.

Fighting the patriarchy in lipstick vol. 1

This post got a little long, so tune in tomorrow for part 2, in which I reserve the right to manage my own spoons, we note that a life conforming ain’t perfect either, and I get to the point.  Kinda.

I always end up describing the concept of “choice feminism” to other people in two ways:  if someone’s using it as a serious term they probably mean some variation on “people who pretend every choice they make is feminist because they make it.”  If it’s me arguing against that idea, it’s “let’s stop shitting on other women from orbit just so we can prove that not shaving our legs makes us Superior Patriarchy-Fighting Machines.”

Because no choice is perfect in a society which narrates and interprets our actions against an evil spirit level of power dynamics and biological essentialism.  We can never win; all our choices are, on some level, wrong because we are women making them in a patriarchal society.

Wearing high heels?  You’re just superficial and obsessed with shoes, like a woman (and sucking up to the patriarchy to boot) (and are probably stupid because omg who would ever like shoes which hurt your feet unless they were brainwashed???)  Wearing “sensible” shoes?  Prepare to be marked down as a dyke, as a square, as “not well-presented”, and all the attendant harassment and employment discrimination that comes along with it.

And that’s one of the most trivial examples (albeit one which I, as a very-privileged heel-wearer, take a little to heart).

What the anti-”choice feminist” people want to say, though, is that my wearing of high heels might be fine and dandy, oh, they might be magnanimous enough to tolerate my collaborator’s footwear, but don’t I dare claim that wearing high heels is a feminist action.

Because you know, I do that all the time.

And of course I’d better be okay with being called “stupid”, and I’d better be okay with people questioning my feminist credentials because I’m obviously too selfish/superficial to understand that High Heels Are Tools Of The Man.

To me, this is not only demeaning, and a tad misogynist, it’s also a refusal to even consider that the spectrum of our actions and choices is a bit more extensive than (a) Conforms to patriarchal standards ergo Is Bad vs (b) Doesn’t conform to mainstream patriarchal standards ergo Is Good.

So, a couple of points about why I’m frankly just fine with the label “choice feminist”.

1.  Patriarchal standards aren’t uniform.

Sure, high heels are a great go-to for Things Approved Of By Patriarchy.  If the only role women were ever forced into was that of “sex kitten”.

But there’s also “mother” or “teacher” or “nurse” – the unsexy woman held up for her Nurturing Qualities, her understanding of Her Place, her utter lack of autonomy and an identity focused entirely on being a helpmeet to others.

Betcha she wears “sensible shoes”.

This is one of the ways patriarchy gets us coming and going (well, not usually coming, boom boom!).  There isn’t a perfect choice, even if your one goal in life is to conform (a goal which, I’m going to address later, does not actually make you an evil person.)

2.  That whole “reclaiming” thing

People can, and do, do things which are surface-level conforming, yet present a challenge to kyriarchy/patriarchy.

It is a challenge to conventional beauty standards when a fat person dares to dress, and act, like a sexually-aware being.  It is a challenge to people’s assumptions when a woman changes her name after marriage – and lets them know it’s only because she has no emotional connection to her “maiden” name.  It is a challenge if a sex worker chooses to call herself a whore.

A lot of people take issue with the notion of reclaiming.  I simply submit that shaking up the assumptions of others and causing them to rethink their immediate impressions of things is a form of activism in itself.

Part 2′s up tomorrow.  Tune in then, or comment now, as you like.

We don’t know how lucky we are

On 8 March 2012, International Women’s Day, British novelist Linda Grant used her Twitter account to discuss the continuing necessity of feminism.

These are the responses she received.

So sayeth A Thousand Reasons, a damn good, illuminating, infuriating Tumblr compiling women’s stories from the dark old days of the 70s (I kid, I kid).  Stories like:

In 2010 job interview I was told explicitly that I’d be hired in spite of my degree, because I ‘looked right’.

1969 girls allowed to do metalwork, but teacher only let us polish. 1973, no contraceptive pill without husband’s consent

secondary school 1989 every physics lesson ended “the boys may leave will the girls tidy the labs” I dropped physics

I think there’s something about the Twitter format that makes these stories a lot bleaker.  And hopefully that will mean they have a lot more impact with the kind of people who want to pretend that we magically transitioned from a world where women needed their husbands’ signature to open a bank account to a [slightly] less [obviously] sexist one … and feminism somehow had nothing to do with it at all.

This is what this feminist looks like

[Author’s note: this post was originally drafted two days ago.  Since then similar topics have been explored by Deborah and Maia has posted further on her thoughts on this issue.]

You know, I think Maia had one tiny point in amongst the letting us all know that blogging about cupcakes is Diluting The Great Feminist Message.

Posting something frivolous to a feminist group or blog does imply/assume that thing is feminist or should be treated as a feminist issue.

Where we disagree* is that she thinks that means we have to explain why that thing is explicitly feminist or refrain from posting it.  And I think the very fact of a thing being discussed on a feminist blog puts it in a feminist or wider progressive context.

So just what is a feminist issue?

Are silly boutique clothing stores which cut clothes to fit bigger-busted women a feminist issue?

Of course they fucking are because we live in a patriarchy that demands conformity to an incredibly narrow set of standards of beauty.  The fit and fashionableness of clothes have implications for women’s lives from the ability to meet professional or corporate wardrobe standards to being able to feel comfortable in their bodies to presenting a challenge to those beauty standards by the merest fact of being a non-standard body shape wearing edgy, new, well-fitting or fashionable clothes in public.

Are “aesthetics” a feminist issue?

An alternative title for this post was “Because wearing lipstick can be a feminist act”.  I just said it a paragraph above:  beauty standards.  Daring to be visible in public.  Add to that gender performativity and people’s choice to challenge norms or desire to blend in to make their lives that little bit easier if they need/want to.  Add to that the entire area of human attraction and romance and celebrity crushes or appreciation of the physical form and our ability to challenge those things without scrapping the notion of finding other human beings fucking hot.

Are cupcakes and knitting feminist issues?

Obviously not, I mean, duh, there’s no room for reclamation of traditionally “feminine” roles and crafts.  No space for a discussion of the pressures of modern life depriving people of time to really engage with the food they eat or maintain old customs or challenge that big evil capitalist system by taking charge of the means of production even in small home-cooking cottage-industry ways.  We definitely don’t want to break down orthorexic messages about “bad foods” and we definitely shouldn’t prop up our mental health and self-esteem defences against the constant criticism of patriarchy by taking pride in creating things.

But what if we don’t spell out why these things are feminist issues?

Plenty of conversations about cupcakes or clothing stores don’t actually involve posts saying “I have baked cupcakes in accordance with my personal desire to bake uninfluenced by notions of proper women’s roles, for a bake sale at my children-who-have-my-surname’s school because my male life-partner was too tired after a hard day’s respecting my reproductive choices.”

Do we seriously fucking have to?**

I am a staunch fucking warrior for the feminist cause, people.  I will rant at the drop of a hat or the merest sighting of a Cosmo cover, I will march, I will campaign.  But sometimes I have to take a break.  Sometimes people who work even harder than me, like Sady Fucking Doyle, need to take a break, and build up our reserves of stamina and anger in order to continue the fight and not burn out.

Sometimes I just want to have a fucking glass of cider with some friends, and talk shit about baking and weddings, and it’s really fucking awesome to be able to do that in a group where I am guaranteed not to encounter casual racism or homophobia or transphobia or classism or any other gratuitous exercise of privilege.  It’s really fucking awesome to know I could post on a forum about hating fucking Valentine’s Day and not run the stellarly high risk of having someone fucking bingo me with “oh but you’ll feel different when you’re in a relationship” or “oh you just need to drop your man and find one who’ll treat you right.”***

And I can imagine someone coming across Emma’s, and thinking “who can I share this with without getting a dozen “oh I had that problem but then I tried X diet” or “tee hee I’m so lucky I can just buy straight off the rack at Glassons” or “do you ever try wearing your bra as a hat?”**** responses?”

And maybe they just fucking thought hey, this group of women who I know are all in Wellington and who I can probably assume will all have some understanding of basic feminist critiques of beauty standards and the fashion industry will totally want to know that there are other patriarchy-busting resources out there for those of them with this particular problem.

But fuck, I guess they just weren’t being real feminists.

~

*And oh my god can you BELIEVE that we might be able to disagree without me declaring Maia has lost 10 Feminist House Points?

**Statement of the fucking obvious:  some places have narrow commenting policies.  Some places explicitly spell out what qualifies as on- or off-topic.  The owners of those places get to make those calls and as always, it’s fucking rude for anyone to declare that those policies must be changed because all feminist conversation must follow a, b, c rules.  Which is why I’m a lot less cussy elsewhere and anyone trying to rehash fucking over-cooked topics is getting no linguistic mercy.

***True story.

****Also true story.

Why, what do YOU think they “should” look like?

BackgroundBackground 2.  Background 3.

Things this post is not actually about:

  • Maia’s “tone” or “the way she brought this up”
  • Cupcakes
  • Deep meaningful conversations about “what constitutes feminism”
  • Hating your freedoms

… which is not to rule out any of those things as automatically unimportant or “off the table” or taboo.

This is about:

  1. A group which calls itself “feminist” is formed
  2. A post is made to said group about a shop catering to a non-standard body type
  3. A feminist blogger says such posts should not be made because they’re unfeminist, or that such posts have to be phrased in a way she likes, or that the moderators of the page have to justify why it’s feminist because being posted to a feminist group means it must be relevant to feminism

And I think point 3 is a bit shit, for a lot of reasons, and none of them are those bog-standard derailments about “refusing to take criticism” or “taking things personally” or “misrepresenting what Maia said”.

Because I think point 3 sums up what she said pretty well, given that what she said was:

things which I would normally just be ‘eh’ about really agitate me when they’re done in the name of feminism

posting anything to a feed of a feminist group is to promote that post as a feminist act …

promoting any particular sized or shaped [body/clothing fitting] is problematic from a feminist perspective

the way clothes are produced in [NZ] is absolutely the opposite of everything I think feminism stands for

I object to … promoting clothes shopping (particularly at a specific shop) as something that is going to appeal to a group of women who have nothing in common other than they’re young feminists

To me a core part of that responsibility [as a contributor in a feminist space] is to never suggest that liking the things I happen to like is part of being feminist

material presented on the feed should be explicitly feminist…

I think this is a real danger … that women can feel that they can’t be a feminist because they don’t look a certain way and aren’t interested in certain things. And I think the easiest way to avoid that is to make aesthetic/lifestyle/survival choices off the table for feminist discussion. In order to create an environment where anyone feels like they can be feminist it needs to be as unacceptable to promote a particular way of say dressing as to diss a particular way of dressing…

I’m anti feminism being linked with a single aesthetic…

I think I’ve articulated in quite some detail why I think having material which isn’t explicitly feminist in feminist spaces is alienating. Particularly in feminist spaces that present themselves as generally as “The [not even 'a'] Wellington Feminist Collective.”…

I think feminists should orient themselves critically towards those businesses for the reasons I listed…

I think it’s inappropriate for Coley to post it without explicitly making clear why because she is promoting one particular, inaccessible, aesthetic/lifestyle/Survival strategy as feminist, which I think is alienating…

And while I don’t think I did make a demand of the WYFC – I don’t think there’s anything wrong with me doing so. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with making demands with institutions/organisations that you’re supposed to be allied with. In fact, I think it’s an important part of building a social movement.

As to who I am? I’m a feminist who has thought about feminism and is prepared to defend her opinions. I think that gives me a right to talk about what feminism is and isn’t. I think that’s all any of us needs. And I think talking about what feminism is and isn’t is really important…

Issue:  “promoting a single aesthetic”

As I said at THM, one post about one shop on a page covered in posts about abortion and misogynist radio contests and debunking stereotypes about Muslim feminists does not “promotion of a single aesthetic” make.  I get body issues.  I get being fat.  I get that sinking sense of disappointment when even stores which are advertised as catering to different body shapes invariably do not carry anything near my size.  And I saw the post about Emma’s on WYFC and thought “bet she doesn’t go to a size 18”.

But that hardly fucking invalidates the fact that being a fattie who can’t shop at Glassons is hardly the only form of body-policing or body-discrimination in the world and sometimes the size 12 girls with the E cups might like to know where to find dresses that fucking fit.  And those girls are going to totally get feminist critiques of fashion and narrow beauty standards.  And until every second post on the page is “oh hai here’s another resource explicitly aimed only at straight-sized busty girls” it’s fucking ludicrous to act like this one post represents the WYFC endorsing a single acceptable body shape.

Issue:  “get a Marxist analysis or go home”

I think a lot of Marxist feminist analysis is fucking awesome.  I’ve been pretty clear about that. But anyone who’s literally going to say that women can’t plug local businesses [at least without a laboured disclaimer about the evils of capitalism] because all business is capitalist and therefore evil can fuck right off.

We live in a capitalist society, we need fucking clothes, and as a fattie who herself and whose many non-standard-body-type friends have a lot of fucking difficulty finding clothes that fit I am actually not willing to self-flagellate because finally being able to buy cute dresses for only-slightly-above-“straight”-size-prices is Buying Into Corporate Doom.

Also?  When you’re having a go at something for not explicitly nailing down what “feminism” is defined as, and you’re also saying “it has to be this and this and this and phrased like this and tick all these boxes”, don’t get fucking precious when people tell you you’ve appointed yourself Lady High Mistress of Feminist Lines in The Sand, because you just really did.

Issue:  “well this affected me so your argument is invalid”

Do I have a problem with people raising issues that have affected them?  No.  Do I think there’s a big fucking difference between “this affected me and here’s why and let’s discuss that” and “this affected me so it should never ever happen against because you’re not real feminists”?  Yes.  See above.

Issue:  “but THE!  And R18 VENUES!”

Do I have a problem with disagreement and debate?  No.  Do I think there’s a big fucking difference between “let’s look at why this post is here and what I find problematic about it” and “let’s look at this post and also I want to explicitly say I’m not a member of this group I’m critiquing and also your name is a lie and also your choice of launch venue is discriminatory*”?  Just a tiny bit.

Time for a high school analogy, because I feel pretty safe assuming we’ve all been there.

This:

“Regina, I think that thing you said was mean because you reduced Lindsay Lohan’s character down to her country of origin.”

Is “raising something you found problematic”.

This:

“Regina, I think that thing you said, while wearing those totally out-of-style trainers, was mean, and while I’m pointing that out can we also remember that you stole my trike in kindergarten you bitch?”

Is being vindictive and petty and nasty and refusing to just engage with the topic at hand … which hilariously is what Maia keeps accusing her detractors of.

Issue:  “everything posted to the Collective page MUST be explicitly feminist!”

This is a biggie for me.  For now?  Let’s look at those above points where it’s pretty obvious that “feminist” here means “MY kind of feminism which can only discuss things I am comfortable with and MUST involve analysis from THIS point of view”.

That’s not discussion, it’s not a conversation.  It’s an ultimatum from a person who doesn’t even go here,** about how a group she isn’t even involved in*** has to be operated to pass her magical test of feministness or she won’t let them call themselves feminist.

As the sweet old lady said to the Mormons, well in that case you can fuck right off.

But there’s a lot more that’s problematic with that statement and that’s going to have to wait for another post.

And finally some comments on the comments to hopefully avoid the same wank-circle that has devoured the THM post on this.

Issue:  “waaaa why can’t feminists all be cuddly hug-buddies waaaaa”

Because obviously feminists do disagree.  And that’s fine.  But as already established, this isn’t about disagreeing and discussing things, this is about one person declaring that feminism has to be done a specific way or she’ll take away our feminist badges and let everyone know we love Sarah Palin.  (No, seriously, that’s the “logical” conclusion drawn.)

Issue:  “you just hate Maia and think everything she says is wrong”

Nope.  I just think it’s fucking horrible to attack an entire group because one post is Doing Feminism Wrong and You Get To Decide That.  Like I just said.

~

*From the Facebook thread

**For some reason this issue is hitting ALL the Mean Girls buttons.

***Oh but she’s seriously excited, honest, she thinks you guys are just the best even if you are wrong and alienating and evil and kicked her dog.