Blame for this may be entirely laid at the feet of Rhinocrates, NZ Femme and V de Plume. May it serve you well in future headdesk-worthy “debates” with people who keep insisting they’re our allies, now could we please shut up and let them tell us what we want?
[A bingo board of white-and-purple squares, saying: Wait until we win the election! / That’s not a tier one issue / I know I’m banned but … / We already have laws against discrimination / Boutique Identity Politics / That only helps a tiny minority / Let me explain basic politics to you / Of course we all hate sexism, you oversensitive bitch / Rightwing pundits don’t like that / Stop making personal attacks you bitch / You need counselling / That won’t win votes / FREE SQUARE / I’m on your side! / I’m leaving this conversation!!! / Rights are a zero-sum game / We HAVE to focus on the economy (so shut up) / You can have five minutes / That’s just in your head / I’m leaving this conversation THIS TIME!!! / Let’s just agree to disagree / Silencing white male trolls is censorship / But as a redheaded vegan, I have an identity too! / We’re all just ~people~ / You’re scaring away swing voters]
Yesterday I made this post, both here and at The Standard. It was born of my frustration with the number of leftwing men who are still complaining about identity politics like they only just learned the phrase, still demanding that 100% of the left’s collective time and thought be about their personal issues, still basically crying like babies who are being asked to share their toys.
And the response pretty much proved my point.
I was told that their actions – which multiple other people had observed and commented on – were “in my head”. I was told I needed to “get counselling”. A comment was left here saying:
All fat hags should be neither seen nor heard.
My attempts at moderation – in hardly more aggressive terms than people like lprent normally dole out – were point-blank ignored, and labelled “censorship”.
I was cast as some “other blogger” who was imposing my terrible, bullying will on The Standard, normally such a genteel place. The irony of that last point is that a mere day earlier, people had rallied around a comment which praised The Standard for being a more rough-and-tumble place. Somehow it’s different when it’s a sweary woman doing it, isn’t it?
But of course it was really me who was silencing people, by objecting to their insistence that I be silent.
Of course I, and other commenters who agreed with me, needed to have basic democratic politics (“you see, we need to win elections in order to have the power to do things and the right don’t want us to win“) explained to us, because our ladybrains were just too confused.
And the conversation has carried on in other threads where people want to make it very clear that they are the reasonable, thoughtful ones who totally would agree with me if I wasn’t so goshdarned mean.
This is a standard (couldn’t help myself) day in the life of a feminist blogger on a leftwing site. This is exactly what I tried to explain. But I guess maybe we need yet another election where Labour’s woolly-headed waffle and stamping down on “identity groups” nets them another three years on the Opposition benches before the boys will listen.
I’m dropping offline for the obvious reasons (enforced family fun and live demonstrations of New Zealand’s binge drinking culture).
Have a happy and safe holiday season. It’s often the most stressful time of year, and every level of social pressure is on us to play nice and put up with shit, from the mildly annoying to the truly horrible, in the name of family and special occasion.
I thoroughly recommend the writings of Captain Awkward on this matter, specifically:
… but also generally. Because it was mainly through a solid diet of Captain Awkward columns that I came to some truly life-changing decisions about how I am willing to have people interact with me.
And if you are online, get your submissions in for the first Down Under Feminists’ Carnival of 2014!
This shouldn’t really need to be said. But just to be clear, because I’m sensing some confusion: I’m pretty sure I do not have the power to substantially affect the outcome of the next election.
This blog is not going to deliver a victory to David Cunliffe, and my tweets are not going to herald a John Key victory. If I switched this whole thing off tomorrow, the media would still be able to find a quote from someone which proves The New Zealand Left Is Hopelessly Divided, if that was their angle. But 2014 will almost certainly be the third election in a row where someone somewhere/everyone everywhere will decide that it is my “lack of unity” or “looking to be offended” or “call out culture” which is the problem – not their own lack of principle, clarity of message, or integrity.
You see, I’m a woman with opinions. Usually pretty loud, brash opinions. And sometimes I have them about people who are, in a very general sense, “on my side”, who I think (hat-tip to Craig) could do better.
And I am absolutely going to have a go (sorry, “conduct a witch hunt”) at leftwing, liberal men who expect to be thought leaders in our movement but consistently use women (and Maaori, and whoever else adds a flourish of diversity) to build their own cred while shouting over them whenever they disagree.
I am not going to change. I will continue to be bitchy, catty, picky, over-sensitive, easily-offended, hold a grudge and act like a total cow. Because that’s what you call women with unabashed opinions, isn’t it?
So, before we get into the meat of this story, here’s apparently what it takes to get a paid gig in the Herald:
- Quote the New York Times
- Quote the Huffington Post responding to the New York Times
- Make some Shelley Bridgeman-esque comments which show you don’t understand the concepts being discussed
- Quote Jezebel responding to the New York Times
- Name-drop Charlie Brooker and Caitlin Moran to establish cool cred
But the matter at hand is of course the overblown, overplayed, overhyped issue of Ladies Swearing. We have to say “ladies”, not “women”, because it emphasises the terrible naughtiness of the bad words.
And that’s only the start of the bingo. One quote says “I may get my bra-burning card revoked for this”, which is secret code for “look at me, boys, I’m not one of those feminists” but actually, to anyone who knows basic feminist history, just makes you look like a snivelling tryhard. Author Rebecca Kamm nails #3 with this musing:
First of all, isn’t swearing odd? We open our gobs and emit an ultimately arbitrary sound – it should be harmless. Yet what comes out can feel like a slap in the face, splashing dark paint over all the other innocent words.
Shit! The sounds we make with our mouths have meaning assigned to them by others? Meanings which are actually arbitrary? This is amazing! I’m going to call this brand-new concept speech.
But that’s okay, it just proves Rebecca is totally above all that societal stuff, which is why she’s qualified to tell us that actually swearing is gross, but real feminists understand that it’s gross no matter who is doing it.
UNLESS THEY’RE A COOL, CLEVER PERSON LIKE CHARLIE BROOKER OR CAITLIN MORAN OF COURSE.
I mean, I’m not even going there with Caitlin Moran, and will instead refer you to this most excellent parody Twitter account.
But that last little bit there? Pretty much sums up my fucking problem with hand-wringing pearl-clutching discussions of swearing.
It’s classist. It assumes that swearing is something low, dirty, uneducated people do because they don’t know how to express themselves like Proper Gentlefolk. (See also: similar “all I’m saying is I don’t like it” criticisms of non-standard forms of English. Especially those used predominantly by people of colour.)
Oh, but if you’re a clever person, if you’re somebody which has been handed a Cool Edgy Clever Celebrity licence, then saying fuck is totally edgy and radical and thought-provoking and it makes you kind of sexy and dangerous. Because people already know that you’re not a dirty uneducated poor person, so your swearing is ironic.
My swearing is not ironic. I swear because it adds emphasis. (In some contexts, I swear because Mythbusters totally proved it increases pain tolerance.) I swear because I like playing around with words. I definitely swear because it challenges people’s preconceptions about me as a middle-class, varsity-educated white girl from a Good Family.
And I also swear because I’m a fucking New Zealander, and swearing is pretty part-and-parcel of our particular brand of English, and because the people who most often write about how uncouth and vulgar Those Young People are getting are in fucking denial. I’m sorry, people, the Toyota “bugger” ad came out fourteen fucking years ago. No one complained about the “where the bloody hell are you” ad in 2006 because it was dirty, they complained because it was fucking naff (and would have had far better rhythm if they dropped the “bloody”).
Of course, I’d probably swear a lot less if we didn’t have a mainstream media containing items like the Herald, happily publishing columns like this one (and don’t start me on Shelley Bridgeman) which … honestly, I still don’t actually know what Kamm’s point was, or why it couldn’t have been conveyed far more clearly in a tweet.
In February, if my understanding is correct, and gods know I hate this kind of complex constitutional fluff, there will be a vote in the Labour caucus on Shearer’s leadership of the parliamentary Labour Party. If 40% or so don’t support him, it triggers a leadership vote among the party, with various weights of votes assigned to caucus, affiliates and members.
The obvious comparison is the Green Party, which has a – yes, probably pretty ceremonial – vote every year to re-endorse their parliamentary leaders. If you’re not a hardcore Green supporter, you probably don’t know it even happens, because it is a non-event and because the Greens just aren’t a rich target for Patrick Gower to badger a non-story out of.
Oh, fine, and also because there don’t appear to be horrific infighting factions within the Greens who are quite happy to use the media to screw each other over at a moment’s notice.
What you also don’t see, therefore, is a lot of Green Party members running around prior to their vote, insisting that if Metiria and Russel are re-endorsed, everyone who doesn’t like them has to go away and shut up and never say a bad thing about the party ever ever again.
Which is what’s happening a lot at the moment, most noticeable to me through comments (and the odd post) at The Standard. Sometimes it’s worded a little more gently – “oh, hopefully after the February vote we can act like a unified party and get behind the leader” aka “shut the fuck up”, or “focus on the real issues” aka “shut the fuck up unless you’re bagging John Key.”
Sometimes it’s as blatant as
Now where did I leave my V for Vendetta DVD?
Unfortunately for David Shearer and his fans, I just don’t see it happening, for two simple reasons:
1. If endorsed by caucus, Shearer still won’t magically evolve, Pokemon-like, from Captain Mumblefuck into the reincarnation of Winston Churchill
2. The membership may have very good reason to be fucked off about how some members of caucus have voted.
The problem with Labour’s reforms isn’t that they are too democratic, it’s that they’re not democratic enough. They’ve gone with a model where caucus is a gatekeeper and then over-powered in the actual vote. This will be used by the old guard to shield Shearer and themselves from the views of their own party. The Green co-leaders have no such protection, and it means they can never turn their backs on their members.
So no, actually, there is no moral imperative on Labour people (much less on us scary non-Labour-members with OPINIONS!!!!) to sit down and shut the fuck up between caucus leadership votes. If caucus [some might say, “if caucus once again“] goes against the will of the membership, the membership have every fucking right to “destabilise” the party, to “white-ant” the leader, because they’re the fucking membership.
If caucus [once again] makes a decision which is blatantly not in the best interests of the New Zealand leftwing, [once again] makes a decision which serves the interests of a self-centred faction within the Party, [once again] chooses a leader based on their own career security instead of providing a clear, strong left voice in NZ politics and forming the basis for a strong leftwing government which knows what it’s there to do, and if Shearer’s faction in caucus [once again] bully dissenters into silence with the threat of instant demotion …
Well, you can fuck right off if you think I’m going to shut up about that For The Sake Of The Party.
Labour does not deserve our respectful withdrawal of criticism if it’s going to shit on beneficiaries, if it’s going to refuse again and again to pose a clear alternative opposition to NACT, if it’s going to sacrifice its own heritage principles in order to keep safe-electorate seat-warmers occupied.
David Shearer does not deserve unity-at-gunpoint if he continues to mumblefuck around, continues to let National get away with murder, continues to act like 30% in the polls is something to celebrate, continues to squander one of his most talented MPs while letting Chris fucking Hipkins buy straight into National’s asset sales narrative.
So the February vote? Roll out your numbers again, David, but do not think that a token gesture of support, after you’ve clearly demonstrated how brutally you will treat even imaginary challengers, is going to keep you safe from nasty blog posts. The only fix for that – Clare Curran’s alleged lady-boner for outing critics notwithstanding – is to do your fucking job. With, like, at least a semblance of competence.
Related reading: Chris Trotter’s The Lazarus Option. I’m as surprised as you are, Comrade.
So, as previously posted, Dr Miriam Grossman visited our shores, at the invitation of Family Fist. If you missed her on Close Up, the video is now up on their site, and it’s totally worth it just for Mark Sainsbury’s rather matter-of-fact “but don’t adults have oral sex too?” line of follow-up questions. 5 points to House Glorious Moustache.
Anyway, here’s my thoughts on the matter, based on my notes from the original screening because I don’t want to end up yelling at my monitor. Again.
Dr Grossman’s basic claimed thesis is that sex education isn’t actually giving kids full, in her words life-saving information (bingo!) about the medical dangers of dirty, dirty sex. This is, on the surface, an objectively bad thing, since proponents of sex ed also talk about being concerned that kids need to be informed.
The fact that her only example of this is that none of our Family Planning / sex ed websites mention that oral sex causes throat cancer leads one neatly into her very thinly-veiled actual thesis:
Sex ed isn’t oriented toward scaring kids away from having sex.
For all the talk of sex being “a medical issue” and that we should “tell the truth” about sex, what it boils down to – and the related reading in my previous post contains more examples of this – is that “full information” means lying to kids by saying things like (direct quote from Close Up):
To be sexually active during the teen years, with multiple partners, is high risk – you’re going to get an infection.
My Twitter and Facebook feeds were hilariously flooded that night with people declaring they were obviously freaks of nature, given how they’d been sexually active teens with multiple partners and managed not to get any infections. Clearly, our sexuality education is a miserable failure, what with it enabling their safe sexual activity instead of scaring them into abstinence as God intended.
(Meanwhile, Dr Katie Fitzpatrick talked about teaching young people to have critical thinking skills, looking at a range of information … the sex-encouraging teen-pimping Satanist.)
Grossman also criticised Family Planning pamphlets telling young people that sex was their choice, apparently assuming that the only sex-related pressure teens come under is from *adopt martyred pose* People Who Just Want Them To Wait For Their Own Good. In Grossman’s world, of course, there’s no pressure on teens to have sex before they’re ready, which maybe we might want to mitigate by telling them they have a right to autonomy and to say no and that their consent is an important thing which should be recognised. Nah, they just need to be protected by the evil forces of sex-encouragement.
The logical conclusion to this, of course, is that “full information” from Grossman’s perspective is information which causes teens to not have sex. Which seems … I don’t know, a little presumptive? What if teens read about the scary throat-cancer dangers of oral sex* and still decide “actually, I’m ready to have sex”?
I’d guess we’d be in for some weasel-word-filled equivalent of “if they still want to have sex it’s because they’re stupid/not really informed/sinful and thus deserve to get STIs due to not being taught about condoms.”
Here’s the thing. When you don’t tell kids about sex and contraception, you put them at risk. When you make sex a no-no topic, you protect sexual predators. When you try to make sex a big scary monster in a world where sex is constantly portrayed as fun, loving, exciting, the ultimate display of their commitment, they’re going to do what teens have done since the dawn of adolescence: write you off as another stupid adult who’s just telling them what to do because you get off on your bullshit adult authori-taaaaa.
And then when their boyfriend pressures them into something they’re not comfortable with (probably after reading Cosmo) and their girlfriend gets pregnant and kicked out of home and their partner cheats on them and gives them that infection which Dr Grossman is so concerned about … it’s going to be a fuckload harder on them having no adult they can trust to help them.
But hey, it’s not about the kids, is it? It’s about Moral Authorities getting to wag their fingers and impose their prescribed way of life through fear, manipulation, lies, and treating those who don’t measure up like shit to bring the others into line.
I defer the last word to Jackie Edmond of Family Planning, quoted in the Herald:
“We don’t aspire to talking about the ideal of one sexual relationship. We are pragmatic – and we are dealing with young people.”
*A risk which just coincidentally disproportionately affects hetero girls and gay boys but allows jocks to get head to their heart’s content, and is actually linked to HPV, which (a) WE HAVE A VACCINE FOR NOW and (b) LESS PREVALENT WHEN PEOPLE HAVE SAFE SEX
Since I’ve been linked to from the Herald a few times now, I feel oddly compelled to let you know up front that this one gets sweary, people. I make no apologies.
Louisa Wall and Colin Craig appeared on Q&A to discuss the marriage equality / adoption equality issue.*
Colin Craig’s statements were, happily, entirely illustrative of his bullshit, unjustifiable stance on the topics (his refusal to answer the question “do you respect members of the gay community who want this” especially so):
SHANE Colin Craig, do you support one law for all?
MR CRAIG I support equal rights and privileges for all New Zealanders.
SHANE One law for all, though?
MR CRAIG Yeah, I don’t like that phrase, but equal rights and privileges for New Zealanders.
SHANE So why do you support one law for heterosexuals and one law for homosexuals?
MR CRAIG Well, look, I agree with civil unions. … What we’re talking about here is who has the right to use and define the word “marriage”, and I believe there’s a status quo. We’ve got generation after generation, marriage has been between and a woman, and that is what I believe the New Zealanders want. They’ve got cultural investment in this, historical investment in this, religious investment in this.
So Colin basically thinks New Zealanders should have equal rights and privileges, except for the heteros who get exclusive domain of the word “marriage”. Which is apparently simultaneously a minor, piffling matter, but also vitally important to our cultural identity. (And remember, it’s those scary queer people who want “special” rights!)
One hates to invoke anecdata, but you know? I can’t think of a single married couple I know who thought “shit yeah, getting a bit of paper that The Gays can’t get really shows how strong our relationship is!”
MR CRAIG The only difference here is the word “marriage”. I mean, we’re not talking about an issue of equality across other things.
Colin Craig, you are a fucking liar. Or a complete, ignorant numpty. Possibly both. I’m going with both.
A Civil Union is not recognised in the same way as a marriage out of New Zealand. If you wish to be legally recognised as Civil Unions partners in another country, you would have to apply in the country you wish to live in, if they have this law.
Civil Union partners do not at present have the right to adopt a child
Bonus objectifying language from Colin for the win:
There are a number of homosexuals who take a different view.
I imagine him pronouncing it the way Mr Gormsby does.
But here’s the bit I wanted to address specifically:
MR CRAIG OK, I support the existing law. … Now, I actually think – and it’s my opinion – I actually think there are difference between a man and a woman. I actually think that when we get to choose the environment in which a child grows up, to have both a male and female role model, a mum and a dad is the ideal, and therefore I do support that restriction.
And please pardon the unladylike nature of the next sentence:
FUCK YOU, COLIN CRAIG. ON BEHALF OF ALL THE MEN WHO STOOD AS MALE ROLE MODELS FOR ME IN MY CHILDHOOD, FUCK. YOU.
It’s obvious enough that Colin Craig is talking absolute shit when he equates “having a male and female role model” with “a mum and dad” – and that’s even if we pass by the wonderfully archaic gender essentialism, the indignant “well I actually think boys and girls are different” defence.
But fuck, this fucks me right off.
Y’see, folks, the man responsible for ejaculating in my mother’s vague direction at an optimal ovulation point wanted sweet fuck all to do with me (probably also the fault of gay people undermining the Sanctity Of The Family or something). So he fucked off.
Now, apparently this spells immediate Becoming Another Child Abuse / Teen Pregnancy / Drug Use Statistic for the infant Queen of Thorns – after all, no dad, no Male Role Model to keep her straight and narrow, straight being the most important bit.
(Of course, infant Queen of Thorns having been assigned gender “female” at birth probably means Male Role Models Aren’t As Important For Her or something, but bear with me.)
Patriarchal wankoffs like Colin Craig want to pretend that my upbringing, sans one out of two gamete-donors, must have been immediately disadvantaged, a permanent stain on my psyche. My mother remaining single is, after all, only marginally better than my mother taking up with another woman, which must have scarred me irreparably.
But hang on.
Who are those guys over there?
Why look, it’s my grandfather, who among other things imbued me with a love of science fiction and an allergy to terrible puns. It’s my uncle, who has exactly my sense of humour. My stepdad, whose strict regimen of Culturally Important Experiences (largely involving classic films and NZ music of the 70s) allow me to make obscure references no one else my age gets to this day. And all the other men in our extended family and community who each stood as another example of What Men Are Like and How Men May Act and who, bygiving a shit about my welfare and growth, did a fuckload more for me than Mr Sperm Donor Fuckhead did before he vanished from my life.
Basically, male role models? I had fucking plenty. And most of them were pretty kickass, and, sorry, Colin, most of them made significant contributions to the sweary, ranty, righteous, fuck-you-I-won’t-do-what-you-tell-me personality you see before you today.
The idea that my mother, in some parallel universe, hooking up with a woman at any point after my arrival (and, tragically, having some kind of deep and committed relationship!!!!) would somehow have denied me these important relationships is complete. Fucking. Bullshit.
And I love my mum, but the idea that she was somehow my Only Possible Female Role Model is likewise bullshit. (Especially given the dominance of women in New Zealand teaching and early childhood education.)
The idea that in some pseudo-1950s Golden Age, I would have automatically been better off either (a) being raised by parents forced to marry following my conception or (b) being taken from my mother and raised by a complete different grab-bag of people … is complete. Fucking. Bullshit.
And let’s be honest here, when people start talking about “traditional family values” or “returning to a better time”, that’s what they mean. Oh, they will protest, no, we just meant the good parts of a fantasy past where all marriages were completely permanently perfect and all pregnancies completely safe and wanted. But ain’t it just like fundy fuckstains to pretend that their utopia is completely unproblematic?
Children are not raised in a vacuum, in which emotional or psychological development can only be performed by Female Parental Unit A and Male Parental Unit B. And it is fucking insulting to all the people out there who do play roles in the lives of children who they don’t even own – because that’s what this is about at its core, classic, ancient, patriarchal “rraaaa! My bloodline must be propagated to prove my virility! Behold the children I claim to show the power of my wang! Rrraaa!” – to act like if you don’t get called Mummy or Daddy you may as well go home.
If I could take my childhood over again I would not change one fucking thing, Colin. Because I fail to see what Mr Deadbeat Fuckhead could have done to make me any more awesome than I am today.
In my heart of hearts, I’m deeply hoping for a “maybe he would’ve given you a damn good spanking and turned you into more of a lady!” response. Please don’t disappoint me.
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.)
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.